Fox News defense reporter challenges war comments on air
NEW YORK (AP) — Fox News national security correspondent Jennifer Griffin couldn’t hold back when following a retired U.S. Army colonel on the air recently, saying she barely had time to correct all of his “distortions.”
She tried, though. And it wasn’t for the first time or the last time.
Griffin, who has reported for Fox News Channel since 1996, has attracted attention over the past two weeks as she has publicly corrected or contradicted several Fox analysts and hosts on the air about the crisis in Ukraine. When Tucker Carlson suggested this week that some reporters are acting as flacks for the Pentagon, some interpreted that as a criticism of his colleague.
Meanwhile, former Fox host Bill O’Reilly singled Griffin out as a gutsy reporter unafraid to challenge others.
Griffin says her efforts are consistent with what she’s always tried to do for 25 years, both on the air and behind the scenes at Fox News.
“I think you want your experts, in today’s media environment, to be passionate about what they know and what they feel about the facts,” said Steve Krakauer, author of The Fourth Watch, a media newsletter with a conservative viewpoint. “I want them to be in the story.”
Griffin knows her beat as much as anyone in journalism and her real-time fact-checks are a valuable public service, as long as she doesn’t get caught in the muck of partisan debating, he said on Thursday.
Griffin has pushed back on comments made by Sean Hannity, Steve Doocy, Harris Faulkner and Greg Gutfeld during appearances on their own shows. After Hannity criticized President Joe Biden on Ukraine policy, Griffin noted that every president since the fall of the Soviet Union has made mistakes there. Doocy argued on “Fox & Friends” that sanctions haven’t worked against Russia; Griffin said it was too soon to say that. When Faulkner similarly questioned whether sanctions were a sufficient step, Griffin said that sending troops to the area would have given Putin an excuse to invade. She said it was “not some wag-the-dog situation” when Gutfeld suggested on “The Five” that the Ukraine crisis had been manufactured.
This past Sunday, she took on a retired U.S. Army brigadier general, Don Bolduc, after he said that it “boggles my mind” that the United States hadn’t already gone “all in” on Ukraine. Griffin said Bolduc was a politician, not a student of history.
“To suggest that the U.S. would put indirect fire or special operations or CIA on the ground to give Putin any sort of excuse to broaden this conflict is extremely dangerous talk at a time like this,” Griffin said.
Earlier that day, she was interviewed by Trey Gowdy after an appearance by retired U.S. Army Col. Doug Macgregor, who urged the United States to stay out of Ukraine and not ship it any weapons. He said the Russians should be allowed to annex the portion of Ukraine they are most interested in.
When Griffin followed him, she said she needed to correct some of what Macgregor had said, “and I’m not sure 10 minutes is enough time because there are so many distortions.” She said that Macgregor sounded like an apologist for Putin. “That kind of projection of withdrawal and weakness is what made Putin think he could move into a sovereign country,” she said.
Macgregor, in a subsequent radio appearance, criticized Griffin for offering a “standard neo-con narrative” of drawing comparison to 1930s appeasement of Adolf Hitler. He called it a “tired trope” that had nothing to do with the people and events of today.
Two days after his appearance on Gowdy’s show, Macgregor was brought on as lead guest by Tucker Carlson in prime time. Carlson’s show is usually the most-watched program on Fox.
“Unlike so many of the so-called reporters you see on television, he is not acting secretly as a flack for (Defense Secretary) Lloyd Austin at the Pentagon,” Carlson said in his introduction. “No, Doug Macgregor is an honest man.”
Was that a shot at Griffin? Carlson did not specify what reporters he was referring to, and Fox News did not offer a clarification. He hasn’t been afraid to take on colleagues in the past; Carlson and Shepard Smith had a memorable tiff before Smith left the network in 2019.
Griffin also didn’t respond to a message seeking comment.
Griffin, who is based at the Pentagon and had stints in Moscow and Jerusalem for Fox, has a reputation for being knowledgeable and a straight-shooter, said David Lapan, a former Pentagon spokesman who dealt with her professionally in several national security capacities.
Much of her work reporting for her employer is done behind the scenes, Lapan said. He believes her recent on-the-air correctives indicate how important she considers the issues involved.
“I hope there are no reprisals because she’s doing the right thing,” Lapan said. “The stakes are too high.”
Fox News Media, in a statement, said that “we are incredibly proud of Jennifer Griffin and her stellar reporting as well as all of our journalists and talent covering this story across our platforms.”
O’Reilly, on his web show, praised Griffin and said that “propagandists” on television news aren’t challenged often enough, according to the Wrap.
Fox would not make Griffin available for an interview. She appeared on Fox’s “Media Buzz” on Sunday, where she told host Howard Kurtz that she doesn’t believe her role at Fox News has changed.
“I’m here to fact-check facts, because I report on facts,” she said. “My job is to try and figure out the truth as best as I know it. I share that information internally, so our network can be more accurate. That’s what I’ve always done.”