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What The Trump Administration Has Said About The Soleimani Killing


President Trump's decision to order the killing of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani has overtaken the news of just about everything, including impeachment. NPR media correspondent and analyst David Folkenflik is looking at how news organizations are covering the story, and he joins us from our studios in New York.



SHAPIRO: The U.S. has said this killing was necessary to stop an imminent threat, but the administration has not offered evidence to back up that assertion. So how do you see the news media handling this?

FOLKENFLIK: Well, it's been with a lot of skepticism. I mean, we have basically - you've seen the press basically been given the Heisman by the administration in terms of setting out why it did what it did, setting out the nature of the question of imminent, you know - Soleimani has orchestrated attacks against Americans for decades, right?

SHAPIRO: Explain the Heisman. I'm not sure people know that term.

FOLKENFLIK: Heisman is basically giving somebody a stiff arm and saying, I'm going to keep you at arm's length, and I'm not going to be too apologetic about it. We're not going to feel as though we have to describe why we did what we did and when we did. And we're going to say that there was a threat that was imminent, but we're not going to say what imminent meant. We're going to say that there were problems that were going to affect American interests and/or lives, but we're not going to say what that was. And it's basically saying, trust us from this administration. So you've seen a lot of efforts by the press to try to press that question and get at that.

SHAPIRO: And what has the response been from the news media?

FOLKENFLIK: I think you've seen the media - you know, look. There have been times at which, at times of crisis and seemingly imminent military conflict where American people may well be likely to rally around the flag, American press can reflect that. But I see - in this case, you've seen a lot of skepticism. You've seen questions about - you've seen questions from journalists. Look. There's been the appearance of transparency, right? You saw the DOD, the Defense Department, release a memo on Friday. You saw a background briefing by State Department senior officials over the weekend. You saw Mike Pompeo go to all five major Sunday morning public affairs...

SHAPIRO: The secretary of state.

FOLKENFLIK: That's right. You've seen that this semblance of...

SHAPIRO: We appear to have lost David Folkenflik's line. We're going to try to get him back up. That's our media correspondent and analyst David Folkenflik speaking about the media coverage of President Trump's order to kill...


SHAPIRO: Oh. David, are you back there? Hello? David? It sounds like the line is cutting out.

FOLKENFLIK: Hi. I'm back here again.

SHAPIRO: Oh, you're back.

FOLKENFLIK: You got me.


FOLKENFLIK: I was going to say, did folks get to hear that clip?

SHAPIRO: No. Let's listen to...

FOLKENFLIK: So let's...

SHAPIRO: ...Secretary Pompeo speaking on - which program is this?

FOLKENFLIK: This is "State Of The Union" on CNN with host Jake Tapper yesterday morning.


JAKE TAPPER: When you say the attacks were imminent, how imminent were they? Are we talking about days? Are we talking about weeks?

MIKE POMPEO: If you're an American in the region, days and weeks - this is not something that's relevant. We have to prepare. We have to be ready. And we took a bad guy off the battlefield. I - we made the right decision. There is less risk today to American forces in the region as a result of that attack.

FOLKENFLIK: You've seen Tapper and a number of journalists press Pompeo, press other officials and say, on what basis are you offering that rhetoric? And he hasn't done that. Even Pompeo's statements about President Trump, who seemed to threaten to strike major cultural sites within Iran - result of this if Iran were to...

SHAPIRO: Unfortunately, the line appears to not...

FOLKENFLIK: The president did that even as he reiterated that.

SHAPIRO: All right. David Folkenflik, we're having some major cutouts on your line, so I'm afraid we're going to have to let you go, but I appreciate your analysis.

That's NPR media correspondent David Folkenflik with us from New York.

(SOUNDBITE OF HVOB SONG, "GHOST") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

David Folkenflik was described by Geraldo Rivera of Fox News as "a really weak-kneed, backstabbing, sweaty-palmed reporter." Others have been kinder. The Columbia Journalism Review, for example, once gave him a "laurel" for reporting that immediately led the U.S. military to institute safety measures for journalists in Baghdad.