This morning, President Donald Trump tweeted a pair of seemingly contradictory and potentially dangerous tweets regarding America’s relationship to Russia, especially as it related to the ongoing civil war in Syria. This weekend, a suspected chemical attack in Douma, the last rebel-held town in its region, killed at least 70 people, according to the BBC. Although both the Syrian government and its main ally, Russia, have denied the use of chemical weapons, this would not be the first time Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad allowed a chemical attack on his own people: a similar attack killed an estimated 1,300 people in 2013. Despite the difficult geopolitical situation, Trump has been taking to Twitter for days now to express his outrage at the situation. But this morning’s tweets are worthy of particular attention.
Russia vows to shoot down any and all missiles fired at Syria. Get ready Russia, because they will be coming, nice and new and “smart!” You shouldn’t be partners with a Gas Killing Animal who kills his people and enjoys it!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 11, 2018
Trump’s first tweet seemed to taunt Russia with the promise of a military airstrike. Not only is it unprecedented for a President to announce airstrikes over a social media platform, Trump’s language was also very strong. He appeared to promise airstrikes over Syria, seemingly in response to the weekend’s suspected chemical attack, and, on top of that, pay no mind to Russia’s promise that it would shoot down any missile that is directed at Syria. It’s hard to know how serious the President really is in this tweet—has this been approved by the military, or this is the first they’re hearing of it too?
Another aspect of this chilling tweet is that it appeared to have been influenced by Fox News. The President is the one person with the planet’s most sophisticated intelligence and potential access to the country’s most skilled advisors, and yet he continually looks to a television network for many of his opinions. The fact that Fox, and particularly the President’s favorite show, Fox & Friends, influences Trump has been proven time and time again. Many people have noticed the relationship; Matthew Gertz, a senior fellow at Media Matters, has studied the Trump-Fox “feedback loop” and even created a massive Twitter thread juxtaposing a Fox & Friends segment with Trump’s tweets. It should be noted that Fox is known for its racist coverage.
Dan Snow, a graduate student at the University of Chicago, did a similar study and created a graph that found a correlation between the air times of different Fox News shows and the timestamps of Trump’s tweets. Even Trump's current undersecretary of state used to be a Fox & Friends co-host.
This morning’s scary tweet about Russia wouldn’t even be the first time that Trump threatened a nuclear strike while watching a Fox News segment. This morning, Fox & Friends, which aired before Trump’s tweets, led with the issue in Syria and “how we are going to respond,” and focused on the need of a military reaction. One of the hosts said that “what we should be doing is telling the Russians, ‘every Syrian military base is a target and if you’re there, it is your problem.’”
Trump tweeted at 7:57 am ET. Fox & Friends airs from 6 to 10 am ET.
It’s no wonder, then, that some people were publicly wondering whether Trump’s tweet had been influenced by Fox.
Did Fox News really manipulate Trump into declaring war on Russia or was that just my imagination?— Ed Krassenstein 💎 (@EdKrassen) April 11, 2018
In the meantime, Business Insider reports that commercial planes are avoiding Syria just in case they are caught in a U.S.-led airstrike on the country. Planes have been avoiding Syria for some time now, but as of today, planes are to take an even wider berth of the country for the next 72 hours, as per Eurocontrol.
About two hours after the previously discussed tweet, Trump appeared to walk back his sentiments towards Russia and said that there is “no reason” for our relationship with Russia to be as bad as it currently is. I’m not a foreign policy expert, but it seems to me like announcing an airstrike on Twitter against a country we need to “help” might be a little antagonizing.
Our relationship with Russia is worse now than it has ever been, and that includes the Cold War. There is no reason for this. Russia needs us to help with their economy, something that would be very easy to do, and we need all nations to work together. Stop the arms race?— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 11, 2018