Right-wing media defends Navy SEAL accused of killing Iraqi civilians, posing with corpses – By Luke Barnes (Thinkprogress) / May 20 2019
Edward Gallagher allegedly shot at unarmed civilians while deployed, but may be pardoned by Trump this week.
Conservative media has jumped to the defense of Special Operations Chief Edward Gallagher, the Navy SEAL accused of war crimes against unarmed civilians, whom President Donald Trump is reportedly considering pardoning this week.
Gallagher is set to stand trial at the end of May for a number of allegations stemming from a 2017 deployment to Iraq. He was charged in September 2018 with firing on civilians, obstruction of justice, and possession of controlled substances, along with two other confidential charges.
In the immediate aftermath of Gallagher’s arrest last September, Fox News jumped to his defense. Host Sean Hannity has frequently lauded Gallagher on both his radio and TV shows, describing the SEAL in heroic terms, while Gallagher’s family has also repeatedly gone on Fox News to defend his actions. In February, Gallagher’s brother Sean explicitly called for Trump’s help in a Fox News Op-Ed.
On Sunday, after news of Gallagher’s potential pardon broke, Fox & Friends weekend host Pete Hegseth quickly leapt to Gallagher’s aid, describing him as a “war fighter” making “tough calls.”
“These are men who went into the most dangerous place on earth with a job to defend and made tough calls on a moment’s notice,” Hegseth said. “To the people in middle America, who respect the troops and the tough calls they make, they’re going to love this. These are the good guys. These are the war fighters.”
Hegseth neglected to mention some of the “tough calls” Gallagher allegedly made that led to his detention. According to the official charge sheet, these include shooting a teenage girl and unarmed old man from a snipers nest, indiscriminately firing a heavy machine gun into a residential neighborhood, and repeatedly stabbing a teenage ISIS fighter who was wounded and dying. Gallagher is also accused of sharing pictures he took with a deceased ISIS fighter he had killed, along with the phrase, “I got him with my hunting knife.”
Members of SEAL Team Seven, Gallagher’s unit, repeatedly voiced their concerns about him to their commanding officers, but were allegedly ignored.
Others in the conservative media-sphere have defended Gallagher’s actions. The Federalist’s Jesse Kelly followed a similar strategy as Hegseth, tweeting Sunday that while, he didn’t know whether Gallagher was guilty, it was impossible to judge him without first walking in his shoes.
“A lot of people who’ve never spent 5 seconds in combat have some very strong opinions about how Eddie Gallagher should have conducted himself,” Kelly wrote. “I don’t know if he’s guilty. You don’t know if he’s guilty. He hasn’t had a trial yet. But I do know that our spec ops guys deploy 250+ days a year, immerse themselves in a world most cannot comprehend, and deserve better than rushed judgments from the Call of Duty brigade.”
Last week, the Daily Caller also followed in Fox News’ footsteps, publishing a video defending the SEAL which featured Gallagher’s brother Sean and Rep. Ralph Norman (R-SC).
“This was his last tour,” Norman said. “Let’s have a fair trial and put him in a condition, living condition, so he can prepare the defense for his life.”
Support for Gallagher among conservative circles is not new. In December, former New York City Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik published a column in Newsmax, dubbing Gallagher a “highly-decorated combat warrior” who had been maligned by “a small group of malcontent subordinates.”
Far-right conspiracy website The Gateway Pundit also frequently links to Gallagher’s legal defense fund, which has so far raised more than half a million dollars.
Gallagher is one of several military members whom Trump is considering for pardons. According to the Times, the others “are believed to include … a former Blackwater security contractor recently found guilty in the deadly 2007 shooting of dozens of unarmed Iraqis,” “… Maj. Mathew L. Golsteyn, the Army Green Beret accused of killing an unarmed Afghan in 2010,” and a group of Marine Corps snipers accused of “urinating on the corpses of dead Taliban fighters.”