Reprinted from Media Matters
"If al Qaeda attacks here, President Bush is re-elected in a heartbeat." Bill O'Reilly, March 19, 2004.
On the morning of March 11, 2004, one year after American-led forces invaded Iraq, 10 bombs located on four different commuter trains exploded in Spain's capital of Madrid, killing more than 190 people and wounding nearly 2,000.
An al-Qaeda terror cell claimed credit for the coordinated attack against Spain, an American ally in the Iraq War. The assault marked the deadliest terror blast in Europe since the 1980s.
The event was quickly labeled "Spain's 9/11," just like the Paris massacre last week is being referred to as "France's 9/11." The similarities extend beyond the death tolls and the European locations.
Both countries were seen as key American allies in the war on terror. And both deadly attacks took place against the backdrop of an American election season. In March 2004, President George W. Bush was readying his re-election campaign against Democrat John Kerry. Today, Republicans and Democrats are approaching the presidential primary season.
What's completely different, however, about the similar attacks is how Fox News and the conservative media covered the grisly events, and the blame games they did -- and did not -- try to play.
Looking back at the Fox coverage from 2004, President Bush seemed to be a minor player in the story and his name wasn't often invoked. For Fox viewers, Bush certainly wasn't targeted for much blame following the Madrid attack; he wasn't denounced for providing vacuous leadership.
What's even more startling was the contention among Fox talkers in 2004 that, politically, a terror attack on America in 2004 would be good news for Bush; that it would seal his re-election bid because voters would overwhelmingly rally around the president.
For anyone who's been watching the Fox News coverage since Friday and seen the almost non-stop smear campaign against Obama (it's been part of the larger, right-wing media freakout), it's almost unimaginable what the Fox commentary would sound like if ISIS killed hundreds in America during next year's campaign. (Calls for impeachment would come quickly, I assume.)
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