But even if memories of the run-up to the Iraq War have led to heightened vigilance in some newsrooms, it’s unclear whether the media’s efforts to fact-check the Trump administration’s claim that an “imminent threat” justified its decision to order the killing of top Iranian General Qassem Soleimani are making an impact. A lot has changed since 2003. The government’s power to frame the public debate has only been strengthened by the advent of social media and the rise of ideological outlets, while the media’s ability to control and sustain a narrative has diminished accordingly.
Officials’ claims are often amplified in headlines and cable chyrons — “Pompeo: Soleimani Was Not In Baghdad On A Peace Mission,” read a Tuesday Fox News graphic — even if they are challenged later in greater detail. The president’s message was splashed across MSNBC hours later — “Trump: We Saved Lives By Killing Soleimani,” read a chryon — during a segment where an analyst expressed fears about the U.S. being led to war.
And Trump can also circumvent any questioning from the White House press corps, which hasn’t had a formal briefing with the press secretary in more than 300 days.