Ralph Peters Suddenly ‘Ashamed’ of Fox News After Decade of Appearances

The network's longtime "strategic analyst" is "ashamed" of his association because they've become a "propaganda machine."

Buzzfeed (“An ‘Ashamed’ Fox News Commentator Just Quit The ‘Propaganda Machine’“):

A retired United States Army lieutenant colonel and Fox News contributor quit Tuesday and denounced the network and President Donald Trump in an email to colleagues.

“Fox has degenerated from providing a legitimate and much-needed outlet for conservative voices to a mere propaganda machine for a destructive and ethically ruinous administration,” wrote Peters, a Fox News “strategic analyst.”

“Over my decade with Fox, I long was proud of the association. Now I am ashamed,” he wrote.

Peters, who was also a heated critic of Barack Obama’s foreign policy, once described him as having been “date raped” by Vladimir Putin. He didn’t respond to an email about his missive. A Fox News spokesperson didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

NYT (“Fox News Analyst Quits, Calling Network a ‘Propaganda Machine’“):

A longtime analyst for Fox News is leaving the network, saying that he could not “in good conscience” remain with an organization that, he argued, “is now wittingly harming our system of government for profit.”

In a searing farewell note sent to colleagues on Tuesday, Ralph Peters, a Fox News strategic analyst and a retired lieutenant colonel in the United States Army, castigated the network for its coverage of President Trump and the rhetoric of its prime-time hosts.

“In my view, Fox has degenerated from providing a legitimate and much-needed outlet for conservative voices to a mere propaganda machine for a destructive and ethically ruinous administration,” Colonel Peters wrote in his message, a copy of which was obtained by The New York Times.

“Over my decade with Fox, I long was proud of the association,” he added. “Now I am ashamed.”

Without citing them by name, Colonel Peters, 65, wrote that Fox News’s prime-time anchors “dismiss facts and empirical reality to launch profoundly dishonest assaults on the F.B.I., the Justice Department, the courts, the intelligence community (in which I served) and, not least, a model public servant and genuine war hero such as Robert Mueller.”

[…]

In an email interview on Tuesday, Colonel Peters wrote that his letter had been “intended for internal consumption,” adding: “I am not trying to grandstand. Fox was good to me for many years.”

He said he informed Fox News on March 1 that he did not plan to renew his contract, which expires toward the end of this month.

“As a retired military officer,” he said, “I simply could not continue with Fox in good conscience.”

While he’s naturally getting a lot of ribbing for this on social media, I take Peters at his word. Here’s the letter, as reprinted by Buzzfeed, who broke the story:

On March 1st, I informed Fox that I would not renew my contract. The purpose of this message to all of you is twofold:

First, I must thank each of you for the cooperation and support you’ve shown me over the years. Those working off-camera, the bookers and producers, don’t often get the recognition you deserve, but I want you to know that I have always appreciated the challenges you face and the skill with which you master them.

Second, I feel compelled to explain why I have to leave. Four decades ago, I took an oath as a newly commissioned officer. I swore to “support and defend the Constitution,” and that oath did not expire when I took off my uniform. Today, I feel that Fox News is assaulting our constitutional order and the rule of law, while fostering corrosive and unjustified paranoia among viewers. Over my decade with Fox, I long was proud of the association. Now I am ashamed.

In my view, Fox has degenerated from providing a legitimate and much-needed outlet for conservative voices to a mere propaganda machine for a destructive and ethically ruinous administration. When prime-time hosts–who have never served our country in any capacity–dismiss facts and empirical reality to launch profoundly dishonest assaults on the FBI, the Justice Department, the courts, the intelligence community (in which I served) and, not least, a model public servant and genuine war hero such as Robert Mueller–all the while scaremongering with lurid warnings of “deep-state” machinations– I cannot be part of the same organization, even at a remove. To me, Fox News is now wittingly harming our system of government for profit.

As a Russia analyst for many years, it also has appalled me that hosts who made their reputations as super-patriots and who, justifiably, savaged President Obama for his duplicitous folly with Putin, now advance Putin’s agenda by making light of Russian penetration of our elections and the Trump campaign. Despite increasingly pathetic denials, it turns out that the “nothing-burger” has been covered with Russian dressing all along. And by the way: As an intelligence professional, I can tell you that the Steele dossier rings true–that’s how the Russians do things.. The result is that we have an American president who is terrified of his counterpart in Moscow.

I do not apply the above criticisms in full to Fox Business, where numerous hosts retain a respect for facts and maintain a measure of integrity (nor is every host at Fox News a propaganda mouthpiece–some have shown courage). I have enjoyed and valued my relationship with Fox Business, and I will miss a number of hosts and staff members. You’re the grown-ups.

Also, I deeply respect the hard-news reporters at Fox, who continue to do their best as talented professionals in a poisoned environment. These are some of the best men and women in the business..

So, to all of you: Thanks, and, as our president’s favorite world leader would say, “Das vidanya.”

I’ve been aware of Peters for more than two decades and respected the writing he did at places like the Army War College’s Parameters back when he was a lieutenant colonel and often quoted his columns here in the early days of OTB. Over time, I came to view him as something of a crank. He’s been especially over-the-top on his view of Islam and its connection with terrorism and women in the military.

I follow several retired officers of his generation, who I either served under or similarly came to respect for their professional writing, on social media. Peters’  views are well in the mainstream of that population.

That said, while he’s a 65-year-old arch-conservative whose attitudes on some issues are antiquated, he remains, at his heart, a professional intelligence analyst. Yes, he still has a Cold Warrior’s instinctive distrust of Russia. But his analysis of Putin–and the rise of autocratic leaders elsewhere—is reasonable. He’s a defender of Gina Haspel but, not because he’s pro-torture but because he thinks intelligence officers are heroes. And, indeed, you can see his frustration with the likes of Sean Hannity in that column: “It’s bad enough that right-wing talk-show hosts stir up utterly unjustified paranoia toward our intelligence agencies (abetted by Hollywood’s lazy storylines in which villainous American spies root through our underwear). ”

Peters wrote a column in February lampooning Trump’s military parade:

Displays of military might have great appeal to those who’ve never served. And parades with miles of tanks, artillery pieces and missiles, along with massive formations of robotically drilled soldiers, produce impressive images. But the strength’s an illusion.

Whenever our adversaries, be they in Moscow, Beijing or Pyongyang, stage extravagant military parades, it makes me smile: I know that those perfect ranks smashing down their boots aren’t prepared to fight: If your priority is big parades, you’re not prepared for big wars.

As for honoring the troops, as a former private I assure you soldiers don’t take any special joy in standing in the sun for hours while the VIPs suck mimosas in the shade.
If we want to honor our troops, pass the damned defense budget.

And don’t take our already over-scheduled troops away from critical training or their families for frivolity. Not only would the sort of grand parade Trump envisions tie up tens of thousands of troops, it would paralyze staffs and logistics commands for months, play havoc with vital training and grossly misuse assets.

Of course, we’ve had big parades in the past — and worthy ones. But they weren’t displays of power but rather put our troops front and center.

Again, there’s a bit too much praetorian preening in there for my tastes. But it’s who Peters has always been.

And, while admittedly a mite slow on the uptake as to Fox News’ descent into propaganda, he’s been unafraid to part company when his analysis takes him in a different direction. See his recent columns “I’m a military man and I think we should ban assault weapons” and “It’s time to stand up to the NRA’s bullying.”

Reading the letter and scanning those recent columns, I’m persuaded that Peters legitimately intended his letter for his colleagues and that he’s genuinely ashamed to be associated with what the network has become. He’s not shocked or embarrassed that they’re partisan. He’s ashamed that they’ve followed Donald Trump in bashing institutions he holds sacred, namely the intelligence and law enforcement communities, and apologists for Russian attempts to undermine the country he loves.

FILED UNDER: Media, ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. I guess the only question is what took him so long?




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  2. Mark Ivey says:

    And just like that, he suddenly became an anti American traitor in Fox World..




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  3. drj says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    I guess the only question is what took him so long?

    Because Fox News committed the unforgivable sin to lie about something Peters actually cared about:

    When prime-time hosts–who have never served our country in any capacity–dismiss facts and empirical reality to launch profoundly dishonest assaults on the FBI, the Justice Department, the courts, the intelligence community (in which I served) and, not least, a model public servant and genuine war hero such as Robert Mueller…

    All the other bullshit (Benhgazi, birtherism, ACORN, Seth Rich, etc., etc.) didn’t hurt or offend him personally, so no biggie.

    Which, by the way, is a quite common attitude among conservatives and goes a long way toward explaining the current sorry state of the GOP.




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  4. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Doug Mataconis: Amen.




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  5. OzarkHillbilly says:

    See his recent columns “I’m a military man and I think we should ban assault weapons” and “It’s time to stand up to the NRA’s bullying.”

    No wonder he didn’t fit in any longer. 2 good rants.




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  6. michael reynolds says:

    The right-wing mind does not do compassion or empathy. The right-wing mind reserves all its gentler feelings for itself. Peters objects because the hate machine he’s been part of, the hate machine that fed and clothed him, turned against what he sees as an extension of himself: the intel community. Even then it took him more than a year of intel-bashing and constant Trumpian lies.

    But this is what passes for integrity on the right. We are left to be grateful when these super-patriots, these loud-mouthed liars, these slanderers, these cheap-shot artists, finally realize the sewage they’re standing in has reached their mouths and nostrils.

    This of course will have no impact on the Trumpalooons, cult members are never convinced by those who’ve left the cult.




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  7. James Joyner says:

    @drj:

    All the other bullshit (Benhgazi, birtherism, ACORN, Seth Rich, etc., etc.) didn’t hurt or offend him personally, so no biggie.

    Right. Those scandals were at least “truthy,” in that they played to something Peters genuinely believed: Obama wasn’t quite “American,” Obama and Hillary don’t really love America in the same way that Ronald Reagan did, liberal groups are engaged in conspiracies, etc. Again, those aren’t admirable but they’re exceedingly popular in Peters’ demo.

    In the Trump era, though, Fox has suddenly turned against the institutions they claimed to love until now. That offends him.




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  8. Moosebreath says:

    @drj:

    Exactly. Kevin Drum had a good rant on this subject.

    “Note that Peters didn’t quit when Tucker Carlson gave a platform to a congressman who thought ISIS was behind the Las Vegas shooting. He didn’t quit when Fox was reporting sympathetically about Trump’s response to white supremacists in Charlottesville. He didn’t quit over Benghazi. He didn’t quit over the birther conspiracty theories. He didn’t quit when Sean Hannity was peddling lies about the DNC murdering Seth Rich. He didn’t quit when Megyn Kelly and other were pushing racial hysteria over the New Black Panthers. He didn’t quit over the Shirley Sherrod affair.

    I could go on, but that would be boring. The point is this: He didn’t care about all that other stuff. After all, lying about liberals is fine. It’s only when Fox started lying about the FBI and Vladimir Putin that he got upset.”




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  9. KM says:

    @michael reynolds:

    The right-wing mind does not do compassion or empathy. The right-wing mind reserves all its gentler feelings for itself. Peters objects because the hate machine he’s been part of, the hate machine that fed and clothed him, turned against what he sees as an extension of himself

    Other examples include conservatives who suddenly are pro-control after getting shot, those who suddenly give a crap about LBGT rights after a loved one comes out, those who want regulations after a disaster hits them personally, etc. They suddenly want investigations, prosecutions and the wrath of the government when it benefits them but everyone else can go hang.

    Selective empathy has always been a hallmark of the right. Too bad for them Trump is going to attack anything he can to cover his ass. Trump’s not tribe so he’ll smear and smash everybody without regards to the delicate sensibilities of the right – see his recent gun control comments and the NRA-lovers’ subsequent outrage. His loyalty is to *him* and no one else. There’s no sacred cow with him so the number of betrayed souls like Peters out there has to be high and getting higher. The FBI is probably full of them right now….




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  10. JohnMcC says:

    The worst day for committed Communists in world history was the day the Molotov-Ribbentrop Treaty was announced. It was suddenly obvious that what had seemed an ideal had instead been a con by a dictatorial politician.

    In the hands of it’s present leaders the R-party and the so-called ‘conservative movement’ have reached that point like a slowly incoming tide reaches further and further up the beach. More and more previously outspoken RWNJs (Max Boot is my favorite) can’t tolerate what Mr Trump is doing to ‘their’ party.

    The question for liberals is how or whether to make common cause. Which of course we should. After Trump the partisan debate will of course continue. But until then we should welcome the tactical and limited support of even Andrew Sullivan (to the extent it’s offered).




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  11. al-Ameda says:

    In 2013, Fox News analyst Ralph Peters, when speaking about Putin said, “I respect that guy,” adding “he presents himself as a real He-Man.”

    But, what’s changed, Ralph?




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  12. michael reynolds says:

    @KM:

    Other examples include conservatives who suddenly are pro-control after getting shot, those who suddenly give a crap about LBGT rights after a loved one comes out, those who want regulations after a disaster hits them personally, etc.

    Indeed. And no one is less capable of compassion or empathy than white evangelical Christians. They should stop calling themselves Christians, and admit that they’re just Old Testament cranks who categorically reject every word Jesus is quoted as having said. Utterly incapable of caring about anyone but themselves and people exactly like them. It’s a mental disorder.




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  13. James Joyner says:

    @al-Ameda: One can respect an adversary and consider him an adversary. And Putin has been much more outwardly aggressive to the United States since then. Obama was lampooning Romney’s correctly calling Russia our top strategic competitor in those days.




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  14. gVOR08 says:

    @KM:

    those who suddenly give a crap about LBGT rights after a loved one comes out

    My Senator, Rob Portman, whose son came out.

    There’s a petition out asking his wife to leave the board of Cincinnati Children’s Hospital because of all the support money he gets from the NRA. The connection to the hospital board seems thin, but on the grounds that all NRA supporters should be shunned by polite society, I’m all for it.




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  15. al-Ameda says:

    @James Joyner:
    I understand your point, but that “he’s a real He-Man,” goes well beyond the normal non-hormonal respect usually given to regular heads of state.




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  16. James Joyner says:

    @al-Ameda: Yeah. Presumably, that was part of the “Putin is a macho dude, so no wonder he’s getting the best of Obama the pussy” line of argument that Fox was peddling. It always seemed silly but I get why it would appeal to a Ralph Peters.




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  17. Kylopod says:

    @KM:

    Other examples include conservatives who suddenly are pro-control after getting shot, those who suddenly give a crap about LBGT rights after a loved one comes out, those who want regulations after a disaster hits them personally, etc.

    One of the most misleading of political expressions is “a conservative is a liberal who got mugged.” I wrote a blog post about this a while back. The expression was coined originally in the 1970s by Philadelphia mayor Frank Rizzo, who may have actually intended it as a criticism of conservatives, but it has since gone on to be a condescending insult used against liberals–the idea that liberals are elites living in Ivory Towers where they’re sealed off from the problems of the real world. That was certainly the sense in which Irving Kristol used it when he defined a neoconservative as a liberal who got “mugged by reality”–which is pretty ironic in retrospect, given that the entire Bushian War on Terror was essentially a case of neocons being mugged by reality.

    The fact is that when you get down to it, on most issues today it is liberals who are the ones living in the real world having to suffer the very real consequences of conservative policy-making, whether it concerns the social safety net, police attacks on minorities, or going to war. The conservatives in power are generally rich white folks who don’t have to deal with these matters in their personal lives, and when they do (as in impoverished whites in the South living on EBT cards and Medicaid), a steady diet of propaganda along with some good old-fashioned cognitive dissonance can do wonders in keeping them within a party that works against their own interests. Most of them will never be “mugged by reality” once they’ve been brainwashed into thinking the mugger is their friend.




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  18. Metalmommy says:

    @Moosebreath: Very eye opening




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  19. Lounsbury says:

    @KM: “Selective empathy has always been a hallmark of the right”
    Oh give the Ideological Self-BackPatting a break.

    Selective empathy is a hallmark of Homo Sapiens Sapiens, the hairless chimpanzee.

    How the selectivity is structured may be a matter of ideological-tribal framing, but it is not limited to one political colouring.




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  20. gVOR08 says:

    @Lounsbury: I find that many things I and others think of as conservative characteristics: tribal loyalty, the aforementioned selective empathy, deference to authority, defaulting to moralistic deontology, denigrating the “other”, motivated reasoning, are in reality general characteristics. But it seems to me that somehow liberals are more able, or more willing, to get past these inclinations. As an example – I, like most of us I suspect, used to share common attitudes toward gays. When motivated to stop and think about why, I couldn’t come up with a good reason. So I quit. Unlike Senator Portman, no one close to me had to come out.




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  21. michael reynolds says:

    @Lounsbury:
    Dan Carlin, who does excellent, thought-provoking podcasts on history (perfect for walking the aisles at Costco) did a shorter bit recently on the history of cruelty. It was eye-opening. But it does seem that over time our tolerance for cruelty has diminished, especially in the so-called West. We’re evolving as a civilization, and the most advanced elements of this evolving civilization are called liberals.

    So, sure, humans are pigs. But we’re not quite the pigs we used to be, and in my world view it is our moral obligation in life to move the ball forward. I have not yet accepted Kurt Vonnegut as my personal savior, but I think he was right about this: “There’s only one rule that I know of, babies — ‘God damn it, you’ve got to be kind.”

    My personal contribution has been voting to raise my own taxes, both federal and state. I’m self-employed, it’s significant money, and I write the checks and it hurts. It’s self-inflicted pain for the greater good. Then I can spend all I want on whiskey and weed and trips abroad. I don’t think that amounts to tribal framing. I think it’s an acute awareness of the fact that life has been far better to me than I deserve. I’m not a leveler, I still want there to be billionaires, I just don’t want my countrymen dying for lack of medical care, or having to live in a cardboard box, or be to unable to get an education, or lose their job if their car breaks down. I want my countrymen to have decent if not fabulous lives. And to the extent I can, I’d like to help others around the world.




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