Pressed repeatedly by Hillary Clinton and moderator Lester Holt about his claim that he opposed the Iraq War—he supported it—Trump sputtered. Pushed into a corner by Clinton and Holt, he turned to Sean Hannity, the Fox News host and unofficial Trump surrogate, for backup. “Sean Hannity said very strongly, to me and other people, he’s willing to say, but nobody wants to call him, I was against the war. He said, ‘You used to have fights with me,’ because Sean was in favor of the war.” Over the course of his rambling answer, Trump said Hannity’s name four times.
Hannity, of course, backed Trump up because Hannity is not a journalist. (In fairness to Hannity, he does not claim that he’s a journalist.)
Trump: As you know, I used your name today because you and I used to argue over the war before the war.
Hannity: I thought you forgot!
Trump: This was before the war! I don’t forget.
Hannity: You used to [call me]. You know how many times we had conversations?
Trump: Numerous times.
Hannity: And you told me I was wrong, in fairness for those people who are asking me in the media you did tell me over and over again that I was wrong.
Trump: [big smile]
But there is, of course, a problem. Hannity, like Trump, has no actual evidence that Trump opposed the Iraq War. (Evidence that he supported the war exists, however.) Journalist Robert Draper took Trump’s advice and called Hannity:
It’s hard to believe that Trump and Hannity would let these conversations be private, given the political climate in 2003, especially on Fox and right-wing radio. Anyone who opposed the war was being excoriated as a traitor (and Hannity keeping Trump’s Iraq War opposition private at the least seems like bad radio).
On the flip side, if Trump had gone on Hannity’s show, as Hannity has claimed, and expressed opposition to the Iraq War, it’s highly likely that another record of this conversation would exist. Finally, Trump is not exactly known for keeping attention-grabbing opinions secret, and in early 2003 opposing the Iraq War was as attention-grabbing as it gets.
The case of Donald Trump and the Iraq War is pretty simple. On the one hand, before the invasion—when it mattered—Trump told Howard Stern that he was in favor of the war. On the other, you can take Donald Trump and Sean Hannity’s word that he vehemently opposed it. I’ll leave it at that.