The Slatest

Fox News Military Analyst Says John McCain Broke Under Torture and Gave Secrets to North Vietnamese

Thomas McInerney in front of Fox News logos at a red-carpet event.
Thomas McInerney in Washington, D.C. in 2009. Brendan Hoffman/Getty Images

I wrote Thursday morning that the Washington Post had printed a column that qualified as the worst take on the debate over whether Gina Haspel, who supported the torture of “War on Terror” detainees, should become CIA director. I was very wrong. This is the worst take:

That’s Thomas McInerney, an Air Force veteran and “Fox News Insider” who has appeared on the network to discuss military issues for many years. (The clip above is from its sister business channel.) The “Songbird John” claim appears to be derived from a debunked 2008 smear campaign that was launched against McCain in part by a notorious North Carolina man who was convicted of assault in 1993 for attacking one of McCain’s aides.

McInerney’s previous highlight as an analyst was probably when he reported that secret information indicated the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 plane had been diverted to Pakistan for potential use as a “weapon of mass destruction.” (The information is “starting to become verified,” he told Sean Hannity at the time. “We’ve got a lot of sensors up there … I suspect we may, in the next 24 to 48 hours, start hearing from either the Malaysian government or the Pakistani government. If the Pakistani government doesn’t talk soon, they’re going to be complicit in this.” Responded Hannity: “I’d argue that they’re complicit now.” The plane did not land in Pakistan.)

McCain is currently recuperating from cancer treatment and surgery in Arizona.

Update, May 11: The Fox Business host who was speaking to McInerney, Charles Payne, has issued an apology.

This morning on a show I was hosting, a guest made a very false and derogatory remark about Senator John McCain. At the time, I had the control room in my ear telling me to wrap the segment, and did not hear the comment. I regret I did not catch this remark, as it should have been challenged. As a proud military veteran and son of a Vietnam Vet these words neither reflect my or the network’s feelings about Senator McCain, or his remarkable service and sacrifice to this country.

CNN media reporter Brian Stelter says Fox has told him, meanwhile, that McInerney will no longer appear on its networks.

The retired Air Force officer’s wildly defamatory comment is, however, expected to immediately make him a leading contender to win the 2024 Republican presidential nomination. (Joke.) (Maybe.)

Further Update, 12:05 p.m. on May 11: A Fox spokeswoman emails to clarify that McInerney has not been a paid Fox News contributor since last August, when he raised eyebrows for suggesting that a nuclear war on the Korean peninsula would not necessarily have significant downside becuase the people who would die in it would be “mostly North Koreans.” Prior to being taken off the payroll, McInerney had made at least 150 Fox News appearances over the course of at least 15 years, during which time he stated in a court document that Barack Obama may have been “constitutionally ineligible” to be president because he was born abroad and told Bill O’Reilly that the U.S. didn’t find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq because Russian special forces troops hid them in Syria on Saddam Hussein’s behalf.