In an effort to justify Donald Trump’s bellicose announcement that Iran is “on notice” and that military retaliation is “on the table,” White House press secretary Sean Spicer asserted at Thursday’s press briefing that Iran had attacked a U.S. naval vessel. But there’s a problem. It never happened.
Pressed by reporters who wanted to know what being put “on notice” entailed, Spicer responded by claiming that Iran’s government took actions against a U.S. naval vessel, which would be an act of war. “I think General Flynn was really clear yesterday that Iran has violated the Joint Resolution, that Iran’s additional hostile actions that it took against our Navy vessel are ones that we are very clear are not going to sit by and take,” he said. “I think that we will have further updates for you on those additional actions.”
Major Garrett of CBS News quickly corrected him, saying “a Saudi vessel,” and Spicer then responded almost inaudibly: “Sorry, thank you, yes a Saudi vessel. Yes, that’s right.” However, he did not in any way address his false claim that it was an Iranian attack.
Pentagon spokesman Christopher Sherwood confirmed to The Intercept that the attack was in fact conducted against a Saudi warship, and that the Pentagon suspects Houthi rebels.
“It was a Saudi ship – it was actually a frigate,” said Sherwood. “It was [conducted by] suspected Houthi rebels off the coast of Yemen,” he added.
As expected, Fox News also falsely reported that a U.S. ship was somehow the target.
Watch Spicer’s remarks:
As The Intercept notes, this is how American wars start. The site also highlights a series of false reports that have led to military conflict.