Praising North Korean leader Kim Jong Un for spending time “out with the people.” Describing him as “quite the romantic.” Even lauding Kim’s uncharacteristically casual summer outfit.
That may sound like typical North Korean propaganda, but in this case, the fawning comments came from Fox News.
Here’s what happened: On Wednesday, Kim traveled with his wife, Ri Sol Ju, to a fish-pickling plant. On New Year’s Day 2018, Kim announced he would be prioritizing improving his country’s struggling economy instead of its nuclear program. Visiting the fish-pickling plant was part of that effort — with the bonus of being a great publicity stunt complete with multiple photo ops.
But what really caught people’s attention was Kim’s clothing.
Photos showed Kim wearing a breezy short-sleeve white shirt, light gray slacks, and some sort of floppy Panama/cowboy/beach hat hybrid. (Note: We asked our friends over at Racked to help us figure out what kind of hat it was. As of publication time, they are still stumped.)
That’s a whole different outfit for Kim, who usually sports austere dark-colored suits in the style popularized by former Chinese strongman Mao Zedong. (One possible explanation for the wardrobe change is that North Korea is in the middle of a dramatic heat wave, so perhaps Kim was merely trying to beat the heat.)
The hosts of Fox & Friends, the conservative news channel’s morning show that President Donald Trump watches regularly, also noticed Kim’s more relaxed outfit and fun summer outing to the fish-pickling plant.
So on Thursday, instead of explaining the context of the trip — that it’s quintessential North Korean propaganda — the show’s hosts proceeded to applaud Kim.
“The last couple of times have you seen him, it’s been out with the people,” said Brian Kilmeade, one of the hosts. “Turns out Kim Jong Un is quite the romantic,” quipped Jillian Mele, another co-anchor, referencing the fact that Kim brought his wife along on the factory tour. (However, the segment beforehand did call Kim a “dictator” and North Korea a “rogue regime.”)
Needless to say — but I’ll say it anyway — that’s not a great look for Fox News.
Even if they meant their comments sarcastically, failing to provide any context and merely portraying Kim as a kooky character at best and a fun-loving man of the people at worst only serves to humanize the bloody, murderous dictator.
Since Kim took over the country from his father in 2011, he’s ruled as a brutal dictator who starves and imprisons his own citizens.
He oversees prison camps that detain 80,000 to 130,000 people in conditions one organization said are “as terrible [as] Nazi camps.” He had his uncle and half-brother murdered, perhaps because he worried they were plotting to overthrow him. And until recently, he had no problem spending time and money on building up a nuclear arsenal instead of betting the lives of his citizens who live on about $1,700 a year.
For Fox News hosts to laugh and celebrate him simply because he hung out at a factory in hipper clothes shows how just good North Korea propaganda really is — or, perhaps, just how bad Fox News can be.