A convicted war criminal pardoned by President Donald Trump stopped by “Fox & Friends” on Monday for his first interview since being released from military prison, and the show’s hosts were apparently over the moon about it.
Army 1st Lt. Clint Lorance told hosts Steve Doocy, Ainsley Earhardt and Pete Hegseth that he loves Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and their “impassioned leadership.”
“Thank you for serving our country,” a teary Earhardt told him. “God bless. We wish you all the best in your future.”
Hegseth had previously lobbied the White House for the soldier’s release.
Against the advice of the Defense Department, Trump last week issued pardons for Lorance and Army Maj. Mathew Golsteyn, another U.S. service member accused of war crimes, and restored a promotion for Navy SEAL Edward Gallagher, who had been accused of murdering a prisoner of war.
Lorance was found guilty of second-degree murder in 2013 for ordering his soldiers to fire on three men in Afghanistan five years earlier. He was released from Fort Leavenworth in Kansas on Friday after serving six years of his 19-year prison sentence.
“I’m so happy to be an American,” Lorance told Fox News. “A soldier or service member who knows that their commanders love them will go to the gates of hell for their country and knock ’em down.”
On Fox & Friends, pardoned war criminal Clint Lorance speaks directly to President Trump: “I love you, sir. You’re awesome. I wish you had a better team around you. You need more people watching your back, and I think you don’t have a lot of that.” pic.twitter.com/IWJs0acfOc
— Bobby Lewis (@revrrlewis) November 18, 2019
“The timing is perfect because next week is Thanksgiving,” Earhardt said of Lorance’s release.
Asked if he would like to say anything to Trump, Lorance stared directly into the camera and said, “I love you, sir.”
“You’re awesome,” he continued. “I wish you had a better team around you. You need more people watching your back, and I think you don’t have a lot of that.”
Many Democrats have condemned Trump’s decision to pardon the men, stating that it could put U.S. troops’ lives at risk and jeopardize justice. South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, a frontrunner in the 2020 Democratic presidential primary race and a Navy veteran, said Trump had “dishonored our armed services” by issuing the pardons.
Lorance dismissed Democrats’ criticism, claiming that senior Pentagon officials “threw me under the bus.” He said that he’s “actually proud of everything that happened to me.”
Defense Secretary Mark Esper urged Trump not to intervene in the military justice system by dismissing charges or changing the sentences of service members accused of war crimes, CNN reported.
On Monday, Lorance said Trump told him on the phone last week that the pardons would make “a lot of people irritated” but that he didn’t care.
“That’s what I want in my commander in chief,” Lorance said on Fox News. “The military justice system is completely broken.”
Before being pardoned, Golsteyn was facing murder charges for killing an unarmed Afghan suspected of being a Taliban bomb-maker. Gallagher had been acquitted of murdering a teenage prisoner of war in Iraq, but he was found guilty of posing for photos with the body and demoted for that. Trump restored his promotion.
Hegseth, an Army veteran himself, reportedly played a major role in securing pardons for Lorance, Golsteyn and Gallagher.
“This has been a group fight,” Hegseth told Lorance toward the end of Monday’s interview. “We’re grateful you spent your first opportunity here at ‘Fox & Friends.’”
Earhardt said Lorance’s story “makes you want to cry.”
“It does,” Doocy added.