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Grace Bennett

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  • A Fox host lobbied Trump to pardon accused and convicted war criminals. Here's how Fox talked about the cases over the last six months.

    Blog ››› ››› COURTNEY HAGLE & GRACE BENNETT


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    On May 18, The New York Times reported that President Donald Trump is considering issuing pardons for several American military members convicted or accused of war crimes, including Navy Special Operations Chief Edward Gallagher, Army Maj. Mathew Golsteyn, former Blackwater contractor Nicholas Slatten, and a group Marine Corps snipers who were charged with desecrating the corpses of dead Taliban fighters. This news came mere weeks after Trump pardoned Army 1st Lt. Michael Behenna, who was convicted of “unpremeditated murder in a combat zone” after killing a man he suspected was responsible for an attack on American soldiers.

    After the Times’ piece came out, The Daily Beast reported that Fox News host Pete Hegseth had been lobbying Trump for months about the expected pardons. Hegseth tweeted out that article, adding “#FreeEddie #FreeMatt #FreeClint” -- the last a reference to Army 1st Lt. Clint Lorance, who “was convicted in 2013 of ordering the murder of two Afghan civilians who his own soldiers said posed no threat,” The Daily Beast noted. At no point did Media Matters identify Hegseth ever disclosing that he was privately lobbying Trump for pardons.

    In these cases:

    • Gallagher is charged with firing indiscriminately into crowds of civilians in Mosul, Iraq. Prosecutors say that Gallagher shot an elderly man carrying a jug of water and a girl wearing a flower-print hijab walking along a riverbank. Gallagher is also accused of fatally stabbing a teenage Islamic State fighter while another medic was tending to his wounds. A Twitter thread went viral about the charges against Gallagher, which were reported by members of his Navy SEAL team.

    • Golsteyn is charged with the murder of an alleged Taliban bomb maker in Afghanistan in 2010. Army Times reported, “Golsteyn allegedly told CIA interviewers [in 2011] that he and another soldier took the alleged bomb-maker off base, shot him and buried his remains. He also allegedly told the interviewers that on the night of the killing, he and two other soldiers dug up the body and burned it in a trash pit on base.” Golsteyn was “cleared of a law of armed conflict violation,” but an Army board found his conduct unbecoming of an officer. The Army then reopened the case after Golsteyn in 2016 told Fox News’ Special Report that he killed the man.

    • Lorance was found guilty in 2013 of second-degree murder of two civilians in Afghanistan. According to The Washington Post, the charging document against Lorance “accuses him of impeding the investigation by asking a soldier to falsely state in the incident report that the platoon could not examine the slain Afghans’ bodies because locals removed them shortly after the shooting.” The New York Times subsequently reported that nine members of his platoon testified against him at his trial, and several of them contradicted Lorance’s testimony in interviews. One of his subordinates told the Times that Lorance “was just so aggressive. One of the first things he said to us was, we are going to go in Gestapo-style with night raids, pull people out of houses, make them afraid of us.” Adam Linehan wrote in a 2017 op-ed in Task & Purpose that members of Lorance’s platoon testified that Lorance asked them to shoot a young child who attempted to retrieve the bodies; Linehan also noted, “When people like [retired Army Lt. Col. Allen] West and Sean Hannity, who has also been one of Lorance’s most vociferous supporters, declare that Lorance is innocent, they are also leveling an insidious accusation at the nine American soldiers whose testimonies helped put him behind bars.”

    • Slatten is a former security contractor with the Blackwater mercenary company who was found guilty of first-degree murder in December 2018 for his role in the September 2007 massacre of unarmed Iraqi civilians in Nisour Square, Baghdad, by several Blackwater employees. Fourteen Iraqis were killed and a further 18 were wounded in the unprovoked massacre, which prosecutors said Slatten initiated by being the first to fire. Slatten’s conviction was a long time in coming, with the first charges against him and other Blackwater members thrown out in 2009. The case was later picked up with new evidence and Slatten was convicted of murder in 2014. An appeals court overturned this first conviction and ordered a new trial for Slatten, which initially ended in a mistrial. According to prosecutors, Slatten had told members of his team that Iraqi “people’s lives are not worth anything” and “they’re not even humans, they are animals.” He also expressed no remorse for the killings in a September 2017 interview with USA Today, saying that the only massacre was “a massacre of justice” against him and calling himself “a POW in my own country.”

    Trump has previously given pardons following pleas on Fox News. In fact, the lawyer for the recipient of one of Trump’s earliest pardons even credited a Fox-centric strategy for the eventual pardon.

    Below is coverage from the last six months by Fox News figures of these cases in which Trump is reportedly considering pardons. Trump has tweeted about at least one of these segments, even tagging Hegseth.

    May 2019

    On the May 19 edition of Fox & Friends Weekend, co-host Pete Hegseth aggressively endorsed potential pardons for Gallagher, Golsteyn, and Lorance, claiming that “these are the good guys.”

    • The conversation included Fox & Friends Weekend co-hosts Ed Henry, Jedediah Bila, and Hegseth.

    • Hegseth argued that the three service members “made tough calls on a moment’s notice” and are “not war criminals. They're warriors who have now been accused of certain things that are under review.” Hegseth also added that it’s “very heartening” to him that the president might pardon them.

    • Hegseth also deadnamed whistleblower Chelsea Manning, referring to her with her birth name rather than her affirming name. Like misgendering, which is labeling someone “as a gender other than one that a person identifies with,” deadnaming is a disrespectful practice that invalidates a trans person’s identity.

    On the May 14 edition, America’s Newsroom hosted Gallagher’s wife, Andrea, who argued that her husband “has endured a lot of suffering at the hands of the military and the United States government.”​

    During the May 14 edition of Fox & Friends, co-host Brian Kilmeade expressed remorse about Gallagher’s trial because he is a “Navy SEAL who has already given so much to this country,” and co-host Ainsley Earhardt called him “a decorated hero” who “served our country.”

    • Kilmeade, Earhardt, and co-host Steve Doocy discussed Gallagher’s case.

    • While describing the Gallagher case, Kilmeade minimized the accusations, simply saying that during “his ninth tour, he got in some trouble -- got in some legal trouble.”

    • Kilmeade also commended Gallagher for having “sacrificed so much time away from his family” and serving eight tours.

    Earlier on the May 14 edition of Fox & Friends, Gallagher’s lawyer, Timothy Parlatore, accused prosecutors of withholding evidence.

    • Kilmeade said that “it must be painful within the military community to prosecute somebody that’s given so much to this country whether there was misconduct or not,” but he argued that Gallagher has been “brutally” treated and condemned prosecutors for “trying to take down one their own.”

    On the May 7 edition of Fox and Friends, Fox host Pete Hegseth defended Behenna after his pardon, claiming “they knew” the man Behenna killed was “the guy that killed the two Americans” but just “didn’t have enough evidence.”

    • Hegseth discussed Behenna’s case with Fox & Friends co-hosts Earhardt, Doocy, and Kilmeade.

    • Hegseth claimed that “ultimately, this is a platoon leader trying to keep his guys safe,” and said Behenna shouldn’t have gotten any prison time.

    • Hegseth complained that “the Army overprosecutes” war crimes and brought up Lorance, Golsteyn, and Gallagher as other examples, saying it was “wonderful” that the president is considering pardons.

    • Hegseth again deadnamed whistleblower Chelsea Manning.

    April 2019

    On the April 27 edition of Fox & Friends Weekend, co-host Hegseth questioned whether charging military personnel for violating the Uniform Code of Military Justice may show a lack of “understanding the complexity of combat.”

    • Hegseth mentioned that military personnel are facing charges for their alleged misconduct while interviewing a war veteran who became a journalist.

    • Hegseth said: “There’s a lot of complex cases -- we cover them on the show. Matt Golsteyn, a Green Beret who’s facing charges; Eddie Gallagher, a Navy SEAL who‘s facing charges. Is there -- you know, are we not fully understanding the complexity of combat in some of those cases?”

    On the April 25 edition of Premiere Radio Network’s The Sean Hannity Show, Gallagher’s brother pleaded for donations to his defense fund and argued that he should not be tried for war crimes. Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA) compared Gallagher’s prosecution to the “corrupt” courts going after Trump.

    • Hannity interviewed Gallagher's brother Sean and then discussed the case with Hunter.

    • Hannity: “When you get to the actual investigations, a lot of it sounds like SEAL talk, maybe the best equivalent would be locker room talk.”

    • Hannity mockingly read The New York Times’ description of Galagher’s crimes, which included “stabbing a defenseless teenage captive to death, picking off school-age girl and an old man from a sniper’s roost, indiscriminately spraying neighborhoods with rockets and machine-gun fire.”

    • Sean Gallagher then came on to defend his brother and ask for donations. He made his case by saying that “either you believe that this country is worth fighting for, and you want men to go kill bad men oversees, or you don’t. If you do, then Eddie is a hero.” He also said that we should “send all the lawyers to Iraq and Afghanistan.”

    • Sean Gallagher said the “system is broken.” He also said that the charges against his brother are “political” and meant to “send a message” and that they’re throwing “Eddie under the bus.”

    On the April 13 edition of Fox & Friends Weekend, co-host Henry asked why “our American heroes” are “falling victim now to military prosecutors.” The on-screen chyron read: “The prosecution of America’s heroes.”

    • The segment included co-hosts Henry and Hegseth as well as guest Don Brown, who is a member of Lorance’s defense team.

    • Hegseth started the interview by saying that when he was in combat, he “had to make some of the very same decisions [as Lorance did] at the split moment. … Yet he’s charged with murder. Why?” In response, Brown said the “rules of engagement” changed under former President Barack Obama and now they “favor the Taliban over Americans.”

    • Brown chastised the “left-wing military justice system” and called on Trump “to take action.” He asserted that Lorance is “guilty of nothing except for being a red-blooded American patriot.”

    • Brown also deadnamed whistleblower Chelsea Manning.

    On the April 12 edition of Fox News @ Night, anchor Shannon Bream’s guest, a retired U.S. Marine Corps bomb technician, complained about the cases.

    • Bream’s guest during the segment was Johnny Joey Jones, a retired U.S. Marine Corps bomb technician.

    • Without mentioning the men by name, Jones mentioned “two high-profile cases of a Navy SEAL and, I believe, an Army Ranger or Green Beret on trial,” saying that they are on trial “even with storied and honored careers.”

    • Jones complained about the “idea that we need someone else to hold our men and women accountable,” referring to the United States’ laws regarding charging troops convicted of war crimes. He added, “That doesn’t sit well with us, and especially when we’re the ones out trying to enforce some sort of justice in the world for the things that have happened to our country.”

    On the April 12 edition of Fox News’ America’s Newsroom, anchor Sandra Smith hosted Gallagher’s wife, Andrea, who made a direct appeal to Trump.

    • Smith hosted guests Andrea Gallagher and Nine Line Apparel CEO Tyler Merritt

    • Merritt claimed there is a video with exculpatory evidence; he said Gallagher is fighting “a giant.” He continued: “If this crime was committed in Chicago, maybe he would be free and at home with his family. But we allow people to create and incite race riots, but they’re found not guilty. And you have an individual, a Navy SEAL, where you just watch the video, he is not guilty.”

    • Smith listed restrictions on Gallagher and asked his wife how hard it is for her family. She said, “It’s tantamount to confinement. … In civilian terms, it’s obstruction of justice.”

    • Gallagher said: “I just want to let the president know he is being lied to. There is corruption from the top down involved in this. … We have been tortured endlessly. … We need the president to take a good hard look.”

    On the April 2 edition of The Sean Hannity Show, Hannity downplayed accusations made against Gallagher, characterizing his actions as “a mistake” and blaming Obama’s “rules of engagement.”

    • Hannity interviewed Don Brown, a member of Lorance’s legal team, and played clips of Lorance’s mother pleading with Obama to pardon her son.

    • Hannity complained that “we’re going to send men and women out to fight for our country and ... then we’re going to try them if they make a split-second decision.” He asked why anybody would want to fight for our country “under these rules.” He sarcastically added, “Appreciate you serving our country. Sorry you made a mistake.”

    • Later in the same show, he again framed alleged war crimes by saying the perpetrators had to “make a split-second decision” and complaining that “men and women in the battle field that are being second guessed.” He also claimed to have new evidence that exonerates Lorance. Hannity asserted that Lorance is “not guilty of anything” and asked Brown if the president is aware of Lorance’s case. Brown responded that he knows “a guy named Sean Hannity who could walk it over there to him.”

    March 2019

    On the March 29 edition of Fox & Friends, co-host Kilmeade interviewed Gallagher’s wife, Andrea, and brother, Sean, who complained that Gallagher’s treatment “is abhorrent” especially after he “fought for our country bravely and steadfastly.”

    • Kilmeade asked Andrea Gallagher what her husband’s life is like and noted that he had been kept in a “prison for sexual offenders.” Kilmeade also expressed outrage that Gallagher had been “forced to go over these hurdles” in preparing for the trial.

    • Kilmeade complimented Andrea and Sean Gallagher for being “two fighters on the outside” making sure Edward Gallagher is released and added that he “hopefully [has] one in the White House.”

    On the March 29 edition of Fox & Friends First, co-host Jillian Mele discussed Gallagher’s case with Rep. Ralph Norman (R-SC), who said that he took an interest about the case after it appeared on Fox News, and had since met with Sean and Andrea Gallagher several times. Both Mele and Norman extensively praised Edward Gallagher.

    • Right Wing Watch has since reported that Norman told Breitbart radio that he spoke with Trump shortly after the March 29 appearance on Fox.

    On the March 22 edition of Fox & Friends, the co-hosts interviewed Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-TX), a former Navy SEAL who argued that Gallagher’s treatment by federal officials “doesn’t seem like the proper way to treat somebody who served our country for so long.”

    • Crenshaw was discussing Gallagher’s case with co-host Doocy and guest co-hosts Henry and Bila.

    February 2019

    On a February 26 edition of Fox Nation's Deep Dive, the panel defended Gallagher and criticized the military's rules of engagement.

    • The panel included The Wall Street Journal's James Freeman, Fox host Hegseth, Fox contributor Judith Miller, and former Navy SEAL Rob O'Neill.

    • When Hegseth was confronted with the possibility that people in the military want the laws of war to be followed, Hegseth responded that “if only our enemies ever followed any laws at all.” He added that in war, leaders have to make a “tough call” and that he chooses to give guys like Gallagher the “benefit of the doubt.”

    • O'Neill criticized the Navy SEALs who testified against Gallagher, calling it “disgusting” to “see someone else on the same team testify against someone in combat.”

    On the February 14 edition of The Story, host Martha MacCallum reported on recent updates on Goldsteyn’s case, interviewing Goldsteyn’s attorney, Phillip Stackhouse.

    On the February 13 edition of Fox & Friends, co-host Kilmeade introduced the segment on Goldsteyn by saying he went from “former military hero and decorated Green Beret to enemy of the state.”

    • The segment featured Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA), a lawmaker looking into the case, and Fox & Friends Weekend co-host Hegseth. The segment also included a pre-recorded interview between Hegseth and Goldsteyn and his wife, Julie.

    • Hunter reduced Goldsteyn’s alleged conduct to simply “killing bad guys the wrong way.” Hunter chastised what he called “compassionate combat” in which the government wants the troops “to kill the bad guys but in the right way, meaning they want us to kill guys compassionately and only under the rules of engagement that they say to.”

    • Co-host Earhardt expressed shock that a person can be tried for making a “mistake” and killing “a bad guy.” Hegseth claimed that he had to engage in “catch-and-release” practices while overseas to adhere to Obama’s rules of engagement.

    On the February 11 edition of Fox News’ America’s Newsroom, anchor Bill Hemmer mentioned a prior Fox interview of Golsteyn before interviewing Gallagher’s brother Sean.

    • Sean Gallagher said that “while the details are different” in the cases of Gallagher and Golsteyn, “the absurdity of the system is just the same.” He also said there was no evidence against his brother.

    • Hemmer brought up Sean Gallagher’s FoxNews.com op-ed from February 7 in which he made a direct appeal to Trump to intervene.

    • Sean Gallagher attacked the Navy SEALs who reported the crime in the first place.

    On the February 8 edition of Fox News’ Fox & Friends, Kilmeade hosted Sean Gallagher to defend his brother Edward, mentioning a FoxNews.com op-ed in which Sean asked Trump to intervene in the case.

    • Opening the interview, Sean Gallagher said, “We need the intervention of the president of the United States.”

    • Kilmeade said, “You have to wonder what’s happening here, because you would think in the military they would understand what your brother and others are up against. … It’s the battlefield. Isn’t the goal to kill ISIS?”

    • Sean Gallagher compared charges against his brother to charges against Trump, saying both were frivolous.

    • Kilmeade added, “The president doesn’t usually let these things go by without commenting, so hopefully he weighs in and steps up and will do a lot of good for a lot of people.”

    On the February 6 edition of Fox News’ America’s Newsroom, reporter Lucas Tomlinson mentioned an anonymous Navy SEAL officer he spoke with who blamed “millennial SEALs” for the charges against Gallagher.

    January 2019

    On the January 4 edition of The Story, Fox played a clip of a Navy SEAL complimenting Gallagher and interviewed Gallagher’s brother Sean, who argued that accusations against Edward from within the SEALs come from “a couple of malcontents.”

    • Host Martha MacCallum discussed the case with Sean Gallagher and Edward Gallagher’s lawyer, Phillip Stackhouse.

    • Sean Gallagher claimed that the accusations against his brother are false and come from Navy SEALs who were upset after Edward Gallagher reprimanded them.

    • Sean Gallagher also argued that the “overzealous, out-of-control prosecution” is trying to “make a career out of taking down a Navy SEAL.”

    On the January 4 edition of Fox & Friends, co-host Doocy complimented Edward Gallagher’s “extraordinary Navy SEAL resume” and explained that Gallagher told his brother that his last tour “was like a Game of Thrones situation.”

    • Sean Gallagher repeated his contention that the accusations against his brother stem from SEALs unhappy with how he treated them.

    • Sean Gallagher also argued, “There is an overwhelming amount of evidence that clears my brother, that exonerates him from all of these charges.”

    December 2018

    On the December 19 edition of Fox News’ Hannity, guest host Dan Bongino discussed the Golsteyn case with Golsteyn’s wife, Julie, and his father, Jerry.

    • Bongino used their appearance to complain that former POW Bowe Bergdahl’s family appeared in the Rose Garden with Obama.

    • Julie Golsteyn said that her husband was “under fire for doing his job.”

    • Jerry Golsteyn complained about “a group of people, sitting in an office somewhere, … decide that you did the right or wrong thing.”

    On the December 18 edition of Hannity, guest host Jeanine Pirro downplayed a murder charge against Golsteyn, and both her guests stated that Golsteyn had been right to kill a man in Afghanistan he suspected of being a bomb maker.

    • Pirro downplayed the charges against Golsteyn as “killing the enemy under circumstances that apparently his superiors don’t like.”

    • Both of Pirro’s guests, Fox military analyst David Hunt and retired Army Brig. Gen. Anthony Tata, said that Golsteyn was right to kill a man in Afghanistan he suspected of being a bomb maker. Hunt said: “Absolutely. I’d have done it and do it again.”

    On December 17, Fox & Friends encouraged Trump to interfere in the case against Golsteyn.

    • The segment featured Rep.-elect Michael Waltz (R-FL).

    • Kilmeade introduced the segment by describing Golsteyn as “a once-decorated war hero who fought for our country overseas, now a suspected war criminal and a murderer.”

    • Waltz said that the U.S. is putting troops in an “impossible situation,” adding, “We’ve set these guys up for failure with the rules of engagement as they stand.” Earhardt added that Golsteyn “said he was defending Americans” and that “he had to kill him to defend his own people.” Waltz then brought up “the power of pardon,” referring to Trump’s earlier tweets promising to review Golsteyn’s case.

    On December 16, Fox & Friends Weekend warned of the “very dangerous precedent” set by prosecuting Golsteyn for premeditated murder.

    • Co-host Henry said prosecutors were “jumping on” an “American war hero” for being “honest and transparent.”

    • Fellow co-host Hegseth complained that Golsteyn was still charged with murder despite unrelated actions earning him “a Silver Star, potentially even a Distinguished Service Cross, which is one step below the Medal of Honor,” and he claimed Golsteyn's alleged war crime was due to a lack of “paperwork” and a “catch-and-release” policy with terrorists.

    • Co-host Bila said she heard from “a lot” of “outraged” members of the military who told her that “you have to be able to defend these people who stand up for us” and decried the “very dangerous precedent” set by Golsteyn’s prosecution.

    Also on the December 16 edition of Fox & Friends Weekend, Golsteyn’s wife, Julie, said, “It is time for someone in Army leadership” to “step in and do the right thing” for her husband.

    • Opening the interview, co-host Hegseth said, “Thank you for your husband's service, thank you for your service.” Hegseth said he wanted to make sure that Julie Golsteyn knew “that we express that gratitude to you and your husband.”

    • After questioning whether the homicide Golsteyn is accused of was “cold-blooded murder,” Hegseth also agreed with Julie Golsteyn’s claim that the prosecution was “so disgusting” and claimed that “the rules of war get twisted” by “political leaders” so that “war heroes are being prosecuted like criminals.”

    • Julie Golsteyn said her husband “was lucky enough to survive war and has come home to be ripped apart by his own government and the Army leadership. So it is extremely disappointing and absolutely reprehensible what they have done to him … and it would be laughable, if it wasn't so serious and disgusting."

    • Julie Golsteyn also claimed her husband “did not confess to murder on television. He actually went on to Bret Baier to be an advocate for other men like Clint Lorance who are in prison for doing their jobs."

    On the December 4 edition of Fox host Sean Hannity’s radio show, Gallagher’s brother Sean dismissed the allegations against him as “concocted” “fabrications.”

    • Sean Gallagher claimed his brother's fellow SEALs “concocted these stories” of the murder of an ISIS prisoner because they didn’t like how he operated the platoon and said that the allegations were “fabrications.”

    Research by Bobby Lewis, Zachary Pleat, Brendan Karet, Alex Walker, John Whitehouse, and Tyler Monroe. Video by John Kerr.

  • Mueller report reveals Sean Hannity was the person who informed Reince Priebus about the Trump Tower meeting

    Blog ››› ››› GRACE BENNETT


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    According to the redacted version of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report that was released on April 18, it was Fox News host Sean Hannity who informed then-White House chief of staff Reince Priebus about a controversial June 2016 Trump Tower meeting between senior Trump campaign staff and a Russian lawyer in New York City. Over the past year, Hannity has repeatedly downplayed the significance of the meeting and attacked the media for reporting on it. This new revelation again shows the close relationship between President Donald Trump and the Fox host, who some White House aides have described as the administration’s “shadow” chief of staff.

    According to the report, “Priebus recalled learning about the June 9 [Trump Tower] meeting from Fox News host Sean Hannity in late June 2017.” This meeting, during which Trump campaign advisers, Trump’s family members Donald Trump Jr. and Jared Kushner, and other Trump officials were expecting to receive dirt on then-presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, has received a great deal of media scrutiny and was part of the Mueller investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

    Hannity, however, has downplayed the importance of the Trump Tower meeting throughout the investigation and criticized the media for reporting on it and other developments in the Mueller probe. In 2017, he also hosted Trump Jr. on his Fox show to whitewash the meeting, and he has repeatedly attempted to kneecap the investigation by fearmongering about the intentions of people involved in it and calling for them to be fired or prosecuted.

    The fact that Hannity is the one who told the president’s then-chief of staff about the Trump Tower meeting demonstrates his important role in the Trump sphere. As The Washington Post reported, Trump and Hannity often talk on the phone about “ideas for Hannity’s show, Trump’s frustration with the ongoing special counsel probe and even, at times, what the president should tweet. ... When he’s off the phone, Trump is known to cite Hannity when he talks with White House advisers.” In addition, Trump relies on Hannity and other Fox hosts for policy advice.  

    Hannity is mentioned two more times within the report. The first reference notes that the Fox host engaged with tweets posted by accounts controlled by the Russian Internet Research Agency. The second relays that Trump’s former personal lawyer Michael Cohen talked about a potential Trump meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Hannity’s radio show.

  • Fox plays defense for Trump after Democrats ask the IRS for his tax returns 

    Blog ››› ››› GRACE BENNETT


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    On April 3, House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal (D-MA) asked the Internal Revenue Service to deliver the last six years of President Donald Trump’s tax returns to the committee. Trump’s personal lawyer William S. Consovoy and acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney have both forcefully responded to the committee’s request, claiming Democrats have no right to the documents -- and Fox News seems to agree.

    Hosts, contributors, and guests on the network suggested that Democrats’ efforts to view the documents are a politically motivated “fishing expedition” and claimed that congressional Democrats are weaponizing the IRS and abusing their power.

    But in reality, there are plenty of good reasons for seeking a president’s tax returns. And while the law Neal is relying on to request them has not previously been used for that purpose, it also hasn’t ever been needed; Trump is the first president in 40 years to forgo releasing his tax returns. Additionally, Republicans used the same law in 2014 to access the returns from several partisan groups and then made the documents public.

    Fox figures also argued that the public likely doesn’t care about the returns. But a recent poll found that the majority of Americans -- 56% -- want Trump to release his returns to the public.

    Here are some of Fox’s reactions:

    Fox claim: The request is an attempt to change the narrative from the Mueller report or other issues

    After special counsel Robert Mueller delivered his report to the attorney general about Russian interference in the 2016 election, Fox Business host Stuart Varney argued that Democrats are asking for Trump’s returns to “sow doubt in the public mind [and] undermine Mueller’s conclusion” by “implying a coverup” on his tax returns.

    Fox Business’ Lou Dobbs hosted frequent Fox guest Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), who argued that requesting Trump’s tax returns is an “effort by Democrats to distract us from how corrupt the DNC and Clinton campaign were.”

    Fox & Friends co-host Steve Doocy argued that Democrats have moved on from collusion and “changed the narrative now to the taxes.” Fox contributor Dan Bongino agreed that Democrats “switched the narrative,” saying, “Now that obstruction isn't working, they are going to move on to some kind of financial collusion with the Trump tax returns.”

    Kayleigh McEnany, frequent Fox guest and national press secretary for Trump’s 2020 campaign, claimed Democrats are “so upset that the Mueller report turned up no collusion, no obstruction. So they’re returning back to the old tactic of let’s go after the tax returns.”  

    Fox claim: Requesting the returns is a politically motivated “fishing expedition” to find anything at all on Trump

    Fox regular and former White House press secretary Sean Spicer dismissed the request as “a political fishing expedition” and complained that Democrats “are not going after him because of some particular reason. They want to go in a fishing expedition and find something that they can hang over his head.”

    Fox contributor Byron York claimed on multiple Fox programs that the IRS request is a “fishing expedition.” On Fox Business, Dobbs told York that he didn’t use the phrase “fishing expedition” himself because he believes “that nomenclature trivializes what is a venal, venomous, ignorant assault against a sitting president.” Dobbs also claimed that the request is “absolutely beyond the proper bounds of the intent of the Constitution or the statutory authority of the United States Congress.”  

    Fox hosts Sandra Smith and Bill Hemmer hosted White House deputy press secretary Hogan Gidley and failed to push back when he asserted that if the government “gave the Mueller report to the entire press corps” along with Trump’s tax returns, “they’d come up with something else. It is never good enough.”

    Fox claim: Democrats are weaponizing the IRS

    Fox contributor Karl Rove claimed that “every American, Republican or Democrat, ought to be concerned about weaponizing the IRS in this manner,” and he said that Democrats are looking for “anything they can find in order to bring [Trump] down.”

    Fox guest and Tea Party Patriots founder Mark Meckler argued that Democrats are doing “exactly what the IRS did to the Tea Parties -- they targeted people based on their political affiliation.”

    Frequent Fox guest and Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani said the IRS will “have to resist” the Democrats’ request “because it would be totally illegal.”

    On America’s Newsroom, McEnany accused Democrats of “using the IRS as a political weapon.”

    Fox claim: People aren’t interested in seeing Trump’s tax returns

    After Fox contributor Jessica Tarlov claimed that “people want to know how rich is the president actually,” Outnumbered co-host Harris Faulkner suggested that those people don’t actually exist. She asked Tarlov, “Have you talked to these people?” and, “Are they in the electorate? Where are these people?” Faulkner added that “America voted,” suggesting that Americans must not care about the returns since Trump won an election without releasing them.

    Fox & Friends co-host Ainsley Earhardt claimed that "the majority" of "America doesn't care about seeing" Trump's tax returns.

  • NBC’s Today Show ignores the Trump administration’s latest assault on the Affordable Care Act

    Blog ››› ››› GRACE BENNETT


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    On March 25, news outlets reported that the Department of Justice is now asking courts to strike down the entire Affordable Care Act, a departure from the DOJ’s previous position that certain parts of the law were unconstitutional but the rest could be left alone. If courts were to agree with the DOJ’s new position, the effects on the health care system would be astronomical and millions of people could lose their coverage. Despite the gravity of the new position, however, NBC’s Today Show ignored the news.

    The Trump administration’s call for the ACA to be struck down follows a Texas federal judge ruling that the law is unconstitutional. The administration has pledged to support this ruling on appeal, despite having no viable plan to replace the law. If the ACA were overturned, millions of people would likely lose their health insurance, including those who gained coverage through Medicaid expansions. But the consequences wouldn’t end there. The law created many new protections for Americans, including protecting people from gender discrimination by insurance providers, allowing kids to remain on their parents’ health care plans until they turned 26, ending lifetime and annual dollar limits on essential benefits, and ending insurance companies’ ability to charge consumers more or deny them coverage based on pre-existing conditions.

    But Today failed to inform its viewers about the administration’s new stance and its potential consequences. MSNBC’s Morning Joe also all but ignored the story, with host Joe Scarborough mentioning it in passing. In contrast, Today’s major network competitors, CBS This Morning and ABC’s Good Morning America, briefly reported on the DOJ's new position and noted that it puts millions of people at risk of losing their health care coverage.

    Unfortunately, this isn’t the first time that media have ignored major stories related to health care policy. As Republicans continue to attack the ACA, media must do a better job of informing Americans about the terrifying consequences should they succeed.

  • Fox plays defense for Rep. Devin Nunes’ lawsuit against Twitter

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    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    On March 19, Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) filed a lawsuit against Twitter and three specific users, claiming that the site has censored him and allowed him to be the target of defamation. The Washington Post called the lawsuit's merits "questionable at best," but Fox hosts and contributors covered the lawsuit credulously, suggesting or even outright agreeing that Twitter tries to censor conservative accounts.  

    In the $250 million suit, Nunes argues that Twitter is routinely “shadow-banning conservatives” on its platform by allowing them to post but not letting other users see or interact with the content. Twitter denies that it shadow bans accounts, and CEO Jack Dorsey told Congress last year that the company has not found any evidence of a difference in the reach of tweets from conservative and liberal accounts. Following similar allegations of shadow banning last summer, The New York Times also found no evidence that Twitter engaged in the practice.

    In the suit, Nunes also takes issue with several specific users he claims Twitter allowed to defame him. Among them are @DevinNunesMom and @DevinCow, satirical accounts aimed at mocking Nunes. Some of the remarks that the suit specifically mentions as defamatory include a claim by the @DevinNunesMom account that Nunes was “voted ‘Most Likely to Commit Treason’ in high school,” and the @DevinCow account's tweet that “Devin’s boots are full of manure. He’s udder-ly worthless and its pasture time to move him to prison.”

    Some journalists have suggested that far from being a serious legal dispute, Nunes’ lawsuit is simply aimed at silencing critics. The Washington Post’s Aaron Blake wrote:

    The legal merits of the case appear highly questionable at best. The standard for defamation of a public figure such as Nunes is much higher than for an average person. One expert The Washington Post talked to cited the landmark Supreme Court case in which Jerry Falwell sued Hustler magazine for a satirical advertisement in which his likeness was engaged in sexual activity with his mother in an outhouse. The court ruled that public figures aren’t protected from “patently offensive speech” if the statements couldn’t be understood as actual facts.

    So feel free to chuckle about the spectacle of Devin Nunes suing “Devin Nunes’ cow” — especially given Nunes’s past opposition to “frivolous lawsuits” — but know that this most likely isn’t about his purported cow or what it said. Nunes is telegraphing an expansive effort to go after people who hurt Republicans with their public discourse. Its potential impact, not so much legally as from personal behavioral standpoint, shouldn’t be so casually dismissed.

    Fox hosts and contributors took a different approach than others in the media, choosing to take Nunes at his word and cheering on the lawsuit.  

    After news of Nunes’ suit broke, Fox’s Sean Hannity hosted the congressman on his show and allowed him to rant about Twitter’s alleged political bias and supposed censorship.

    During the March 19 edition of Fox & Friends, co-host Brian Kilmeade claimed that Twitter is “already suppressing people like Don [Trump] Jr. and conservatives.” Fox News senior judicial analyst Andrew Napolitano also argued that Nunes is “focusing a spotlight on Twitter’s bias.”

    Later in the day, on Fox Business’ Varney & Co., Kilmeade told host Stuart Varney that Nunes is making a “very courageous move.” Varney responded, “I think it’s about time we had it out about censoring conservatives on social media.”

    On Fox’s America’s Newsroom, Fox contributor Ken Starr said the lawsuit is proof that litigation can be “a powerful engine for getting the truth.” He also argued that the suit could be “one of those action-forcing events. It’s calling Twitter, and more broadly these social platforms, into the age of accountability.”

    Fox contributor Bill Bennett argued on America’s Newsroom that Nunes “has a very important point” and contended that “there is bias in a lot of these [tech] companies.”

    Fox contributor and former Arkansas Republican Gov. Mike Huckabee told America’s Newsroom co-host Sandra Smith that he is “so proud of the congressman” because the lawsuit will “hold these social media companies’ feet to the fire.” He claimed the tech companies have been “shadow banning conservatives, they’ve been making it very difficult for conservatives to get the message out,” and “they are in essence a contributing force to the Democratic Party and a contributing force against Republicans.”

  • Jeanine Pirro’s history of anti-Muslim attacks 

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    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    During her March 9 show, Fox News host Jeanine Pirro suggested to viewers that Rep. Ilhan Omar’s (D-MN) hijab was "indicative of her adherence to sharia law, which in itself is antithetical to the United States Constitution." Amid widespread criticism of her hateful remarks, Fox News responded that the network “strongly condemn[s] Jeanine Pirro's comments,” but took no further public action. Pirro herself claimed that her “intention was to ask a question and start a debate" and that “of course because one is Muslim does not mean you don’t support the Constitution.” But this isn’t the first time Pirro has made hateful and extremist comments about Muslims while appearing on Fox News.

    Here are some of Pirro’s prior attacks on Muslims:

    Just last month, Pirro suggested that Omar should be grateful to be in the United States because “she is an empowered Muslim woman, while many Muslim women aren't allowed to be educated and they just started driving.” From the February 16 edition of Fox News' Justice with Judge Jeanine
     

    JEANINE PIRRO (HOST): And the amazing part is she’s a freshman congresswoman, and I believe she came to the United States as a refugee, and now she’s in our Congress claiming that the Jewish state -- that Israel and Jews are what? Evil?

    PIRRO: Have you heard that anyone who is going to move to remove her from Foreign --

    QANTA AHMED (CONSERVATIVE COLUMNIST): No. And I think this presents a dilemma for the left. Speaker [Nancy] Pelosi, just like American Muslims have a liability in this woman, they have a liability in this congresswoman. She is showing the marriage of left-wing politics in the Democrats with Islamism. Bernie Sanders congratulated her and said he stands with his Muslim brothers and sisters. To me, he stands with Islamists, and they do not distinguish between the two. It's very problematic. The Islamism only succeeds by portraying itself as a victim and left-wing politics thrives on victimization, victim ideology. She's no victim, as you said. She came as an asylum seeker. She's moved to one of the highest offices in the land within 23 years. What other country gives a refugee that opportunity?

    PIRRO: She is an empowered Muslim woman, while many Muslim women aren't allowed to be educated and they just started driving.

    During an unhinged rant in 2015 about “radical Muslim terrorists,” Pirro repeatedly fearmongered about Islam and Muslims. She claimed that “this Islamic cancer metastasizes throughout the world” and argued that Muslims “have conquered us through immigration” and “through interfaith dialogue.” In the same screed, she claimed “there is a reverse crusade in progress” and said that “there will be efforts to limit our First Amendment, our free speech, to comply with Sharia blasphemy laws.” From the January 10, 2015 edition of Fox News' Justice with Judge Jeanine

    JEANINE PIRRO (HOST): We need to kill them. We need to kill them. The radical Muslim terrorists hellbent on killing us. You’re in danger, I’m in danger. We’re at war and this is not going to stop. After this week’s brutal terror attacks in France, hopefully everybody now gets it. And there’s only one group that can stop this war: the Muslims themselves. Our job is to arm those Muslims to the teeth, give them everything they need to take out these Islamic fanatics. Let them do the job. Let them have at it. And as they do, we need to simply look the other way. It is time for this to be over, and stop sending American dollars to any Arab country that does not support this mission. Pakistan at the top of the list. Force Arab nations to choose: They’re either with us or they’re against us. And stop with this nuclear negotiation nonsense. They don’t operate the way we do. You can’t negotiate, you can’t mediate, and you can’t bargain. You can’t even reason with these people.

    Now I’ve been telling you for a year that they’re coming for us. That there is a reverse crusade in progress -- a Christian genocide. Hundreds of thousands of innocents killed in the Middle East. Seven months ago, I said that we need to bomb ISIS, as it began its steamroll through Iraq -- bomb them, bomb them, and bomb them again -- for which I was roundly criticized. Our country’s response to this threat? The FBI destroys tens of thousands of documents deemed offensive to Islam. The CIA removes the word “Islamic” before “terrorist” in those Benghazi talking points. The Fort Hood massacre, the Oklahoma beheading? Both “workplace violence.” Are we morons?

    And as we cower to these Islamic fanatics, our president and former Secretary of State [Hillary] Clinton say they will prosecute the man who made the video, free speech be damned. They call murders accompanied by “Allah akbar,” “workplace violence.” This surender is nothing more than a coward's response to the fear of this fanatical terrorism. And this political correctness will be the death of us. They can kill us but we can’t hurt their feelings? I’m surprised the president hasn’t signed a new executive order that simply says, “Don’t offend Muslims.” And make no mistake -- as sure as I’m talking to you, there will be efforts to limit our First Amendment, our free speech, to comply with Sharia blasphemy laws which call for death to those who slander the Prophet Muhammad.

    Our government’s response to the terror threat is to have an interfaith dialogue to try to understand and empathize with the enemy. And when they want to shut us up, they call us Islamophobes. Muslim groups like CAIR and the Nation of Islam have been integrated into our society, Muslims invited to worship at our National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. We’re directed by a political correctness that is so bizarre, so disconnected from reality that it does nothing but assist our enemy in our own destruction. They have conquered us through immigration, they have conquered us through interfaith dialogue, and they have conquered us by co-opting our leaders into a position of embarrassment.

    As this Islamic cancer metastasizes throughout the world -- Boko Haram in Nigeria, al-Shabab in Somalia, Ansar al-Sharia in Libya, Al Qaeda, ISIS -- and as it goes through Europe, it is headed our way.

    "Stop defending Islam, start protecting Americans": After Obama noted violence carried out in the name of religion isn't limited to Islam, Pirro furiously listed off violent attacks by Muslim perpetrators. Pirro cited violent incidents by Muslim perpetrators (while ignoring that right-wing terror was considered the main terrorist threat in the U.S.), asking, “Mr. President, please identify what other violence is being committed against Americans in the name of any other religion -- or is it just a coincidence?”

    JEANINE PIRRO (HOST): Mr. President, what’s most interesting is that with the crusaders you so easily identify them as Christians. Why is it so hard for you to identify today’s jihadi terrorists as Muslim? Throw a rock at Christians, no problem, but never speak of Islamic terrorists. Mr. President, aside from the obvious that was then and this is now, the Quran is interpreted by some as demanding jihad, the taxing or killing of nonbelievers, and a worldwide caliphate. And surprise -- today’s terrorists are beheading, imposing that same jizya tax, and in their march to create an even bigger Islamic State. Stop apologizing and stop pussyfooting around with this language dance. We get it -- not all Muslims are terrorists. It was Egypt, a country of 90 percent Muslim that rose up against the jihadists who were also Muslim.

    Consider this: The first World Trade center attack in 1993 -- by Muslims. The USS Cole bombers were Muslim. The Fort Hood shooter was Muslim. The shoe bomber was Muslim. The underwear bomber was Muslim. The Boston bombers were Muslim. The September 11 hijackers were Muslim. Mr. President, please identify what other violence is being committed against Americans in the name of any other religion -- or is it just coincidence?

    You identify terrible deeds in the name of the Christ. Why not identify terrible deeds in the name of Muhammad, the prophet of Islam? Calling Fort Hood “workplace violence” is a joke. People can’t believe that that’s how you characterize it. But then again, your administration erases words out of reports identifying terrorists as Islamic. Stop defending Islam, start protecting Americans. Stop saying what Islam doesn’t stand for, and start saying what you as our president intend to do about this.

    During a 2016 appearance on Fox’s Hannity, Pirro suggested Middle Eastern refugees were violent and couldn’t assimilate. She said this about Middle Eastern refugees: “We've got these guys beating their wives, you've got domestic violence, you've got them hating gays, and we are bringing them to this country. We think they're going to assimilate. They are not.” She also agreed with host Sean Hannity that “this is a clash of cultures.” From the September 20, 2016 edition of Fox News' Hannity

    SEAN HANNITY (HOST): I honestly think that the issue of not saying "radical Islam," Jay -- and there's such a difference between Hillary and Donald Trump -- the issue of vetting refugees and allowing people that come from cultures that clash -- directly clash with our Constitution, that Americans fundamentally understand that we have to know if they're coming here to become American and assimilate or do they want to proselytize and bring their value system, which is the opposite of ours, with them?

    JEANINE PIRRO: It is insane. It's insanity. But when we've got these guys beating their wives, you've got domestic violence, you've got them hating gays, and we are bringing them to this country. We think they're going to assimilate. They are not. And what we've got to do, they've got to move their citizenship --

    HANNITY: This is a clash of cultures.

    PIRRO: Exactly.

    During another appearance on Hannity, Pirro claimed the United States needs to know if refugees or immigrants “believe in Sharia law,” arguing that if they do, “that means it is inconsistent with the Constitution. You do not believe in free speech, you do not believe in women's rights, you do not believe in gay rights.” From the May 24, 2017 edition of Fox News' Hannity

    SEAN HANNITY (HOST): How is it that if somebody comes from a country with what I call a clash of cultures -- where they literally believe men should tell women how to dress, and men should tell women if they can go on an airplane and travel or leave the house without a male relative, where gays and lesbians are killed, where Christians and Jews are persecuted -- I'm trying to fully and completely understand why, if you come from that country, we need to know -- do you believe that? Do you want to proselytize us or do you want to join our family?

    JEANINE PIRRO: You know, Sean, that is exactly the issue. Do you believe in Sharia law, and if you believe in that, that means it is inconsistent with the Constitution. You do not believe in free speech, you do not believe in women's rights, you do not believe in gay rights. All the things that they would trash you and me for if, God forbid, we didn't believe in those rights, we are willing to allow people that we know are individuals -- actually, we don't know who they are -- to come here, stick to their own rules, and then say, “Gee, if they kill us, well, we have to make sure that nobody commits a crime of hate.” This is hogwash, Sean. And what is happening in the U.K. --

    HANNITY: See, you're xenophobic, you're homophobic, you're a racist.

    PIRRO: I am not.

    HANNITY: Well, that's what the left says.

    PIRRO: I am none of those things.

    HANNITY: Neither am I.

    PIRRO: And I'll tell you why, Sean, and neither are you. The problem is that we expect these people to integrate. And one of the issues is -- and assimilate. One of the issues is they don't want to. And now we've got people in Congress saying because they are de facto segregated from the rest of us that we have to understand that they’re angry with us. We let them in the country.

    In 2016, Pirro argued that “we’ve got to start having a conversation about surveillance in mosques” and said she agreed with former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich that the United States should “test every person here who is of a Muslim background, and if they believe in Sharia, they should be deported.” From the July 15, 2016 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends

    JEANINE PIRRO: I agree with [Newt Gingrich]. I totally agree with him. We have a president who is an apologist. Look, I'm an amateur and in June of 2014 when I first heard about ISIS, I said bomb them, bomb them, and then bomb them again. I took some heat, but I was right. They were the JV team then. If we had done something, if this president would stop apologizing for what we do, what we are, and stop saying, “You Christians, it's your turn,” as he did at a prayer breakfast, then maybe America would be united in a way where we understand that they're coming. They're here, we're next. I've got to tell you I'm as aggravated as everyone who sat in this chair today. If we've got people standing in the blood of innocent victims when they go for an innocent celebration, then we've got to recognize that we've got a problem at the top of this country.

    Our president didn’t want to support [Egyptian President Abdel Fattah] el-Sisi. Thirty-five million Egyptians stood up and said, "We don't want the Muslim Brotherhood. We are Muslims, we don't want the Muslim Brotherhood." And this president would prefer to give tanks and airplanes to [former Egyptian President Mohamed] Morsi, the Muslim Brotherhood, forget that. Right now, they are here, they're going to kill us. Women, children, it doesn't matter. We have got to declare war on them. We've got to start having a conversation about surveillance in mosques. We've got to make sure that in the jails these imams are going in and radicalizing people, they just want to kill us. I mean, how dumb are we? And Newt is right. We're sheep saying, “Why are the wolves killing us?” Or, “Be nice to the wolves, not all wolves are bad.” Baloney!

    While guest hosting on Hannity, Pirro asked an imam if “Muslims here in America need to speak out more to try to prevent [terrorist] attacks from happening?” and then cut him off and told another guest that “the Muslim community is not coming forward.” From the December 27, 2016 edition of Fox News' Hannity

    JEANINE PIRRO (GUEST HOST): That was President-elect [Donald Trump] during his recent thank you tour vowing to fight radical Islam. After the latest terror attack in Europe and the radical Islamist threat growing around the world, do Muslims here in America need to speak out more to help to try to prevent these attacks from happening?

    PIRRO: We have got this Islamic threat. You don't deny that?

    IMAM MOHAMMAD ALI ELAHI: Well, judge, before I start --

    PIRRO: That's a yes or no. Let’s start with a premise, there is an Islamic threat facing the United States, correct? Yes or no?

    ELAHI: Well, let me answer this way. First of all --

    PIRRO: No.

    ELAHI: I'm going to answer your question. But let me first of all say, I mean, to the Pope Francis prayer for peace in Christmas ceremony --

    PIRRO: I'm happy for the Pope.

    ELAHI: Peace for Syria, peace for Yemen, peace for Iraq, peace for Holy Land, for Africa. And also peace for America, an America free of racism and hatred and intimidation and violence and crimes, and everything.

    PIRRO: What’s your point?

    ELAHI: My point is that first of all the expression of “Islamic radical” is kind of hijacking the identity of the Muslims.

    PIRRO: OK, all right, you don't like the term. You don't like the term.

    ELAHI: It is like somebody --

    PIRRO: Can I ask you a question? Who is responsible for the World Trade Center? Who is responsible for San Bernardino? Orlando? Paris? All right, Imam, you know what, you got all your time.

    PIRRO: Brigitte, the Muslim community is not coming forward. So Imam, I'm going to give you another chance, I'm going to give you another chance. Otherwise we're going to finish totally with Brigitte. All right, here is the chance. Should the family of the San Bernardino attackers, who saw the weapons, who saw all of the instruments that they used, should they have said something and why didn’t they?

    In 2017, Pirro claimed that President Donald Trump’s Muslim ban is targeted at “Joe Schmo Muhammad,” who is from a country where “they promised to send in individuals and jihadists to kill us.” From the February 10 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:

    JEANINE PIRRO: This is -- and let me make one thing perfectly clear: If you are not a citizen of the United States of America, you do not have the right to come to the United States, period, end of the story. The president has a plenary authority, the power to determine who comes into this country. And all this talk about constitutional rights -- if you are from Somalia, I got a news flash, you do not have constitutional rights in this country. And Congress has agreed with the plenary power authority of the president in terms of national security and immigration with, what is it, 8 U.S.C., what is it, 1182-F. When they said that the president at any time can make a decision to block an alien from coming to this country. So it's not about people with green cards. It's about Joe Schmo Muhammad, who doesn't have any vetting from another country that -- where they promised to send in individuals and jihadists to kill us.

  • How right-wing media tried to spin Michael Cohen’s testimony 

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    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    On February 27, longtime Trump lawyer and confidant Michael Cohen delivered damning testimony about President Donald Trump to the House oversight committee. Cohen alleged that Trump was aware of WikiLeaks’ plan to release hacked emails from the Democratic National Committee, that Trump lied during the campaign about his plans to build a Trump tower in Moscow, and that Trump directed Cohen to repeatedly pay off women to keep quiet about their sexual relationships with him. Cohen also called the president a “racist” and a “con man.” Despite the serious criminal allegations, right-wing media were quick to dismiss and reject Cohen’s testimony.

    Here are the ways they tried to spin the hearing:

    Cohen’s testimony wasn’t newsworthy

    Right-wing media figures argued that Cohen’s allegations weren’t newsworthy and aren’t worth discussing.

    • Fox’s Sean Hannity asserted that the hearing was “a Democratic party [and] a hyperventilating, hysterical media putting politics over country with a political charade designed to just embarrass and trash the president.”

    • Fox contributor Dan Bongino claimed that Cohen’s presentation of the reimbursement check he says he received from Trump for paying off adult film actor Stormy Daniels is irrelevant. “I don’t think it’s damaging at all,” he said. “This has all been baked into the cake. There’s no news here.”

    • After the Cohen testimony was over, Fox’s Greg Gutfeld asked, “Why did we endure this spectacle?” He claimed, “People here are acting like this is news. We need to believe that it's news because we are forced to cover this. I don't feel like this is news. I can't find the news.”

    • Right-wing radio host Mark Levin said on Twitter, “The Democrats are a farce. Their media handlers are as well. What was the legislative purpose of the Cohen hearing? There was none.”

    Cohen's testimony was a distraction, especially from Trump's North Korea summit

    Others in right-wing media branded the hearing a distraction, especially from Trump’s summit with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un. Some figures also argued that the Democrats shouldn’t have held the Cohen hearing while Trump was in negotiations with Kim.

    • Turning Point USA’s Charlie Kirk: “Democrats holding a hearing with convicted liar Michael Cohen while [Trump] is in Vietnam negotiating peace with North Korea tells you everything you need to know about the left. They would rather see America fail than see Donald Trump succeed.”

    • The Federalist’s Ben Domenech: “The Cohen circus is a perfect encapsulation of the 2016 Forever era: A bunch of salacious noise from which we learn very little, even as much greater concern should be focused on *what's actually happening* as a matter of policy.”

    • National Rifle Association spokesperson and radio host Dana Loesch said that Trump is de-escalating hostility with North Korea, “India and Pakistan are on the brink of war, but this Cohen guy tho that already undermined himself.”

    • Fox’s Ainsley Earhardt complained, “You’ve got this major news story that’s happening on the other side of the world, and then in D.C., they’re trying to put this guy who already lied to that very committee, ... and they’re putting him on the stand the very day that our president’s talking to Kim Jong Un.”

    • Fox’s Jason Chaffetz said, “This Cohen situation is such a distraction from what is going on that is actually going to matter in the world.”

    • Fox’s Andrew Napolitano argued, “The Democrats should be ashamed of themselves for doing this today. Politics is supposed to stop at the water's edge and whatever they have on the president, they ought to cut him a break and let him freely and without worrying about what’s going on in Washington, D.C., be in a position to negotiate with Kim Jong Un.”

    • Fox’s Geraldo Rivera: “I think it was pathetic, the timing. … They easily could have postponed it 48 hours, 72 hours to let the world focus on this profoundly significant event.”

    • Fox’s Sean Hannity complained that at the “very same moment” of a “historic summit with the president of the United States,” Democrats “purposely scheduled and hauled in Michael Cohen … just to embarrass the president.”

    • The Daily Wire’s Ben Shapiro questioned why Cohen was even testifying if he couldn’t provide “direct evidence” that Trump or his campaign colluded with Russia. He concluded, “Democrats want headlines so they can distract from their own incompetence and garbage legislation, and Cohen shifts the headlines.”

    • Fox’s Tucker Carlson claimed Cohen’s testimony “doesn't have anything to do with anything and that is the exactly the point of it,” and said, “This is a distraction, and we are falling for it.”

    Cohen’s allegations don’t hurt the president

    Some right-wing media figures claimed that Cohen’s testimony -- which included allegations that the president committed multiple felonies -- doesn’t hurt Trump, especially not legally.

    • Right-wing radio host Mark Simone claimed, “Michael Cohen’s testimony will be the 2019 version of the Michael Wolf gossip book. They’ll call it a ‘bombshell’ and two weeks later it’ll be forgotten about.”

    • Prior to Cohen’s testimony but after his opening statement was published by The New York Times, Fox’s Geraldo Rivera argued that the statement suggested that the “Cohen testimony will be dramatic, entertaining, embarrassing, nothing new & will not advance Collusion narrative.”

    • The Daily Wire’s Ben Shapiro said on Twitter: “Cohen's testimony falls into three buckets for Trump: (1) illegality; (2) embarrassing for Trump; (3) stupid hilarity. There's not much in bucket (1), there's a lot in bucket (2), and there's a fair amount in bucket (3).”

    • Shapiro also wrote: “So is Cohen's testimony damaging to Trump? In terms of public relations, sure. In terms of impeachment, meh. In terms of legal liability, not really.”

    • Fox’s Dan Bongino insisted that, even if it is true, “there's no there there" on Michael Cohen's claim Trump knew about WikiLeaks' plan to publish hacked DNC emails, saying, “None of this is great politically. The question is, is it criminally damaging? And the answer is no.”

    The testimony actually helps Trump’s legal case

    Other right-wing media figures suggested that far from hurting the president, Cohen’s testimony to Congress actually helps him.

    • The Daily Wire’s Matt Walsh: “Remarkably Cohen's testimony exonerates Trump. He says Trump never directly told him to lie, he has no evidence of collusion, and Trump only worked on the Moscow project because he thought he wouldn't win, which means he wasn't trying to leverage the presidency for financial gain.”

    • Breitbart’s Joel Pollak: “Michael Cohen’s not saying anything new legally. His testimony exonerates Trump from telling him to lie to Congress. There’s nothing new about collusion. And his recollection of things Trump said is unclear by his own admission.”

    • Frequent Fox guest John Solomon claimed the hearing was “a good day for the president,” and “a good day for his legal defense.”

    Former Clinton lawyer Lanny Davis orchestrated the hearing

    Some right-wing media figures unsurprisingly tried to tie the Cohen’s testimony to the Clintons by noting that his lawyer has previously worked with them.

    • Fox’s Katie Pavlich: “Everything you need to know about Cohen’s testimony is sitting behind him: Lanny Davis. This is about revenge for Clinton’s 2016 loss in 2020.”

    • Breitbart’s Joel Pollak said that Cohen’s testimony was partly “Lanny Davis talking thru Cohen’s mouth.”

    • Fox’s Lisa Boothe: “How is this not ridiculously sketchy to everyone? Lanny Davis, a Clinton loyalist, is working for Michael Cohen for free. I wonder what is in it for Davis.”

    • Boothe: “Doesn’t Lanny Davis representing Michael Cohen and sitting behind him today tell you everything you need to know? Democrats still can’t get over the fact that Hillary Clinton lost to Donald Trump in 2016.”

    • Fox’s Sean Hannity said that the hearing was “highly orchestrated by, yes, the biggest Clinton supporter on the entire Earth, Lanny Davis, who is apparently representing Michael Cohen for free.”

  • Fox & Friends ignored report that Republican fraud has spurred a new election in North Carolina 

    Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity, and Laura Ingraham also failed to cover the election fraud story

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    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    On February 21, following allegations of Republican election fraud, the North Carolina State Board of Elections ordered a new congressional election in the state's 9th District. The decision is highly unusual: It will be the first congressional election to be redone in over 40 years. But Fox & Friends failed to mention the story even once after the news broke, as did Fox’s Hannity, Tucker Carlson Tonight, and The Ingraham Angle.

    Fox’s decision to ignore the story on its major shows is particularly noteworthy given the network’s obsession with the idea of voter fraud.

    Over the past week, North Carolina investigators have argued to the elections board that a Republican operative named Leslie McCrae Dowless, who worked for Republican candidate Mark Harris, directed an intricate scheme to tamper with absentee ballots. Harris appeared to win the November election by fewer than a thousand votes -- but even he was forced to call for a new election after listening to state investigators’ case.

    The board’s decision to order a new election was a dramatic end to a congressional race that has remained uncalled for more than three months, but Media Matters found that Fox’s prime-time and morning shows didn’t even mention the story. In fact, Fox & Friends’ only mentions of North Carolina came in a short segment about someone vandalizing a statue and an update on Nike stock after a basketball player’s Nike shoe gave out in Wednesday’s University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill versus Duke game.

    Fox’s decision not to discuss the story on its major programs is especially notable given the network’s obsession with baselessly fearmongering about voter fraud. For years, Fox guests and hosts have pushed dubious or baseless allegations of fraud, some of which are rooted in obvious racism, and many of which are used to argue for voter suppression tactics. The vast majority of Fox’s accusations fall flat, largely because in-person voter impersonation fraud -- the type that right-wing pundits most commonly wring their hands about -- is virtually nonexistent, and other types of election fraud are exceedingly rare. But the network tends to quietly move on once the claims fall apart.

    Fox’s interest in election integrity seems to cover only instances of alleged voter fraud by Democrats and not cases of proven election fraud by partisan operatives working on behalf of Republicans. The network’s indifference is noteworthy, but it’s unsurprising given the close relationship between Fox News and the Republican Party.