Trump's favorite Fox News stooges didn't even try to cover the Manafort bank and tax fraud trial seriously
Blog ››› ››› NICK FERNANDEZ
The first trial of President Donald Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort has garnered a great deal of media attention and scrutiny since it began on July 31. But, predictably, Trump’s favorite Fox News propagandists on Fox & Friends, Hannity, and Justice with Judge Jeanine have not even attempted to cover the trial in a serious manner.
Manafort, a longtime (and self-described) foreign influence peddler, is awaiting a verdict on an 18 count indictment related to various financial crimes, including federal tax and bank fraud. Much of the evidence against Manafort consists of documents and testimony regarding income from his political work in Ukraine and other activity in the years before he joined the Trump campaign in March of 2016. The judge in the case, Judge T.S. Ellis III, has forbidden any mention of the special counsel’s investigation, the Trump campaign, or Russia during the course of the trial.
But the judge has also ruled that the special counsel’s case against Manafort could move forward, rejecting arguments from the defense that the charges are outside the special counsel's mandate to, according to The New York Times, "investigate 'any links' between the Trump campaign and the Russian government." In his ruling, Ellis affirmed that the special counsel mandate "covered the payments to Mr. Manafort from Ukraine’s pro-Russian president, Viktor F. Yanukovych." Moreover, when the defense asked a question about Manafort’s ex-business partner Rick Gates’ involvement with the Trump campaign, the prosecution requested that Judge Ellis seal a “limited portion” of a subsequent sidebar conference that apparently was “pertaining to an ongoing investigation,” ostensibly having to do with another aspect of the special counsel’s inquiry into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
Furthermore, as some have pointed out, Manafort’s spending habits and close ties to Russian oligarchs are relevant to the 2016 election considering that Manafort volunteered to work for Trump for free.
But you wouldn’t know all that if you’re getting your news from the president’s favorite propagandists on Fox News. Continuing a trend of keeping their audience ignorant regarding one of the key players in the special counsel’s investigation, Fox & Friends, Hannity, and Justice with Judge Jeanine have all but given up on presenting a serious or informative picture of the case:
Fox & Friends
Fox & Friends’ coverage at the start of the trial consisted of extended discussions of the case, albeit skewed to emphasize the idea that Manafort’s bank and tax fraud trial “is nothing about Russia” or “collusion,” and focused on the judge’s combativeness with the prosecution. Yet, according to a Media Matters review of videos and transcripts, Fox & Friends effectively gave up on providing viewers detailed updates on the trial after Rick Gates -- Manafort’s longtime business partner, the deputy Trump campaign manager, and the prosecution’s so-called “star witness” -- testified and corroborated significant documentary evidence against Manafort. At that point the show began discussing the trial only in short, roughly 20- to 25-second “headlines” reports. Fox & Friends did not provide any updates on the mornings of August 9 and 10, days eight and nine of the trial.
Since the start of the trial, host Sean Hannity has used his show to incessantly mock the case against Manafort and misinform Fox’s prime-time audience regarding its details. According to a Media Matters review, Hannity has discussed the trial nearly every evening since its outset on July 31, but in those segments he defaulted to insisting that the case has “nothing to do with President Trump or Russia or collusion.” Hannity has also persistently mischaracterized the case against Manafort as “a 2005 tax case,” willfully ignoring reams of evidence presented in the trial, including an email that suggests Manafort was conspiring to commit bank fraud with Gates as late as October 2016, while Gates was still serving as Trump’s deputy campaign chairman. Nevertheless, Hannity has taken a page directly out of Manafort’s defense playbook and attacked Gates’ credibility, seized on Judge Ellis’s outbursts at the prosecution, and whined about the special counsel’s mandate supposedly being too broad.
Justice with Judge Jeanine
The two editions of Justice with Judge Jeanine that have aired since the trial’s start largely ignored the bank and tax fraud case against Manafort. According to a Media Matters review, since the start of the trial, host Jeanine Pirro has mentioned the trial only three times: in an angry and conspiratorial screed against the special counsel, quickly in an interview with counselor to the president Kellyanne Conway, and in a discussion with Trump’s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani. In the interviews with Trump’s surrogates, Conway falsely asserted that the charges stemming from the special counsel’s investigation have nothing to do with Trump or Russian interference in the 2016 election, and Giuliani complained about the conditions Manafort has been detained in.
The president’s Fox News stooges are not even attempting to present details and facts that have emerged in the case against Trump’s former campaign manager. Instead, they are choosing to run a public relations campaign on behalf of the president; the nonsensical coverage will ultimately have no bearing on the jury’s decision, but it could impact public opinion of the ruling. And their willful ignorance is simply the latest example of Fox ignoring or downplaying consequential reporting on the special counsel’s investigation. And given recent polling showing that a solid majority of Republicans did not pay close attention to the Manafort trial proceedings, the lacking and skewed coverage of the trial coming from some of Trump’s most well-known propagandists has the potential to drastically shape opinions among Fox’s audience, something the president’s personal legal team seems to understand. Now they just have to gear up for round two on September 17.