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

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

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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.

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