Trump’s upcoming Fox News town hall is a good reminder that Bret Baier and Martha MacCallum are not serious “news” anchors

On March 5, Fox News will host a town hall with President Donald Trump in Pennsylvania, led by prime-time anchors Martha MacCallum and Bret Baier. Fox touts of MacCallum and Baier as two of the network's top “straight news” anchors -- as opposed to its bombastically bigoted opinion hosts -- but both have repeatedly pushed misinformation and shilled for Trump. 

When faced with controversy set off by the network's opinion hosts, Fox tends to point to the “hard news” side of the operation, arguing that while the opinion hosts can be more over the top, the anchors take fact-based journalism very seriously. This is untrue, as news-side shows and anchors regularly push disinformation and fawning, pro-Trump propaganda. 

A 2019 Media Matters study found that Fox’s “news” side pushed misinformation every day for four months straight, and another study found that on the topic of abortion and reproductive rights, the news side was indistuingishable from the opinion side in spreading right-wing myths and propaganda. In fact, Baier and MacCallum are just another cog in Fox’s broader GOP propaganda machine

Ahead of Fox’s Trump town hall tonight, here is a sampling of the extensive ways that Baier and MacCallum have spread misinformation, right-wing talking points, and general pro-Trump propaganda over the past few years.  

The Mueller investigation and concluding report 

  • After Attorney General Bill Barr gave a press conference for which he was widely criticized because he tried to spin special counsel Robert Mueller’s report on Russian election interference before it came out, Baier claimed Barr was “laying it out straight, cut and dry, here is what his conclusion is.” 

  • After the Mueller report’s conclusions were released, MacCallum grilled a Democratic congressperson on whether he would support retaliatory investigations into “the origins of this investigation” against Obama administration officials. 

  • MacCallum also falsely claimed that rules prevented Barr from releasing the unredacted version of Mueller’s report to Congress. 

  • MacCallum erroneously argued that Trump couldn’t have obstructed justice if there was “no underlying crime.” Trump later cited her argument as a defense on Twitter. 

  • MacCallum claimed Trump was “so forthcoming” in participating in the Mueller probe, but in reality Trump refused to be interviewed for the investigation. 

  • MacCallum argued that Mueller’s job “was to determine whether or not there was a criminal charge that should be made” against the president. In reality, Mueller explained that “Justice Department regulations do not permit the indictment of a sitting president,” so “charging the president with a crime was therefore not an option we could consider.”

The 2016 election, Hillary Clinton, and “deep state” conspiracy theories 

  • In January, Baier claimed author Peter Schweizer gets criticized for doing “opposition research.” In reality, Schweizer is criticized for constantly pushing disinformation.

  • In May 2019, Baier claimed that the difference between spying and using an FISA-approved wiretap is merely “hair splitting.” 

  • Baier cited a report that erroneously claimed that the Department of Justice was ordered not to consider criminal charges for Hillary Clinton in the email investigation into her private email use as secretary of state. 

  • Baier joined his network colleagues in pushing the conspiracy theory that text messages between two FBI officials served as proof that there was an anti-Trump “secret society” within the agency. The conspiracy theory quickly fell apart, but not before the network obsessively pushed it; in two days, the phrase “secret society” appeared on Fox over 100 times. 

  • In 2017, Baier asked Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in an interview about his “thought” on the right-wing “deep state” conspiracy theory. 

  • In an interview with Fox prime-time host Tucker Carlson, Trump cited Baier’s coverage to justify his conspiracy theory that the Obama administration unlawfully wiretapped his campaign. 

  • In the lead-up to the 2016 presidential election, amid an unprecedented stream of leaks from anonymous FBI sources, Baier repeatedly reported unverified, explosive allegations about FBI investigations into Hillary Clinton, including that Clinton was expected to be indicted soon. Baier later issued an apology that effectively walked back his own reporting. 

  • When Trump publicly called on Russia to investigate Hillary Clinton’s emails during a press conference, Baier claimed that Trump was “joking.” 

  • In an October interview with then-candidate Trump, Baier allowed Trump to promote the lie that voter fraud was going to lead to a “rigged” presidential election. 

  • In a discussion about one of Trump’s presidential debate performances, Baier said that he “think[s] he gets credit for just being on the stage.” 

Trump’s Ukraine scandal and impeachment 

  • During the impeachment inquiry into Trump’s efforts to tie congressionally approved military aid for Ukraine to a Ukrainian investigation into presidential candidate Joe Biden, Baier echoed White House talking points to downplay the impact of the released transcript of the July 25 phone call between Trump and Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky.

  • MacCallum joined her network colleagues in pushing for the identity of the Ukrainian military aid whistleblower to be released, arguing that the whistleblower’s identity “might reveal motivations, might reveal relationships, might reveal bias” against the president, echoing a line of attack from the network’s opinion side. 

  • When indicted Rudy Giuliani associate Lev Parnas turned over a trove of documents making it clear that Trump sought political investigations into the Bidens, MacCallum agreed with her guest that the documents sound “very much like evidence that we’ve already heard … that Trump wanted an investigation undertaken of the Bidens in connection with the Burisma matter.” 

  • During the impeachment inquiry, MacCallum revived a debunked conspiracy theory that former Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch had a “do not prosecute” list.

  • MacCallum tried to exonerate Giuliani and his cohorts from their efforts to oust Yovanovitch so they could better carry out their corrupt agenda, arguing that it “appears” as though their goal was to “find someone who was a stronger proponent for the policies of the Trump administration.”

  • Baier hosted Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) on his show to push the conspiracy theory that Ukraine was interfering in the 2016 election on behalf of Clinton, and Baier did not challenge the claim. 

  • MacCallum characterized Trump’s entire Ukraine bribery scandal as just “Trump being Trump.” 

Domestic policy and events

  • In the midst of a wave of disinformation and conspiracy theories surrounding the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, MacCallum lent credence to a debunked conspiracy theory that the virus was created in a lab by the Chinese government.

  • Amid reporting around then-Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh’s sexual assault history, MacCallum gave Kavanugh and his wife a friendly softball Fox interview.

  • When Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland was being considered in 2016, Baier cited an erroneous and irresponsible report to lie about Garland’s record on the Second Amendment. 

  • MacCallum quoted Martin Luther King Jr. to downplay the threat of white supremacy, saying, “I always go back to what Martin Luther King said about wanting to not see white power and black power. He said he wanted to live to see the day it was human power.” Her guest called concerns about white supremacy “completely ridiculous.” 

  • MacCallum said that it is “dangerous” to call Trump a white supremacist.

  • MacCallum lied about Trump’s record on LGBT rights, despite extensive proof to the contrary. 

  • MacCallum argued that there is a “sexualization element” to Drag Queen Story Hour events and that they are too “provocative.” 

  • MacCallum argued that Trump’s border wall is necessary “from a humanitarian perspective.”

  • Baier hosted a climate change denier on his show to downplay a major United Nations report concluding that humans are a driving factor causing mass extinctions. 

  • During Hurricane Dorian, MacCallum hosted climate denier Roy Spencer to deny the proven link between hurricanes and climate change, offering no pushback to his false claims about climate change. 

  • In 2016, Baier hosted a 2016 town hall in which he recycled right-wing, anti-abortion talking points. Baier inaccurately described a common abortion procedure as a “dismemberment abortion.” 

  • In 2017, MacCallum pushed several anti-abortion myths about so-called “sex-selective” abortion practices. She also spread disinformation from anti-choice group Center for Medical Progress’ deceptive videos attacking Planned Parenthood. 

Foreign policy and events 

  • When Trump ordered an attack that killed Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani, Baier dismissed criticisms of Trump’s Iranian strategy as mere “Trump Derangement Syndrome.” 

  • When reporting on the fire in Paris’ Notre Dame Cathedral, MacCallum irresponsibly speculated about conspiracy theories behind the cause of the fires, saying that there are “other religions who would also like to see these churches gone.”