Fox News figures are still covering up a key point in reporting the ongoing fight over President Donald Trump’s tax returns: that he had promised he would release them, only to back off completely. And besides, they say, the voting public doesn’t care about it — and it’s only another Democratic attempt “to use this as a bludgeon against the president.”
In a set of Supreme Court rulings on Thursday in the continued fights over investigations involving Trump’s returns, the court rejected Trump’s broad claims of total immunity from subpoenas, while setting up further battles in the lower courts over the subpoenas from both the Manhattan district attorney’s office and the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives.
Starting in 2014 and throughout the 2016 campaign, Trump promised on multiple occasions that he would release his tax returns, only to keep waffling on his position and ultimately break those promises.
In so doing, he became the first major-party presidential nominee since the days of Richard Nixon to not release any tax documents, and now he has taken his fight all the way to the Supreme Court to keep them under wraps.
In a discussion on Fox’s America’s Newsroom, during the sort of pre-game commentary while the decisions were still being awaited, Fox News politics editor Chris Stirewalt suggested that the issue is unimportant because Trump didn’t present himself to voters as having “high ethical standards” in the first place.
During an appearance by The Daily Briefing anchor Dana Perino later in the program, after the rulings had come down, she asserted that Democrats were only using the issue as a “bludgeon against the president” and that it had been Trump’s “choice” to be “the first person of both major parties to refuse to release his tax returns” — with no acknowledgment that he had previously promised to do so.
Meanwhile, on the Fox Business show Varney & Co., Fox host Pete Hegseth spoke of a heroic struggle by Trump against the “deep state” of the Manhattan district attorney and Democrats, saying, “These are people attempting to go after him because they can't beat him at the ballot box.” Hegseth added that Trump’s supporters “knew who they were voting for” — to which guest host Ashley Webster agreed. Neither mentioned that Trump himself had promised to release his tax returns for years.
The really interesting thing here is that while Fox’s opinion hosts such as Hegseth and Webster might be making their points to defend Trump’s stonewalling over his tax returns in a more bombastic and exuberant manner, the substance of their political apologia here was not really much different than what was said by the network’s purported “news”-side personalities like Stirewalt and Perino.