Fox’s purported “news”-side anchor Ed Henry amped up the right-wing media denial that U.S. Park Police officers used tear gas on Monday when they forcefully cleared peaceful demonstrators from Lafayette Square so President Donald Trump could stage a photo opportunity outside a historic D.C. church.
The Trump campaign is now demanding that media outlets retract their reports that the police force used tear gas. This case rests on on trying to declare that pepper-based chemical agents do not qualify as “tear gas” — which is contradicted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s own classifications of “riot control agents.”
On the Wednesday afternoon edition of The Daily Briefing with Dana Perino, during a discussion in which Henry alleged that Trump’s tough response to protests caused them to become more peaceful in the last two nights, the Fox anchor then took this denial campaign even further, claiming that “pepper spray and whatnot” was not used at all.
“We should also point out, though, that some of the reporting from a couple nights ago was false,” Henry said. “Which is that, you know, there was all of this talk that really spun this up into a controversy, that pepper spray and whatnot was used. And as you know, the U.S. Park Police has now come out strongly, and said that was not true.”
Perino responded: “Well, and I also think that when you're explaining ‘pepper balls’ versus ‘pepper spray,’ I mean, it's not necessarily a good one to have to do.”
“Sure,” Henry replied.
Perino still provided some cover for Trump, though: “But I can understand that the president himself may not have known.”
Indeed, the distinction between “pepper spray” and “pepper balls” really does not carry much of a difference, as they are simply the aerosolized or solid projectile versions of the same thing.
In the next hour on Fox, during Bill Hemmer Reports, national security correspondent Jennifer Griffin undermined the entire narrative that Fox, other conservative media outlets, and the Trump administration are attempting to advance, saying: “[Defense Secretary Mark] Esper said the National Guard did not fire rubber bullets or tear gas at the protesters in Lafayette Square. The Park Police said it fired smoke canisters and pepper balls — which the CDC says is a form of tear gas.”
Members of the clergy were also driven off of the church premises, and at least one was tear-gassed, in order for Trump’s photo opportunity to go forward. The response from Fox News and other right-wing media figures has been to attack those clergy members and other faith leaders who have criticized Trump’s actions.