Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace ignored the role Fox News played in paving the ascent of Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump while suggesting former Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney “legitimiz[ed]” Trump by accepting his endorsement during the 2012 election.
On March 3, Romney delivered a speech highly critical of Trump, saying that, if Donald Trump becomes the Republican nominee for president, “the prospects for a safe and prosperous future are greatly diminished.” Romney criticized Trump's economic plans, his past business failures, and his foreign policy stances, and called Trump “a con man, a fake” who is “playing the members of the American public for suckers.”
During a March 6 interview on Fox News Sunday, Wallace asked Romney whether his “legitimizing” of Trump by accepting his endorsement in 2012 -- given Trump's past business failures and history of “making the birther argument” against President Obama -- was partially responsible for his current status as Republican presidential front-runner (emphasis added):
CHRIS WALLACE (HOST): While you took down Donald Trump pretty hard this week, you had a very different view of him four years ago when he endorsed you. Take a look.
MITT ROMNEY (VIDEO CLIP): There are some things that you just can't imagine happening in your life. This is one of them. Being in Donald Trump's magnificent hotel and having his endorsement is a delight. Donald Trump has shown an extraordinary ability to understand how our economy works, to create jobs for the American people.
WALLACE: Governor, what changed?
ROMNEY: Oh, let me tell you, this is a guy, if we look at the past, this is a guy who was very successful, made a lot of money for himself. But at the same time, take a very close look and look how many small people he crushed along the way and how many failures he had. And so we can talk about the past at great length. I had a lot of people who endorsed me who I wouldn't endorse for president. Donald Trump just happens to be one of those who endorsed me I do not want to see as president of the United States. And there's a long list of those who are endorsers. Sixty-one million people voted for me. I don't think all 61 million people ought to be president of the United States.
WALLACE: But you were talking at the time about his extraordinary ability to create jobs, his understanding of the economy. I mean, it's not like everything that Donald Trump that you believe he did wrong has happened in the last four years. A lot of those business failures that you talk about happened before 2012. Before 2012 he was making the birther argument that President Obama needed to show his birth certificate because he wasn't born in the United States. I guess part of the question is, by legitimizing him back then, were you part of the reason he's where he is now?
But Fox News shares guilt for legitimizing Donald Trump. In 2011, Trump became a fixture on Fox & Friends when the cable news channel announced that Trump would have a regular weekly segment called “Monday Mornings with Trump” on its flagship morning show. In March and April 2011, multiple Fox News hosts and personalities hyped Trump's fallacious demands that President Obama release his birth certificate and promoted Trump's birther myths in at least 52 segments.
Since May 2015, Fox News has given Donald Trump more than double the airtime than any other Republican presidential candidate. And since Trump declared his candidacy in June 2015, Fox hosts have repeatedly defended the worst of his toxic rhetoric and controversies, including his failure to disavow support from the Ku Klux Klan.