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The Fox News campaign to undermine the jury in Donald Trump’s hush money trial

In the week of jury selection, figures on Fox News made dozens of claims to undermine the jury

Donald Trump is in the midst of his Manhattan criminal trial over accusations that he covered up a hush-money payment to porn star Stormy Daniels in a plot to buy her silence ahead of the 2016 presidential election.

Fox News personalities have responded by launching a campaign against the jurors who hold the former president’s fate, claiming people are trying to “rig” the jury and that “stealth” potential jurors are hiding their backgrounds to get seated.

They’ve also scrutinized individual jurors over their jobs and interests. Meanwhile, one juror stepped down in part over concern about people discovering who she was.

In the first week after jury selection started, Fox News guests and personalities made at least 89 such claims.

  • Twelve jurors have been selected in Trump’s trial for falsifying business records

    • Donald Trump is accused of concealing hush money payments over an alleged affair to adult film star Stormy Daniels ahead of the 2016 election. Trump faces 34 felony counts of falsifying business records, and prosecutors say he did so in an effort to conceal an underlying crime. [CNN, 4/15/24; Media Matters, 4/15/24]

    • Twelve Manhattanites were selected last week to serve on the jury after undergoing scrutiny including a 42-question survey. The jurors include a sales professional, a software engineer, a security engineer, a teacher, a speech therapist, multiple lawyers, an investment banker and a retired wealth manager. The survey topics ranged from their occupations to their media diets to whether they support groups such as “antifa” and the “Proud Boys.” [The Associated Press, 4/18/24; CBS News, 4/19/24]

  • One potential juror stepped down after media reports about her and other jurors, including from Fox News’ Jesse Watters

    • Media outlets reported on some information available about the first seven seated jurors, including Fox News prime-time host Jesse Watters. Watters listed numerous details about Juror No. 2, including her educational background, job, and marital and parental status, concluding, “I’m not so sure about Juror No. 2.” [Slate, 4/16/24; The New York Times, 4/18/24; Media Matters, 4/16/24]

    • The next day on Fox News’ The Five, Watters claimed that “undercover liberal activists” were attempting to serve on the jury, which Trump amplified on his Truth Social account. Trump posted, “‘They are catching undercover Liberal Activists lying to the Judge in order to get on the Trump Jury,’ Jesse Watters.” Some noted that the post risks violating Judge Juan Merchan’s gag orders. [Mediaite, 4/18/24]

    • On the third day of jury selection, Juror No. 2 was granted a request to be dismissed from the jury after she noted that friends, colleagues, and relatives were able to identify her and that she no longer felt she could be impartial. [Politico, 4/18/24; CNN, 4/18/24

    • Media outlets noted Juror No. 2’s departure from the jury after biographical details were shared, highlighting Watters’ commentary, and acknowledged that increased media scrutiny of jurors’ details could lead to doxxing events. [Wired, 4/18/24; The New York Times, 4/19/24; MSNBC, 4/21/24; MSNBC, 4/23/24]

  • As jury selection began, Fox News personalities and guests repeatedly made comments undermining the jury as a whole, attacking individual jurors, or questioning the rigor of the jury selection process

    • From April 15 through April 21, Fox News personalities and guests made at least 89 claims undermining the jury as a whole, attacking individual jurors, or questioning the rigor of the jury selection process.

    • Host Jesse Watters led the charge in attacking the jury, making at least 16 unique claims on his shows Jesse Watters Primetime and The Five. On Jesse Watters Primetime, he and other Fox personalities and guests made at least 24 unique claims. Fox shows Hannity (10 claims), The Five (8), The Ingraham Angle (7), and the weekday edition of Fox & Friends (7) all followed suit over the same period.

    • The “news” show The Faulkner Focus (5 claims) had the most claims of any of the network’s news programs.

    • Claims on “opinion” shows far outnumbered those of “news” shows, accounting for 72 of the 89 total claims.

  • Fox News personalities and guests claimed that people were trying to “rig” the jury and that “stealth” potential jurors were hiding their backgrounds to get seated

    • Fox News host Jesse Watters compared the “90% Democrat” jury pool to “the O.J. jury pool,” saying, “You’re going to have people trying to wiggle into that jury and send a message, just like they did with the Juice.” [Fox News, The Five, 4/15/24]

    • OutKick founder Clay Travis called the trial a “political hit job,” saying he does not “believe that [Trump] is likely to get a fair jury in New York City, based on voting records.” [Fox News, Jesse Watters Primetime, 4/15/24]

    • Former acting Attorney General and Fox News guest Matthew Whitaker warned of potential jurors who “are trying to be stealth and not admit” their biases. He added, “You can tell not only their biases but, you know, what’s being poured into their head on a daily basis” because  outlets other than  Fox are not “giving you fair and impartial takes on these legal theories,” and he said potential jurors’ media diets will be important information. [Fox News, The Faulkner Focus, 4/17/24]

    • Watters claimed that “they are trying to rig this jury” and “they keep throwing”  “undercover liberal activists” at the jury selection, saying they’re “lying to the judge.” [Fox News, The Five, 4/17/24]

    • Watters warned about what his on-screen chyron called “stealth liberals” trying to “rig the jury.” He said: “Having a Democrat prosecutor and a Democrat donor judge and a Democrat city isn't enough. They need to rig the jury too.” [Fox News, Jesse Watters Primetime, 4/17/24]

    • Fox News legal contributor Jonathan Turley fearmongered about “Trojan horse jurors” who are “so motivated by their dislike for Trump that they’re willing to lie on the stand.” He said, “This is really a part of this entire play in that you have a jury pool that is really heavily weighted, obviously, with people who have strong opinions against Trump.” [Fox News, America Reports, 4/18/24]

    • Watters warned against “self-proclaimed unbiased jurors” who “are blasting Trump and saying there’s no way that jurors they've been talking to can be fair.” He asserted that Trump cannot get a fair trial because not only do “these 12 jurors know more about Donald Trump than any juror has ever known about any defendant ever” but also “if he is reelected, his policies are going to directly change the lives of these jurors, from taxes to health care to foreign policy, but, you know, honestly his most going to affect their mental health. How could they ever put any of this aside?” [Fox News, Jesse Watters Primetime, 4/18/24]

    • Fox News legal analyst Gregg Jarrett asked of the jurors who said they could be impartial, “How many of those are actually lying with a hidden agenda of getting on the jury to convict?” He complained that “witches had a better chance of a fair trial in Salem than Donald Trump in Manhattan. The jury selection proved it.” [Fox News, Hannity, 4/19/24]

  • Fox News personalities scrutinized or criticized individual jurors as well as the jury as a whole

    • Fox News host Sean Hannity criticized Juror No. 2  because of her use of the New York Times and Google as news sources: “I don't really trust anybody that gets their news from The New York Times or Google.” [Fox News, Hannity, 4/16/24]

    • Jesse Watters said of former Juror No. 2, “This nurse scares me if I’m Trump” because she “gets her news from The New York Times and CNN.” He added, “Goodbye.” [Fox News, Jesse Watters Primetime, 4/17/24]

    • Jury consultant and Fox News guest Susan Constantine questioned Juror No. 5 because of her occupation as a teacher and because she is Black. She warned that teachers are “usually very opinionated” and “very right and wrong,” saying, “ I think that's going to be a real problem because I see Donald Trump's jurors being the ones that are in those gray areas.” She also questioned: “Is she going to be influenced by her own community, her own — within the African-American community? I think it could be a real problem.” [Fox News, Jesse Watters Primetime, 4/17/24]

    • Constantine complained about Juror No. 6, who is young and works for Disney. “Disney is filled with all these young people,” she said. “I think young people is a real issue on this one because they’re so — they’re activists. So they are always trying to find something to stand for, and I think this is a real big problem for Donald Trump.” [Fox News, Jesse Watters Primetime, 4/17/24]

    • Fox News contributor Lisa Kennedy Montgomery said jurors who get their news from TikTok — which Jurors No. 5 and 6 said they did — “can go shopping with my daughters — they cannot necessarily sit on a jury because I don't trust them.” She continued, “I do think you have to have a certain level of self-awareness and situational awareness about the chaotic times that we are living in. And people who get the news solely from TikTok are suspect.” [Fox News, Outnumbered, 4/17/24; Reuters, 4/22/24]

    • Calling out former Juror No. 2 and Jurors No. 3 and 7, Watters expressed concern about “the nurse on the Upper East Side with a master’s degree and the two DEI corporate litigators who claim they haven’t really been following the case.” [Fox News, Jesse Watters Primetime, 4/16/24]

    • After reviewing some of the prospective jurors, Watters sneered: “Show me a juror who says they can be unbiased towards Trump and I'll show you a liar.” [Fox News, Jesse Watters Primetime, 4/16/24]

    • Fox News contributor Charlie Hurt suggested jurors might be lying on their questionnaire, stating he was “very doubtful that they are being honest about it.” He also called it “deeply alarming” that numerous jurors said they read The New York Times. [Fox News, Jesse Watters Primetime, 4/16/24]

  • Fox News hosts and personalities claimed that Trump cannot get a fair trial in New York

    • Fox host Jeanine Pirro said, “There are always people who want to get on the jury and will say and do anything to get on a jury.” She also raised a concern that New York City “is a blue city in a very blue state.” [Fox News, The Story with Martha MacCallum, 4/17/24]

    • Fox host Lawrence Jones claimed “no one is saying that a Republican can’t get a fair trial in New York” seconds before he contradicted himself by agreeing with co-host Brian Kilmeade that New York City was chosen because prosecutors “want a conviction.” [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 4/19/24]

    • Frequent Fox News guest Alan Dershowitz emphasized he would “be very unhappy with the 12 jurors” because “they seem like typical Manhattan residents.” He clarified, “That’s okay if you want to move to the neighborhood and have friends” but “the likelihood of people being able to not take into account their personal views, their political views, their hatred for Donald Trump is negligible.” [Fox News, Hannity, 4/19/24]

  • Methodology

  • Media Matters searched transcripts in the SnapStream video database for all original programming on Fox News Channel for any of the terms “Trump,” “hush,” or “Stormy” or any of the terms “Manhattan,” “New York,” “NYC,” or “Bragg” within close proximity of the term “trial” and within close proximity of either of the terms “jury” or “juror” from April 15, 2024, when jury selection for former president Donald Trump's hush-money trial began, through April 21, 2024.

    We included claims, which we defined as instances of uninterrupted blocks of speech from a single speaker that discussed jury selection in Trump's hush-money trial. For host monologues, headlines, and correspondent reports, we defined a claim as the speech between read quotes and played clips. We did not consider the speech within read quotes or played clips unless a speaker in the segment positively affirmed said speech either directly before or after the quote was read or the clip was played.

    We then reviewed the identified claims for whether they expressed doubt  that individual jurors or the jury could or would be fair or impartial or suggested that individual jurors or the jury could or would not be fair or impartial, including claims suggesting that seating a fair or impartial jury would be too arduous or difficult; expressing doubt about the speed at which jurors were selected; suggesting that some jurors would lie about whether they could withhold their biases while serving on the jury; suggesting that some jurors would be secret liberal activists, “Trojan horse” jurors, or “stealth” jurors determined to find against Trump; suggesting that historical voting patterns in Manhattan would necessarily prejudice the jury or individual jurors against Trump; or suggesting that the jury would be rigged from the onset.

    We also reviewed the identified claims for whether they discussed or analyzed private information about specific, individual jurors to suggest that they cannot or would not be fair or impartial, including claims speculating on the identity (name, address, or other identifying information) of a specific juror; suggesting that content from individual jurors' social media accounts indicated they cannot or would not be fair or impartial; or suggesting that individual jurors' media consumption habits, professions, employers, hobbies, appearances, dating habits, or demographics (age, race, ethnicity, gender, or sexuality) would necessarily prejudice them against Trump.