Fox tests a new conspiracy theory: Donald Trump’s indictment is a trick by Democrats to get Republicans to nominate him

The GOP base continually rewarding Trump’s illegal behavior is somehow a Democratic plot

Fox News has gone to the barricades to defend disgraced former President Donald Trump since his indictment over hush money payments made to porn actor Stormy Daniels in 2016, depicting Trump as the people’s hero against an insidious conspiracy. But some on Fox seem to be grappling with the possibility that they could get stuck with a damaged Republican presidential nominee as a result of this indictment, and potential future indictments as well.

Keep in mind that the network has also flirted with backing Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis for president in 2024, and may want to keep its options open. One possible solution: Float an idea to its viewers that if they rally around Trump, they might really be falling into a Democratic trap.

Trump’s “victimhood complex” may make him “damaged goods” in the general election

The first inkling of this idea came last week on the March 30 edition of Fox Business’ The Bottom Line, when co-host and former Republican congressman Sean Duffy stated that while he agreed the indictment would help Trump “in the Republican primary,” he also wondered, “What impact does this have on the broader race for president should Donald Trump be the Republican nominee?”

Fox News contributor Ben Domenech recommended that Trump “needs to be able to have a plan that says law enforcement in America does not have the trust anymore of a bipartisan, a broad swath of the American people,” and run on a plan of “broad-based reforms” on behalf of all Americans.

The alternative is, Domenech said, “Just running on a victimhood complex, that may work within the context of a Republican primary but I don't think it is going to sell in a general election.”

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Citation From the March 30, 2023, edition of Fox Business’ The Bottom Line

The discussion became more blunt on that night’s edition of Fox News’ The Ingraham Angle. During a discussion falsely claiming that the indictment was supposedly an attempt to distract from real alleged scandals involving President Joe Biden’s son Hunter’s business dealings, frequent guest and New York Post columnist Miranda Devine segued to an outright declaration that Trump was now “very damaged goods for the general election.”

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Citation From the March 30, 2023, edition of Fox News’ The Ingraham Angle

On Friday morning, Fox & Friends co-host Steve Doocy pondered the fact that Trump’s poll numbers with Republican primary voters had only been going up as he spoke about the impending indictment. “So, I think there are some Democratic Party bosses who are thinking, all right, let’s make Donald Trump a martyr,” Doocy said. “This is just my crazy theory. Let's make him a martyr, he will win the primary but ultimately he’ll lose the general.”

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Citation From the March 31, 2023, edition of Fox News’ Fox & Friends

That same morning, America's Newsroom co-anchor Bill Hemmer also pointed to what he called a “conventional wisdom starting to settle in over the last 12 hours” that “an indictment strengthens Trump's possibilities of getting the Republican nomination, but hurts his chances in a general election against Biden.” Co-anchor Shannon Bream also chimed in: “Well, and we saw yesterday on The View, Joy Behar said, ‘We Democrats want him.’ I mean, she made it very clear, ‘We definitely want him because we think he’s the most beatable.’” Bream then declared that Behar had “said the quiet part out loud.”

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Citation From the March 31, 2023, edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom

Later that morning on Fox News’ sister channel, Fox Business host Stuart Varney said, “A lot of people tell me that this indictment will solidify Trump's base, and maybe expand Trump's base, so that when we get to the primaries, Trump wins,” but then, “when you get to the general, he might not win because he's unpopular personally.”

Fox host Steve Hilton replied that if the indictment indeed helps Trump win the nomination, he should then “focus on the issues that Americans care about,” rather than fixating on his own perceived persecution. “You have to focus on the policy agenda that they want to see.”

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Citation From the March 31, 2023, edition of Fox Business' Varney & Co.

That night on Fox Business’ WSJ At Large with Gerry Baker, The Hill columnist Kristin Tate declared that the indictment was a Democratic effort to boost Trump to the nomination — thinking he will lose with independent voters who “already think Trump is too bombastic and unstable,” stating matter-of-factly, “This is the plan, they want Trump to be the nominee; the last thing they want is to run against Ron DeSantis.”

“Okay, I think that’s probably right,” guest-host and Wall Street Journal editor James Freeman replied. “At the margin, probably helps Trump in the primary, but probably hurts him if he ends up being the general election candidate.”

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Citation From the March 31, 2023, edition of Fox Business' WSJ at Large

Then on Saturday, April 1, Fox Business senior correspondent Charlie Gasparino further boosted the claim, citing unnamed donors, during an appearance on Fox News: “If you believe the donor class and their semi-conspiracy theory — I quite don't think it's that much of a conspiracy — but the theory here: Alvin Bragg politically played this brilliantly. He literally took a Republican Party that was, you know, maybe going to have a little in-fight between Donald Trump and Ron DeSantis, and best man wins. He took it and turned it upside down.”

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Citation From the April 1, 2023, edition of Fox News' Cavuto Live

On Monday morning, Fox News contributor and Washington Post columnist Marc Thiessen declared on America’s Newsroom: “The indictment will help Donald Trump win the nomination, and it’ll help Democrats win the presidency. That’s why they are happy about it.”

Thiessen claimed that “a majority of Republicans want someone else to be the nominee, but even Republicans who are open to another candidate don't want to see their country turn into a banana republic where we weaponize the justice system to go against our political opponents.”

Thiessen further declared that “Joe Biden is the worst president in my lifetime,” and that the election “should be about how do we get rid of this administration, and replace it with a responsible conservative alternative.” (One would think that the previous president who attempted a coup d’etat would be considered the worst president in Thiessen’s lifetime.)

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Citation From the April 3, 2023, edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom

At around the same time, on Fox Business, Varney was inquiring once again about how “conventional wisdom right now says Trump will win the primaries, then lose the general.”

Fox News contributor Karl Rove replied: “I think that's a right conventional wisdom for now, but a lot of things are going to happen in the nine months left in this year.” To be exact, Rove predicted that Trump’s legal problems could get even worse, moving beyond just the New York case involving hush payments to an alleged mistress, and to more serious cases such as his reportedly lying to the federal government about his handling of classified documents.

“This is causing a rally-around-the-flag moment for the former president,” Rove said, before concluding “it is adding no support whatsoever” from 2020 Biden voters.

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Citation From the April 3, 2023, edition of Fox Business' Varney & Co.

Stay tuned to see how Fox covers any potential other future indictments against Trump — perhaps involving classified documents, or the investigations of his many attempts to overturn his defeat in the 2020 election.