Update (9/22/22): This piece has been updated with additional information.
Following an announcement that New York state Attorney General Letitia James is suing former President Donald Trump, three of his adult children, and the Trump Organization for hundreds of instances of suspected fraud related to business operations, right-wing media figures and other conservatives immediately defended him.
During a press conference on September 21, James announced a civil lawsuit that spanned more than 200 pages and was the conclusion of a three-year investigation that reportedly included more than 65 witnesses and millions of documents.
An extensive summary of the publicly known facts in the case by Just Security went into detail about allegations of Trump inflating the value of his company’s assets in financial statements, as well as lies made to banks, insurers, and the IRS. Referring to James’ latest legal filing and previous court documents, Just Security wrote:
Today’s complaint, taken together with the vast additional information in OAG’s prior court filings, assert that, over a period of more than a decade, Trump and his organization prepared misleading financial statements that seriously misstated Trump’s finances. Although some of the allegedly fraudulent methodologies involved sophisticated accounting tricks, many of the misleading statements seem to involve blatant falsehoods—including apparently about the size of Trump’s penthouse in the Trump Tower. The court filings indicate that these allegedly misleading financial statements were used to achieve a variety of benefits—including those to which Michael Cohen testified before Congress—such as lower taxes and more favorable loans and insurance coverage.
As news of the civil lawsuit broke, right-wing media rushed to defend the disgraced ex-president:
Right-wing media claimed the lawsuit is another partisan “witch hunt”
- Fox News anchor Harris Faulkner cut away from live coverage of James announcing the lawsuit and dismissed it as “really inside baseball,” adding that “some people may even accuse it of being political because we’re 48 days away from the midterm elections.”
- On Fox, former Trump Attorney General Bill Barr said the lawsuit is a “political hit job” and “another example of people piling on because of Trump derangement syndrome.”
- Dismissing the seriousness of the announcement, Fox host Geraldo Rivera called James “a political animal” and said she campaigned on going after Trump.
- Right-wing pundit Brigitte Gabriel tweeted that “Letitia James’ witch hunt will only make President Trump more popular.”
- The Bongino Report tweeted a link to a video clip of James announcing the lawsuit titled “The Witch Hunt Continues: Anti-Trump Far-Left NY AG Sues Trump.”
- Turning Point USA influencer Graham Allen tweeted, “Letitia James puts the witch in witch hunt.”
- Fox News host Laura Ingraham called James’ investigation a “charade… an obvious act of political retribution,” highlighting how close the announcement of the investigation is to the midterm election and previous remarks James made about Trump.
Right-wing media downplayed the lawsuit by pointing to it being a civil case rather than a criminal one
- Fox News legal analyst Andy McCarthy said, "The thought that the professional prosecutors didn't find something criminal here, but she [James] did, I think is highly unlikely.”
- Outkick.com founder and frequent Fox News guest Clay Travis characterized the lawsuit as “embarrassingly political” because the charges were civil rather than criminal and said that the lawsuit was a “desperate” attempt to “put Trump on the ballot.”
- Townhall columnist Kurt Schlichter downplayed the lawsuit’s allegations and tweeted, “If they thought they had Trump they would have filed a criminal case” and that the AG’s office filed a fraud suit to “impress dumb people.”
- Conservative commentator Greg Price argued that the lawsuit was a “witch hunt” because it was filed in civil — rather than criminal – court. Price claimed that Trump’s only crime was “beating Hillary Clinton.”
- Townhall columnist Derek Hunter tweeted, “The best she [James] could come up with is a civil suit,” adding, “If Trump is a criminal, why can't anyone prove it even to the point of an indictment?”
Right-wing media launched personal attacks against James
- Newsmax guest Kimberly Guilfoyle said that James has turned the office of attorney general into a “kangaroo court,” and called for James to be “investigated and brought before the state bar for her conduct.”
- Newsmax host Eric Bolling sneered that James “clearly has Trump derangement syndrome,” while Bolling’s guest Rudy Giuliani demanded that James should be disbarred. (Giuliani's law license was already suspended in New York and he faces disbarment in Washington, D.C. as well.)
- Fox contributor Lara Trump called James “bloodthirsty” and claimed that she caused children to die by shutting down the illegally self-dealing Trump Foundation.
- Fox host Tucker Carlson baselessly speculated that James is a tax cheat.
- Conservative commentator Benny Johnson accused James of weaponizing her office to destroy Trump, calling for her to be impeached and removed from her position. He even said that Trump's skin color is the reason she's attacking him — because “the color of his skin is the destruction of your [James'] power vectors.”