Last week, Fox’s Ed Henry began his new role as co-anchor of the network’s three-hour-long weekday news program, America’s Newsroom. Henry, who has a history as a serial misinformer and shill for President Donald Trump, was predictably sycophantic during his first week as co-anchor. Yet his sly tactics -- designed to privilege Republican talking points while trashing Democrats -- are not a bug, but a feature of Fox’s “news” side programming.
Fox News has long touted the “hard news” side of its operation, creating the false impression that the network's news shows are driven by a desire to report facts and that they're distinct from its “opinion” side, which serves as a vessel for propaganda, bigotry, and conspiracy theories. Fox News President Jay Wallace has explained the division neatly, stating, “News does its side, and opinion does its side.”
There could be some truth to Wallace’s statement -- if the network’s news and opinion programs didn’t both spread the same misinformation and misleading pro-Trump narratives. In the end, Fox’s propagandistic “news” and “opinion” divisions are merely two sides of the same coin.
In his new role, Henry is a perfect encapsulation of the ways Fox’s “news” side funnels misinformation, GOP talking points, and pro-Trump propaganda to its audience. Although Henry is less blatant about interjecting his own opinions into his on-air commentary than some of his opinion colleagues, he presents questions and comments to his guests in a clearly biased format, achieving the same results. He gives Republicans softball questions meant to set up their talking points, following up with little to no substantive pushback -- and if he does push back, it is only to offer Republicans the opportunity to refine their spin. On the other hand, Henry’s questions to Democrats are often framed around ridiculous pro-Trump talking points, placing them in the awkward position of trying to navigate an interview clearly intended for entrapment.
Henry spent his first week as co-host promoting faux-outrage stories designed to distract from the details of the impeachment inquiry and undermine any Democratic case against the president. For example, on January 23, Henry spent the morning wringing his hands over Rep. Adam Schiff’s (D-CA) suggestion that Trump’s misconduct “cannot be decided at the ballot box, for we cannot be assured that the vote will be fairly won.” Any reasonable person viewing the totality of Schiff’s comments can understand what he meant: When a president is caught trying to interfere in an upcoming election for personal gain, the results of that election can’t be trusted to be valid.
Instead, Henry interpreted this as Schiff suggesting Americans themselves can’t be trusted to vote for their president. In an interview with Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC), Henry claimed that Schiff was “flatly saying that the American people can’t decide the next election somehow.” Meadow answered: “That’s exactly what he’s saying” before launching into a diatribe accusing Democrats of impeaching Trump solely because they don’t think they can win in 2020.
Henry’s spin didn’t stop with Meadows. During a panel discussion about Schiff’s comments, Henry abruptly cut off progressive commentator Jason Nichols in the middle of his point that “President Trump, with his actions with Ukraine, cannot be necessarily trusted to have a fair process” in the 2020 election. Interrupting Nichols, Henry turned to ask Fox contributor Liz Peek, “Is this about undermining the next election?” Peek responded: “Absolutely it is.”
While his interview questions with Republicans tend to be softballs, Henry throws GOP talking points when a Democrat is a guest on the show. During an interview with Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA), Henry asked “about this Republican argument, that they are hearing nothing new” during the impeachment proceedings -- failing to mention that there is “nothing new” because Republicans voted down 11 Democratic amendments that would have presented new evidence and witnesses. When Casey explained that there are still important witnesses who need to be heard, Henry responded with Republican spin: “But Senator, if you are acknowledging that there is some missing information here, doesn't that play into the Republican argument that this was a rushed job by Adam Schiff, where he was moving full speed ahead and didn't allow Republicans, for example, to have most of their witnesses when he started this process?”
As Casey continued to make the case for new witnesses, Henry grilled him on why he wouldn't call Schiff to the witness stand -- even though there is no clear reason for Schiff to testify and Republican calls for him to do so hinge on a flimsy, debunked conspiracy theory.
When interviewing Democratic presidential candidate Tom Steyer, Henry said Steyer is, “in some ways, the man who started the impeachment movement” and asked if he was “disappointed” that impeachment “appears ... to be fizzling out?” Henry offered no evidence or justification for his characterization that impeachment is “fizzling out” in the middle of the president’s Senate trial.
Henry also adopted the Republican outrage at Rep. Jerry Nadler’s (D-NY) suggestion that Trump’s impeachment defense team lied, even though the team made multiple statements that are provably false. But Henry didn’t provide any of that context, instead playing a clip of Nadler’s comments for Robert Ray -- a member of Trump’s legal team -- and calling them “invective.” Ray responded solemnly that he “prefer[s] to focus on the merits.”
In an interview with Fox contributor Leslie Marshall, Henry asked how Nadler is able to “get away with” calling the Trump defense team out for lying. Again, Henry provided no context explaining the fact that Trump’s team did objectively present false information.
In a separate interview with Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), a strong Trump defender and member of his impeachment team, Henry claimed that he has “a lot of emails from our viewers” asking “why are we not hearing about the whistleblower,” thereby allowing Jordan to make his case for the whistleblower -- another irrelevant witness -- to testify. Henry allowed Jordan to argue for Trump’s acquittal without offering any pushback to his points, a pattern he repeats with other members of Trump’s impeachment team who appear on his show.
Henry’s style as co-anchor has so far involved promoting disinformation and parroting GOP talking points aimed at downplaying the Democrats’ impeachment case. And he's not unique in this; the same approach can be found across Fox’s “news” division. Anchor Martha MacCallum recently described the presidential actions that led to impeachment as just “Trump being Trump.” Bret Baier -- whom the network touts as one of its chief news anchors, along with MacCallum -- recently amplified misleading GOP impeachment questions and has dismissed criticism of Trump as mere symptoms of “Trump Derangement Syndrome.” Fox’s 11 p.m. anchor, Shannon Bream, regularly incorporates anti-abortion disinformation into commentary on her show and recently defended Trump from impeachment by saying, “You can’t be guilty of murder if you don’t kill someone.”
Ed Henry is merely a cog in Fox’s broader “news”-side propaganda machine, and his commitment to spreading pro-Trump misinformation is undoubtedly part of what earned him a spot co-anchoring America’s Newsroom.