Since several women reported Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh for sexual assault and sexual misconduct, the morning edition of Fox News’ show Fox News Update -- which airs on Facebook’s online streaming platform Facebook Watch -- has been spreading pro-Kavanaugh propaganda.
Fox News Update launched this summer as part of a multimillion dollar content initiative by Facebook “to show news that is trustworthy, informative, and local.” The Fox show currently boasts more than 350,000 followers, generally consists of four to five minute headline reports, and airs live on weekdays at 6 a.m. and 4 p.m., and weekends at 10 a.m.
Fox News Update morning editions have taken an aggressively pro-Kavanaugh stance, often featuring clips and comments exclusively from Kavanaugh allies (like the Judicial Crisis Network) while headlining news that downplays and discredits sexual assault reports.
One day after news first broke of a sexual assault report made against Kavanaugh, Fox News Update’s coverage opened with women defending him.
Fox News Update host Ed Henry reported on a letter written by 65 women defending Kavanaugh before he ever mentioned the sexual assault report by a then-unidentified woman, and Kavanaugh’s denial.
From the September 15 edition of Fox News Morning Update:
ED HENRY (HOST): 65 women, meanwhile, stepping forward to defend President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Judge Brett Kavanaugh. A letter sent to the Senate states in part, “Through the more than 35 years we have known him, Brett has stood out for his friendship, character. and integrity.” The letter comes after Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein reported an allegation against Kavanaugh to the FBI.
The second headline related to Kavanaugh from Fox News Morning Update came two days later on September 17’s edition of the show, after providing no coverage of new reports of Kavanaugh’s sexual misconduct on September 16. It featured a clip of a Judicial Crisis Network spokesperson calling sexual assault reports “an 11th-hour character assassination.”
A day after a Washington Post story identified Christine Blasey Ford as the woman who had reported Kavanaugh for sexual assault, the pro-Kavanaugh right-wing group Judicial Crisis Network launched a $1.5 million ad campaign defending President Donald Trump’s pick for the Supreme Court. Fox News Morning Update reported the White House defense of Kavanaugh and aired a Fox & Friends First clip in which Judicial Crisis Network spokesperson Gayle Trotter cast doubt on Ford’s reports, saying that if they “were credible, they would have been raised long before this” and characterizing them as an “eleventh-hour character assassination”
From the September 17 edition of Fox News Morning Update:
The following day, Fox News Update ran a clip previously aired on Fox & Friends First featuring conservative attorney Mark W. Smith claiming the process in which sexual assault reports were presented to the Senate Judiciary Committee “looked a little sketchy.”
From the September 18 edition of Fox News Morning Update:
MARK W. SMITH: I think the strong presumption of innocence in this situation is on Brett Kavanaugh’s side. In the way they were presented to the Senate Judiciary Committee, frankly, looks a little sketchy. It was given to a very partisan Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, many months ago --
HEATHER CHILDERS (HOST): And she had it for a while.
SMITH: And she had it, and did nothing with it until only at the last second when it looked like the Kavanaugh nomination -- the confirmation was inevitable. Just the process itself raises real questions. Is this another D.C. establishment sort of game of dirty tricks?
On its September 19 edition, Fox News Morning Update only briefly mentioned updates related to the Kavanaugh reports before shifting focus to a Democratic "#MeToo double standard" regarding allegations of domestic abuse by Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN). The allegations are rightfully under investigation by several entities, including potentially the House Ethics Committee.
From the September 19 edition of Fox News Morning Update:
The first mention of Ford’s name on Fox News Morning Update came four days after she was identified by The Washington Post.
Fox News Morning Update aired a Fox & Friends First clip in which Fox News contributor Lisa Boothe called sexual assault reports about Kavanaugh an “over-correction” from the #MeToo movement, bemoaning that Kavanaugh’s “future, his life is not being taken into account”.
From the September 20 edition of Fox News Morning Update:
LISA BOOTHE (FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR): I think there has now been this overcorrection where a man is guilty until proven innocent and I don’t want to live in that society either. … No, it is not OK if an innocent man gets caught up in this malign smear, his career is ruined. And that is my problem with the #MeToo movement, because in the instance of Brett Kavanaugh, his future, his life is not being taken into account. And his life is hanging in the balance here as well, and that needs to be considered.
After Ford agreed to testify in Congress, Fox News Update aired a clip of Kavanaugh’s former clerk calling sexual assault reports “outlandish and ridiculous.”
From the September 21 edition of Fox News Morning Update:
JENNIFER MASCOTT (FORMER CLERK FOR KAVANAUGH): My reaction reading the report is that it was outlandish and ridiculous. I clerked for Judge Kavanaugh his first year on the bench, and in my experience with him then, and in the 12 years following with him and his family, he’s been nothing but completely above board, transparent, highest amount of character and integrity.
Fox News Update criticized Ford for requesting that certain conditions be met for her to testify, airing a Fox & Friends clip featuring frequent Fox guest Alan Dershowitz.
From the September 22 edition of Fox News Morning Update:
After The New Yorker reported that Deborah Ramirez said an inebriated Kavanaugh had put his penis in front of her face while they were both undergraduate students at Yale, Fox News Morning Update referred back to the Judicial Crisis Network’s spokesperson, who characterized Ramirez’s report as a “smear attempt.”
Fox News Update host Carly Shimkus introduced a clip of spokesperson Trotter by repeating her assertion that “Judge Kavanaugh’s lifetime of moral integrity will outlast these allegations.” From the September 24 edition of Fox News Morning Update:
TROTTER: We’re seeing many similarities. Anybody can make a claim, an outrageous claim about someone. But what matters are facts and evidence, and the facts in this case are going to show that Judge Kavanaugh is going to be able to withstand this smear attempt because of his sterling character and sterling reputation.
Fox News Update replayed clips of Kavanaugh defending himself from Martha MacCallum’s interview with Kavanaugh and his wife without any mention of Ford or Ramirez.
From the September 25 edition of Fox News Morning Update:
The morning before Ford’s testimony, Fox News Morning Update opened with a headline that read: “2 men claim Ford confused Kavanaugh for them.”
The story, which was amplified by right-wing media, was rated “unproven” by the fact-checking website Snopes. In the same episode, the Judicial Crisis Network spokesperson used Fox’s headline to call all sexual assault reports made about Kavanaugh “unsubstantiated and discredited.”
From the September 27 edition of Fox News Morning Update:
TROTTER: As this story shows, when we get the facts about these allegations, we understand that every single one of the allegations is unsubstantiated and discredited. So here’s another example of this phenomenon where there are other witnesses who say that this story is in doubt. … The important thing to know is this is not a legal process, though. This is a far-left partisan smear of someone who will be another great justice. This attempt to smear him is going to fail. The Senate will confirm Judge Kavanaugh.
The day after Ford and Kavanaugh testified in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Fox News Update aired a clip of Kavanaugh’s personal friend defending him.
Kavanaugh’s friend David McIntosh said sexual assault reports were part of a “Democrat smear campaign” against Kavanaugh and Trump. From the September 28 edition of Fox News Morning Update:
That same day, Fox News Morning Update featured social media user comments that undermined sexual assault reports.
Comments from users were solicited as reactions to the headline “Celebs mock Kavanaugh during hearing.” One user comment featured on the show defended Kavanaugh by writing “What exactly is the proper emotion for being falsely accused?” Another user comment the show promoted taunted the credibility sexual assault reports, stating, “Mocking a person for acting human? What’s next, finding someone guilty in the court of public opinion, and subsequently destroying their life, based on an accusation with zero corroboration? Oh wait..”
From the September 28 edition of Fox News Morning Update:
The morning edition of Fox News Update has peppered its Facebook viewers with pro-Kavanaugh propaganda, mirroring the network’s coverage on television by using clips from Fox & Friends First and Fox & Friends.
The way the sexual assault reports about Kavanaugh were covered by the afternoon edition of Fox News Update, usually hosted by Shepard Smith, illustrated the divide between Smith’s straight news reporting and the relentless partisanship of other content on the network. Afternoon updates included reports that didn’t minimize sexual misconduct reports -- like the September 21 afternoon headline reporting that the hashtag #WhyIDidntReport trended on Twitter after Trump tweeted questioning the timing of reports, or a report on September 27 covering the hearing in which both Ford and Kavanaugh testified, which called her “credible” and dismissed Republican claims that Ford was a political operative.