Fox News' evolving reaction to Ron DeSantis' racism

From a denouncement to a full-throated defense in less than 24 hours

Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

On the August 29 edition of Fox News’ America’s Newsroom, frequent Fox guest and Republican gubernatorial nominee for Florida Ron DeSantis described his Black Democratic opponent, Andrew Gillum, as “articulate” and said voters should not “monkey this up” by choosing him.

Both are examples of tireless racist tropes, and DeSantis was widely condemned for his remarks.

Shortly after DeSantis made his remarks, Fox’s Sandra Smith said on air that Fox does “not condone this language.” In the early afternoon, Gillum even appeared on air with Fox’s Shep Smith to respond to what DeSantis had said. But throughout the evening and the following morning, Fox News personalities loudly defended DeSantis, with one even suggesting that “apparently if you’re white, you just can’t criticize an opponent at all.”

Here's a timeline of Fox's response:

When DeSantis made the comments, anchor Sandra Smith did not address them, instead moving on to another question.

Fox News host Mark Levin complained on Twitter at 11:09 a.m. EST that “the disgusting leftwing smear machine [is] already in full attack mode against Ron DeSantis in Florida.”

Roughly 30 minutes later, Smith read a statement on air saying that Fox News does “not condone this language,” but she didn’t say what the language was.

Gillum appeared on air with Fox anchor Shep Smith in the afternoon, saying, “It’s very clear that Mr. DeSantis is taking a page directly from the campaign manual of Donald Trump.”

Later, co-host of The Five Greg Gutfeld said DeSantis was “not racial” and accused his critics of “doing the lynch mob” on him. 

After Fox’s Juan Williams tried to explain why DeSantis’ comments were racist, The Story host Martha MacCallum replied, “It doesn't sound to me like a racist thing to say."


On Fox Business, Lou Dobbs assailed “the national left-wing media” for “exploiting our highly polarized political atmosphere.”

Sean Hannity welcomed DeSantis on his Fox show for a softball interview and said his critics “want to purposely take things out of context.”

The morning after, Fox & Friends began the program by assuring viewers that DeSantis is not racist and saying his critics were taking advantage of “a political opportunity to label him a certain way.”

On Fox & Friends, In Defense of Internment author Michelle Malkin vehemently denied that the monkey comment was racist, but she also alleged that “the real racists” among the left and the media had called her a “monkey” too.

On her radio show, Fox host Laura Ingraham advised DeSantis to “demand an apology” from Gillum.

Ingraham later whined that “apparently if you’re white, you just can’t criticize an opponent at all.”

Fox keeps trying to distance itself from racism and yet keeps finding itself in the same situation. The network cannot say that it does not condone certain language when the vast majority of its personalities are explicitly condoning it -- or worse.

At some point, Fox's “news” division will have to acknowledge that the call is coming from inside the house.