Donald Trump’s Fox News propagandists rallied to his defense on Monday after he appeared in court at the opening day of New York State Attorney General Letitia James’ $250 million civil fraud suit against him, his adult sons, their companies, and other senior Trump Organization executives. Fox hosts denounced the trial as “a fraud” that shows that the United States is “a banana republic,” described James as “full of rage and hate and anger,” and compared the judge overseeing the trial to “a sociopath.”
James’ lawsuit alleges that the Trumps, their companies, and their top executives inflated the value of assets by as much as $2.2 billion in order to obtain favorable interest rates on loans from banks and to negotiate lower insurance premiums. New York Judge Arthur Engoron ruled in James’ favor on September 26, stating that “the documents here clearly contain fraudulent valuations that defendants used in business, satisfying [the attorney general's] burden to establish liability as a matter of law against defendants” and that “the defenses Donald Trump attempts to articulate in his sworn deposition are wholly without basis in law or fact.”
Trump lashed out at James and Engoron while at the courthouse for the first day of the trial, which will resolve any financial penalties he will face (his appearance allowed him to delay his deposition in his suit against ex-lawyer Michael Cohen). The former president described the suit as “a pure witch hunt for purposes of interfering with the elections of the United States of America” which he claimed is “totally illegal.” He called James “racist” and “a horror show” and said Engoron “should be disbarred,” adding that “this is a judge that some people say could be charged criminally for what he’s doing.”
Fox’s stars have spent 2023 zealously defending Trump and denouncing the prosecutors who have charged him with 91 state and federal criminal counts in four cases, and they continued that pattern on Monday, echoing Trump’s attacks on James, Engoron, and the suit.
On Fox News’ The Five, co-host and Trump loyalist Jeanine Pirro described James as “so incompetent and so full of rage and hate and anger.” She went on to allege that in the courtroom, James was “looking down at Donald Trump, staring him down with the judge smiling. You know why? Because the judge allowed it, because this is a game.”
“This is election interference,” Pirro added. “This is the worst kind of hate I have seen acted out in a civil courtroom.”
Fox host Laura Ingraham highlighted Engoron’s “weird” smile in the courtroom, and said that James “is just another vicious partisan hack, trying to compensate for her lack of talent with an abundance of political vitriol.” She claimed, “This entire trial is a fraud” that was designed “to keep Trump off the campaign trail,” adding, “The ongoing damage being done to the credibility of our legal system, that cannot be understated tonight.”
Ingraham went on to say that “this case is about who gets to make the big decisions for America,” alleging that Trump was being targeted because he had tried “to take real power away from the bureaucrats.”
Prime-time star Jesse Watters claimed Trump’s trial is “a financial assassination attempt and if this succeeds, you're next.”
“Politicians have a message for you,” he continued. “Businessmen, don't you dare ever run for president again. If you do, you'll get the corporate death penalty. First they come for your freedom and then they come for your company.”
Watters went on to describe Engoron as “a Democrat judge who donates to Democrats and smiles at the camera like a sociopath for a child's birthday party.”
But it was longtime Trump crony Sean Hannity who provided the network’s most fervent defense of the former president. He opened his prime-time monologue by claiming that the trial is “the left's really insane, power-grab, far-reaching, far-fetched, bizarre attempt to just get Donald Trump, the latest witch hunt, the latest hoax.”
The host then made an impassioned critique of Engoron’s ruling that Trump had inflated the value of his properties, saying, “Among several absolutely insane and egregious examples was the judge's valuation of Mar-a-Lago. He said, oh, is — you know, as low as $18 million.”
Hannity walked his viewers through several examples of other properties near Trump’s resort, which the host described as “iconic,” in order to suggest that the estimation was too low and the property is actually worth “as high as $1 billion.” But he never mentioned that the $18 million figure originated with the Palm Beach County assessor and had previously been confirmed by the Trump Organization.
The Fox host went on to say that James “was also in court, seemingly to be eyeballing Donald Trump, obsessively glaring at the former president.”
After claiming that Trump “has been targeted in a series of cases” and that the indictments were “perfectly timed” to “interfere and disrupt the presidential election,” Hannity said that the civil suit is “not Lady Justice being blind” but “that of a banana republic.”
“It's morally corrupt and wrong. We're losing the country. That's all there is to it. This is not justice,” Hannity later added.
Hannity also hosted Eric Trump and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), each of whom attacked the suit and said that it showed the need for Republicans to support Donald Trump in the 2024 presidential primaries.
“If he doesn't win, we will not have a country because this won't stop and these other Republicans, they -- they'll never be able to carry the weight that my father's carried, never,” Eric Trump said. “They don't have the backbone. They don't have the willpower. They don't have the voice. They certainly don't have the popularity.”
“Now, here's what's important to people watching this show,” Graham offered. “President Trump can't be in Iowa, in South Carolina, in New Hampshire, but if you live in these states, you can help him by making sure that liberals do not get away with this. Vote for President Trump.”