Fox News barely covered House reports detailing problems with Donald Trump's tax returns

Fox is hiding yet another Trump scandal from its audience

An MSNBC graphic showing Trump's face next to a list of taxes he paid while running for and serving as president

Fox News has virtually ignored historic reports from the Democratic-led House Ways and Means Committee and the nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation summarizing several years of former President Donald Trump’s never-before-seen tax returns, as well as the failure of the IRS to complete required annual audits of him as president. Fox News covered the breaking news for less than 3 minutes, while its competitors covered the bombshell story for more than 1 hour (CNN) and for nearly 2 hours (MSNBC), continuing a pattern of Fox hiding Trump scandals from its viewers.

In November, the Supreme Court cleared the way for the Ways and Means Committee to obtain Trump’s tax returns, which it has sought against Trump’s fierce resistance since 2019. The committee’s stated reason for obtaining the tax returns was to determine how the IRS is carrying out its duty to audit sitting presidents.

With Trump’s tax returns in the committee’s possession, The New York Times reported that the committee found that the IRS had failed to audit him as required during his first two years in office. According to CNBC, the committee found that the IRS launched its sole audit of one of Trump’s tax returns on the same day the committee requested his returns, and that the audit was never finished during Trump’s presidency. In addition to uncovering the scandalous special treatment Trump received from the IRS during his time in office, the Times further reported that the tax returns showed Trump, who claims to be a multibillionaire, paid only $750 in federal income taxes his first year in office and nothing in 2020, the year Trump attempted to overthrow the government to illegally remain in power following his election defeat.

Even though there was widespread coverage of these House committee reports in legitimate news outlets, Fox chose to mostly ignore the news, covering it for less than 3 minutes in total from when the news first broke last night during the 9 p.m. hour, through noon today. In contrast, CNN and MSNBC both covered the story extensively throughout their programming yesterday and this morning. CNN’s coverage totaled roughly 1 hour and 16 minutes. MSNBC’s coverage was even more extensive, clocking in at just under 2 hours.

A bar graph showing cable news coverage of reports on Trump's tax returns, with Fox News covering it for only 3 minutes, CNN for 1 hour 16 minutes, and MSNBC for 1 hour 56 minutes

Examples of MSNBC’s coverage include an interview with Times reporter Susanne Craig, one of the nation's leading experts in the Trump family's byzantine tax avoidance schemes, and a Morning Joe interview with Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-NY) of the Ways and Means Committee.

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Citation From the December 21, 2022, edition of MSNBC's José Díaz-Balart Reports

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Citation From the December 21, 2022, edition of MSNBC's Morning Joe

CNN also covered the news on multiple programs, including an interview on CNN This Morning with Del. Stacey Plasket (D-VI), another member of the Ways and Means Committee.

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Citation From the December 21, 2022, edition of CNN's CNN This Morning

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Citation From the December 21, 2022, edition of CNN's CNN Newsroom

By now, Fox News has a long-established history of ignoring or minimizing coverage of Trump’s scandals, including numerous examples in just the past few weeks. Earlier this month, Fox dedicated only 9 minutes of coverage to breaking news that two corporate entities of the Trump Organization were found guilty on all counts in a tax fraud case in New York, while MSNBC covered it for nearly an hour and a half and CNN for 40 minutes. Fox also gave Trump’s December 3 call for the “termination” of the Constitution just 1 minute of coverage. And last month, Fox offered viewers less than 7 minutes of coverage over a weekend to Trump’s meeting with white supremacist Nick Fuentes and antisemitic entertainer Ye, who later spouted his love of Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler.

This pattern of covering up for Trump dates back to his term in office: During January 2018, Fox & Friends barely covered reports that Trump tried to fire former special counsel Robert Mueller, and Fox’s prime-time lineup ignored a separate report detailing Trump’s effort to force then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions not to recuse himself from the Russia probe. Various other scandals from the Trump administration were also downplayed or ignored as well.


Media Matters searched transcripts in the SnapStream database for all original programming on Fox News, CNN, and MSNBC for “Trump” within close proximity of “tax return,” “tax filing,” or any variation of the word “tax” from 9 p.m. ET on December 20, 2022, through 12 p.m. ET on December 21, 2022. 

We timed segments, which we defined as instances when Trump’s tax returns were the stated topic of discussion or when we found significant discussion of his tax returns. We defined significant discussion as instances when two or more speakers in a multitopic segment discussed either with one another.

We also timed passing mentions, which we defined as instances when a single speaker in a multitopic segment mentioned Trump’s tax returns without another speaker engaging with the comment, and teasers, which we defined as instances when the anchor or host promoted a segment about Trump’s returns scheduled to air later in the broadcast. We rounded all times to the nearest minute.