A federal judge ruled Thursday that Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta was part of a team of prosecutors who violated federal law by concealing a plea agreement from victims who had been sexually abused by New York hedge fund manager Jeffrey Epstein. In any other administration this would be a major media story, but in the Trump administration it’s just another blip on the radar, especially on Fox News, which has devoted less than 4 minutes of coverage to this development.
The ruling comes a few months after the Miami Herald published a three-part investigation titled “How a future Trump Cabinet member gave a serial sex abuser the deal of a lifetime.” The series described how “federal prosecutors [including Acosta] collaborated with Epstein’s lawyers to arrange the deal, then hid it from his victims and the public so that no one would know the full scope of Epstein’s crimes and who else was involved.” Among Epstein’s lawyers were frequent Fox News guests Alan Dershowitz and Ken Starr. Thursday’s ruling found that the “federal prosecutors, under former Miami U.S. Attorney Alex Acosta, broke the law when they concealed” that deal, a violation of the Crime Victims' Rights Act.
Fox News has covered the judge’s finding that Acosta violated the law for just 3 minutes and 44 seconds, with quick mentions on Special Report and Fox News at Night, and a report on The Daily Briefing. Perhaps even more egregious is the fact that Fox hosted Dershowitz (who helped create the plea deal) last night, and host Laura Ingraham conveniently didn’t ask him about the case.
While CNN’s and MSNBC’s coverage has been slightly more muted than what one might expect for a story of this caliber, both networks did more than Fox, particularly MSNBC. CNN devoted 15 minutes to the story while MSNBC spent 58 minutes covering the developments. CNN and MSNBC had multiple reports on the developments as well as panel discussions. CNN’s Jessica Schneider noted in her coverage that Epstein is “politically connected and he does count Donald Trump among his contacts.”
Fox News has a history of ignoring stories that reflect poorly on Trump and his administration; it seems the network is also willing to give Acosta a pass for his role in illegally helping a serial child abuser get off as easily as possible.
Methodology: Media Matters searched the SnapStream video database for any mentions of “Epstein,” “Acosta,” “Jeffrey,” or “Labor” from February 21 through 3 p.m. on February 22.