Fox News returns to the barricades for an indicted Donald Trump

Screenshot of Tucker Carlson discussing Trump indictment

If Donald Trump watched Fox News tonight, after a New York grand jury made him the first former president in history to be indicted, he was surely pleased with what he saw. Trump needs Fox to play its old role — run interference, denounce his foes, and thus keep the Republican Party squarely behind him — and that’s exactly what the network did in the hours after news of the indictment broke.

The indictment, which has not yet been unsealed, was the result of Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s probe into the $130,000 hush money payment made in the closing weeks of the 2016 presidential campaign to Stormy Daniels, an adult film actor who has since said that she and Trump had an affair (Trump denies it). The former president responded in a statement calling the indictment “political Persecution and Election Interference at the highest level in history” and denouncing Bragg, the Democratic Party, and President Joe Biden.

Trump needs a powerful propaganda apparatus with a uniquely powerful hold on the GOP to hammer that message home and keep Republican politicians from abandoning him at yet another moment of disgrace.

He’s got one.

Minutes after news of the indictment broke — without seeing the indictment or knowing what Trump has been charged with — a parade of his Fox allies started furiously spinning on his behalf.

On The Five, Jesse Watters reacted to the breaking news by saying, “The country's not going to stand for it,” while Greg Gutfeld said the indictment showed Democrats are “hunting” Republicans. 

On Special Report, Fox contributor Jonathan Turley called it a “raw political prosecution” while fellow contributor Mollie Hemingway compared it to “the Stalin era” and said that “people who care about the country need to stand up and make sure that they let it be known that they do not support this type of political prosecution.” 

On Jesse Watters Primetime, Watters suggested “prosecuting Democrats the way they prosecute Republicans” when the party next gains the White House and said that in light of the Trump indictment, conservatives “can’t live in Democratic-run cities” without fear of political prosecution. Fellow Fox host Dan Bongino said it showed “we’re living in a police state” and Jeanine Pirro declared that the indictment “reeks of Third World country tactics,” adding that Trump “is being persecuted, not just prosecuted, but persecuted.”

Tucker Carlson Tonight brought the network’s biggest star saying that “there’s no coming back from this moment” as a country, describing the indictment as a “political purge” that has suspended the rule of law for his supporters and as “an assault on our system,” and running “Third-World banana republic” chyrons.

Hannity and The Ingraham Angle will surely feature more of the same. 

We’ve seen this pattern play out the same way every time Trump’s actions have resulted in scandal since he became the Republican nominee in 2016. 

Fox rallied to Trump’s side as he promoted lies and conspiracy theories about election fraud in 2020; amid the cornucopia of scandals involving his bigotry; when he corruptly pressured a foreign power to take action to benefit his political campaign, leading to his first impeachment; as he pardoned political cronies and war criminals; after he expressed support for white nationalists and Proud Boys; when he fired FBI Director James Comey for refusing to end the Russian interference probe; as a series of women came forward reporting he had sexually assaulted or harassed them; when a tape emerged of him discussing his sexual assaults of women; and so many more. 

Each time, Fox’s support was crucial to keeping the Republican Party united behind him.

Trump’s indictment marks yet another opportunity for Fox to change course. Trump leads in polls for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, but he’s not the only one in the race or likely to join it. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, the second-place candidate in those polls, has spent years cozying up to Fox hosts and adopting their pet interests — and he’s not under indictment. Rupert Murdoch, the chair of Fox Corp., has an iron grip on the network’s operations and said after the January 6 insurrection that Fox should try to make Trump a “non person” and “certainly don’t support him.”

But that’s not what happened. 

Fox continued to protect Trump after the storming of the U.S. Capitol, concocting absurd conspiracy theories to turn the rioters Trump had incited into victims. The network supported him again after the FBI searched Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort and residence and found hundreds of classified documents, offering incendiary claims that any criminal probe into the former president is intrinsically corrupt and part of an attack on his voters. And after Trump claimed earlier this month that he was on the verge of being indicted by Bragg, Fox personalities once again mounted the barricades on his behalf. 

What we saw tonight shows that Fox won’t abandon him now either. Fox’s hosts and executives are in too deep, and they know that if he tried, Trump could destroy them with their viewers. They will have his back, no matter what, to the bitter end.