Fox promotes call for special counsel over Hunter Biden story it knows is nonsense

Fox News chyrons about Hunter Biden

Citation Molly Butler / Media Matters

Fox News is promoting a Republican push to appoint a special counsel to investigate the New York Post’s Hunter Biden smear story, which the network’s “news” side reportedly passed on because of doubts about its credibility. It’s a transparently political effort intended to tar Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden and boost President Donald Trump, and it is reminiscent of the network’s successful campaign to get a House special committee appointed to investigate the Benghazi terror attack back in 2014.

The New York Post’s story isn’t credible, and Fox’s reporters know it (so, for that matter, do the Post’s). Its central contention -- that Joe Biden improperly used his position as vice president to benefit his son’s Ukrainian business interest -- is false, a regurgitation of the conspiracy theory Trump was impeached over in 2019. Its provenance, according to the network’s lead anchor, is “sketchy.” Its source, Rudy Giuliani, was previously described by the network’s “Brain Room” as a font of “disinformation” about the Bidens and Ukraine. And the network’s “news division” reportedly passed on the story because it could not sufficiently vet it (but that has not prevented either the “news” or “opinion” sides from relentlessly flogging the Post’s report).

As part of that flurry of coverage, Fox & Friends Weekend hosted Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) to discuss the story on Sunday. Gohmert suggested during the interview that the FBI had “concealed” the Bidens’ purported crimes and thus may be “part of the crimes being committed.” He urged Trump to personally appoint a “special prosecutor” who would “get the resources he needs to start investigating people that were at the top of the FBI and people that continue to work there.”

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Citation From the October 18, 2020, edition of Fox & Friends Weekend 

On Monday, Goehmert and 10 other House Republicans representing the most extreme fringe of the party sent a letter to Attorney General William Barr -- provided as an exclusive to -- asking him to “immediately appoint an independent, unbiased special counsel to investigate” the “serious issues” the Post purportedly raised about Joe Biden’s “participation with his son’s business dealings.” They further requested that the special counsel conduct a fishing expedition into “any corresponding legal or ethical issues that might be uncovered from the former vice president’s 47 years in public office.”

This is an obvious play for increased media attention, and Fox provided it. The network has reported on the House Republicans’ missive at least seven times, with references on the “straight news” programs Special Report, The Story, and Fox News @ Night Monday evening, as well as Tuesday morning on Fox & Friends First and Fox & Friends.

The hosts of Fox & Friends even asked Trump about whether he would “be appointing a special prosecutor” during a Tuesday interview, citing the letter.

“We’ve got to get the attorney general to act,” Trump replied. “He’s got to act. And he’s got to act fast. He’s got to appoint somebody. This is major corruption, and this has to be known about before the election.”

Fox ran this same play back in 2014, when the network’s personalities used spurious claims about a “smoking gun” email from an Obama White House staffer to call for yet another investigation into the 2012 Benghazi attacks. Their smear campaign was immediately debunked, but House Republicans, eager to find a line of attack against former secretary of State and future Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, nonetheless obliged

The committee ultimately provided no new evidence of wrongdoing by Clinton with regard to the 2012 terror attacks -- but it did reveal the existence of her private email server, the press coverage of which created an air of scandal around her that led to her defeat in the 2016 election.

At the time, Fox’s coverage provided cover for House Republicans to take blatantly partisan action under the guise of promoting transparency and accountability. Now, they’re serving the same purpose for Barr and Trump, who have even fewer restraints on their actions.