Fox News hosts and guests levied a range of attacks against Army Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman to discredit him as a witness in President Donald Trump’s impeachment inquiry. These egregious attacks started in October when his prepared remarks during the House Intelligence Committee deposition were publicly released and continued for months, laying the groundwork for Trump to remove Vindman from his position at the National Security Council (NSC).
Trump removed Vindman and his brother, Lt. Col. Yevgeny Vindman, from their positions at the NSC on February 7, two days after he was acquitted of impeachment charges by the Republican-controlled Senate. Fox hosts and guests immediately defended the decision by praising Trump and reiterating their attacks against Vindman. In the president’s first public statement about his removal, Trump tweeted that Vindman was “very insubordinate” and “was given a horrendous report by his superior, the man he reported to, who publicly stated that Vindman had problems with judgment, adhering to the chain of command and leaking information.” Most of these debunked allegations were also seen in the many attacks Fox used against the lieutenant colonel during the impeachment inquiry and trial.
Since October 28, Fox has questioned Vindman’s loyalty to the United States, claimed that he is part of the “deep state” that plotted a “coup” against Trump, questioned Vindman’s judgment, and even baselessly accused him of espionage. These attacks continued throughout the impeachment inquiry and trial, but were particularly prevalent around the time Vindman testified before Congress in a closed session and when he testified publicly.
Fox News launched attacks against Vindman when he testified in a closed session
The day Vindman’s opening statement for his deposition to the House Intelligence Committee was publicly released, Fox host Laura Ingraham said on her show The Ingraham Angle that Vindman was working “apparently against the president’s interest.” Her guest John Yoo, a former George W. Bush administration official and unrepentant torture advocate, baselessly suggested Vindman might be guilty of espionage. Vindman’s lawyer sent a letter to Fox News, asking it to retract the segment and noting that the segment “sparked a torrent of republications and copycat false charges.”
These smears against Vindman continued the next day when he gave his deposition.
Fox & Friends host Brian Kilmeade said that Vindman “is from the Soviet Union. He emigrated here, and has an affinity to the Ukrainian people.”
Kilmeade repeated this claim later in the show, saying, “We also know he was born in the Soviet Union, emigrated with his family. Young. He tends to feel simpatico with the Ukraine.”
That night on Fox Business’ Lou Dobbs Tonight, host Lou Dobbs suggested that Vindman might be part of the “deep state,” calling him “arrogant” and someone who “obviously believes he has a superior judgment to the president of the United States.”
Fox renewed its attacks against Vindman when he testified publicly
On November 19, Vindman publicly testified before the House Intelligence Committee during its impeachment inquiry. Fox News used his public testimony as an opportunity to renew its attacks on Vindman.
In an appearance on Lou Dobbs Tonight, Christian Whiton, a former senior adviser for the Trump and George W. Bush administrations, called Vindman a “never-Trump bureaucrat deep state crybaby.”
Fox Business host Dobbs said Vindman “looks like a popinjay” and said Vindman “insisted, for some reason,” that members of Congress use his military rank when addressing him. Dobbs claimed, “I've never heard anyone refer to a lieutenant colonel as lieutenant colonel in addressing them verbally -- but, you know, as he wishes.”
Fox host Tucker Carlson questioned Vindman’s loyalty and told viewers to “keep in mind that Alexander Vindman was born in Ukraine, speaks Ukrainian, and clearly has strongly held views on Ukrainian politics — views that may or may not align with U.S. policy on the subject.”
On The Ingraham Angle, Fox contributor and former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich called Vindman “an absurdity” and said that Vindman “thinks that he knows so much.”
Attacks against Vindman continued throughout Trump’s impeachment trial
During Trump’s trial in the Senate, Fox continued its attempts to discredit Vindman. Notably, there were two instances in which Fox figures explicitly suggested Vindman should be removed from his position on the NSC.
- On January 23, Carlson said, “This show has learned that … even after testifying against his boss, the president, even after admitting a foreign power keeps trying to recruit him -- speaking of recruitment by foreign powers -- Mr. Vindman is still serving on the White House National Security Council right now. Hard to believe that, but apparently it’s true.”
On January 27 edition of Lou Dobbs Tonight, Fox Business political analyst Ed Rollins questioned why Vindman “isn't in some obscure outpost somewhere in the military.”
Fox News praised Trump’s decision to remove Vindman from his position at the NSC
On February 7, two days after he was acquitted in his impeachment trial by the Republican-controlled Senate, Trump removed Vindman from his detail at the NSC, along with his brother Yevgeny. Following Vindman’s removal, Fox claimed Trump’s actions were justified and some hosts even praised his decision.
On The Ingraham Angle, Fox guest Dinesh D'Souza said Vindman was “part of an attempted sort of palace coup.” D’Souza then justified Trump’s actions, saying, “The plot was defeated and now Trump wants to clean house. If you want to call it payback, I’d say it’s very necessary payback.”
Fox host Sean Hannity said Vindman was part of the “deep state which was chock full of Trump-hating Obama holdovers.” Hannity praised Trump for removing Vindman and his brother, saying, “It is clear President Trump is draining the swamp and this is what it looks like -- and for good reason.”
On Fox & Friends, frequent Fox guest Dan Bongino said that “Vindman had to go” and is “lucky he wasn't fired ... he was transferred to a pretty decent gig.”
Ingraham praised Trump for “finally, finally purging the NSC of dozens of Obama holdovers” and claimed that Vindman and his brother “were just the start.”