Fox News is again turning to its well-established playbook in the Trump era of ignoring or downplaying significant reporting regarding the Trump administration’s strange and largely unexplained relationship with Russia.
After Financial Times reported that President Donald Trump “sat down with Vladimir Putin for several minutes of conversation at the end of an evening event at the G20 summit in Buenos Aires in November, with no translator or note-taker from the US side to record the dialogue,” Fox News’ top three prime-time shows and its flagship morning program, Fox & Friends, all totally ignored the story. Fox’s strategy of ignoring consequential reporting on the unexplained relationship between Trump and Putin has left its viewers in the dark regarding a notable and damaging break from established national security practices.
On January 29, the Financial Times reported that, on the sidelines of the 2018 G20 summit in Buenos Aires, Trump, accompanied solely by his wife, met with Putin “with no translator or note-taker from the US side to record the dialogue between the leaders.” The report continued:
According to a Russian government official’s account, the two leaders spoke for about 15 minutes about a number of foreign policy issues, including the Azov Sea incident, and the conflict in Syria. They also discussed when they could have a formal meeting, the official said.
Mr Trump explained that a full meeting with Mr Putin was impossible at the time, and the Russian leader responded by saying he “was not in a hurry” and remained ready to meet when it suited Mr Trump best, the Russian official said.
The US state department declined to discuss any details of the meeting, referring questions to the White House. A White House spokesman declined to comment beyond previous acknowledgments that a brief encounter occurred.
According to a Media Matters review of video and transcripts, on the evening of January 29, Fox’s 8-11 p.m. lineup of Tucker Carlson Tonight, Hannity, and The Ingraham Angle all ignored the new reporting. The following morning, Fox & Friends also failed to mention the report.
By contrast, MSNBC and CNN both spent significant time discussing the report between 8-11 p.m. and during each of their morning shows.
Fox’s tried and true response to significant reporting regarding potential foreign influence over Trump or members of his administration is keeping a significant portion of the public uninformed when it comes to the ongoing investigations into potential coordination between the Trump campaign and a foreign power. According to polling shortly after the 2016 election, Trump voters held an increasingly positive view of Putin and Russia, and, more recently, according to Gallup in July 2018, 40 percent of Republicans viewed Russia as “an ally of or friendly toward” the United States. Moreover, Fox’s negligent coverage leaves out the fact that, as noted by Vox’s Alex Ward, the absense of an American diplomatic official being present to record the meeting with Putin means that Trump’s own cabinet, diplomats, and national security apparatus, not to mention the American public, will “never really know what happened during the Trump-Putin chat since only four people were there — Trump, Putin, the first lady, and the translator — and nothing was recorded (that we know of).” As a result, the American public is forced to decide whether to believe “a Russian government official’s account” of the meeting with no official response from the United States.