Fox's “straight news” shows spin Trump's refusal to commit to peaceful transition of power

bret baier

President Donald Trump this week refused to commit to the peaceful transfer of power if he loses the upcoming presidential election, suggesting that “there won’t be a transfer, frankly; there’ll be a continuation.” These remarks present a grave threat to the integrity of the election and the continuation of democracy, but Fox’s “straight news” shows glossed over the issue almost completely. 

Neither Bret Baier nor Martha MacCallum covered Trump’s remarks in the hours after he made them, and fellow anchor Dana Perino called the president’s comments “a little dustup about peaceful transition of power.” Other Fox “news”-side figures spun the comments and downplayed the serious possibility that Trump will refuse to leave office if he loses the election.

  • Special Report with Bret Baier carried Trump’s White House press conference live on September 23, but when it ended, Baier did not mention Trump's refusal to commit to a peaceful transition of power and instead quickly introduced a story about Senate Republicans’ baseless investigation of his election opponent’s family.
  • In the next hour, MacCallum also did not mention Trump’s remarks. The next day, she completely dismissed Democratic strategist Robert Zimmerman’s comments that Trump “only supports a transition of power if the ballots are thrown away” and is “basically trying to stage a coup in order to stay in office.” 
  • On Wednesday’s edition of Fox News @ Night, anchor Shannon Bream framed Trump’s comments around the response from Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), who called on White House staff to resign, asking why Trump gave “people like Adam Schiff ammunition” rather than agreeing to resolve the election peacefully. When deputy White House communications director Brian Morgenstern repeatedly deflected later in the interview to attack voting by mail, she simply responded, “OK,” and moved on to discuss the Supreme Court.
  • In an exclusive interview with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) on September 24, Bream asked one question about the president’s remarks. McConnell repeated the boilerplate answer he had tweeted earlier in the day, which was phrased in a way that tied a legitimate victory specifically to “the winner of the November 3 election” even though it could take weeks to count all the mail-in ballots, and then Bream ended the interview with no follow-up questions.
  • When Fox chief White House correspondent John Roberts appeared on America’s Newsroom on September 24, he did not provide any context about the threat Trump’s comments pose to democracy, instead simply claiming that “the president hedged” on supporting “the time-honored tradition of a peaceful transfer of power.”
  • When White House chief of staff Mark Meadows dodged a question about Trump’s remarks by saying, “It was Hillary Clinton who told Joe Biden not to concede at all, and that’s before a single vote was cast,” Fox anchor Harris Faulkner responded, “That is very true,” and moved on to another subject.
  • On The Daily Briefing, Perino dismissed the president’s direct threat to the integrity of the election as a “little dust-up about peaceful transition of power” and led her panel discussion on the remarks by asking if White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany’s response means the issue “gets put to bed now.” Perino later characterized McEnany’s comment as “Actually no, he’s fine, peaceful transition of power, we’re good.”
  • Discussing the president’s refusal to endorse a peaceful transfer of power during a panel on the September 24 edition of Special Report with Bret Baier, Baier dismissed the threat by attempting a joke, saying, “The irony here is that Hillary Clinton didn’t seem like she accepted the results for many months” following the 2016 election. Fox News contributor Kimberley Strassel later asserted that Trump’s comments were meant to put focus on “the mail-in voting problem” and claimed that he was alluding to “confusion” regarding the voting system.