Fox News is aggressively promoting anti-vaccine activist Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s presidential run in a transparent attempt to damage President Joe Biden’s reelection campaign. And the network’s fixation on the gadfly Democrat’s bid is crowding out coverage of Donald Trump’s Republican primary challengers, stymying their hopes of garnering enough attention to defeat the twice-impeached, twice-indicted former president.
On Tuesday night, Fox prime-time host Sean Hannity, a Trump political adviser and perhaps the network’s most transparent supplier of pro-GOP propaganda, will host Kennedy for a televised town hall. Hannity has previously provided such a forum to Republican candidates including Trump and Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC).
People in Trump’s orbit have touted Kennedy’s potential to function as a “chaos agent” in the Democratic primary, softening up Biden and making it easier for the former president to defeat him in the general election. Fox, a Republican propaganda network that is re-cementing its role as a pro-Trump channel, is playing a key role in trying to stoke that anarchy.
Fox has hosted Kennedy at least 10 times on its weekday broadcasts since he announced his run on April 19, according to Media Matters’ internal database. That is more often than the network interviewed Republican candidates Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (9 interviews), former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (9), former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson (8), or former Vice President Mike Pence (7) over the same period.
Likewise, Kennedy is referenced more frequently on the network than much of the GOP field. His name was mentioned on Fox at least 779 times from April 19 through July 20 — more than any GOP primary candidate other than Trump (4,702 mentions), DeSantis (2,484), and Scott (941) — according to a Media Matters review of the Kinetiq video database.
Fox portrays Kennedy — one of the nation’s most prominent purveyors of conspiracy theories and kook science — as the victim of a sprawling plot by Democrats, the media, and the “deep state” to protect Biden by ignoring or destroying Kennedy’s campaign. Its hosts have called him a “truth-teller” and “one of the most remarkable people we have met” and praised his “sheer masculinity.”
Fox’s effort to boost Kennedy is failing in the Democratic primary, where his poll numbers have tumbled in part because it has become more obvious to voters that his biggest supporters are Republicans like Hannity.
But as our data show, it may be having more impact on the GOP side.
Trump has a commanding lead, and the party’s voters already know who he is and for what he stands. Every time Fox decides to run a segment touting Kennedy or hosting him to talk to its viewers, the network is denying the same free promotion to Trump’s challengers. And that’s precisely the strategy you’d expect from a network quickly abandoning any pretense that it supports a candidate other than the former president.
Media Matters searched transcripts in the Kinetiq video database for all original programming on Fox News Channel for any of the terms “Donald Trump,” “Ron DeSantis,” “RFK,” “Robert F. Kennedy,” “Perry Johnson,” “Vivek Ramaswamy,” “Asa Hutchinson,” “Larry Elder,” “Chris Christie,” “Nikki Haley,” “Doug Burgum,” “Mike Pence,” “Francis Suarez,” “Will Hurd,” “Steve Laffey,” “Tim Scott,” or “Ryan Binkley,” from April 19, 2023, when Kennedy announced his presidential candidacy, through July 20, 2023. We considered each instance of any term to be a single mention.
We also searched our internal database of all original, weekday programming on Fox News Channel (shows airing from 6 a.m. through midnight) for segments that analysts determined to include Ron DeSantis, Donald Trump, Steve Laffey, Nikki Haley, Vivek Ramaswamy, Perry Johnson, Asa Hutchinson, Larry Elder, Ryan Binkley, Tim Scott, Chris Christie, Mike Pence, Doug Burgum, Francis Suarez, Will Hurd, or Robert F. Kennedy, as guests from April 19, 2023, through July 20, 2023.