As a Trump indictment looms, Fox’s response shows the network hasn’t moved on
When it matters most, Fox still has Trump’s back
Fox News is rallying to former President Donald Trump’s defense amid reports that he may soon be indicted in a New York court. The network’s stars have denounced the potential move as an attack on Trump’s voters – who are also their viewers – that would end American democracy and turn the nation into a banana republic.
Fox’s staunch defense of Trump defies the recent wave of chatter that the powerful network had moved on from the former president and would support other candidates in the 2024 presidential primary. Filings in Dominion Voting Systems’ lawsuit against the network revealed that Fox’s top executive and its biggest prime time star hold Trump in contempt, and Trump’s team have alleged that he was hit with a “soft ban” from Fox shows. Two weeks ago, Fox referenced Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis more often than Trump for the first time this year, a Media Matters review found.
But as we saw last summer, when similar commentary was upended by Fox’s response to the FBI serving a search warrant at Trump’s Mar-A-Lago residence, the network will come to his aid when he is in legal trouble.
Trump’s respect for the rule of law has historically been marginal at best, and he currently faces at least four major criminal inquiries, including federal investigations overseen by special counsel Jack Smith and probes by Georgia and New York prosecutors.
One of those probes, conducted by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s office, is currently before a grand jury, and Bragg is reportedly considering charging Trump over his alleged role in a $130,000 hush-money payment made to porn star Stomy Daniels shortly before the 2016 election to keep her from publicly discussing her claim that she had an affair with Trump (Trump has denied the affair).
On March 18, Trump posted to his Truth Social account that he was expecting Bragg’s office to indict and arrest him the following Tuesday, March 21, telling his supporters, “PROTEST, TAKE OUR NATION BACK.” In subsequent posts, he described the probe as a “WITCH HUNT” conducted by “ANIMALS AND THUGS” who are “PURPOSEFULLY DESTROYING OUR COUNTRY.”
Republican leaders promptly denounced Bragg’s probe, with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy describing it as an attempt to “subvert our democracy by interfering in elections with politically motivated prosecutions.” Three House committee chairs even used their offices to lean on Bragg, demanding his testimony and an array of documents from his office related to the inquiry.
Fox’s hosts have joined in and are feeding the right-wing frenzy with their own apocalyptic demagoguery.
Fox star host Tucker Carlson, the Dominion filings reveal, privately tells colleagues that he loathes Trump, who is “only good at destroying." But the documents also show that he believes his show should give viewers exactly what they want. And right now, he apparently thinks that what they want is unwavering loyalty to Trump, so that’s what he’s giving them.
Carlson devoted much of Monday night’s show to incendiary denunciations of the Bragg probe and a possible Trump indictment. He described a Trump arrest as an unequal application of the law akin to Jim Crow; defended Trump’s conduct on the grounds that “paying people not to talk about things, hush money, is ordinary in modern America”; and called a potential indictment an “abuse of law enforcement power” and “a turning point for the country.”
“If the Democratic Party is allowed to do this, allowed to crush the presidential front-runner, the main threat to their power, with a bogus criminal case, where does that leave us?” Carlson asked. “We're done because that precedent will live forever and voters will never again determine the outcome of a presidential election.”
Carlson went on to say that “if they use the Justice Department in full view of everyone to settle a political score and to keep the White House just to take a guy out of the race who seems to be doing fairly well” it would “destroy the justice system.” He claimed that if that were to happen, the result would be vigilante justice.
Similar themes have rippled through Fox and the broader Trumpist media since the weekend.
- Fox host Jesse Watters said on his show Monday that Democrats would be “lighting a fire they can’t control” by arresting Trump. “Trump represents 74 million voters. What happens when you throw 74 million voters in jail?,” Watters asked.
- Fox host Jeanine Pirro said that the investigation was “making America a banana republic in terms of our justice system, in terms of the inequity that's going on” while guest-hosting Hannity on Monday.
- Pete Hegseth used similar language in an appearance on the show, saying a Trump mug shot would be “a symbol of the banana republic that we have become because left-wing progressives want to tear down our Constitution and target political opponents.”
- Host Dan Bongino urged his viewers to “get the hell out of blue states as soon as you can” because Bragg “will find you and they will hunt you down if you’re a conservative.”
- And host Mark Levin accused Democrats of trying to “destroy the law and destroy the Constitution” and claimed, “Their whole goal is to destroy the civil society and the morality that undergirds.”