What Fox News aired last night instead of the impeachment trial

Preventing the removal of a GOP president is one of the network’s founding principles, and it’s doing its best

Tucker Carlson apologizes to Fox viewers for exposing them to clip of impeachment trial

Fox News has spent months urging its audience to ignore the reams of damning evidence that President Donald Trump abused his power by seeking help for his re-election campaign from Ukraine in exchange for crucial military aid and a White House meeting and then obstructed efforts by Congress to determine exactly what happened.

This disinformation campaign has succeeded, polling data suggests, with Fox viewers much more likely than the average American to say that Trump did not commit impeachable offenses.

But Fox is leaving nothing to chance as Trump’s ongoing impeachment trial in the Senate puts the network’s very reason for existing on the line. Now Fox is curtailing the audience’s exposure to the uncomfortable argument that Trump acted corruptly, in favor of the network’s typical pro-Trump spin. 

Network personalities have stressed that the trial is too boring for its viewers to watch in full and so they should rely on Fox to “summarize” it, and the network’s executives seem to agree.

All three major cable news networks were carrying raw footage from the U.S. Senate yesterday afternoon as House Democrats began offering their oral arguments in the third impeachment trial of a president in U.S. history. 

But while CNN and MSNBC stuck with the feed, Fox cut away from the oral arguments of House Democrats and instead mostly ran with its regular programming beginning with the network’s afternoon panel show, The Five, and continuing through its slate of high-rated prime-time programming.

Much of what followed consisted of the typical talking points Fox viewers have come to expect -- claims that impeachment is a “sham” because Trump did nothing wrong and has instead been victimized by a conspiracy of lying Democrats and journalists who want to distract the public from Trump’s brilliant presidential performance.

But even by Fox’s own low standards, some of the network’s spin seemed particularly childish, absurd, and pathetic.

While CNN and MSNBC allowed their viewers to hear the case for why Trump should be removed from office, Fox’s stars argued that doing so would make them “a terrible host” or apologized for even airing clips from the proceedings. 

They argued that the Democratic impeachment managers were “trying to kill America” with “incessant babble.” 

They described abuse of power allegations as “a big turkey stuffed with a bunch of you know what that comes out of your you know what.”

They mocked House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff as a person who “looks like a rotten dandelion,” is “the kind of guy that tucks his T-shirt into his mom jeans,” and is someone “who sources say had not a single friend in high school.” 

And they demanded increased attention on Hunter Biden, former Vice President Joe Biden’s son and the initial target of the Ukraine scheme Trump was impeached for implementing.

Similarly, Fox's hosts spent much of Tuesday evening cutting away from or talking over impeachment proceedings. That night, Hannity aired a scrolling list of purported Trump accomplishments side by side with silent b-roll from the proceedings. At one point, Fox contributor Dan Bongino even described Schiff and Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY) as “Ren and Stimpy,” a reference to an early 1990s Nickelodeon cartoon which apparently left quite an impression on him.

Fox was founded in part as a bulwark against potential efforts to remove a future Republican president, in reaction to President Richard Nixon’s resignation because of the Watergate crimes. Its stars will do anything they can to keep their viewers from learning exactly what Trump did.