Conservative media attack John Bolton and downplay his book’s revelations

Bolton’s book claims he witnessed Donald Trump directly link the withheld military aid to Ukrainian investigations into Joe Biden

On January 26, The New York Times reported on leaked portions of an unpublished manuscript from former national security adviser John Bolton, which the paper says revealed that Trump told Bolton “that he wanted to continue freezing $391 million in security assistance to Ukraine until officials there helped with investigations into Democrats including the Bidens.” Now, conservative media are working to downplay the revelations and attack Bolton. 

The revelations in Bolton's upcoming book come as pressure continues to mount on the Republican-led Senate to call more witnesses, including Bolton, with firsthand knowledge of events at the center of the impeachment trial. The Democratic-led House had called on Bolton to testify during the House's initial inquiry, but he declined to appear because the White House instructed him not to do so. The House continued with the inquiry not wanting to engage in a potentially months-long court battle and sent the articles of impeachment to the Senate. Bolton offered to testify if subpoenaed by the Senate, but the Republican senators rejected 11 Democratic amendments, some of which would have called new witnesses, including Bolton, to testify. 

Now, conservative media are swiftly downplaying the revelations from Bolton's book and attacking his character, arguing that Bolton is behind the leaks in order to promote his book; that there’s a broader nefarious intent behind the timing of the reporting from the Times; that even if everything reported is completely factual, it doesn't change anything because Americans don't actually really care; that the Times’ reporting can’t be trusted; and that the Democrats should have pushed harder to hear from Bolton, dismissing the fact that Democrats tried. Some media figures are also attacking Bolton’s character and credibility, dismissing him as nothing more than a disgruntled former employee. 

Claim: Bolton is a disgruntled ex-employee and he's leaking information to boost sales of his forthcoming book

Right-wing commentator Stephen Miller tweeted that Bolton and the Times “turned impeachment hearings into a marketing strategy and there are still people wandering around wondering how we ever ended up with Donald Trump.” 

Fox’s Mike Huckabee said, “One of the most disgusting and frankly dishonorable things that has happened to this president has been people who are willing to take a paycheck from him, but could not be loyal and in fact were doing everything they can to undermine him.” Huckabee concluded, “It’s dishonorable, it’s dishonest, it’s disgusting, and people like that shouldn't be listened to.”

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Citation From the January 27, 2020, edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends

One America News Network’s Jack Posobiec sarcastically noted: “Amazing how the Bolton leak came the same night as his book launch! Does he have a magic wand under that mustache?”

Fox News contributor Sara Carter suggested the leak was Bolton’s strategy to “pre-sell” his book.

Turning Point USA’s Benny Johnson detailed what he called the “Pathetic ‘Revenge Against Trump’ Publishing Cycle,” claiming Bolton is seeking revenge after getting “fired for gross incompetence/open coup attempts,” causing him to “write fantasy book where [he is the] virtuous hero,” which “media amplifies as ‘end of Trump.’” 

The War Room podcast account tweeted a paraphrase of co-host Jason Miller’s comment: “Bolton is undermining the foreign policy of the United States.” 

The Federalist’s Sean Davis tweeted, “Bolton is running the exact same revenge playbook against Trump that James Comey used.” Davis claimed that Bolton is leaking the revelations “because he’s mad Trump fired him for leaking and trying to start new wars.”

Fox Business host Lou Dobbs quote-tweeted Davis’ tweet, writing, “Bolton has sadly reduced himself to nothing more than an unprincipled tool of the Radical Dems and Deep State: And he's sacrificed his integrity to sell a lousy spiteful book, pathetic." 

Claim: The timing of the leak is suspicious and nefarious 

Fox host Mark Levin tweeted, “Let me get this straight. John Bolton and his lawyer Chuck Cooper submitted the book manuscript to the NSC for review, which is notoriously known for leaking, on the eve of the impeachment trial, and they’re now surprised about a cherry-picked leak?”

Fox News senior political analyst Brit Hume quote-tweeted the Times report, writing, “This came along right about on schedule.” 

The Federalist senior contributor Jesse Kelly likened Bolton’s revelations to a last-minute football play from a losing team: “When your team is getting blown out by 30 in the fourth quarter but they score a cheap touchdown and you try to convince yourself you still have a chance and you shouldn’t turn it off. That’s what all these impeachment ‘bombshells’ like Bolton are. The game is over.”

Fox & Friends co-host Steve Doocy said, “You’ve got to look at the timing because this story dropped the day before the president's team starts in earnest their full defense of the president, but as Ainsley pointed out earlier, it's also the same day that the book started being sold out there online like Amazon.” Co-host Brian Kilmeade commented that “it’s amazing the forces that seem to be working against the president.” 

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Citation From the January 27, 2020, edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends

Fox contributor Mike Huckabee also said that “the timing is just a little bit too cute,” sarcastically adding, “I’m sure there was nothing coordinated between the publishing the book and the presales and the fact that the New York Times, which can't find real news if they tried, they always seem to find these leaks.” 

Fox & Friends co-host Ainsley Earhardt said that the Times “somehow … got their hands on his memoir that happens to be available for presale on Amazon today.” White House press secretary Stephanie Girsham agreed that “the timing of this is very, very suspect.” 

Claim: Even if Bolton’s allegations are true it doesn’t change anything because it’s not a big deal and Americans don’t care

Fox contributor Dan Bongino tweeted that Bolton’s revelations don’t matter because “the aid was delivered,” “the Ukrainians aren’t victims,” and “the Democrats’ corruption in Ukraine is real.” Bongino also emphasized twice that “nobody cares” about the revelations. 

Fox’s Mark Levin tweeted, “If every word of this New York Times story is true, which I doubt as it’s another politically timed leak, how does this change anything? As a matter of FACT, there was no quid pro quo. And there’s still no evidence to the contrary.”

Fox contributor Ari Fleischer rhetorically asked, “Even if Trump held up aid, is it a crime that requires the removal of a president, especially in an election year? My answer remains no.”

Frequent Fox guest Victoria Toensing, who is entangled in the impeachment scandal herself, tweeted, “It matters NOT AT ALL what @realDonaldTrump told John Bolton. We do not prosecute people for thoughts or words. Only for conduct.  Ukraine got aid but did not announce investigation. Nothing wrong there.” 

Townhall senior columnist Kurt Schlichter said, “No one not on Twitter - that is, almost everyone -  gives a damn about Bolton.” 

Claim: This isn’t a bombshell and The New York Times shouldn’t be trusted

Conservative commentator Bill Mitchell suggested that the “‘explosive leaks’ from the Bolton Book are just like ‘explosive leaks’ from the House Basement testimony” and are “cherry-picked” to “put Trump in the worst possible light." He concluded: "Also, NYTimes.”

Washington Post columnist Marc Thiessen cast doubt on the Times’ reporting, tweeting, “The NYT story does not include a single direct quote from Bolton's book.  It says Trump withheld aid ‘until officials there helped with investigations into Democrats including the Bidens.’ That is a loaded description.”

On Fox & Friends, Dan Bongino argued, “This is like the biggest box of air popcorn you have ever seen. … It's a dumb story; there’s absolutely nothing here.”

Fox News contributor Jason Chaffetz said he doesn’t “tend to believe The New York Times. I don't know how many times we've read something and then found out that oh well that actually wasn't true.”

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Citation From the January 27, 2020, edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom

The Federalist’s Mollie Hemingway downplayed the Times’ reporting, arguing, “This is obviously book promo coordinated with compliant media.”

Claim: The House should have tried harder to hear from Bolton

The Resurgent’s Erick Erickson wrote an article titled “John Bolton is Another Example of How House Democrats Rushed Impeachment.”

Washington Examiner chief political correspondent and Fox contributor Byron York tweeted, “The Bolton reports make it all the more mystifying that the House did not even issue a subpoena to him during the impeachment inquiry,” adding, “Democrats cannot argue that they did much of anything to compel his testimony.”

Fox’s Ari Fleischer said the revelations show “the House didn’t do its job. … They should have subpoenaed John Bolton and let it go through the courts.”

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Citation From the January 27, 2020, edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom

Fox’s Jason Chaffetz argued that Senate Republicans who refuse to hear from Bolton are just “taking the exact same position that the House Democrats took.”