Angelo Carusone: Fox News' all-in defense of Trump's handling of top secret documents shows that the network never turned on him

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Citation From the August 14, 2022, edition of MSNBC's American Voices with Alicia Menendez

ALICIA MENENDEZ (HOST): Back to our breaking news this Sunday. The FBI and the Department of Homeland Security putting out a joint bulletin today, warning of a spike in threats against federal law enforcement. Why? In part because of the rhetoric from Donald Trump following the FBI search of Mar-a-Lago. The former president not alone in fueling that fire, his far-right allies helping him spew verbal attacks against the FBI. No surprise, Fox News is working overtime to protect their man. They are painting Donald Trump as the victim of government overreach. A politically motivated attack after the FBI seized highly classified documents from his home. Things that Trump did all to himself. But again, if you are watching Fox and only Fox, you would not know that.


MENENDEZ: Rewind to 2016. The folks at Fox had no problem celebrating when the FBI investigated Hillary Clinton for using a private email server to conduct government business as Secretary of State. Remember that? But her emails. A supercut by The Daily Show put the hypocrisy on full display by creating a mash-up of Fox pundits talking about Clinton – but swapping out footage to show the Mar-a-Lago search. Check it out.


MENENDEZ: It is also worth noting – not just Fox News. Republican lawmakers are showing support with Kentucky Senator Rand Paul going as far as calling to repeal the Espionage Act. With me now, Angelo Carusone, the president of Media Matters. Angelo, the extent of the victimization leading to a senator calling to repeal the Espionage Act. I mean, this protection of Trump – it can't possibly surprise you at this point.

ANGELO CARUSONE (MEDIA MATTERS PRESIDENT): No, it's not surprising at all. And, you know, I would point out that this came at a pretty interesting time, which is that there was literally like a two-week cycle where the conventional wisdom was beginning to shift. And there was this emerging narrative that somehow Fox News had turned on Trump and there was no data to back that up. I mean, they've talked about him eight-and-a-half times more than Ron DeSantis, who's the second most, you know, person they've talked about.

But so, no, it's not surprising. And I think the reason it's not surprising, though, is less about Fox News and actually more about where the base is because the reality is the base is so hopped up on this now that they don't have a choice. Just like intrepid lawmakers – in this case, those who are willing to be destructive, like Rand Paul – saying, sort of organize and appeal to the fringes, imbue it with that legitimacy – after all, he's a senator – but then he'll get a wave of right-wing media press on that, because just the same way that he was able to use that platform when he was pushing all those COVID conspiracies.

MENENDEZ: One of the things that I have sort of – that has caught my attention as being particularly dangerous, and I think at this point there have been Fox News op-eds about it. You have seen it coming from some of their hosts. You've then seen it echoed by Republican lawmakers. Is this baseless idea that, you know, they're not coming after Trump, they're coming after you. And I wonder, as someone who has tracked all of this rhetoric and language, is that something you have seen before? Are there other examples where they have used it? And just how dangerous is this idea that they're comparing a former president who had highly classified documents in his possession, was asked, was given opportunities to give them back, did not give them all back – they to come back for them, I mean, then comparing them to an average citizen.

CARUSONE: Yeah. And I think that there's, there's a lot of danger there because when they say they're coming after you. One of the things to note is that every time, almost every time that they've talked about Trump and the and the sort of the search warrant, they've immediately done a segment after it about the Inflation Reduction Act and the hiring of those 87,000 IRS agents. And some of them have even gone so far as to say that they're arming these IRS agents to come after you.

So they've actually sort of fleshed out that critique for the people. And there are examples of this happening in the past. It wasn't that long ago where the right-wing media, led by Fox News, was stoking up this idea of an invasion from this caravan coming through the South, and that it was this sort of secret cabal that was orchestrating it and funding it. And then what happened? A right-wing media viewer got so worked up that he started mailing bombs to people – George Soros, major news outlets – to try to stop and thwart that caravan.

And then a decade ago, they actually had a militarized standoff with the federal government over with this Cliven Bundy guy where he didn't want to pay his bill for grazing on federal land and he started to form a posse. Fox News held him up as a hero. And people literally started going armed, taking up positions to defend and protect Cliven Bundy from any kind of – just paying basically a bill. And they knew what they were doing. They were sort of doing it on purpose. That was an example of them stoking that anti-government sentiment and it led to real destruction. And those are just two off the top of my head. There are many others.

MENENDEZ: Those are just two off the top of your head, but it's such a perfect spot to land on, Angelo, because I think sometimes when we talk about the rhetoric and we talk about the right-wing echo chamber, people think that it's just like your uncle saying something you don't like at Thanksgiving. But no, it has actually been shown in the real world to have deadly consequences.