CNN helps to push the same false equivalency as Fox News over reports of Biden's legal fees

Donald Trump has bilked donors for tens of millions for legal fees in his multiple criminal and civil trials

Media outlets should avoid the trap of false equivalency following the Axios report that the Democratic National Committee paid $1.5 million for legal fees that President Joe Biden incurred during the fruitless special counsel investigation into his handling of classified materials.

Trump allies have pounced at the opportunity, falsely claiming that Biden’s situation is just like Trump’s, though the former president has siphoned tens of millions of dollars from donors for legal fees in a variety of criminal and civil cases.

The sheer amounts of billing involved are nowhere near equal. Trump spent more than $55 million in donor money on legal fees in 2023 alone, an amount that is surely still rising this year with one of his four felony trials set to begin next week in New York, while Biden’s legal fees were a fraction of that amount.

The billionaire ex-president’s reported net worth is also hundreds of times greater than Biden’s, and yet Trump is spending donors’ money rather than personally facing these multimillion-dollar costs. In fact, Trump’s joint fundraising activities with the Republican National Committee actually prioritize funneling money to Trump’s aligned political action committee, which is paying his legal bills, before the RNC can start to collect.

Not that any of these facts have made a difference for Trump’s public advocates. Fox & Friends covered Axios’ reporting twice, with co-host Steve Doocy saying, “This is weird, because the Biden camp has been accusing Trump of that, and now the shoe’s on the other foot.”

When the show returned to the story in the next hour, correspondent Lucas Tomlinson remarked, “Many critics say it is pretty rich considering how often the Biden campaign and the DNC mocked the RNC for picking up the tab with Donald Trump’s legal bills.”

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Citation From the April 12, 2024, edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends

On CNN News Central, co-anchor John Berman addressed the Axios story toward the end of a segment, with Berman acknowledging that the DNC payments on Biden’s behalf were “a small amount compared to the legal fees like [those] paid by the RNC for Donald Trump — a very, very, very small amount.”

But then Berman handed the segment off to Republican commentator Doug Heye, who claimed that “regardless of what the amounts are, they've been engaging in some of the same activity that they've criticized Donald Trump for,” adding, “If you’re in a glass house, you can't throw stones.”

Berman didn’t give Democratic guest Jamal Simmons, who was present for the duration of the segment, a chance to respond.

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Citation From the April 12, 2024 edition of CNN's CNN News Central

Later in the morning, Fox News anchor Harris Faulkner declared, “Critics are calling out Team Biden and the Democratic Party for hypocrisy,” and she later boasted, “This scandal is rocking.”

Faulkner also praised her guest, Townhall columnist Phil Holloway, for his comment on the story: “That is really critical, what you just said about how Biden, according to your legal expertise, got away with it. The American public watches and many of them feel the same way.”

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Citation From the April 12, 2024, edition of Fox News’ The Faulkner Focus

In fact, Biden was not charged with any wrongdoing by Republican special counsel Robert Hurr, a Trump appointee who has since resigned from the Justice Department. Notably, Fox News’ own legal editor agreed that Biden should not be charged “based on the facts” of the case.

Trump’s legal fees resulting from his mishandling of classified documents may have been much lower — and perhaps he could have avoided any criminal charges at all — if he had cooperated with investigators like both Biden and former Vice President Mike Pence did in their own respective cases involving classified documents. Instead, Trump and his team repeatedly lied to investigators and withheld documents, rather than return them voluntarily.

Meanwhile, the scope of Trump’s legal exposure in both criminal and civil investigations — where he is currently facing 88 felony charges — goes far beyond the special counsel probe of Biden.

As Axios previously reported, Republican fundraising for Trump’s legal fees has included raising money to support him in cases including the E. Jean Carroll lawsuit over sexual assault and defamation, and the New York civil fraud trial over fraudulent business practices, both of which resulted in enormous civil penalties against Trump.

Trump’s PAC has also paid further legal fees related to his attempts to overturn the results of the 2020 election, which resulted in the deadly insurrection at the United States Capitol on January 6, 2021.