Fox News waited nearly two hours to report on a statement from the FBI citing “grave concerns” about the accuracy of a classified memo that the House intelligence committee has voted to release. When it did cover the story, Fox’s Chris Wallace suggested that the statement may have been because “they think it paints the FBI in an unflattering light.” Fox’s attempt to minimize the FBI’s statement is part of the network’s ongoing push to undermine special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into the Trump campaign’s possible ties with the Russians.
On January 29, the House intelligence committee voted to release a memo that some Republicans claim shows the Justice Department and the FBI “misus[ed] their authority to obtain a secret surveillance order on a former Trump campaign associate.” Despite the Justice Department’s warnings that “it was ‘extraordinarily reckless’ for Republicans to push to release” the memo, President Donald Trump has expressed support for its release multiple times. Two days after the House intelligence committee vote, the FBI released a statement that claimed the memo had “material omissions of fact that fundamentally impact the memo’s accuracy,” echoing congressional Democrats’ criticism of the memo and the Justice Department’s stated concerns.
Within 20 minutes of the FBI statement’s release, MSNBC featured its correspondent Pete Williams who noted it was “unusual” and guest Benjamin Wittes of the Brookings Institute who said the statement showed the memo was essentially “a lie about the FBI.” CNN also quickly featured a panel that noted the statement showed there were “concerns broadly in the intelligence community about the risking of sources and methods that underlie the intelligence of this report.” By contrast, Fox did not cover the FBI’s statement until The Daily Briefing with Dana Perino, almost two hours later. During that segment, Fox News’ Chris Wallace attempted to misconstrue the FBI’s concerns, saying to host Dana Perino, “You have to wonder” whether the FBI has concerns that the memo could “expose some national security sources,” or whether they were worried that the memo “paints the FBI in an unflattering light."
DANA PERINO (HOST): We now bring in Chris Wallace, anchor of Fox News Sunday. Thank you for being with us this morning. We were just together last night and already this morning, there was so much breaking news. Let me get to the first one with you. In my experience, a dispute between the FBI and the White House is actually very unusual. What are your thoughts?
CHRIS WALLACE: Absolutely. And generally speaking, in that kind of a situation, the White House would bow to the FBI. But Gen. Kelly and President Trump, who was on a hot mic yesterday saying 100 percent we're going to release the memo soon, seem to be pushing back on the FBI. Now look, when they talk about grave concerns about accuracy, you have to wonder are there grave concerns that this could expose some national security sources and methods, that kind of thing? Or are there grave concerns because they think it paints the FBI in an unflattering light? We don't know that. But you sure hope as those national security lawyers, that Gen. Kelly was talking about, inspect this that they do everything they can to protect national security and don't necessarily protect the political security or image of the FBI.
It is hardly surprising that Fox would minimize the importance of FBI’s statement by first ignoring it and then having its host raise questions about FBI officials’ motives. The network has heavily hyped the memo and has led a growing campaign to undermine the Mueller investigation.