On the same day when one of Fox News purported “news”-side anchors, Fox News Sunday’s Chris Wallace, is set to moderate the first general election debate between President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden, the rest of Fox’s “news” side as well as its corporate sister publication the New York Post have been promoting conspiracy theories spread by the Trump campaign against Biden in the run-up to that debate itself.
A Media Matters review shows that since 10 a.m. EDT, Fox News has aired 11 segments discussing the conspiracy theory about an alleged secret earpiece that Biden may use to cheat during the debate. The topic was also repeatedly mentioned on its sister station Fox Business Network.
The claim had been floating around in right-wing fever swamps for a while, and jumped to Fox News’ The Ingraham Angle earlier this month. Now, the Trump campaign is both demanding that Biden submit to an inspection for an electronic earpiece and also spreading a claim that the Biden campaign had asked for multiple break periods during the 90-minute debate.
The claims were reported on Twitter by Fox News producer Pat Ward, who called them “new details about debate negotiations.” Then in the early afternoon, New York Post correspondent Ebony Bowden tweeted an allegation from “a source familiar” that the Biden campaign had supposedly agreed to the earpiece inspections days ago, only to back out:
About a half-hour later, Trump campaign Communications Director Tim Murtaugh tweeted a statement claiming that “Joe Biden’s handlers” had agreed “several days ago” to the earpiece inspection, as well as repeating the claim that the Biden campaign had asked for breaks.
These assertions were all shot down early in the afternoon by Biden deputy campaign manager Kate Bedingfield, who told reporters that Biden would not be wearing an earpiece and the campaign had never asked for breaks.
NBC News reporter Ben Collins also noted that the earpiece claim — originating “from a single anonymous source to a NY Post reporter, and was instantly denied by the campaign” — had then spread “everywhere on Facebook.”
In addition, former Trump senior adviser A.J. Delgado stated on Twitter that Bowden has a history of being a conduit for the Trump campaign to leak stories so that she would publish them, and then the campaign could publicly claim to “confirm” it based on Bowden’s reporting “as if it originally came from a non-Campaign source, when it didn't.”
During Tuesday morning’s edition of America’s Newsroom, Fox anchors Bill Hemmer and Bret Baier credulously discussed the story of the Biden campaign refusing Trump’s demand to be screened for earpieces, as well the allegation that the Biden campaign had asked for break times during the debate.
“As far as the listening devices and the Biden campaign's response to that, I think that's interesting,” said Baier. “We're going to have to follow that through the day to, you know, [see] what comes out of that.”
Another pair of Fox’s purported “news”-side anchors, Melissa Francis and Martha MacCallum, also promoted the story on Outnumbered. Francis reported the alleged Team Biden request for break times and Team Trump’s demand for “a neutral source to look in the ears of both candidates to see if there is a device in there,” while MacCallum just chalked it up as a continued part of campaign maneuvering — “sort of the debate equivalent of trash-talking before a game” — without any regard to what the actual truth or falsity of the claims might have been.
“But this is the way that the Trump campaign lays down these markers ahead of time and says, ‘We're willing to submit to all of these things. Why aren't you?’” said MacCallum. “Then you've got the Biden campaign saying, ‘We're not.” And so that becomes part of the narrative for today.”
So while a supposedly “straight news” personality from Fox News will be presiding over the debate, the rest of the newsrooms across the Murdoch media empire have been doing the Trump campaign’s bidding all day long.
It's no wonder that Fox employees reportedly admit that Fox is a pro-Trump network.