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  • Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has appeared on Fox News four times more than on the other major TV networks combined

    Like other Trump officials, Zinke heavily favors the president's favorite network

    Blog ››› ››› EVLONDO COOPER



    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has appeared on Fox News four times more often than on the other major cable and broadcast networks combined, Media Matters has found. And for the last nine-plus months, as Zinke has been increasingly dogged by scandals, he has not given interviews to any major channels other than Fox networks.

    In exhibiting a clear preference for Fox News during his 13-plus months in office, Zinke is following the same pattern as many of President Donald Trump’s other cabinet officials and top aides, including Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt.

    Zinke has gotten soft treatment on Fox News. During his interviews, the network's hosts and journalists rarely asked about his scandals. Instead of confronting him with tough questions, they let him peddle Trump administration talking points and trumpet brand-burnishing policies such as “Bring Your Dog to Work Day.” 

    Zinke appeared on Fox News 13 times and other major networks three times since he took office

    Zinke gave 13 interviews to Fox News and one each to CNN, MSNBC, and CBS. From March 1, 2017, when Zinke was sworn in, to April 17, 2018, Zinke appeared on Fox News 13 times. He granted only one on-air interview apiece to the other major cable news networks, CNN and MSNBC. On broadcast TV, Zinke appeared only on CBS; he gave no interviews to ABC or NBC.

    Zinke appeared most often on Fox & Friends, a show that shapes Trump’s decision-making. Here are all of Zinke's appearances on Fox News during his time as interior secretary:

    Fox & Friends’ interviews with Zinke were good examples of how he was treated across the network. When the hosts were not feting him for his Navy Seal service or lauding him for enacting Trump's deregulatory agenda, they allowed Zinke’s statements on policy to go unchallenged. Zinke's September 20 appearance on Fox & Friends stands out for its breeziness. Host Brian Kilmeade accompanied Zinke on a tour of the Statue of Liberty National Monument and neglected to ask the secretary about a controversial recommendation Zinke had made just days earlier to shrink four national monuments, including Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante in Utah.

    Here are Zinke's appearances on major networks other than Fox:

    On cable business news networks, Zinke appeared on Fox Business seven times and CNBC once

    Zinke’s preference for Fox extended to the Fox Business Network, which he has appeared on seven times, compared to once on rival CNBC. Fox Business, like Fox News, regularly echoes Trump administration talking points and attacks the administration's perceived enemies. Fox Business host Lou Dobbs even has the ear of the president, who has invited Dobbs to participate in senior-level meetings via phone.

    Here are Zinke's appearances on Fox Business programs:

    Zinke's sole appearance on CNBC was on Squawk Box on June 29, 2017

    Zinke appeared only on Fox News and Fox Business after becoming embroiled in scandals

    Zinke started getting a notable amount of bad press last summer after an article published on July 26 revealed that he tried to strong-arm Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) into voting to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Since then, Zinke, like Pruitt and others in Trump's cabinet, has been at the center of numerous scandals involving excessive travel expenses, favors for donors, and undisclosed financial ties to companies that could benefit from his agency’s decisions.

    All of the TV interviews Zinke did with networks other than Fox or Fox Business happened prior to July 26, 2017, after which point his controversies began generating significant media attention.

    Once scandals cropped up, Zinke retreated fully to his safe space. For more than nine months now, Zinke has not granted a single interview to any major TV network other than Fox News or Fox Business.

    Fox News covered a key Zinke travel scandal less than CNN and MSNBC

    On September 28, The Washington Post and Politico reported that Zinke spent more than $12,000 of taxpayer funds to charter a flight from Las Vegas to near his Montana home on a plane owned by oil and gas executives. Commercial flights between the airports run daily and cost as little as $300, the Post reported. Zinke's jaunt was widely reported across cable news the week after the story broke, but more widely on MSNBC and CNN than on Fox.

    From September 28 to October 4, MSNBC ran 27 segments that mentioned Zinke’s travel, while CNN ran 23. The networks' hosts, correspondents, and guests usually brought up Zinke’s travel scandal during wider conversations that included mention of other cabinet members' extravagant travel.

    During the same period, Fox News ran 12 segments about Zinke’s travel -- roughly half as many as each of the other cable news networks. Most of Fox's mentions of Zinke's travel were news alerts restating basic facts from the Post article. When Fox News hosts and correspondents discussed the story on air, they usually downplayed or excused the scandal. For example, on America’s News Headquarters on September 29, White House Correspondent John Roberts said that Zinke was “taking The Washington Post to task” before airing Zinke’s defense for taking private flights. Later in the show, host Sandra Smith remarked, “Zinke makes a fair point,” and noted that he got approval for other controversial flights he took on government planes.

    On April 16, 2018, the Interior Department’s (DOI) inspector general released a report that found Zinke's $12,375 charter flight "could have been avoided." Zinke took the chartered flight so he would have time in his schedule to give a motivational speech to a hockey team owned by a major donor to Zinke's former congressional campaign. The speech did not mention Zinke's work at the Department of Interior. The inspector general’s report concluded, "If ethics officials had known Zinke’s speech would have no nexus to the DOI, they likely would not have approved this as an official event, thus eliminating the need for a chartered flight. Moreover, had ethics officials been made aware that the Golden Knights’ owner had been a donor to Zinke’s congressional campaign, it might have prompted further review and discussion."

    Kevin Kalhoefer contributed research to this report. Charts by Sarah Wasko.

    Methodology

    Media Matters searched the following terms in Nexis and iQ media to find Zinke’s on-air TV appearances from the date he was sworn in as secretary of the interior on March 1, 2017, to April 17, 2018: “Zinke OR Zinky OR Interior Secretary OR Secretary of the Interior OR Secretary of Interior.” We used the same terms to search cable news networks’ coverage of Zinke’s travel controversy from September 28 to October 4, 2017.

  • The right-wing media figures defending Sean Hannity’s relationship with Michael Cohen

    ››› ››› NICK FERNANDEZ & BOBBY LEWIS

    Right-wing media figures are jumping to defend Fox News host Sean Hannity after it was revealed that Hannity has been a client of longtime lawyer to President Donald Trump, Michael Cohen. Hannity’s defenders are suggesting that he has “been victimized” by the revelation of his name, claiming that he “wasn’t engaging” Cohen “as a lawyer,” and even arguing that Hannity possibly “did not know he was a client of Michael Cohen."

  • While Fox News figures push Trump to fire Rosenstein and Mueller, Fox & Friends blames "the media"

    Brian Kilmeade: "It almost seems like the media is pushing the president to fire Rod Rosenstein, pushing the president to fire Robert Mueller, as if they are saying please, create a constitutional crisis”

    Blog ››› ››› BOBBY LEWIS

    On the April 11 edition of Fox News’ Fox & Friends, co-host Brian Kilmeade said that “it almost seems like the media is pushing the president to fire [Deputy Attorney General] Rod Rosenstein, pushing the president to fire [special counsel] Robert Mueller, as if they are saying please, create a constitutional crisis.” Kilmeade added that “clearly the president feels ill-served, clearly the president feels boxed in, clearly he is irate” by the Mueller investigation about his campaign’s possible ties to Russia. 

    In his pearl-clutching moment, Kilmeade failed to acknowledge that Fox News figures -- including Kilmeade himself -- have helped lead the attacks on Mueller, Rosenstein, and the entire Russia investigation. 

    President Donald Trump is a devoted viewer of Fox News, especially its morning show Fox & Friends, and he often responds directly to the network’s programming. So, when Fox stars say the “illegitimate and corrupt” Russia investigation is “tortur[ing]” and “tearing this country apart,” while demanding that the Department of Justice be “cleansed” of Trump’s enemies, the president is listening closely. 

    Here are just a few of the times Fox News has attempted to undermine the Russia investigation, including by directly attacking Mueller or Rosenstein:

    Kilmeade: “America’s being tortured by Robert Mueller’s worldwide mystery tour.” 

    Kilmeade: “The special counsels (sic) … are ripping this country apart. The Robert Mueller investigation is tearing this country apart.” 

    In August 2017, Kilmeade called for an end to the Mueller investigation: “Six months is enough.”

    Host Sean Hannity: "Mueller and Rosenstein have declared what is a legal war on the president. … Mueller’s investigation is way out of control."

    Guest Joe diGenova, formerly a candidate to be Trump’s personal attorney, on Lou Dobbs Tonight: “They should move to impeach” Rosenstein.

    Host Jeanine Pirro: The FBI and DOJ need “to be cleansed of individuals who should not just be fired but who need to be taken out in handcuffs.”

    Hannity regular Gregg Jarrett: “The Mueller investigation is illegitimate and corrupt. … It’s like the old KGB that comes for you in the dark of the night.” Sean Hannity responded, “This is not hyperbole you are using here.”

    These clips show only a fraction of the times that Fox News figures have denounced what Pete Hegseth called the “special impeachment counsel,” attacks that carry weight with Trump. Jarrett and Hannity (a friend of Trump’s who also advises him) called for Mueller to be fired at least 39 times in June 2017 -- the same month that Trump actually did attempt to fire Mueller. And between May and December, Hannity and his guests questioned Mueller's legitimacy at least 79 times and claimed he and his team have conflicts of interest over 364 times.

    In addition to making specific attacks against officials involved in the investigation, Fox personalities actively support the conspiratorial mindset that “the deep state” is in the midst of “what essentially amounts to a coup d’etat” against Trump, and that “it may be time to declare war outright” against the government employees that Fox perceives as the president’s enemies. 

  • There's a sharp divide in how Trump's staunchest allies are covering the Cohen raid

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    President Donald Trump’s most avid defenders have split over how to respond to the FBI raid of his lawyer Michael D. Cohen's office and residence. Last night, Fox hosts Lou Dobbs and Sean Hannity used their shows to call for action against the investigators while this morning, the hosts and guests of Fox & Friends warned that any such action could have severe consequences for Trump’s administration.

    In an extraordinary move, the FBI yesterday seized business records, emails, and documents from Cohen’s New York office, acting on a warrant obtained by the U.S. attorney’s office for the southern district of New York in coordination with special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. Cohen played a key role in both the potentially illegal payoff of adult film actress Stormy Daniels as well as the Trump Organization’s shady international business dealings.

    The unusual divide among Fox’s pro-Trump propagandists over how to treat a major new development in the series of federal criminal investigations into the president and his associates comes as Trump has been reportedly watching cable news coverage of the surprise raid and fuming.

    Speaking to reporters before a meeting with senior military leadership, Trump described the action by law enforcement as “an attack on our country, in a true sense. It's an attack on what we all stand for." Asked about whether he might respond by firing Mueller, he said “We’ll see what happens,” adding that “many people have said” that he should do so.

    Trump also blamed the day’s stock market decline on the raid. This parroted an argument made on Fox News a few hours earlier, unsurprisingly suggesting that Fox was the network he was tuning in to for Cohen coverage.

    If the president watched Fox News’ Hannity or Fox Business’ Lou Dobbs Tonight -- both among his favorite programs, each hosted by a conservative commentator Trump frequently consults for advice -- he would have seen an extensive attack on the investigations. Highlights include:

    • Dobbs said of Mueller, “I would fire the SOB in three seconds if it were me.”
    • Fox legal analyst Gregg Jarrett responded, “I know you would and he certainly deserves it.”
    • Dobbs described the investigation as “a historic assault on the very idea of American government, a constitutional republic.”
    • Fox contributor and former Trump White House aide Sebastian Gorka told Dobbs, “Mueller has to be dealt with. He has to be fired or he has to be asked, ‘What are you investigating that has anything to do with Russia?’”
    • Joe diGenova, a Fox regular who was briefly part of Trump’s legal team, argued that Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general overseeing Mueller’s investigation, and FBI Director Christopher Wray should be held “in contempt of Congress” for failing to provide documents on the Trump investigation quickly enough, and “if they don't produce the documents, they should move to impeach both of them.”
    • Hannity opened his show by saying, “This is now officially an all-hands-on-deck effort to totally malign and, if possible, impeach the president of the United States. Now, Mueller and Rosenstein have declared what is a legal war on the president.”
    • Hannity added, “My message tonight to Mueller is simple: If you have evidence of collusion, any at all, show it to us or end this partisan investigation. The country is hanging by a thread tonight and you don’t seem to care.”

    The hosts of Fox & Friends handled the story very differently. To be sure, they were also quite critical of the raid. Brian Kilmeade argued that it was intended "to get to the documents that many people thought violated attorney-client privilege." Ainsley Earhardt portrayed it as a conspiracy on the part of Mueller, his team of Democratic attorneys, and Rosenstein, whom she described as “Mueller’s BFF.” And the whole gang criticized Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ decision to recuse himself that paved the way for Mueller’s appointment.

    But contrary to the evening lineup, the morning show’s hosts and guests largely argued that any effort the president might take to curtail the investigation would only make things worse. Kilmeade and co-host Steve Doocy pointed out that there would be a “firestorm” if Sessions were to step down because the argument that he had done so without being pressured would not be credible. And Jonathan Turley, a constitutional law professor and Fox regular, argued that if Trump were to fire Mueller, he would “magnify the dangers for himself and his presidency.”

    Moreover, the program devoted surprisingly little time to what seems like an earthquake for the Trump administration. Fox & Friends spent only a handful of segments on the story over the course of the broadcast, hardly the sort of all-systems-go defense we’ve come to expect from the president’s favorite show.

    It’s unclear which message is getting through to Trump. But it appears that his tweets this morning saying “Attorney–client privilege is dead!” and calling the probe “A TOTAL WITCH HUNT!!!” were motivated by criticism of the investigation on Fox & Friends.

    We may find out shortly whether Trump will take Dobbs’ advice to fire Mueller immediately or be convinced by Turley’s comments that that would be a crucial mistake.

  • Fox News figures are downplaying Trump’s moves towards a trade war with China

    Blog ››› ››› GRACE BENNETT


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    As President Donald Trump ramps up a potential trade war with China, Fox News and Fox Business figures have been downplaying the damage his actions could do.

    Since the beginning of 2018, President Donald Trump has been rolling out increasingly aggressive tariffs on Chinese goods. In January, the president announced new tariffs targeting solar panels and washing machines, goods that primarily come from China. In March, he announced further tariffs on steel imports. And this week, the U.S. announced $50 billion worth of new tariffs, prompting the Chinese government to retaliate, placing tariffs on “128 American-made products” and asserting that the U.S. tariffs “violate World Trade Organization rules.”

    Following the news of China imposing retaliatory tariffs, CNN interviewed several economists who expressed concern that the increased economic hostility between the two nations might soon spiral into an all-out trade war. Joseph Brusuelas, chief U.S. economist at accounting and consulting firm RSM, told CNN, “This is a classic lose-lose proposition, no one wins.” After Trump threatened to impose additional tariffs, and the Chinese government promised to respond in kind, experts warned that additional tariffs would hurt both countries.

    Despite experts’ concerns, Fox News and Fox Business figures are downplaying fears of a trade war:

    • On America’s Newsroom, Fox’s Maria Bartiromo dismissed concerns about trade, commenting that she’s “not worried” about trade fears because she looks “at the broader picture.”

    • On Fox News’ Fox & Friends, host Steve Doocy downplayed Trump’s trade moves by claiming, “there are no tariffs,” arguing that “this is the starting point,” and “it’s all a suggestion, it’s all a negotiation.”

    • Fox News contributor Tammy Bruce argued that “this is not about a trade war,” and compared America’s trade deficit with China to “a battered woman situation.” She also asserted that ““this will, in the end, because of Trump’s ability to negotiate, work out well.”

    • During the same broadcast, Fox Business’ Charles Payne claimed that “President Trump [has reminded] us that we’re not in a trade war,” because, “China already won that.”

    • On Fox News Radio's The Brian Kilmeade Show, Fox’s Brian Kilmeade dismissed the possibility of a trade war, claiming, “I do believe this is what we call the pre-fight, and so far, it's hype. It doesn't mean there's actually going to be a Showtime, HBO main event.”

    • Trump sycophant Lou Dobbs dismissed those who claim there is no trade war, claiming that there already is a trade war with China, but the United States simply wasn’t “fighting it until this president arrived in Washington.”

    • Fox Business' Stuart Varney explained away stock market backlash to Trump's tariffs as "an emotional response,” and claimed that “all this talk of a trade war” is “overblown.”

    • Frequent Fox guest Ron Meyer referred to China’s retaliatory tariffs as “minor.”

    • Fox’s Charles Payne claimed that the stock market drop following the announcement of China’s retaliatory tariffs was actually Wall Street “not only overreacting but trying to intimidate the White House."

    • On America’s Newsroom, Bartiromo claimed that she’s “not afraid of a trade war.” and that Trump’s actions are “more of a negotiation.”

    • During an appearance on America’s Newsroom, Payne dismissed fears about a trade war by claiming “we’re already in a trade war. We have been fighting with one hand behind our backs.”

    • On Fox News’ Outnumbered, Fox’s Geraldo Rivera argued that China’s retaliatory tariffs were insignificant and represented “chump change,” and expressed his confusion about why the market responded “so emotionally” to China’s tariffs.

    • During the same broadcast, Fox’s Trish Regan expressed her dismay at unfair Chinese trade policies, and said, “If it takes throwing around the idea of a few tariffs … maybe that works. Maybe it is, indeed, the art of the deal.”

    • Fox’s Sean Hannity dismissed concerns about a trade war on his radio show, claiming, “I don’t think there’s ever going to be a trade war.”

    • On Fox News’ Outnumbered, Fox’s Dagen McDowell defended Trump’s “approach with China,” claiming that there is a “method to this madness,” and that we don’t know if these “tariffs will ever be put in place.