Ainsley Earhardt | Media Matters for America

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  • Fox & Friends downplays bombshell report that Donald Trump instructed his lawyer to lie to Congress about business dealings in Moscow

    Blog ››› ››› COURTNEY HAGLE


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    A January 17 BuzzFeed News report revealed bombshell allegations that “President Donald Trump directed his former longtime personal attorney Michael Cohen to lie to Congress about negotiations to build a Trump Tower in Moscow.” Trump’s favorite morning show, Fox & Friends, downplayed the report despite the serious and potentially impeachable nature of these allegations.

    Two federal law enforcement officials familiar with the matter told BuzzFeed News that Trump supported a plan for him to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin to negotiate the Moscow tower deal during the 2016 presidential campaign. The sources also said that Cohen has told special counsel Robert Mueller that Trump personally instructed him after the elections to lie about the timeline of the negotiations “in order to obscure Trump’s involvement.” Since 2016, Trump has repeatedly asserted to the public that he had no knowledge of any business dealings with Russia. But, according to BuzzFeed News, “Trump and his children Ivanka and Donald Trump Jr. received regular, detailed updates about the real estate development from Cohen, whom they put in charge of the project.” In November, Cohen pleaded guilty to lying to Congress about the details of the Moscow deal.

    Despite these serious allegations, Fox & Friends barely covered the report, dedicating just three headlines, which together totaled 73 seconds, and one interview segment to the report. The brief headline reports were centered on Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s current lawyer, denying the allegations. During the interview segment, Fox contributor Newt Gingrich vehemently pushed back on the allegations, calling the report “an absurdity” and “a hypothetical.” Gingrich also tried to discredit BuzzFeed News, saying that BuzzFeed is “the equivalent of those tabloids you buy at the grocery stores … that introduce you to Martians” and that “to take BuzzFeed seriously is a sign of how desperate we are for news.” Gingrich also said Cohen was “wildly delusional” and that he was “trying to please the investigators [because] he was desperately trying to avoid jail.”

    This is not the first time Fox & Friends has ignored or downplayed reports that are negative for Trump. In addition to downplaying the BuzzFeed News report, the show has also almost entirely ignored Giuliani’s bombshell CNN interview on January 16 in which he refused to say whether or not there had been collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government.

  • Fox & Friends ignored Rudy Giuliani's collusion bombshell

    Fox & Friends First read one headline on Giuliani's appearance, saying he was "firing back at CNN"

    Blog ››› ››› BOBBY LEWIS

    On January 17, Fox News’ Fox & Friends failed to report on  President Donald Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani refusing to deny that there was “collusion” between the Trump campaign and the Russian government. 

    The night before, Giuliani told CNN’s Chris Cuomo that he didn’t know if members of the Trump campaign up to and including manager Paul Manafort had colluded with the Russian government. Giuliani said that he “never said there was no collusion between the campaign or between people in the campaign," only that “the president of the United States” did not collude.

    Giuliani’s admission that members of the Trump campaign may have colluded with the Russian government to win the 2016 election was treated as a bombshell by CNN and MSNBC, which  led both of their morning shows with the story. At 4:24 a.m. EST, Fox & Friends First did feature a brief headline segment about Giuliani “firing back at CNN” in the interview, however the much more influential Fox & Friends did not mention the story once. Instead, the show:

    Pressed Trump to keep the government shut down:

    Threw free Chick-fil-A sandwiches at the studio audience:

    And sang “God Bless the U.S.A.” with singer/songwriter Lee Greenwood: 

    Fox & Friends is a propaganda mill masquerading as a news show, and the hosts mostly aim to please just one viewer: the president of the United States. 

  • Some Democrats went to Puerto Rico to spotlight the island's recovery, and Fox News is furious

    Democrats went to Puerto Rico to discuss, fundraise for, and spread awareness about hurricane recovery, but Fox News says they were "partying in Puerto Rico" instead of "doing something in Washington"

    Blog ››› ››› BOBBY LEWIS

    On the morning of January 14, Fox News focused heavily on a group of over 30 Democrats, most of them members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, who spent the weekend in Puerto Rico as part of an annual retreat. Fox spun this trip as the Democrats partying "on the beaches" instead of working to end the government shutdown.

    Democrats were actually in Puerto Rico for a retreat organized by the Congressional Hispanic Caucus’ Bold PAC. According to The Hill, Bold PAC chair Tony Cárdenas said “he chose Puerto Rico for this year's convention to showcase the island's needs as it slowly recovers from 2017's Hurricane Maria.” NBC News reported that members of Congress sought to aid the island’s recovery from Hurricane Maria by bringing medical supplies and discussing the neglected recovery with Puerto Rican political leaders, including Gov. Ricardo Rosselló, San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz, and several top legislators. 

    Democrats also attended a performance of Hamilton, part of a special limited-time run in which creator and original star Lin-Manuel Miranda reprised his role to help raise funds for hurricane recovery. According to The Hill, Miranda said, “We brought Hamilton here to bring a spotlight to Puerto Rico” and its recovery. All Democrats who attended bought their tickets with their own money. 

    NBC News also reported that “The Bold PAC conference was scheduled for Puerto Rico months before the shutdown” and that the group would be monitoring the shutdown and its developments. The report also noted that the congressional members would “be able to get a bird's-eye view of how the shutdown is affecting the island that is trying to pull itself out of a financial crisis while recovering with the devastation of Category 4 Hurricane Maria."

    While Fox News did mention that it was “a work-play trip,” most of its 19 mentions or segments about the story between 6 a.m. and noon on January 14 were intended to create an image of Democrats ducking their responsibility to help end the government shutdown (which Fox News helped start) and instead vacationing in paradise while real Americans suffer. 

    Fox & Friends co-host Ainsley Earhardt said that “the optics are not good” for the Democrats when “there are 800,000 [federal] workers that aren’t getting paid,” but members of Congress who are “supposed to be doing something in Washington” are instead “on the beaches with their families.” Fellow co-host Brian Kilmeade also falsely claimed that CBS and NBC didn’t cover the story, when both networks covered the story online before Monday.

    Fox & Friends opened its 8 a.m. hour with the line “President Trump says it’s time for Democrats to get off the beach and come back to work while the shutdown enters day 24.” 

    Kilmeade said that the Democrats were “even enjoying a Broadway show" in Puerto Rico. Fox & Friends First co-host Rob Schmitt, who is covering the story in Puerto Rico, reported, “There have been some meetings and there has been some work done. But there’s also been plenty of leisure time.” He also complimented Sen. Bob Menendez’s (D-NJ) “great Instagram photo,” saying he’s “got the nice tan going.” 

    Kilmeade also asked counselor to the president Kellyanne Conway about the White House’s reaction to “the Democrats partying in Puerto Rico rather than staying” in Washington, D.C.

    Fox correspondent Doug McKelway compared the Democrats’ Puerto Rico trip to Trump’s normally frequent golfing excursions, commenting that Trump “has been picking his travels very, very carefully” with the government shutdown, and during these times “playing golf, not such a good thing, visits to Puerto Rico, not such a good thing.” 

    Former White House press secretary Sean Spicer criticized the “30 Democratic members” for going “down on some PAC event where they’re soliciting money from lobbyists in Puerto Rico and hanging out on the beach.”

    Fox re-aired Trump’s highly misleading comment that “the Democrats were in Puerto Rico celebrating” the government shutdown.

    Miranda addressed the controversy at the summit in Puerto Rico as he thanked the Democrats and other officials assembled for being “here to work, despite what anyone might claim.” 

  • Fox & Friends botches concept of marginal rates, claims Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez wants to take 70 percent of people’s paychecks

    Blog ››› ››› GRACE BENNETT

    During the January 14 edition of Fox News’ Fox & Friends, co-host Ainsley Earhardt incorrectly said in an interview with conservative writer Michael Goodwin that Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) “will tax 70 percent of your paycheck if [she] gets her way.” In reality, Ocasio-Cortez floated the idea of a 70 percent marginal tax rate on incomes over $10 million -- the key word being marginal.

    As Ocasio-Cortez  explained to Anderson Cooper on 60 Minutes, a marginal tax “doesn’t mean all $10 million are taxed at an extremely high rate,” but rather that some of top-earners’ income would be taxed at a higher rate after it passed a certain threshold. As Vox pointed out, “The United States used to have many more tax brackets, and the top marginal tax rates were extremely high.” Ocasio-Cortez’s suggested rate is actually lower than the 91 percent marginal rate top earners paid under President Dwight Eisenhower and right on par with the 70 percent marginal rate in effect under Presidents John Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson.

    Fox & Friends’ distortion of Ocasio-Cortez’s words isn’t surprising given Fox’s obsession with the freshman congresswoman and the network’s abject bias toward tax plans that benefit the rich.

    From the January 14 edition of Fox News’ Fox & Friends:

    AINSLEY EARHARDT (CO-HOST): Why are the Democrats -- what’s the appeal to race even farther to the left?

    MICHAEL GOODWIN (NY POST): Look, I mean, we're seeing it in the states like Gavin Newsom as we just saw in California --

    EARHARDT: Taxing water.

    GOODWIN: Yeah, Bill de Blasio here in New York City wants free Medicaid, paid vacations for every private employee. You see it certainly, Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi, on the border -- “There’s no problem, no big issue there, let's move along.” And of course Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez who wants the New Green Deal and Medicaid for all. I mean, Medicare for All.

    EARHARDT: 70 percent tax.

    GOODWIN: Yeah, this is now what I call sort of the race to crazy land. Everybody on the left is acting as if there’s no history here. That we can, government can take all private property and redistribute it. It’s the great redistribution race that they're in and we're seeing it up and down the Democratic Party. And I think what it says is, it’s two things. Why? First is that, I think, Bernie Sanders was pretty successful in 2016 with this kind of socialist approach to free college tuition, Medicare for All. I think a lot of people saw that as the new wave of the party. And then secondly, I think, it is this rage against Donald Trump.

    EARHARDT: And some Democrats saying they're even open to illegals getting a chance to vote, to go to the polls and vote.

    GOODWIN: Oh sure. Look this is happening --

    EARHARDT: How do they have so much support though? Because when you hear they are going to tax 70 percent of your paycheck if Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez gets her way, how do they have so much support? That’s a lot money for people to give back to the government.

    GOODWIN: I think a lot of it is ignorance. I frankly think American young people today are not being educated properly in schools. They don't know the history of our country. They don't know the history of other countries. They don't understand economics. Ocasio-Cortez, she is charming and delightful in many ways. She got an economics degree from Boston University and she clearly doesn't understand how the unemployment rate works. She said that it’s low because so many people have two jobs. Now, how do you get an economics degree from a major college and not understand that that’s not how the unemployment rate works? How is that possible? I think that is what we're seeing. Civics isn't being taught. So people don't understand government, they don't understand the economy.

  • Fox & Friends airs images that paint a picture of border chaos to help Trump build wall support 

    Co-host says Trump wants Americans to see such images

    Blog ››› ››› BOBBY LEWIS


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    In the third week of President Donald Trump’s government shutdown over his insistence that a border wall be funded, Fox News’ Fox & Friends is filling the airwaves with seemingly chaotic images of migrant caravans to build support for the wall, which, according to co-host Steve Doocy, is just what the president wants. 

    On January 9, Doocy claimed that Trump is “trying to get the people in the middle, the independents, who have not taken a side yet, to look at images like that and think, ‘OK, is that a bad thing for the country?’” 

    Accordingly, the January 10 edition of Fox & Friends aired a lot of b-roll footage of what appear to be migrant caravans. The clips showed migrants: 

    Clashing with law enforcement:

    Climbing or attacking fences and walls:

    Gathering in large groups:

    Walking:

    Fox & Friends has apparently influenced immigration policy with its b-roll choices before: On October 26, Doocy said that “images of the caravan breaking through the gate and the fence in Guatemala into Mexico” -- images that aired heavily on the show and elsewhere on the network -- “so alarmed the White House that they're trying to figure out some way to do something about the caravan in spite of the law.” Three days later, the Defense Department announced that it was sending 5,200 troops to the border to stop the caravan.

  • Fox & Friends barely covers Michael Flynn’s first sentencing hearing

    Flynn’s admission that he was not entrapped by FBI investigators annihilated a popular right-wing talking point

    Blog ››› ››› NICK FERNANDEZ


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters
     

    U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan tore into President Donald Trump’s former national security adviser Michael Flynn in a Washington, D.C., courtroom on December 18 and all but destroyed nearly a week’s worth of right-wing talking points in the process, but viewers wouldn’t know it from watching Fox & Friends. According to a Media Matters review of the December 19 edition of Fox & Friends, Fox News’ flagship morning program only briefly mentioned Flynn’s sentencing hearing to attack the judge in the case during three hours of programming.

    A popular right-wing talking point pushed extensively on Fox News has argued that Flynn was entrapped by the FBI when they questioned him in January 2017, and that the actions for which he was in legal trouble were minor and overblown. But according to a CNN report on the sentencing hearing, “the judge threw a series of questions at him that highlighted how unusual Flynn's case is and how consequential his actions may be.” Later in the hearing, according to ABC News, Sullivan asked “if Flynn believed he had been entrapped by the FBI,” but “his attorneys replied ‘no your honor.’” Though Sullivan eventually decided to postpone the sentencing hearing, he did so only after shredding Flynn’s defense and mulling the prospect of ignoring the prosecution’s sentencing suggestion that Flynn receive no jail time as a result of his cooperation.

    A Media Matters review found Fox & Friends covered Flynn’s devastating first sentencing hearing, which thoroughly debunked their main talking point, for less than five minutes in its three hour program. Aside from a brief mention of the sentencing hearing during an interview with counselor to the president, Kellyanne Conway, Trump’s favorite morning propaganda program only discussed Flynn in one segment with Fox News contributor Newt Gingrich; in each discussion, which lasted a combined 4 minutes and 35 seconds, the hosts and guests used their platform to downplay the severity of Flynn’s guilty pleas and to attack Sullivan -- the same judge that Trump’s propagandists praised just days earlier. Most of the discussion focused on attacking the judge, saying Sullivan went “off the deep end” and accusing him of “winging it.”

    Fox & Friends has dutifully played its public relations role for the Trump White House for nearly two years, and it continues fighting that losing battle even in the face of Flynn’s sentencing hearing -- just like it has with nearly every other damning report about the conduct of the Trump campaign, transition, and administration.

  • Fox & Friends ignores new report on scale of Russian disinformation 

    Fox’s morning show attacked the Russia investigation instead of reporting on a new study about Russian efforts to back Trump

    Blog ››› ››› COURTNEY HAGLE


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Fox & Friends ignored news of a new Senate report detailing Russia’s extensive social media operations to sway voter opinion in favor of President Donald Trump.

    The research, conducted for the Senate by Oxford University, is “the first to study the millions of posts provided by major technology firms to the Senate Intelligence Committee” related to Russia’s disinformation campaign. The Washington Post reported on a draft of the study over the weekend, writing that “the operation used every major social media platform to deliver words, images and videos tailored to voters’ interests to help elect President Trump — and worked even harder to support him while in office.” The report obtained by The Washington Post has been provided to the Senate Intelligence Committee, which plans to release it publicly later this week.

    Fox & Friends, the president’s favorite morning news show, failed to mention the report even once on its December 17 show. Instead, the show’s coverage continued to criticize the Russia investigation, offering claims that there is still “no proof of collusion,” complaints about the cost of the investigation, objections to the treatment of former national security adviser Michael Flynn, and criticism of former FBI Director James Comey. This lack of coverage falls in line with Fox & Friendshabit of ignoring news stories related to the Russia investigation that paint the president in a negative light.

    In contrast, CNN’s New Day and MSNBC’s Morning Joe mentioned the report multiple times throughout the morning, with at least one in-depth segment on each show.