Fox knows exactly what it's doing by promoting Giuliani’s Ukraine disinformation campaign

The network hosted Giuliani and Solomon this weekend, after news broke that an internal Fox research report determined they're not credible

Rudy Giuliani 2-9

Fox News knows that the president’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani is pushing lies about former Vice President Joe Biden’s actions in Ukraine in order to damage his political prospects, and the network is going to keep hosting him and Fox contributor John Solomon, another participant in the effort, until they get the job done.

The Daily Beast published a bombshell story Thursday revealing the existence of an internal briefing book compiled by Fox News’ “Brain Room” -- a newsroom division which compiles research for on-air talent based on credible sources like Media Matters -- warning of an “unrelenting disinformation campaign originating from Ukraine” which targeted Biden and involved several key Fox players. 

Notably, the 162-page document described the “extensive role” Giuliani played in “spreading disinformation,” which originated with corrupt Ukrainian figures, and said that Solomon “played an indispensable role in the collection and domestic publication of elements of this disinformation campaign.” It also pointed to the impact of “domestic media outlets” -- including Fox -- “in amplifying the distribution of these storylines.” (From 2018 through last Thursday, Giuliani, Solomon, and fellow participants Joseph diGenova and Victoria Toensing collectively made at least 348 total appearances on weekday Fox News programs.)

That’s an incredibly damning report on the credibility of Giuliani and Solomon -- and that of any news outlet that promotes their allegations. It suggests that the president’s lawyer is either deliberately lying or is an unwitting pawn of Ukrainians who have their own interests in smearing Biden. It states outright Solomon’s modus operandi: “Focus on stories from disinformation campaign, non-disclosure of conflicts, use of unreliable sources, publishing false and misleading stories, misrepresentation of sources, and opaque coordination with involved parties.” And it makes clear that Fox is misinforming its viewers by putting both figures on the air to discuss their wild claims. 

Fox’s actions since the document was written suggest that the network knows exactly what it’s doing: deliberately operating as a propaganda outlet aimed at misleading its viewers for the president’s political benefit. The pro-Trump outlet has not curtailed Giuliani’s appearances and has actually hosted him twice for softball interviews to push allegations about Ukraine and Biden since the briefing book’s existence was first reported last week. Fox Business also hosted Solomon to discuss a new Ukraine story after the document’s contents were revealed.

Over the weekend, Giuliani raved about unverified claims Ukrainians had made to him and waved documents he claimed proved Democratic corruption -- none of which had been independently verified by Fox itself -- in a Saturday night interview on Watters World and a Sunday morning appearance on Sunday Morning Futures

He regurgitated false conspiracy theories to allege Biden “violated the bribery statute” and had “corrupted Ukraine and he soiled the reputation of the United States” in response to tepid questioning from pliant pro-Trump hosts Jesse Watters and Maria Bartiromo.

“The amount of crimes the Democrats committed in Ukraine are astounding,” he concluded at one point on Bartiromo’s show. “If there were a document about you or me like this,” he added, holding up a piece of paper, “I think we’d be in jail by now.” 

Notably, during both appearances, Giuliani argued that the so-called “black ledger,” which detailed undisclosed cash payments from a pro-Russian Ukrainian party to former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort, was a “forgery.” Solomon’s Friday appearance on Lou Dobbs Tonight similarly focused on the allegation that the ledger had been “fabricated,” based on the claims of a single witness in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation. (While the Fox internal document dings Fox host Sean Hannity for describing Solomon as an “investigative reporter,” Dobbs also introduced him as an “award winning investigative reporter,” calling that description “straightforwardly the truth.”) 

The ledger’s 2016 publication triggered Manafort’s resignation, which Giuliani claims was a successful effort by Ukrainians to interfere with the presidential election. But the FBI has reportedly corroborated at least some of the payments to Manafort listed in the ledger, no one disputes Manafort worked for a pro-Russia Ukrainian political party, and Ukrainians had their own reasons to be interested in Manafort. Moreover, efforts to delegitimize the ledger may be part of a Russian propaganda effort (the same morning Giuliani appeared on Bartiromo’s program, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) suggested that Giuliani’s documents may have originated with Russia). 

Fox News is willingly participating in what its own research division has correctly identified as a disinformation campaign. That’s no coincidence. It’s the plan.