Barely any Republican lawmakers or administration officials defended President Donald Trump on TV news shows after The New York Times reported on a memo from former FBI Director James Comey saying that Trump asked him to halt the ongoing probe of former national security adviser Michael Flynn.
According to the Times’ May 16 report, Comey wrote a memo “shortly after” meeting with Trump in February, saying that the president asked Comey to “shut down the federal investigation into Mr. Trump’s former national security adviser.” According to the Times, Trump said to Comey, “I hope you can let this go.”
Following the release of the report, barely any Republican lawmakers or officials from Trump’s administration could be found defending the president on cable news. One exception was embattled Trump aide Sebastian Gorka, who appeared on the May 16 edition of Fox News’ Hannity claiming that the “fake news” had now turned into “dishonest news” and the press was engaged in “politics above national security.”
A few elected Republican officials did appear on cable news, but many of the appearances seemed prescheduled. Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-TX) was the lone Republican lawmaker bent on defending Trump on cable news, lamenting to MSNBC’s Greta Van Susteren that Trump “is not cut a break by anybody” and that the media is “dead set on discrediting” him.
Republican Ohio Gov. John Kasich made a prescheduled appearance at a CNN town hall on May 16. When asked about the new report, Kasich used it to explain why he didn’t vote for Trump in the election.
Republicans were still scarce on morning news shows the next day. No Republican lawmakers or Trump administration officials appeared on the May 17 editions of the broadcast morning shows. As CBS’ Charlie Rose explained, CBS This Morning “reached out to 20 Republicans senators and representatives to appear on this broadcast. We also reported and requested that someone from the White House join us at any point during our two-hour broadcast to respond to the latest news. All declined our invitation.”
Similarly, no Republican appeared on MSNBC’s Morning Joe. CNN’s New Day hosted moderates Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) and Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME). And Fox News hosted Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt, although Pruitt was not asked about the Times report.
Media Matters searched Nexis transcripts and SnapStream for elected Republican officials or members of Trump’s administration who appeared on CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News on May 16 from 5-11 p.m. and May 17 from 6-9 a.m.
Media Matters also used SnapStream to search for elected Republican officials or members of the Trump administration on the May 17 editions of ABC’s Good Morning America, CBS’ CBS This Morning, and NBC’s Today.
Dina Radtke contributed research to this piece.