Fox News at Night | Media Matters for America

Fox News at Night

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  • As news organizations and experts question the effectiveness of new Iran sanctions, Fox pushes Trump’s propaganda

    Blog ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Multiple cable and broadcast news personalities and major national newspapers have cast doubt on the effectiveness of President Donald Trump’s new “hard-hitting” sanctions designed to keep Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and top Iranian military officials from accessing parts of the international banking system. But Fox News figures, including several anchors and reporters from its supposed “straight news” division, are echoing Trump’s framing of the sanctions’ effectiveness, describing them as “harsh,” “crippling,” and “tough.”

    Foreign policy experts and former Treasury Department officials have said that Trump’s latest sanctions are unnecessary and will have no real impact. Kate Bauer, a former Treasury official who is now at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, explained to The New Yorker that Trump didn’t even need to sign a new executive order because the authority to implement such sanctions already existed under a 2012 executive order signed by President Barack Obama. 

    Eurasia Group founder Ian Bremmer told Business Insider that Trump’s “latest sanctions are more bark than bite; they don't change the economic calculations for the Iranian regime.” 

    MSNBC global affairs analyst Wendy Sherman, the former undersecretary of state who led the team that negotiated the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, suggested to host Chris Hayes that the new sanctions will have virtually no effect on the intended targets. According to Sherman, most of the people targeted in Trump’s executive order were already sanctioned by a previous executive order, and “none of them have much to do with international financial institutions because international financial institutions don't want to have anything to do with them.”

    Some of the nation’s largest newspapers also published articles explaining that Trump’s new sanctions will likely have little effect. The New York Times reported they “will have almost no impact on the ayatollah” and “the same appears to be true for most of the other individuals sanctioned on Monday.” Another article from the Times stated that “any additional pressure from the new sanctions is likely to be minimal.” International Crisis Group President Robert Malley, a former senior Obama administration official on the Middle East, told the Times that the sanctions are “symbolic politics at its worst” and “at every level it is illogical, counterproductive or useless.” Brookings Institution Iran scholar Suzanne Maloney told The Washington Post, “Any new measures are only incremental and possibly redundant.” Sanctions expert Elizabeth Rosenberg of the Center for a New American Security also told the Post, “Further economic sanctions are almost entirely symbolic, rather than being economically significant.”

    Many broadcast and cable news reports about Trump’s new sanctions also questioned their effectiveness. PBS NewsHour’s Monday report featured Karim Sadjadpour, a Middle East expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, who said, “I don't think it's probably going to be enough to break them and force them to capitulate, but it could trigger a further Iranian response in this escalation cycle we’re already in.” CBS News White House correspondent Paula Reid said on CBS Evening News: “These new sanctions may only have a minimal impact as top Iranian officials likely do not keep significant assets in international banks.” MSNBC host Lawrence O’Donnell cited reporting from the Times that “any additional pressure from the new sanctions is likely to be minimal.” And CNN anchor Erin Burnett questioned the Trump administration’s framing of its new sanctions.

    ERIN BURNETT (ANCHOR): “Highly effective” or are they? Is this real action or just tough talk? Take for example Iran's supreme leader. No one really knows where his money is to even lock it up. He hasn’t even left Iran in years. Plus our Fred Pleitgen, who spent last week in Tehran, says -- tells us tonight that these sanctions have no wider impact on Iran's military or political leadership than the ones already in place.

    But Fox News -- which has a significant influence on the president and has been pushing Trump’s propaganda on Iran while mostly nudging him toward war -- started echoing Trump’s framing of his newest sanctions. Prime-time host Sean Hannity hyperbolically said that Trump was “delivering even more crippling sanctions on this radical, rogue regime.” But it wasn’t just the opinion host who pushed Trump’s message; some of Fox’s so-called “news division” anchors and correspondents also presented Trump’s sanctions as powerful and effective, contrary to what experts have been saying. On her show Fox News @ Night, anchor Shannon Bream called the sanctions “potentially crippling” and correspondent Gillian Turner said that the sanctions are “some of the most targeted, biting sanctions the Treasury has dropped in decades.”

    Fox’s chief White House correspondent, John Roberts, also parroted Trump’s propaganda, referring to what he called “tough new sanctions” on both Outnumbered Overtime and The Daily Briefing without noting that they will have little impact on their targets. On Your World, he framed them as “harsh new sanctions,” but on Special Report, Roberts went even further in his effusive promotion of Trump’s framing: 

    JOHN ROBERTS (WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT): The Trump administration has imposed more than a thousand sanctions against Iran since the U.S. pulled out of the Iran nuclear deal in 2017. But the sanctions that were announced today take the economic squeeze to a whole new level.

  • Fox News anchor Shannon Bream serially misgenders trans folks

    Misgendering is a form of harassment that stigmatizes trans people and goes against widely-held journalistic standards

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX PATERSON


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Shannon Bream, a Fox News anchor and part of the network’s purported “news”-side team, has a relentless record of misgendering trans people -- most recently when she reported on trans athlete JayCee Cooper, calling her a “biological male, now identifying as female.”

    Bream has made a habit of misgendering transgender people on-air while reporting on LGBTQ issues. Since November, this includes NCAA track champion CeCe Telfer; Aimee Stephens, a Supreme Court plaintiff who was fired for being transgender; and a trans middle school student in Florida. 

    On June 21, Bream misgendered and unnecessarily demeaned Cooper, a powerlifting athlete, by referring to her as a "biological male, now identifying as female." Cooper filed a complaint under the Minnesota Human Rights Act against the sport’s largest governing federation, USA Powerlifting, “after being barred from competing as a transgender woman.” According to reporting by Kate Sosin, Cooper said, “Competing in sports has been one of the only consistencies in my life, and it’s such an important piece of my identity.” 

    According to GLSEN, an LGBTQ-inclusive education advocacy organization, “misgendering refers to the experience of being labeled by others as a gender other than one that a person identifies with.” Refusing to refer to a trans person by their chosen name delegitimizes their identity and shows a resistance to acknowledging that their existence is real. Misgendering is a form of harassment that stigmatizes trans folks and also goes against journalistic standards, including The Associated Press Stylebook and The New York Times Manual of Style and Usage.

    Bream’s disregard for trans identities is in stark contrast with most news personalities at other networks. It also mirrors the anti-trans coverage from Fox’s toxic opinion hosts. Here are a few more notable examples of Bream misgendering trans people:

    • June 15: Reporting on Telfer, who recently “won the NCAA Division II women's 400-meter hurdles championship,” Bream called her “a biological male who now identifies as a woman.”
    • April 24: While hosting a member of extreme anti-LGBTQ group Alliance Defending Freedom, Bream said, “I know that ADF, your group, is involved specifically with at least one of these cases that has to do with a funeral home that had an employee they had hired in 2007, I believe. He came to them in 2013 and said that he wanted to begin dressing as a woman in the workplace. They told him no. This is already gone through the process.”
    • March 1: “A high school track takes center stage this weekend in New England, sparking nationwide controversy because male athletes transitioning to female are setting records and leaving athletes born female in the dust.”
    • February 15: “Now, just so people know that part of the problem here or what sparked part of this is that Megan was referring to a case in which a person who was born biologically male and still apparently has some of the anatomy was scheduling Brazilian bikini waxes and then showing up as a woman and then suing people, or protesting when people realized there was still some male anatomy and didn't want to perform the procedure.”
    • November 20: “A Florida school district allegedly told a male P.E. teacher that he had to supervise a female trans student who wanted to use the boy's locker room. … There is a student who was born biologically female, now identifying as male, wants to use the boys locker rooms and restrooms in the school.”
    • December 2016: “Born a biological female, the high school senior now identifies as male and wants the ability to use male-designated restrooms at Gloucester High School, which would violate school board policy.”

    Bream has also posted about news stories on Twitter in which she misgendered trans folks:

  • In some of Fox’s only coverage of apparent GOP election fraud in North Carolina, host attacks California election laws 

    There are credible reports that a partisan actor in North Carolina was collecting and destroying voters' ballots  

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Fox News' Shannon Bream attempted on Tuesday night to compare a Republican operative’s apparent plot to steal a North Carolina congressional seat with the legitimate collection of ballots in California elections. From the December 4 edition of Fox News at Night with Shannon Bream:

    See transcript below

    In California, it is legal for voters unable to return their mail ballots to designate someone to collect their ballots and deliver them to polling places. It is not legal anywhere, however, to collect and then potentially destroy, or finish filling out and cast, another person's ballot. This is what is being alleged in North Carolina, where reports show that a partisan operative potentially on the payroll of multiple Republican campaigns directed people to collect and possibly destroy or fill out voters’ ballots. Republican Mark Harris won the election by less than 1,000 votes, and it's well within reason that election fraud may have changed the result.

    Fox has been notably close-lipped about election fraud in North Carolina, despite its usual interest in fearmongering about (virtually nonexistent) "voter fraud." When it has covered this possible crime, the network’s approach is apparently to mislead its audience and downplay the seriousness of the allegations.  

    SHANNON BREAM (HOST): OK, check this out. North Carolina state law prohibits anyone other than a voter, close family member, or their legal guardian from taking in and dropping off absentee ballots. But, a California law allows anyone, including political operatives, to collect and return ballots in the Golden State. The practice is called ballot harvesting. Now, it's causing tremors in a North Carolina district where Democrats are accusing Republicans of illegal ballot harvesting. Because it's different there in North Carolina, they're calling it voter fraud. So it's also sparking questions about how Democrats swept areas like Orange County, California. Lot to unpack there. Fox News politics editor Chris Stirewalt joins us now to help separate some fact from fiction.

    CHRIS STIREWALT (FOX NEWS POLITICS EDITOR): And we should put out the allegations in North Carolina aren't just illegal because of state law -- it's different. We have voters -- so, what California allows is, in this ballot harvesting --

    BREAM: You want to give your ballot to somebody you trust.

    STIREWALT: Or also if I go to, let's say, a community center or a senior center or someplace and I say, OK, I am here. I'm a Democrat. You want to vote this way? I can help you, and then I can take them, and take them in. It's not -- it doesn't feel squeaky clean and super democratic, but that's what that is. What happens here are people say, I didn't request an absentee ballot. Somebody requested one in my name. It came to my address, and either they said fill this out or they just took it. They just took it and filled it out themselves and sent it in. This is real fraud.

    BREAM: Yeah and so the race is so close, within 900 votes. You know, House Democrats are saying we're not going to seat this person, the Republican who is claiming victory, until we iron this out.

    STIREWALT: It is not just House Democrats. It is a bipartisan state election commission in North Carolina.

    BREAM: We need answers.

    STIREWALT: There is some seriously rotten business that's going on here. And what compounds it, this was a hot primary. A longtime Republican incumbent, [Rep. Robert] Pittenger.

    BREAM: Right.

    STIREWALT: This is the 9th District, north of Charlotte, that stretches out to the west. So Pittenger gets knocked off in a primary, narrowly. Now, did the same firm that Mark Harris, the guy who knocked off Pittenger, that he employed in that election, did they do the same thing in that county? And then we start looking back at elections and the same consultant doing the same stuff and we say, what the heck is going on here? They may have to re-vote.

    BREAM: And if they do, people are saying this is going to turn into a totally different race. It's going to be nationalized, all kinds of outside money is going to pour in. And the people who show up for re-votes on something like this, they're not your average midterm voters, I mean, it's going to be a different kind of election.

    STIREWALT: If they find fraud, I would also point out, it'll be a different kind of election because the Republican nominee will have been associated.

    BREAM: He'd have problems, if he knew about it.

    STIREWALT: Even if he didn't know about it, if his campaign did it, it will stink.

  • Only MSNBC hosted LGBTQ opponents of the Trump-Pence administration's plan to define away trans identities

    While MSNBC aired segments featuring six LGBTQ people, Fox News hosted anti-LGBTQ group leader Tony Perkins and two anti-trans gay women

    Blog ››› ››› BRIANNA JANUARY


    Melisa Joskow / Media Matters

    The Trump-Pence administration is “considering narrowly defining gender as a biological, immutable condition determined by genitalia at birth,” which would be “the most drastic move yet in a governmentwide effort to roll back recognition and protections of transgender people,” according to an October 21 New York Times report. When TV news reported on the proposal, only MSNBC hosted LGBTQ guests to condemn it, while Fox hosted primarily anti-trans voices, including two gay women and major anti-LGBTQ group leader Tony Perkins.

    The Times reported that the definition would be established under Title IX, which bars “gender discrimination in education programs that receive government financial assistance.” Title IX is enforced in part by the “Big Four” federal agencies -- the departments of Education, Justice, Health and Human Services, and Labor -- most of which currently employ anti-LGBTQ group alumni who would potentially implement the policy. According to the Williams Institute, there are roughly 1.4 million American adults who identify as transgender, all of whom would be impacted by the proposed change. CNN reported that “if adopted, such a definition could exclude transgender people from existing federal civil rights protections in education, employment and access to health care.” The move is part of a greater trend of the Trump-Pence administration going after transgender people, and transgender advocates and their allies have sounded the alarm about the proposal and are fighting back.

    How TV news covered the proposal

    Following the Times’ reporting on the Trump-Pence administration’s proposal, broadcast and cable TV news spent a moderate amount of time covering the issue. MSNBC turned to transgender and queer guests to discuss the impacts of the proposal, while Fox News hosted primarily anti-transgender guests, including Perkins. Though generally critical of the proposal, CNN’s segments relied entirely on CNN hosts, commentators, and reporters, none of whom openly identify as LGBTQ.

    In discussing the proposal, MSNBC hosted six LGBTQ people, four of whom identify as trans, who were able to explain the personal impact the Trump administration’s proposal would have on the trans community.

    On October 23, MSNBC Live with Hallie Jackson hosted Laverne Cox, a transgender actress and activist, who outlined the Trump-Pence administration’s history of anti-trans policies, as well as those proposed around the country in state legislatures. Cox said that state legislatures “are continually trying to introduce legislation banning transgender people from public life” but noted that “we have fought those battles, and we have won.” She explained that “over and over again the courts have held that transgender people are covered by Title IX and Title VII.” Cox said, “They want to make us afraid, but we need not be afraid.”

    MSNBC Live with Hallie Jackson aired an October 22 segment featuring National Center for Transgender Equality's (NCTE) Raffi Freedman-Gurspan, who was the first out transgender person to be appointed to a White House job. Freedman-Gurspan called the proposal “an abomination” and highlighted that the new definition does not align with medical consensus or the lived experiences of trans people. She also noted the many anti-trans actions and rhetoric of the Trump-Pence administration and highlighted activism by the trans community and their allies who are ready to fight the proposal. Freedman-Gurspan ended the segment by saying, “We won’t be erased. We are standing up. … We are going to get through this.”

    During other segments, MSNBC also hosted Mara Keisling, a trans woman and president of NCTE; Hannah Simpson, a trans woman and activist; Masha Gessen, an LGBTQ journalist; and Sarah Kate Ellis, a lesbian and president of GLAAD. Additionally, Rachel Maddow, an out lesbian, did a monologue on her October 22 show about the proposal in which she contextualized the history of Republican administrations rolling back LGBTQ rights.

    While MSNBC turned to LGBTQ people who were either transgender or trans allies for their insights on the potential impact of the Trump-Pence administration’s proposal, Fox News hosted primarily anti-transgender guests, including two gay women and extreme anti-LGBTQ group Family Research Council’s (FRC) President Tony Perkins.

    In Fox News’ first substantial segment about the proposal, Fox News at Night with Shannon Bream aired a debate between liberal radio host Ethan Bearman and FRC’s Perkins, who was also appointed to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom in May. During the segment, Perkins praised the proposal and resorted to fearmongering when presented with historical facts about gender identity. Perkins also pushed the the thoroughly debunked myth that trans-inclusive policies pose a threat to the safety of women and girls. From the segment:

    What we’re doing by this policy that was put in place without an act of Congress -- this was the Obama administration -- we’re putting people at risk. We're actually denying people equal protection under the law, because under this, we would force women that are going to battered shelters for abused women, we would force them under government policy to be housed with men, biological men. This makes no sense.

    On October 23, Tucker Carlson, who has an anti-transgender track record himself, hosted Tammy Bruce, an anti-trans lesbian and president of the conservative group Independent Women’s Voice. In the past, Bruce has criticized trans-inclusive restrooms and compared being transgender to “a child” thinking they are “a cocker spaniel. She has also defended Jack Phillips, the Christian baker who refused to bake a wedding cake for a gay couple and who was represented by extreme anti-LGBTQ powerhouse Alliance Defending Freedom at the Supreme Court. During the segment, Carlson claimed that the government recognizing the trans community would hurt women, and Bruce leveraged her identity as a lesbian to dismiss the impact of the proposal on trans people.

    Additionally, Fox News’ The Story with Martha MacCallum hosted Camille Paglia, also an LGBTQ-identified person who is critical of trans identities. During the segment, Paglia pushed anti-trans narratives about biology and said that trans-inclusive policies are “unfair” in areas like athletics. She also described herself as transgender while criticizing the trans community. Paglia has made similar comments in the past, saying, "Although I describe myself as transgender (I was donning flamboyant male costumes from early childhood on), I am highly skeptical about the current transgender wave." In other reporting, it appears that she identifies as gay and uses female pronouns.

    CNN had at least eight separate significant discussions, news reads, or reports covering the proposal but failed to host a single LGBTQ person in its reporting. Though the network’s coverage was generally critical of the proposal, CNN’s shows only used staff commentators and reporters to discuss it.

    Broadcast TV news outlets ABC and CBS barely covered the story at all, only airing news reads with no comprehensive segments or reporting, and both networks failed to feature any LGBTQ voices. NBC, however, aired a package on NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt that included a clip from NCTE’s Freedman-Gurspan’s appearance on MSNBC Live with Hallie Jackson. It also aired a report on Today.

    Additionally, PBS aired a segment featuring LGBTQ legal group Lambda Legal’s Sharon McGowan and was the only TV outlet so far to contextualize the anti-LGBTQ track record of Roger Severino, head of the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights, the department spearheading the proposal.

    Methodology

    Media Matters searched Nexis transcripts for cable TV coverage appearing between October 21 and 23 on CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC -- as well as transcripts of broadcast TV coverage on ABC, NBC, and CBS -- for mentions of the words “transgender” or “health and human services” as well as mentions of the words or variations of the words “trans,” “sex,” or “gender” occurring within 10 words of the words or variations of the words “memo,” “policy,” “definition” or “Trump.” Additionally, Media Matters conducted searches on Snapstream for the same time frame for the same terms. “Significant discussion” is defined as two or more speakers in the same segment discussing the proposal with one another.

  • Following Trump's attack, conservatives call Ford a liar deserving of prison

    Blog ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Conservative media personalities are attacking Christine Blasey Ford following President Donald Trump’s attack on her at a political rally. Ford testified last week before the Senate Judiciary Committee that Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her.

    Trump inspired a second wave of attacks from conservatives by mocking her public account of high school sexual assault at his October 2 political rally in Mississippi, as The Washington Post reported:

    President Trump mocked the account of a woman who accused Supreme Court nominee Brett M. Kavanaugh of assault and told a Mississippi crowd that the #MeToo movement was unfairly hurting men.

    Trump, in a riff that has been dreaded by White House and Senate aides, attacked the story of Christine Blasey Ford at length — drawing laughs from the crowd. The remarks were his strongest attacks yet of her testimony.

    “ ‘I don’t know. I don’t know.’ ‘Upstairs? Downstairs? Where was it?’ ‘I don’t know. But I had one beer. That’s the only thing I remember,’ ” Trump said of Ford, as he impersonated her on stage.

    “I don’t remember,” he said repeatedly, apparently mocking her testimony.

    While three Republican senators criticized Trump’s denigration of Ford, other conservatives responded by defending Trump’s attack on her and doubling down with their own.

    Gateway Pundit’s Jim Hoft: “BOOM! President Trump Mocks Christine Ford's Flimsy Accusations at Mississippi Rally - CROWD ROARS!”

    MSNBC contributor Hugh Hewitt: Ford’s “story is crumbling, and the president just broke the glass last night. He was not mocking her. He was attacking the credibility of her testimony.”

    Other right-wing media figures accused Ford of repeatedly lying in her testimony, drawing on a letter from an ex-boyfriend that said, among other things, that she helped a friend prepare for a polygraph test -- a claim that was soon countered by the friend in question.

    Hoft: “SHE’S A FRAUD: Dr. Ford Lied About Flying, Tight Spaces, Closed Quarters, Polygraph Tests.”

    Conservative talk radio host Erick Erickson: “Dr. Ford lied. Kavanaugh’s reputation died. All intentional to ruin a good man.”

    Fox News contributor Lisa Boothe: “You look at ... what looks like blatant lies” Ford “has told people about flying. … There’s been so many inconsistencies, so many lies.”

    And Hoft, along with others, have stated that Ford should be criminally investigated or even locked in prison.

    Fox News guest Joe diGenova: Ford “should be investigated and if necessary charged with the crime of submitting a false statement to the Senate.”

    Turning Point USA’s Candace Owens: “I would like to be among the first to say that I want Christine Blasey Ford to serve time in PRISON.”

    Hoft, citing Owens: “Is It About Time to Lock Up Christine Ford in a Prison Cell With Two Front Doors?”

  • Fox pushes bogus Trump administration claim of historically transparent Supreme Court nomination process

    Hundreds of thousands of Brett Kavanaugh documents are still being withheld from the Senate

    Blog ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT

    The Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court began on September 4 with hundreds of thousands of documents from Kavanaugh’s past positions in the George W. Bush administration withheld from senators’ scrutiny. Democrats on the committee highlighted this attack on transparency as the hearing began by protesting Republicans’ refusal to provide the requested documents.

    Although the Trump administration and Republican committee members have blocked access to numerous Kavanaugh documents, the show Fox News at Night broadcast, without questioning, a White House statement that its Kavanaugh nomination process is the most “comprehensive, thorough and transparent review of any nomination for the Supreme Court in U.S. history.” From the September 12 edition of Fox News at Night:

    TRACE GALLAGHER (FOX NEWS CORRESPONDENT): Despite Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh answering 32 hours of questions before the Senate Judiciary Committee, it appears, as you say, committee members are still a bit curious, because they submitted an additional 1,287 questions in writing. That’s the most ever by a mile. For example, last year, Neil Gorsuch got 324 questions in writing. In 1991, Clarence Thomas got 18. And of the 1,287 written questions, 1,278 were from Democrats, including Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse wanting to know if Kavanaugh has a gambling problem. Turns out Kavanaugh’s 2016 financial disclosure showed more debt than positive investments, and the White House attributed that to him buying baseball tickets for friends who had not yet reimbursed him. Sen. Whitehouse wanted the names of the friends and more detail. Judge Kavanaugh responded, saying he buys season tickets every year for the Washington Nationals, divides the tickets between old friends, and they pay him back. Face value, no more, no less.

    But the onslaught of questions prompted Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley to release a statement reading, quote: "Submitting this many written questions appears to be just one more effort to gum up the process. It’s unnecessary and dilatory, especially when many have already decided to vote against Judge Kavanaugh. What more do they need to know to vote no?”

    The White House also released a statement calling the process the most, quote, “comprehensive, thorough and transparent review of any nomination for the Supreme Court in U.S. history.”

    Meantime, Sen. Cory Booker has released more committee confidential documents about Judge Kavanaugh's time in the George W. Bush White House. And the conservative group Judicial Watch has filed a complaint to the Senate Ethics Committee, saying Booker has violated Senate rules and could be expelled.

  • Fox News spun NY Times report about FBI’s attempts to flip a Russian oligarch involved in organized crime into proof of an anti-Trump “witch hunt”

    For Fox, this is a familiar editorial stance

    Blog ››› ››› BOBBY LEWIS


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    On September 1, The New York Times reported on an unsuccessful years-long FBI program to flip roughly six Russian oligarchs, seeking to turn them into informants for the United States in investigations against Russian organized crime. Justice Department official Bruce Ohr and former British spy Christopher Steele, who authored a dossier of information on President Donald Trump, started communicating about this effort long before Trump announced his run for president, documents released by the Justice Department show.

    And yet, Fox News has been citing, out of context, the documents reported on in the Times as further evidence supporting Trump’s conspiracy theory that there is a “witch hunt” against him.

    While the program began in 2014, eventually -- after evidence of a possible conspiracy was established -- questions about Russian interference in the 2016 elections and Trump campaign collusion were raised with at least one of the program's targets. The Times’ sources told the paper that they revealed the program’s existence to avoid the president and his media allies “us[ing] the program’s secrecy as a screen with which they could cherry-pick facts and present them, sheared of context, to undermine the special counsel’s investigation.”

    But cherry-picked facts taken out of context perfectly describes Fox’s reporting, including its coverage of messages Ohr and Steele exchanged. Fox spun those communiques to suggest under-the-table conspiring by Ohr, Steele, and others at the FBI to maliciously target Trump. Nothing in the Times article suggests that contacts between Ohr and Steele were part of illegitimate DOJ and FBI activity, but Fox stuck to its misleading claim. When the Times article was mentioned, here's how network personalities and guests reacted: 

    In one of Fox’s earliest on-air mentions of the story, the host claimed that Ohr "was working with a man in Deripaska who's known as Putin's oligarch," and suggested that it validated Trump’s claim that the FBI was colluding with Russia. After discussing the article, guest anchor Ed Henry said, “You hear the president say there's collusion on the other side, and yet it doesn't seem to get any traction,” suggesting that in attempting to get Russian oligarchs to inform about organized crime in Russia, Ohr was actually trying to collude with said oligarchs to stop Trump. The Daily Caller’s Amber Athey also claimed details in the report “seem to confirm the president’s tweets that this is a witch hunt against him.”

    Daily Caller White House correspondent Saagar Enjeti told a Fox host that the story shows Steele “used his years-long connection with Ohr in order to push his dossier to the highest levels of the DOJ and the FBI.” In fact, a source in the Times article described Steele telling Ohr about the dossier as “more of a friendly heads-up” and said that “Steele had separately been in touch with an F.B.I. agent” to get his dossier to the bureau. Enjeti also falsely claimed that the dossier “really was the genesis for much of the investigation into President Trump” as well as “all of the other [Trump] associates” targeted. The investigation actually began after the Australian government alerted the FBI to Trump campaign advisor George Papadopoulos’ drunken bragging.

    Fox host Jeanine Pirro cut off a guest who mentioned that “Ohr is there to go after the Russian mob -- that is why the president is probably against Ohr.”

    Fox host Pete Hegseth speculated that “maybe it was Bruce Ohr who was actually flipped by the Russians.” 

    Guest anchor Ed Henry misleadingly described the Times article as saying “Ohr was trying to flip a Russian oligarch against the president.” And when a panel guest accused right-wing media of cherry-picking facts to create a misleading narrative, Henry interrupted him to make another decontextualized and misleading allegation. 

    Fox News contributor Gianno Caldwell claimed that, with the Times report out, “it does appear that it is a witch hunt.”

    Fox’s reaction to the latest development in the Trump/Russia investigations closely mirrors its reaction to many previous news reports that reflected poorly on Trump. The network regularly asserts that negative reports are actually good news for Trump and minimizes bad news. 

    When the Times reported in May that a confidential FBI informant contacted at least two of Trump’s advisers as part of the counterintelligence investigation into his campaign, Fox said it proved only that there was “surveillance of the Trump campaign by the Obama administration.”

    When the congressional hearing for former FBI agent Peter Strzok revealed no evidence that his political beliefs affected his work on the investigation, Fox News simply kept stoking rage over texts that revealed his opposition to the president and included rude comments about Trump supporters.

    When The Washington Post reported that Trump campaign associate Carter Page was the target of a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrant after he left the Trump campaign, Fox personalities lied about the warrant and falsely claimed it showed “Donald Trump was right” to accuse former President Barack Obama of spying on him. 

    When the Department of Justice inspector general released a report showing “no evidence” for allegations that former FBI Director James Comey and others allowed their “bias” to affect the Hillary Clinton email investigation, Fox used the report -- which had nothing to do with the Trump-Russia probe -- to call for an end to the special counsel investigation.