After White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney admitted that President Donald Trump engaged in a quid pro quo with Ukraine -- a claim the White House and his defenders have denied for weeks -- Fox News is insisting that Mulvaney misspoke and is incorrect, that he is simply being misinterpreted, or that what he said was fine and Trump did nothing wrong.
In an October 17 press briefing, Mulvaney admitted that Trump withheld congressionally approved military aid from Ukraine in part to pressure the country to investigate his political rival -- a question that has been at the center of a House impeachment inquiry into Trump. When pressed further, a combative Mulvaney told the press to “get over it. There’s going to be political influence in foreign policy.” Mulvaney later walked back his comments, issuing a statement that blamed the media for misconstruing his words to “advance a biased and political witch hunt against President Trump.”
Now, Fox News figures are insisting that it was unwise for Mulvaney to admit to quid pro quo, but Trump did nothing inappropriate; that Mulvaney misspoke; that Mulvaney was misunderstood or misrepresented; that this is how foreign policy works; or some combination of those arguments.
On his radio show, Fox host Sean Hannity called Mulvaney “dumb” and said that his “interpretation of things” was “idiotic.”
Fox Business host Lou Dobbs called Mulvaney’s press conference “thoroughly confusing” because it “seemed to contradict what the president has said and what the call’s transcript actually demonstrates -- that there was no quid pro quo.”
Fox News contributor Ken Starr said he believes Mulvaney’s admission will “blow over pretty quickly,” but “there needed to be greater discipline in the message” and that Mulvaney “was talking about the way we conduct foreign policy and every administration conducts foreign policy.” Starr added that Mulvaney “created this issue,” but “the key, in terms of impeachment, is not what Mulvaney says in a press conference.”
On Fox & Friends, Fox correspondent-at-large Geraldo Rivera said Mulvaney “said things that were absolutely unnecessary,” agreeing with Mulvaney that “of course” politics influences foreign aid, “but why in the world do you rub that -- it’s like salt in the wounds.”
On Fox & Friends, Fox contributor Ari Fleischer said Mulvaney made things “worse” because “he went too far. He tried to explain the intricacies of foreign policy on such a red hot issue that he made a terrible mistake.” Fleischer added that “Mulvaney is a very smart man and in this instance I think that his words were moving faster than his mind.”
On The Ingraham Angle, Fox guest Robert Ray said that “a contentious press briefing is not the place to be trying to sort out whether there is or is not an illegal quid pro quo,” adding that Mulvaney’s answer “to the question, which was, ‘Isn’t what you’ve just described a quid pro quo,’ should have been no, because it isn’t.” Ingraham said that she’s not “piling on Mulvaney,” but she agreed that he shouldn’t have made the remark because then he had to “go back and clean it up afterward.”
On Fox News @ Night, guest Robert Barnes said that “because of the nature of Mr. Mulvaney and the way he speaks before, … clearly what he meant was, the reason we held [aid to Ukraine] up was concerns over corruption.” He added that “there was no quid pro quo.”
On America’s Newsroom, assistant editor of The Wall Street Journal’s opinion page and Fox Nation personality James Freeman claimed that Mulvaney’s statement “is true” because “we do often tie aid to specific policy changes we want.” He added that if Trump pressured Ukraine to investigate Biden in exchange for aid, that “seems, I think, to most people like it would be a very reasonable thing to say and a reasonable request.”
On The Story with Martha MacCallum, Fox contributor Byron York asserted that “what Mulvaney said about the president’s attitude toward foreign aid and about his attitude toward Ukraine is absolutely correct.”
On Fox & Friends, co-host Brian Kilmeade said that the media are “claiming [Mulvaney] admitted to a quid pro quo,” asking if “Democrats [are] trying to spin his words more severely than they are supposed to?”