Fox News is running back the Ukraine disinformation campaign that led to former President Donald Trump’s first impeachment as its hosts desperately scrounge for a justification for impeaching President Joe Biden.
From Friday through Monday at noon, Fox spent 2 hours and 58 minutes teasing, airing, and analyzing an interview Brian Kilmeade conducted with Ukraine’s former prosecutor general Viktor Shokin, running at least 50 segments across 19 different programs.
Biden explained during a 2018 event that Shokin’s March 2016 removal from that office came after Biden had warned Ukraine’s leaders during a trip to Kyiv as vice president that Shokin was insufficiently focused on fighting corruption and that if he remained in his post, the United States would not follow through on a $1 billion loan guarantee.
But Shokin alleged in the new interview, which aired Saturday, that his 2016 firing came “at the insistence of the then Vice President Biden because I was investigating Burisma,” a Ukrainian energy company on whose board Hunter Biden sat. Shokin also accused Joe Biden of “a case of corruption.”
On Fox, Shokin’s interview has been deemed evidence that Joe Biden committed crimes. Prime-time host Sean Hannity alleged that Biden had participated in a “real bribery scandal,” while contributor Gregg Jarrett told the Fox & Friends audience that it was “a case of corruption” and “a classic quid pro quo pay to play” in violation of federal law.
“Are you guys going to bring [Shokin] in and talk to him and where does this lead towards impeachment inquiry?” prime-time host Jesse Watters asked Rep. Nancy Mace (R-SC), a member of the House Oversight Committee, on Friday. Mace replied that “bribery is one of the bases for impeachment in this country.” Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee are also reportedly interested in his testimony.
But Shokin is simply re-upping the conspiracy theory that Hannity, Rudy Giuliani, disgraced conservative journalist John Solomon, Ukrainian pro-Russia oligarch Dmitry Firtash, and their henchmen cooked up back in 2019 to smear Joe Biden. At the time, Hannity’s program became a clearinghouse for dubious allegations that Biden had improperly leaned on Ukraine to fire Shokin to benefit his son’s business dealings.
- Biden had been following the official U.S. government position that Shokin must be removed because he was “an impediment to the reform of the prosecutorial system,” and the idea to push for his firing originated in the State Department, according to George Kent, who at the time was deputy chief of mission in Kyiv.
- Shokin’s office had been widely faulted by Western governments and Ukrainian anti-corruption activists for declining to prosecute corruption, and his deputy had alleged Shokin was obstructing such investigations and resigned in protest. In the months leading up to his firing, the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine and the International Monetary Fund had criticized his lack of anti-corruption enforcement, while the European Union applauded his dismissal for offering a “fresh start.”
- Shokin had not been investigating Burisma at the time he was pushed out. The Burisma probe had reportedly been “shelved” under Shokin, and Hunter Biden’s business partner Devon Archer testified earlier this month that Shokin’s removal “was bad for Burisma because he was under control.”
Fox’s own internal research unit, dubbed the “Brain Room,” assessed the attacks on Biden over Ukraine at the time and concluded that Hannity regulars Solomon, Giuliani, and Republican lawyers Joe diGenova and Valerie Toensing were “spreading disinformation” on the network.
But Trump, who as president watched Fox obsessively and treated Hannity as a top adviser, became fixated on the story. He eventually sought to corruptly leverage U.S. military aid to Ukraine to get that country to announce a criminal investigation into Joe Biden, at the time a candidate for president. The disclosure of that effort triggered a House impeachment inquiry; the House ultimately impeached Trump but he was acquitted by the Senate, with Fox fulfilling its role by muddying the waters and zealously defending him.
The facts haven’t changed since then, but with Trump currently facing four different criminal trials Fox is desperate to find something to throw at Biden, and so the network has apparently decided to play the hits.