Heads we win, tails you lose: Matt Gertz discusses with On The Media how Fox News primed its audience to reject Trump's guilty verdict

Matt Gertz discusses with On The Media how Fox News primed its audience to reject Trump's guilty verdict

Audio file

Citation From the May 31, 2024, edition of WNYC's On The Media

MICAH LOEWINGER (HOST): Some members of the press may have been caught off guard by the timing of the verdict, but Donald Trump's boosters in the conservative press had prepared for this outcome by undermining credibility in the trial for months.

SEAN HANNITY (FOX NEWS HOST): The judge in this case says that he will treat Donald Trump fairly. Oh, okay.

LOEWINGER: Sean Hannity in mid-April.

HANNITY: This judge donated to Joe Biden, Trump's opponent, and another anti-Trump cause in 2020. This is the most high-profile politically charged case in the country — the judge had donated to Trump's political rival.

LOEWINGER: It's true that Judge Merchan donated to Biden's campaign, $15 in 2020 and $20 split among 2 progressive groups. Though this is hardly uncommon. NBC found that judges made over 30,000 political donations in 2021 and 2022.

MATT GERTZ (MEDIA MATTERS): We did a study looking at how Fox News has been talking about Judge Merchan.

LOEWINGER: Matt Gertz, a senior fellow at Media Matters, a left-wing group that tracks right-wing media.

GERTZ: We found that at least 220 attacks on his impartiality over the course of the trial, suggestions that he has an anti-Trump bias, that the fix is in, that he has somehow compromised the case, and this is all part of a broader effort to paint the trial itself as an example of the persecution of Donald Trump.

LOEWINGER: Of course, the verdict didn't come from the judge or Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg, who Trump surrogates say has built his career on gunning for the former president. It was a jury of Trump's peers that unanimously voted guilty on 34 counts, including 1 juror who told the court he or she gets his or her news exclusively from Truth Social and X.

JESSE WATTERS (FOX NEWS HOST): The jury has 2 lawyers on it who work in Manhattan corporate law firms with DEI all over their websites.

LOEWINGER: Jesse Waters a day before the verdict.

WATTERS: They know the charges are Frankenstein. They went to law school. They know better.

GERTZ: 89 claims we found undermining the jury as a whole or attacking individual jurors over just the week of jury selection. You had Jesse Waters target one particular juror.

WATTERS: Number 2 is the nurse. This nurse scares me if I'm Trump. She's from the Upper East Side, master's degree, not married, no kids, gets her news from the New York Times and CNN. Goodbye.

GERTZ: Who later asked to be dismissed from the jury because so many people had been able to identify her based on the information that was going around.

LOEWINGER: Gertz calls the press strategy around the trial, heads we win, tails you lose.

GERTZ: There is a time-tested strategy that the right-wing media has rolled out, through innumerable previous scandals involving Donald Trump. They run interference. They denounce all of his foes. They say that he both did nothing wrong and that the people who are accusing him of wrongdoing are the true villains. And in doing so, they shape the way the Republican base perceives events and thus keep the Republican Party politicians squarely behind him.