Republican lawyers Joseph diGenova and Victoria Toensing spent much of 2019 making regular appearances on Fox News to promote a Ukrainian disinformation plot that targeted former Vice President Joe Biden. Over the last three months, however, as the House of Representative reviewed the plot as part of an inquiry into President Donald Trump that ultimately led to his impeachment on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, the pair have been absent from the network’s airwaves, raising questions about whether they have been quietly banned.
DiGenova and Toensing are longtime Republican operatives with close ties to Trump who have long been part of Fox’s Democratic scandal-generation complex and in recent years have devoted their attention to defending the president.
In 2019 they did a combined total of 33 interviews on Fox News, individually or together, using that platform to denounce investigations of Trump and his associates and promote the Biden conspiracy theories. But in late September and early October, diGenova clashed with two veteran Fox personalities over aspects of the Ukraine plot, copious reporting revealed diGenova and Toensing had been deeply entwined in its creation, and soon after they vanished from the network.
First, diGenova used a September 24 Fox News appearance to call Fox senior judicial analyst Andrew Napolitano a “fool” after Napolitano suggested earlier that day that Trump had committed a crime by soliciting campaign aid in a phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. Then-Fox anchor Shepard Smith responded to diGenova’s remarks during a segment the next day, saying, “Attacking our colleague, who is here to offer legal assessments, on our air in our work home is repugnant.”
A few days later, Fox anchor Chris Wallace reported that diGenova and Toensing had been “working off the books” with Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s personal lawyer, on the effort to dig up dirt on Biden in Ukraine. DiGenova and Toensing responded by denying the report and smearing Wallace, but a raft of subsequent reporting has since revealed their deep involvement in the Ukraine plot and exposed Fox hosts for -- wittingly or unwittingly -- allowing the pair to promote conspiracy theories about Biden and Ukraine without disclosing their role.
As the story of their work with Giuliani unfolded, diGenova and Toensing vanished from the network. Neither has appeared on Fox News since diGenova’s October 8 hit on The Ingraham Angle. The day after that interview, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman -- Soviet-born con men who had been working alongside diGenova, Toensing, Giuliani, and conservative columnist John Solomon on the Ukraine disinformation plot -- were arrested by federal law enforcement.
The pro-Trump lawyers have also recently abandoned Fox News’ sister network, Fox Business, where the pair combined for 34 appearances in 2019. Their regular interviews on Lou Dobbs Tonight continued for a few weeks after they stopped appearing on Fox News. But after diGenova was widely condemned for issuing an odious anti-Semitic rant about progressive billionaire George Soros on the program’s November 13 edition, they vanished from Fox Business as well. They reappeared for a December 9 interview immediately after Media Matters and CNN reported their absence, but the next day The Daily Beast reported that their reemergence had enraged Jewish advocacy groups, and they have not returned to the network since.
It’s unclear exactly what has happened, and Fox is unwilling to shed any light on it -- the network did not respond to questions from reporters at CNN and The Daily Beast who inquired about the situation last month. But it seems plausible that the following transpired: 1) Toensing and diGenova were quietly banned from Fox News after diGenova feuded with the network’s employees and details emerged about the pair’s involvement in the Ukraine scheme; 2) Lou Dobbs was able to keep hosting them on the lower-profile Fox Business for a few weeks, until diGenova’s anti-Semitic screed made that situation untenable; 3) they were allowed to return to Dobbs’ program after reports circulated questioning their absence; and 4) all of this has happened without any public comment from the network about any aspect of the story.
All of that would be consistent with Fox’s general lack of transparency and its institutional unwillingness to publicly confront Fox personalities with ties to Trump for fear of a backlash from the president. It’s simply easier for the network to quietly ban Toensing and diGenova from its airwaves, and it seems that that is what Fox has done.
Update (1/23/20): This piece has been updated with additional information.