2023 will be remembered for many things. Not the least of which is that it is the year that Donald Trump became the first former United States president to be indicted for crimes against America. Those indictments – 91 felony counts – include charges of violating the Espionage Act, financial fraud, inciting a violent insurrection to undermine democracy, and even sexual harassment and rape.
However, the despicable treachery of Trump must not obscure the memory of another historical milestone that occurred the same year. Fox News agreed to an unprecedented settlement of a defamation lawsuit with Dominion Voting Systems for 3/4 of billion dollars. The suit documented how Fox News aided and abetted Trump’s “Big Lie” that the 2020 presidential election was “rigged and stolen” from Trump.
Following the settlement, Fox News seemed to distance themselves a bit from Trump. That’s what happens when internal communications reveal that they frequently disparaged him and admitted privately that they didn’t buy into his lies. Even Sean Hannity, when was asked by Dominion’s lawyer about Trump’s unfounded claims, replied that “I did not believe it for one second.” Although “one second” was about as long as that distancing lasted.
Fox News recently announced that they are holding a town hall in Iowa featuring Trump on Wednesday, January 10. That’s just five days before Iowa’s Republican primary caucus. There is no indication that any other candidate is getting that sort of promotion prior to the GOP’s first primary vote. It’s a valuable gift they’re giving only to Trump. [Update 1/7/2024: Fox has announced town halls for DeSantis and Haley on January 8th and 9th respectively, but Trump’s is the only one in primetime]
What’s more, that town hall has been scheduled at exactly the same time as the previously announced Republican debate between Ron DeSantis and Nikki Haley on CNN. So Fox News is deliberately counterprogramming the CNN debate with Trump’s opponents that Trump refused to participate in. And it would not be surprising if it turned out that Trump demanded that time slot and Fox News obediently complied. [Update 1/9/2023: In an interview with The Deseret News, Bret Baier confirmed that “It was the Trump campaign’s demand. They would only do it if it was at that time.” And Fox News, were they ethical, could have declined, but agreed to Trump’s self-serving terms.]
The criteria that CNN stipulated for participation in the debate pretty much guaranteed that only DeSantis and Haley would qualify. And CNN is also airing a debate prior to the New Hampshire primary with similar criteria that could result in only Haley and Chris Christie qualifying. It will be interesting to see what Fox News and Trump cook up to deflect from that event.
The Trump town hall on Fox News is likely to be a dull affair. The moderators, Bret Baier and Martha MacCallum, are not known for their aggressive journalism when it comes to Trump or the GOP. And Trump probably would not have agreed to it without favorable pre-conditions. The fact that he’s doing it all is peculiar, considering his recent expressions of love/hate for Fox News…
Apparently Fox’s efforts to placate Trump are paying off. For instance, they downplayed his flagrant forays into fascism. They also defended him from charges he violated the Constitution’s 14th Amendment by engaging in an insurrection.
With Fox News shelling out precious primetime air, while contesting the time period with CNN’s debate, it’s clear that the network and Trump have reconciled for the time being. It’s also clear that their reuniting will further damage the public’s ability to be adequately informed. But then that was never the mission of either Fox News or Donald Trump.
UPDATE: The audience for the Trump town hall on Fox News was 4.3 million, just slightly more than their regular programming. The audience for CNN’s debate was 2.6 million, more than 5 times their usual draw. So CNN actually benefited far more from the special programs than Fox did, despite Fox’s attempt to hamper CNN and Trump’s Republican challengers.
- Trump Chickens Out of the Fox News GOP Debate, Will Be Fluffed By Tucker Carlson Instead
- RNC Chair Thinks Trump Would Honor a Pledge to Support the GOP Nominee if it Isn’t Him
- RNC Doubles Down on Cowardice, Cancels Debates to Shield Snowflake Trump From More Humiliation
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