Why a Fox News pundit may not have heard bad news about Trump

Fox News’s Harris Faulkner hosted a panel on Monday afternoon to discuss a “Saturday Night Live” sketch mocking President Biden. In short order, though, things went in a different direction.

Faulkner turned to Jonathan Kott, a former aide to Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.). Kott came to the president’s defense.

“I will say this,” Kott offered. “I would rather have a president who maybe has a stutter once in a while than one who spews conspiracy theory, racist nonsense and has dinner with Nazis.”

Tammy Bruce, a conservative radio host, took issue with that statement.

“We just heard him call a number of Republicans Nazis and racists,” she said, “so I think we can put him in the category of willing to go there.”

There was some back-and-forth, with Kott defending his argument. Ultimately, Faulkner expressed her disappointment with Kott, lamenting that “sadly” he was calling the other side names — something she’d just said she appreciated he didn’t do.

Kott wasn’t simply pulling accusations out of a hat, however. Contrary to Bruce’s assertion, he was referring to one specific moment: Trump’s sitting down for dinner with the rapper Ye (formerly Kanye West) and white nationalist Nick Fuentes in November 2022. He wasn’t calling Republicans racists and Nazis, he was using the former term to describe some of Trump’s rhetoric and the latter to refer to a specific individual.

If Bruce’s main source of news is right-wing media like Fox News, though, she might never have heard about that dinner. In November and the first half of December of 2022, the incident was mentioned in 89 segments on CNN and more than twice that number on MSNBC. On Fox, though? It was only mentioned seven times, total.

This is very much in keeping with a long-standing pattern at the channel. News that is bad for Trump is muted or limited — including poll numbers from the network’s own pollsters.

Consider the House select committee created to investigate the attack at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. CNN and MSNBC regularly covered it. Fox News rarely did. In fact, the network declined to air the committee’s prime-time hearings, at one point instead allowing Tucker Carlson to counterprogram it with conspiracy theories about the Capitol riot.

Or consider the lawsuits filed by E. Jean Carroll against Trump. MSNBC has talked about her relentlessly, mentioning the writer and her case in just over 4,800 15-second segments in the past several years. CNN’s done so less often, with 2,000 segments. Despite the massive settlement against Trump that resulted, Fox News has mentioned Carroll in fewer than 240 segments.

Trump’s indictment in Fulton County, Ga., carries the same pattern.

It can be seen most starkly in the competing news channels’ handling of the classified-documents investigations into Trump and President Biden. Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home was searched by the FBI in August 2022, kicking off interest in the handling of documents with classification markings. A few months later, Biden’s attorneys handed over several documents they’d found.

On average, CNN and MSNBC mentioned the Trump case in about 4,900 segments since August 2022. Fox News mentioned it less than a fifth as often.

But the Biden case? CNN and MSNBC mentioned it in an average of about 1,000 segments, including last month when special counsel Robert K. Hur announced that no charges would be filed. Fox News mentioned it in nearly 1,700 segments.

There are obvious differences between the Trump and Biden cases (as Hur noted) that would warrant the former getting more attention. Trump was indicted, among other things. But Fox News has mentioned the Biden situation nearly twice as much.

Biden’s classified documents are not the only subject area where Fox News overperforms, certainly. You will recall that MSNBC has been particularly enthusiastic about the Carroll case, mentioning the writer in more than 4,800 segments since early 2021.

Well, Fox News mentioned President Biden’s son Hunter in more than 4,200 segments in one month. Since January 2021, the channel has mentioned Hunter Biden in more than 38,000 segments.

It seems likely that Tammy Bruce has heard of Hunter Biden.

There are defenses of Fox News, which argue that the channel simply serves as a counterpoint to an organized left-wing narrative, hence its focus is different than CNN and MSNBC (which such arguments present as equivalent).

We might then remember the words of host Jesse Watters in 2022.

“I work at Fox!” he said then. “I want to see disarray on the left! It’s good for America! It’s good for our ratings!”

The corollary: He, his employer and their audience are not at all interested in seeing disarray on the right. So they often ignore it.

This post appeared first on The Washington Post