Just a few weeks ago, the talk of the media world was that Fox News had instituted a “soft ban” on Donald Trump as Rupert Murdoch and his conservative cable giant looked to fully pivot to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis for the 2024 election.
What a difference a criminal indictment makes.
The network currently faces a $1.6-billion defamation case for allegedly peddling Trump’s election fraud lies in order to boost its sagging ratings after the 2020 election, and recently revealed emails showed how Murdoch himself felt Trump’s Jan. 6 actions were “pretty much a crime.” In response to Fox’s overt shift to DeSantis favoritism, Trump once blasted Murdoch as a dreaded “globalist” and repeatedly raged against the network that no longer seemed to be his personal comms shop.
And yet, now that Trump has been indicted by a grand jury in New York, Fox and the rest of the Murdoch media empire have gone fully to the mattresses defending the former president over his hush-money indictments.
Just like last summer, when the FBI’s raid of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence prompted a scorched-earth reaction from Fox News pundits and hosts, proving premature any suggestion the network had distanced from Trump, the over-the-top meltdown from the network in the past 24 hours shows the right-wing channel is unable, and perhaps unwilling, to ever fully quit its MAGA chieftain.
The tone was set as soon as the unprecedented news dropped on Thursday. “What?!” The Five’s Jesse Watters seemed to audibly gasp off-screen as anchor Sandra Smith announced that the former president had been indicted by a New York grand jury.
An ever-loyal Trump toady, Watters then seemingly warned of impending violence from enraged Trump supporters while describing the historic indictments as “the stupidest thing I’ve ever seen” and a “disgrace.” Adding that he was “angry about it,” the Fox host declared that “this country is not going to stand for it” and “people better be careful.”
Watters’ co-host Greg Gutfeld, meanwhile, suggested that the criminal charges against Trump would only serve to benefit the ex-president politically—and also somehow make the 76-year-old appear as a cool outlaw. “He is an O.G.,” the Fox News late-night “comic” declared. “He is a badass if he’s got a mugshot. You might as well go right into it.”
That point of view was echoed across the network throughout Thursday night and Friday morning. During an appearance on Trump confidant Sean Hannity’s program, Fox & Friends Weekend co-host Pete Hegseth compared the current GOP standard-bearer to Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Mick Jagger, Jimi Hendrix, and Frank Sinatra.
“If there is a mugshot of Donald Trump, it will be in dorm rooms and on t-shirts, making him a hero,” Hegseth excitedly proclaimed. “It will! And rightfully so!”With the GOP also circling the wagons for Trump over the indictment, the overwhelming sentiment among the Fox News commentariat was that the MAGA faithful need to rise up and protest against the “police state” and “assault on our system.” And much of the time, the language used during these segments rode right up to the line of incitement.
“It almost feels they’re pushing the population to react,” fumed Tucker Carlson, whose MAGA bona fides have recently come into question over his anti-Trump texts. “At what point do we conclude they’re doing this in order to produce a reaction?”
One of Carlson’s guests, former ESPN personality-turned-right-wing culture warrior Jason Whitlock, also suggested a potentially violent reaction in response to pending charges against Trump. “They are agitating for unrest. That is the only way to interpret this,” he exclaimed, adding: “I’m ready for whatever’s next. And I hope every other man out there watching this show, I hope you’re ready for whatever’s next. If that’s what they want, let’s get to it.”
In fact, several of Carlson’s guests on Thursday night seemingly claimed that Trump’s supporters were being set up by the government to react violently, with the Fox News star himself saying there “could be retaliation from red states.” Glenn Beck, whose attempt at a Never-Trump rebrand crashed and burned after the 2016 election, predicted the United States would fully be “at war” with itself within two years.
“The fundamental transformation that started in 2008 is finished,” Beck dramatically intoned. “By 2025, we are going to be at war. We are going to have a new dollar, [and] we will live in a virtual police state… I know that might sound crazy to a lot of people. It’s not far off. The Bill of Rights is gone!”
Fox News contributor Mollie Hemingway, during a panel discussion on the network’s “straight news” evening broadcast Special Report, likened the pending criminal indictment to “election interference” while calling on viewers to “stand up and make sure that they let it be known that they do not support this type of political prosecution.”
Hannity, for his part, did urge his audience to remain “peaceful” while simultaneously describing the indictment as “disgusting” and “repulsive,” telling Trump supporters to “not take their bait” because “we are law-abiding” and “God-fearing.”At the same time, Hannity’s show—which was broadcast before a live studio audience—was used as a testing ground for unhinged talking points and pleas for money to assist the billionaire ex-president in his legal fight.
Eric Trump, for instance, used his airtime to insist that his father “deserves a pass” when it comes to skirting criminal charges because “Hillary Clinton got a pass.” Fox News host Mark Levin, meanwhile, screamed to Hannity that the indictment was a “declaration of war” and the GOP needed to take action.
“It’s time for the Republican Party to understand that this is a war on the party,” Levin yelled. “It is a war on conservatism and MAGA. It is an effort, an effort, to ensure that Donald Trump can never be president again!”
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), who once upon a time warned the GOP “will get destroyed” if it nominated Trump as president, tearfully pleaded with Fox’s audience to reach into their pockets and donate to Trump. “Go tonight. Give the president some money to fight this bullshit!” Graham begged. “To those who are listening tonight: If you believe Trump is being treated poorly and wrongly, stand up and help the man!”
Fox News contributor Leo Terrell—a former liberal punching bag of Hannity’s who recently recast himself as a fierce Trump sycophant—went so far as to claim that the entire nation needed to hop aboard the Trump Train following the indictment. And that he would personally provide the ex-president with free legal advice.
“Everyone has to be a Trump supporter now!” Terrell exclaimed. “I am donating my time to help Donald Trump to fight these charges! It’s outrageous! It’s a crime to have this indictment filed against President Trump!”
Eventually, the Fox News blame had to be pointed at President Joe Biden—because of course.
“Biden bears the ultimate responsibility for what this will do to America,” host Laura Ingraham asserted on Thursday night. “That means whether through back channels or public speeches, Biden should have made it clear that his party would oppose any local prosecutor who uses trumped-up criminal charges.”
Fox News anchor Harris Faulkner, though, wondered whether the indictment on Trump would soon boomerang over to Biden and his family over GOP allegations of corruption. “I tell you who should be much more worried than either of us: Joe Biden. Look at the case against him right now,” she told Terrell on Friday morning.
Trump, who last month blasted Murdoch as a “MAGA Hating Globalist RINO” while raging against Fox News seemingly siding with DeSantis over him, seemed extremely pleased with the network’s full-throated defense of him.
On Friday morning, Trump shared 14 Fox News clips to his Truth Social account—including Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) grumbling that the indictment was “the Sorosification of the criminal justice system.”
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