The Trump Trial, According to Fox News


The saturation coverage is painful to endure, but the trial of Donald Trump has put on display the alternative reality underpinning the MAGA movement as well as the relentless propaganda which is fueling the political right in America.   I have steeled myself to spend hours watching Fox News so as to spare Post Alley readers of a similar ordeal. [Editor’s Note: We thank you for your service.]

Our Fox trot begins with an unsubstantiated, untrue theme. It is, in Sean Hannity’s words, the “the weaponization of the Justice” by the Biden Administration. Trump is being hauled into a dingy Manhattan courtroom to keep him off the campaign trail. The villain is Joe Biden, although the charges were brought by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg.

“It is an utter disgrace the case has gotten this far,” declared Jonathan Turley, the Georgetown University law professor who first became a right-wing mouthpiece during the Clinton impeachment drama. “This trial is ridiculous, absurd,” added Charlie Hurt, during the next hour on “America’s Newsroom.”

The message gets repeated, hour after hour, without a word of disagreement.  When someone has turned against Trump, Fox News turns against him (Michael Cohen) or her (Liz Cheney) and with a vengeance.  The language of Fox pundits can sound like recordings of Mafia brass talking about a snitch. “He looks like a rat,” Greg Gutfeld said of Cohen. The jury was hearing Trump’s former fixer testify to the $130,000 “cash and kill” payout to porn actress Stormy Daniels. It was a costly one-night stand.

The ridicule of President Biden has been ratcheted up as a counterpoint to Trump travails. “Sleepy Joe” has become “moron Joe,” according to Fox pundit Jesse Watters. Hannity has doubled down on claims that a “shuffling” Biden is becoming senile. The forgetfulness of Trump goes unmentioned.

By contrast, the 45th president is treated as if still in the White House. He is almost always referred to as “President Trump,” with condemnation directed at those less reverent. “I hear ‘Mr. Trump, Mr. Trump. It is President Trump,” said Sen. Tommy Tubberville, R-Alabama, one of the Republican officeholders showing up to show support for Trump.

Fox News is a triumph of niche marketing. Its creator, Australian transplant and media mogul Rupert Murdoch, is reportedly more genteel in his viewpoints. Emails have revealed his private impatience at Trump’s big lie that the 2020 election was stolen. Still, however, enormous profits are to be had from conspiracy theories and denunciation of mainstream media.

Fox News is a major force in this country’s polarization. Culture wars and confrontations are a big part of its agenda.  Trump promises retribution if returned to the White House. Gone are days when conservative William F. Buckley and liberal John Kenneth Galbraith could engage in highbrow televised debates, then ski together in Switzerland. Or even Ronald Reagan and House Speaker Tip O’Neil, adversaries in public but good old boys in private.

Appearing last Sunday on Meet the Press, Secretary of State Anthony Blinken laid out Biden Administration’s decision to withhold from Israel certain powerful weapons. The response of Fox pundit Mark Levin was to label Blinken a “loathsome Marxist” with the accusation: “Blinken is a traitorous [George] Soros stooge desperately working to save Hamas and he has also funded Iran.” 

 Fox News has developed a list of demons, from the “war on Christmas” to Antifa and the Black Lives Matter movement. Atop the list are big cities on the east and west coasts. Seattle radio talk show host Jason Rantz is frequently deployed as an expert in evils of the urban left. As Trump went on trial, Sean Hannity spoke: “I do not trust a New York jury.”

The network has become beholden to a hard right movement it has helped to create. Its audience tolerates neither diversity nor disagreement. Viewers defected and ratings plummeted when Fox appeared to accept Biden’s victory over Trump.  The network would end up paying a record $787 million settlement to Dominion Voting Systems over promotion of disinformation about results of the election.

 The Murdochs have, over the years,  jettisoned a trio of high-profile, toxic pundits. Onetime Mt. Vernon resident Glenn Beck was booted after racist attacks on Barack Obama. Bill O’Reilly has cost the network millions in sexual harassment settlements. Tucker Carlson took extreme stands. Such is the model, however, that Fox has maintained its audience.

The trial ex-President Trump has put the Fox News formula on full display. A familiar network of pundits – Hannity, Newt Gingrich, Laura Ingraham – preach a coordinated party line. Viewers are kept riled up with misinformation.  At the same time, they’ll receive the reassurance spoken by Monday morning host Bill Hemmer: “The longer this case goes on, the higher Trump’s numbers go . . . Democrats are freaking in their boots right now.”

Alas, rationality and civility have no place in the world of MAGA, Fox News and Donald Trump.

Joel Connelly
Joel Connelly
I worked for Seattle Post-Intelligencer from 1973 until it ceased print publication in 2009, and from 2009 to 6/30/2020. During that time, I wrote about 9 presidential races, 11 Canadian and British Columbia elections‎, four doomed WPPSS nuclear plants, six Washington wilderness battles, creation of two national Monuments (Hanford Reach and San Juan Islands), a 104 million acre Alaska Lands Act, plus the Columbia Gorge National Scenic Area.


  1. Well said. Trump is actually a modern political version of a New York mob boss. His people even call him “boss” in their everyday conversations. He is dangerous.

  2. Mr. Trump is correct. Honorifics are retained when more than one person holds that title. But there is only one president, so it is President Biden and Mr. Trump.

  3. Trump is a ratings gold rush for Fox News. According to Neilsen Media Research FN is the most-watched news network in both total day and primetime. It had 2.135 million total viewers during primetime and 1.306 million viewers in total day. The network’s performance improved by +3% in total viewers and +6% in the A25-54 demographic during primetime. MAGA folks watch TV!

  4. Does anyone know what the endgame is for Murdoch and Fox News?

    I keep thinking the payoff comes if trumpf is reelected, and the FCC is restaffed with loyalists who’ve never dealt with broadcast licensing, and the licenses of most broadcast news organizations could be pulled.

    Fox would reap financial benefits if it were the only broadcast station available for advertisers. Or one of very few propaganda broadcasters.

    Really hope this is just a little paranoia on my part…but then words have been spoken about this endgame.

  5. Mr. Connelly, please reduce your Fox News exposure. I commend you for throwing yourself on the Fox News grenade and making this sacrifice for the rest of us, but remember what someone who was briefly famous once said, “What a waste it is to lose one’s mind. Or not to have a mind is being very wasteful. How true that is.” He also said, “If we don’t succeed we run the risk of failure.” and “The future will be better tomorrow.” How well these apply today! I too miss the days of yore when reasoned, polite, and intelligent discussion of opposing views were the norm. However, even then, it was not always so: rather than a Buckley/Galbraith debate, I’ll point you to the Buckley/Gore Vidal debate that happened during the Democratic Convention in 1968 in Chicago. “Crypto-Nazi” indeed! Sic semper erat.

  6. “a hard right movement it has helped to create”

    Right wing nativists (aka fascists) have been part of U.S. politics from the very beginning.


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