Ever since CNN first reported that Special Counsel Robert Mueller had issued the first indictment related to his Russia inquiry, Fox News has been working overtime to downplay the story and discredit its players. On Monday morning, when it was revealed that former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and an associate were the target of the indictment, Fox & Friends were busy discussing Google’s hamburger emoji.
But the outlet’s smokescreen campaign took a darker—and far more deplorable—turn on Monday afternoon with the publication of an anonymous article attacking two judges who are involved in the indictments, including the only black magistrate judge in the nation’s capital.
Under the headline “Paul Manafort judges: Who are Deborah A. Robinson and Amy Berman Jackson?,” Fox News digs into the personal histories of two U.S district judges in D.C who are presiding over Manafort’s indictment. In the very first paragraph, the author—who is not named—targets preliminary Judge Deborah A. Robinson by attacking her son for an unrelated criminal conviction eight years ago.
The article also made sure to point out that Robinson presided over the cases of two high-profile black defendants—former D.C. City Councilmember and Mayor Marion Barry and NBA superstar Allen Iverson.
Judge Robinson’s role in the Manafort indictment is brief but consequential. She presided over Monday afternoon’s preliminary hearing in which she set the terms of Manafort and Gates’ release, ruling that both men were to remain under house arrest after posting bonds of $10 million and $5 million respectively, and turn in their passports.
The case will then shift to the courtroom of U.S District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson. Fox News was quick to point out that Jackson is an Obama appointee to the bench, contributed to Bill Clinton’s 1992 presidential campaign, and dismissed a baseless lawsuit brought against Hillary Clinton by family members of the victims of 2012’s deadly attack in Benghazi, Libya.
The article fits neatly into Fox News’ pattern of throwing up smokescreens on behalf of the Trump administration to try and undermine, downplay, or simply distract attention away from the scandal-plagued White House. Just within the last 24 hours, Fox News has run segments questioning Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s credibility, multiple columns attempting to distance Paul Manafort from the Trump campaign that he chaired, and at least half a dozen articles attacking Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.
The network ran Monday’s article under a generic Fox News byline, either shielding their own reporters from rightly being labeled White House stenographers or obfuscating the true authors of what could accurately be described as a targeted smear campaign.
The network has a history of publishing anonymously written articles defending Donald Trump and the White House. When Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner came under attack for harassing journalists, Fox News published a story with no byline and based on anonymous sources disputing the facts.