On Monday morning — hours ahead of the House Intelligence Committee hearing where FBI Director James Comey disclosed that President Trump is under FBI investigation — Trump’s favorite morning morning show framed the whole question of Trump’s ties to Russia as a nothingburger that American families don’t care about.
— Brian Stelter (@brianstelter) March 20, 2017
On Tuesday morning, Fox & Friends was back at it, informing viewers who missed a hearing during which we learned that the president is under investigation that they “didn’t miss much.”
If you missed yesterday's congressional hearing with FBI Dir. James Comey, you didn't miss much… pic.twitter.com/AnJdtWcGxK
— FOX & friends (@foxandfriends) March 21, 2017
What viewers who didn’t watch the hearing missed was Comey and NSA Director Mike Rogers basically calling the president a liar. Both dismissed Trump’s accusation that former President Barack Obama wiretapped his phone lines before November’s election, saying there was no indication any such surveillance occurred.
Those who skipped the hearing also would’ve missed Comey fact-checking one of Trump’s misleading tweets in real time. Though Trump tweeted from the official @POTUS account during the hearing that “[T]he NSA and FBI tell Congress that Russia did not influence electoral process,” that’s not actually what Comey and Rogers said. And when Rep. Jim Himes (D-CT) asked Comey about the tweet, Comey said, “it certainly wasn’t our intention to say that today, because we don’t have any information on that subject, and that’s not something that was looked at.”
But even the short clip of Comey repeatedly refusing to answer questions that Fox & Friends tweeted out means a lot more than what they’d have you believe. As Benjamin Wittes of Lawfare explained in a preview of Monday’s House Intelligence Committee hearing, “Comey’s communicativeness with the committee — and through it with the public — will almost certainly be inversely proportional to the seriousness of the Russia investigation.”
“That is, if Comey says a lot, makes a lot of news on Russia matters, and cheers a lot of anti-Trump hearts by maximally embarrassing the President for his outrageous comments on Obama’s alleged wiretapping of Trump Tower, that will very likely be a sign that Comey has relatively little to protect in terms of investigative equities in the Russia matter and is thus free to vent,” Wittes added. “Conversely, a quiet, reserved Comey — one whose contrast with the relatively loquacious FBI director who talked at length about the Clinton email matters will infuriate a lot of liberals and frustrate those who want to know what’s going on with Russia — may well spell trouble for the President.”
Indeed, we saw the latter scenario play out on Monday.
It’s not surprising that Fox & Friends would frame the news in a manner favorable to Trump, however. The president, who is not a fan of critical media coverage, has repeatedly praised the show he was known for regularly joining over the phone during his campaign.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 15, 2017
Two days after that tweet was posted, Trump held a lengthy news conference where he lauded the “very honorable people” working on Fox & Friends.
“They hit me also when I do something wrong, but they have the most honest morning show,” Trump said during an exchange with CNN’s Jim Acosta. “That’s all I can say. It’s the most honest.”
Fox & Friends host Brian Kilmeade reciprocated the praise the next morning, saying Trump “looked bigger than the superpower which he’s representing.”
Trump did an interview with Fox & Friends that aired on February 28. During it, host Steve Doocy thanked Trump for the news conference shout out. Trump later referred back to his call-ins during the campaign and suggested he might not be president if it wasn’t for the exposure they provided.
“You have treated me very fairly, and I appreciate it,” he said. “Remember those call-ins, right?… Maybe without those call-ins, someone else is sitting here.”
Trump again praised Fox & Friends during his interview with Fox News host Tucker Carlson last week, saying, “I saw this morning on Fox & Friends, I watch — I like that group of three people, but they had a man who was saying ‘Trump is the greatest president ever, and there will never be one like him.’”
Trump has even taken to live-tweeting Fox & Friends some mornings.
During his first interview as president, Trump explained the importance of Fox News to his agenda, saying that evidence and facts don’t matter as long as Fox News hosts and the network’s “very smart” viewers agree with him.
Pressed by ABC News’ David Muir about his baseless claim that up to five million illegal votes were cast in the 2016 presidential election, Trump said, “Let me just tell you, you know what’s important, millions of people agree with me when I say that if you would’ve looked on one of the other networks [that is, Fox News] and all of the people that were calling in they’re saying, ‘We agree with Mr. Trump. We agree.’ They’re very smart people.”
Later, Muir asked Trump about his widely panned speech at CIA headquarters the day after his inauguration. But Trump insisted the speech was actually “a home run” because Fox News said so.
“That speech was a home run. That speech, if you look at Fox, OK, I’ll mention you — we see what Fox said. They said it was one of the great speeches,” Trump said. “They showed the people applauding and screaming and — and they were all CIA. There was — somebody was asking Sean [Hannity]— ‘Well, were they Trump people that were put’ — we don’t have Trump people. They were CIA people.”
Trump went on to criticize other networks’ coverage of the speech compared to Fox News.
“That speech was a good speech,” Trump said. “And you and a couple of other networks tried to downplay that speech. And it was very, very unfortunate that you did.”