Economy 17-02-2024 07:46 7 Views

What Fox was talking about instead of its upended conspiracy theory

Late Thursday afternoon, the Republican effort to impeach President Biden received an unexpected, wobbling blow. An FBI informant whose allegation that Biden and his son Hunter had received multimillion-dollar bribes from a foreign businessman was indicted on charges that he fabricated the story.

The idea that the Bidens received these bribes persisted on the right despite a complete lack of corroborating evidence. When then-House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) announced the launch of an impeachment inquiry in September, he specifically cited the alleged bribes as a reason. In a 37-page indictment, special counsel David Weiss and his team make a convincing case that the entire allegation was contrived by someone who wanted to see Biden lose in 2020.

As is so often the case, the Republican effort to elevate the story of the bribes was aided by their allies in the conservative media — specifically Fox News and even more specifically Fox News host Sean Hannity. So would Hannity, for the second time in two weeks, cop to an error? Would his colleagues in Fox’s popular prime-time lineup address the abrupt change in the story they had been promoting?

Reader, they would not. There were apparently too many other important stories for them to chase.

Let’s begin with “The Ingraham Angle,” hosted by Laura Ingraham.

Ingraham spent 45 minutes of her hour-long show exploring developments in the hearing focused on alleged misconduct involving Fulton County, Ga., District Attorney Fani T. Willis. This is national news, as you likely know, because Willis obtained a sweeping indictment of Donald Trump and a number of his political allies for their efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election in Georgia. This has made her a popular target for Trump, and the outcome of the hearing could derail or damage the case against the former president.

Apparently feeling that 45 minutes was not enough time to explore the nuances of this important issue, Ingraham followed the initial flurry of discussion by interviewing a body-language expert. Her assessment? Willis’s body language was “strong.”

The hour culminated with a discussion between Ingraham and radio host Jimmy Failla, who bills himself as a comedian. They riffed on the Willis hearing, and that was that. The indictment of the FBI source was not mentioned.

Ingraham was followed by “Jesse Watters Primetime,” hosted, as you might expect, by Jesse Watters.

Watters had a more varied lineup than Ingraham. He spent the first 20 minutes of his show discussing Willis, including a graphic showing the Black district attorney and her colleague in a swimming pool surrounded by flying cash and captioned with an unsubtle “LIVING LARGE.”

The next five minutes of Watters’s show focused on an evidence-free allegation, popular in the online right, rewriting the history of Russia’s effort to interfere in the 2016 election. Or, put another way, Watters elevated a new, dubious conspiracy theory instead of spending time noting that the previous one amplified by his employer was wrong. But, then, it’s Jesse Watters.

After that, another five-minute segment focused on blaming the Biden administration for a Republican legislator’s public statement earlier this week about a new threat from Russia. Including commercials, that brought him to the 45-minute mark.

The last quarter of his show, Watters dug into the heavy issues: Rachel Dolezal’s reemergence in the national conversation, a teacher in West Virginia wearing high heels and something about “woke kindergarten.” His show is nothing if not consistent, offering his viewers all sorts of reasons to dislike and fear the people they already dislike and fear.

In the last few minutes, Watters plugged his new book. The end.

It is probably the case that no one on Fox News invested more heavily in the “Biden bribe” story than Hannity. An analysis from Media Matters determined that he has covered the allegation in at least 85 segments since it first emerged in May 2023.

On Thursday night, he had nothing to say about the new development.

Instead, he began by focusing, once again, on Willis. Viewers who tuned in at 7 p.m. had, by 9:30, gotten an hour and 40 minutes of commercial-interspersed discussion of the hearing involving the Georgia official.

Then Hannity turned to Trump’s other pressing legal case in Manhattan. For this, he sought comment from Trump lawyer Alina Habba. She suggested that the criminal case in New York was unwarranted.

Forty minutes into his show, Hannity did address developments in the House Republican effort to bring down Biden: a request from the House Judiciary Committee to the ghostwriter of a Biden memoir for information potentially related to his access to classified information. Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) had appeared on Hannity earlier this week and tried to turn the page away from the existing impeachment efforts and toward the aftermath of the Biden classified-documents probe. Hannity hosted Newt Gingrich to explore this new terrain.

After a break, Hannity talked about Fox News polling that shows Trump leading Biden in swing states and discussed possible third-party challengers with Trump’s former adviser Kellyanne Conway. With that, his show ended, Hannity having presented all of the information that he felt his audience needed to know.

There were mentions of the new development on Fox News. Bret Baier’s 6 p.m. program — categorized by the channel as part of its news coverage rather than its opinion lineup — offered a brief discussion of the indictment of the FBI informant. It included no on-air graphics detailing what the Justice Department alleges occurred but did include a response from House Oversight Committee Chairman James Comer (R-Ky.), a central figure in promoting and spreading the original bribery allegation.

In his response, Comer blamed the FBI.

On Friday morning, Fox’s early-morning program also mentioned the new indictment briefly and again gave screen time to Comer. Instead of blaming the FBI, the statement shown on Friday morning had Comer insisting that the Biden impeachment effort would push forward with the other evidence that Republicans have collected — evidence that, like the bribery allegation, is broadly overheated, misinterpreted or false.

Stay tuned to Fox News to hear more about it.

This post appeared first on The Washington Post
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