What’s President Trump hearing when he watches Fox News?
He’s hearing that special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation is “illegitimate and corrupt.” That it’s led by a “band of merry Trump-haters” who are trying to reverse the results of the election. And that it must be stopped.
He’s also hearing that the FBI is becoming “America’s secret police,” akin to the KGB in Russia, full of “sickness” and “corruption.”
These are all actual quotes from some of the president’s favorite pro-Trump talk shows.
The overarching message from “Fox & Friends” and “Hannity” is unmistakable: Mr. President, you’re the victim of a “deep state” plot to take you down. Don’t let it happen.
Sean Hannity, the highest-rated host on Fox, has renewed his calls for Mueller to resign. And Fox’s other pro-Trump shows reinforce this message on a daily basis.
In recent weeks, there’s been a big increase in reporting about Mueller’s probe and how it could affect Trump’s inner circle. At the same time, there’s also been a sharp escalation in the anti-Mueller rhetoric coming from right wing media sources.
With four of Trump’s associates now charged by Mueller’s team, and congressional probes also proceeding in many different directions, other channels are filled with the latest twists and turns about the intensifying investigations.
But viewers who stick to Fox might not know that. The nightly focus is on Mueller’s alleged partisanship, not Trump’s potential problems.
Last weekend, The New York Times and The Washington Post reported that Mueller had removed FBI official Peter Strzok from his team of investigators due to text messages from Strzok that could be interpreted as anti-Trump. Even though Strzok was reassigned to FBI human resources, the story is the centerpiece of the current anti-Mueller hits.
Newt Gingrich, who praised Mueller’s appointment back in May, now sounds like a different person altogether.
“Mueller is corrupt. The senior FBI is corrupt. The system is corrupt,” he told Laura Ingraham on Wednesday night.
One hour earlier, the banners on Sean Hannity’s show read “MUELLER’S PARTISAN ATTACK TEAM” and “THE DEEP STATE,” so even if viewers had the volume down, they still saw the message. Channel surfers who stumbled on Fox by mistake might think they had landed in an alternate universe.
Hannity began the hour by slamming “Robert Mueller’s partisan, extremely biased, hyper-partisan attack team,” calling the accomplished lawyers “an utter disgrace.”
He invoked the U.S. Constitution and said “they now pose a direct threat to you, the American people, and our American republic.” Repeating something he has said dozens of times before, Hannity said, “this entire witch-hunt needs to be shut down — and shut down immediately.”
Then Hannity brought in news anchor turned “legal analyst” Gregg Jarrett, who appears on the program almost every night to savage Mueller and company.
“I think we now know that the Mueller investigation is illegitimate and corrupt,” Jarrett said. “And Mueller has been using the FBI as a political weapon. And the FBI has become America’s secret police. Secret surveillance, wiretapping, intimidation, harassment and threats. It’s like the old KGB that comes for you in the dark of the night banging through your door.”
“This is not hyperbole you are using here,” Hannity said, credulously.
“No. Ask Paul Manafort, they came for him and broke through his front door,” Jarrett said.
Jarrett and Hannity commented that if it can happen to Manafort, it can happen to anyone.
Manafort and co-defendant Rick Gates have been charged with conspiracy against the United States, conspiracy to launder money and unregistered agent of a foreign principal. They have pleaded not guilty.
The repetition is really something to behold — not just by hosts but by guests who back up the anti-Mueller arguments. “There needs to be an investigation of the investigation,” Mike Huckabee, father of White House press secretary Sarah Sanders, said on “Fox & Friends” on Monday.
The next night, on Fox Business, fervertly pro-Trump host Lou Dobbs tried to outdo his colleagues. He said Strzok, Mueller and former FBI director James Comey “should be the subjects of criminal investigations and held fully accountable for crimes against a sitting president and the voters who supported him.”
Dobbs added, “Just one man’s opinion.”
Later that evening, Hannity’s opinion was that Mueller is the “head of the snake.” He called the special counsel a “disgrace to the American justice system” and asserted that the country is “now on the brink of becoming a banana republic.”
Fox News is arguably the most powerful conservative media megaphone, but it is far from the only outlet questioning the credibility of Mueller, a registered Republican who is widely respected by legal experts.
The Wall Street Journal and The New York Post — outlets that are, like Fox, owned by Rupert Murdoch — have also repeatedly published opinion pieces with sharp criticism of Mueller.
Breitbart stories refer to Mueller as “embattled.” And radio host Rush Limbaugh recently claimed Mueller is leading a “silent coup” to remove Trump.
Back on Fox, Hannity pairs his Mueller attacks with claims that Hillary Clinton has received special kid-gloves treatment from the FBI.
While Hannity’s intent is rather transparent — he’s running interference for his friend the president — his assertions are heard by several million viewers every night, some of whom work at the White House.
Imagine how the president might react to hearing this rhetoric over and over again: “Mueller’s stooges literally are doing everything within their power, and then some, to try and remove President Trump from office.”
That’s another example from Wednesday night’s “Hannity.” There are numerous examples of anti-Mueller messages every single day.
CNNMoney (New York) First published December 7, 2017: 6:36 PM ET