Two talk show hosts clashed over the Friday New York Times report that alleged Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein had suggested secretly recording President Trump and removing him from office.
The caveat? Both are Fox News hosts adored by Trump — Laura Ingraham and Sean Hannity.
In May 2017, during a conversation with then-acting FBI director Andrew McCabe, Rosenstein suggested wearing a wire to record Oval Office discussions with Trump, according to the Times; McCabe has since been dismissed for unrelated reasons and may face criminal charges after being accused of misleading federal investigators.
McCabe’s memos allegedly memorialized Rosenstein’s proposition, which was made soon after Trump fired FBI Director James B. Comey.
Rosenstein, who called the report “inaccurate and factually incorrect,” also is said to have discussed invoking the 25th Amendment to remove Trump from office. Other outlets have written that Rosenstein did, in fact, make the remarks, but in jest.
The breaking news sparked a political firestorm across media outlets. But instead of Fox News hosts disagreeing with those from other networks, Ingraham and Hannity contradicted each other.
Hannity, who as of the spring talked with Trump frequently by phone, addressed remarks directly to the president, saying Rosenstein should be fired “under zero circumstances.” Ingraham, whose 10 p.m. show follows Hannity’s, called for the immediate termination of the nation’s second-most-powerful law enforcement official.
In a tweet Friday, which has since been deleted, Ingraham implored the president to fire Rosenstein, who also oversees special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s Russia probe, “today.” She reiterated the message later Friday on her show, “The Ingraham Angle.”
“If the New York Times reporting is accurate, the president tonight should seriously consider whether Rod J. Rosenstein should remain on the job,” Ingraham said. “We just cannot have this plotting at the highest levels of our Justice Department against the chief executive of this executive branch.”
Meanwhile, Hannity insisted on a drastically different course of action.
“We are experiencing tonight a massive constitutional crisis. And frankly, this is designed to set up the president,” Hannity said on air. “I have a message for the president tonight. Under zero circumstances should the president fire anybody.”
Many, including Hannity, said Friday’s theatrics were strategic, softening the ground for a “Friday night massacre” following the upcoming midterm elections.
"They are hoping and praying that the president does just that, that he gets mad, that he gets sick and tired of it” and turns it into a scandal, Hannity said.
Fox did not immediately reply to a request for comment.
Win or lose, Trump seemed determined to use the Rosenstein report as both provocation and justification for cleaning house at the Justice Department and the FBI.
At a Missouri campaign event Friday for state Attorney General Josh Hawley, who is running for a U.S. Senate seat, Trump attacked both: “Just look at what is now being exposed in our Department of Justice and the FBI,” he said. “I want to tell you, we have great people in the Department of Justice. … But you got some real bad ones.”
Trump then promised to purge the agencies of what he described as “a lingering stench.”