Alone among the major news networks, Fox News carried Thursday’s news conference in its entirety. But why?
In a brief statement, a Fox representative said the network “took the Giuliani press conference today for the same reason we took the Coronavirus Task Force press conference with Dr. Fauci, it was news.”
Yet Giuliani has been on a long legal losing streak as leader of Trump’s quixotic attempt to undermine the election’s outcome. Courts in Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania have repeatedly rejected the Trump team’s argument that he was cheated out of votes or that local election officials conducted the election improperly. Giuliani has been unable to muster sufficient evidence to persuade judges to consider the president’s case.
Which made his effort to appeal his case in the court of public opinion — that is, by holding a news conference — more of a public-relations ploy than a bona fide news event, a chance to spread incendiary and unsupported conspiracy theories to a wider audience.
They included false claims that U.S. votes are counted in Europe by a company owned by affiliates of Venezuela’s authoritarian socialist leaders and that the U.S. military seized computer servers belonging to voting-machine manufacturers in Germany — eccentric allegations that have been widely debunked.
“That press conference was the most dangerous 1 hr 45 minutes of television in American history,” tweeted Chris Krebs, the cybersecurity official fired Tuesday by Trump after he bucked the president by contradicting misinformation about voter fraud. “And possibly the craziest.”
Krebs’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency issued a statement calling the Nov. 3 election “the most secure in American history” and said “there is no evidence that any voting system deleted or lost votes, changed votes, or was in any way compromised.”
Long considered the president’s favorite channel, Fox has had a complicated and evolving relationship with Trump in the waning days of his tenure. The president has repeatedly expressed his dismay with Fox’s news reporters, who have tended to call out his most egregiously false statements but still seems to favor Fox’s aggressively supportive opinion hosts. In particular, Trump was enraged when Fox became the first major media organization to call Arizona’s election for president-elect Biden late on election night.
For now, however, the relationship is still strong enough for Fox to remain a leading spore of election disinformation. The liberal watchdog organization Media Matters documented 574 instances — 366 of them on Fox’s opinion programs and 208 on Fox news programs — in which the network has cast doubt on Biden’s election or pushed conspiracy theories about the results in a nine-day period after it.
On Thursday, Trump gave Fox’s broadcast of the Giuliani presser a plug, albeit nearly 25 minutes after it started. “Lawyers now on @newsmax, @OANN & maybe @FoxNews,” he tweeted. Newsmax and OANN are much smaller cable networks that are reliably pro-Trump.
Fox indeed was airing the news conference, and would continue to do so, uninterrupted, for most of its 90 minutes. The network even carried the combative question-and-answer period that followed Giuliani’s remarks.
Fox News billed it as “breaking news,” and preceded it with a panel of commentators who echoed Trump’s claims of election fraud, especially involving mail-in ballots.
The only liberal pundit on the panel, Marie Harf, begged to differ: “There’s something very different between saying we need to make sure mail-in ballot is secure, and what the president is doing, which is saying he won, it was a rigged election. It was not,” she said. “This was a free and fair election, and for all of us who are stoking some of these fears that somehow Donald Trump had this taken from him unfairly, it’s really harmful to democracy.”
Immediately after the news conference, host Harris Faulkner picked the broadcast back up, interviewing Andrew C. McCarthy, a Fox News contributor and former assistant U.S. attorney who noted that the campaign had already dropped several cases “which were based on a lot of the allegations that they made today.” Later, Fox News reporter Kristin Fisher called the news conference “colorful” and “light on facts,” noting that several of Giuliani’s more outlandish claims were simply not true.
Fox News legal commentator Jonathan Turley chimed in a few hours later mocking Giuliani’s “global, communist conspiracy theory that even featured the dead Hugo Chávez,” adding, “The only thing missing was a sinister figure petting a white cat.”
Fox competitor One America News carried the briefing in its entirety, and re-aired it later in the day.
The network’s president, Charles Herring, said in an email that OAN carried it because “the integrity of our presidential election process is in question. . . . One America News has confidence that our viewers can determine the relevance of the statements made during the briefing, thus we did not even consider censoring the press conference featuring the legal representatives of President Trump.”
Correction: A previous version of this story stated that Fox News broadcast Giuliani’s Nov. 7 Philadelphia press conference live. It was shown live on Fox’s streaming service but not on Fox News.