“Now, I’m not saying you’re a liar,” Cavuto said. “You’re the president. You’re busy. I’m just having a devil of a time figuring out which news is fake. Let’s just say your own words on lots of stuff give me, shall I say, lots of pause.”
Cavuto’s hook was Rudolph W. Giuliani’s explosive revelation on Wednesday that the president reimbursed his former personal attorney, Michael Cohen, for the $130,000 payment to adult-film star Stormy Daniels in exchange for her silence about an alleged sexual encounter, which the president has denied. In a string of tweets Thursday morning — written in legalese uncharacteristic of Trump’s colloquial Twitter style — Trump acknowledged he paid back Cohen through a monthly retainer.
“Let me be clear, Mr. President,” Cavuto said. “How can you drain the swamp if you’re the one who keeps muddying the waters?
“You didn’t know about the $130,000 payment to a porn star, until you did,” he continued. “Said you knew nothing about how your former lawyer handled this, until you acknowledged today that you were the guy behind the retainer payment that took care of this. You insist that money from the campaign or campaign contributions played no role in this transaction. Of that you’re sure. The thing is, not even 24 hours ago, sir, you couldn’t recall any of this.”
Cavuto went on to tick off a list of examples of statements Trump has made that were incorrect or appeared to conflict with earlier statements. There was “the time you said the Russians didn’t interfere in the 2016 election, until a lot of Republicans had to remind you they did,” Cavuto said. “Came back months later, and you said, ‘Well, I never said that Russia didn’t meddle in the election,’ when in fact you had — a lot.”
There was the time Trump claimed the tax reform bill “would cost you a fortune when it turns out it is going to help make you a bigger fortune,” Cavuto said. And the time “you said there was serious voter fraud in New Hampshire, and there wasn’t.” And the time Trump said “millions of illegals voted in the last election, but they didn’t.”
Cavuto said that none of this “makes you evil” or “makes what you say fake” but does make “calling out the press for being so a bit of a stretch.”
“You are right to say some of them are out to get you. But oftentimes they’re using your own words to bat you,” Cavuto said. “You probably might not care. But you should. I guess you’ve been too busy draining the swamp to stop and smell the stink you’re creating. That’s your doing. That’s your stink. Mr. President, that’s your swamp.”
Cavuto, a Fox News host since the network started in 1996, has been known to be critical of Trump and to speak to him in a direct tone, as though Trump were sitting in his living room listening on the other side of the tube.
Cavuto’s style breaks from that of many of his Fox News colleagues, particularly commentators who have heaped praise on Trump. But it’s more akin to that of Shepard Smith, who is known to poke holes in the president’s statements.
Earlier this month, Smith said of Trump’s claims that the U.S. Postal Service was losing money because of Amazon: “None of that was true.” And just this week, Smith pointed out how often guests on his network seem to be giving Trump direct advice about the probe of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III — particularly urging the president not to talk to him.
Cavuto has often come after Trump because of his Twitter tirades.
In the past, he has told Trump to “stop scapegoating” others following those tirades.
In June 2017, when Trump raged over “fake news” and bashed the London mayor after a terrorist attack there, Cavuto warned Trump that his “angry missives risk your political destruction.”
“They’re not the problem, Mr. President,” he told Trump, referring to those he targeted on Twitter. “You are.”
In November 2017, when Trump attacked LaVar Ball for not saying thank you after Trump claimed to have freed his son from jail in China and attacked Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) as “toast,” Cavuto said, “Last time I checked, you are the president of the United States. Why don’t you act like it?”
Cavuto has previously said he has no interest in interviewing Trump on Fox News, breaking with many of his colleagues who have jumped at the chance. He told the Hollywood Reporter that he approaches his coverage of the president as if he’s Columbo, a Los Angeles homicide detective in the 1970s era TV show by the same name.
“I liken my approach to doing my job to that character,” Cavuto said, “where you’re scratching your head and saying, ‘Well, wait a minute. You said this, and now you’re doing this.’ And I try to get beyond what others are trying to focus on.”