This article has been updated.
The Washington Post’s report that President Trump had revealed classified information to Russia’s foreign minister and ambassador was quickly matched by reporting from other news outlets. By 6:40 p.m., the New York Times, Reuters and others had talked to their sources and confirmed The Post’s story.
But at 6:45 p.m., there was no mention of the report on Fox News’ website.
As we noted last week, that’s significant in part because Fox News has consistently been the most-watched news channel in America. But it’s also significant because Republican voters — Trump’s base — is more likely to trust Fox News than any other news source. By far.
Which presents a challenge: If Fox News doesn’t report it, do Trump supporters know it exists?
Even trickier is that Republicans and Trump supporters consistently tell pollsters that they trust Trump more than they trust the media. That question was asked by Quinnipiac University in February and McClatchy-Marist in March. While 52 percent of those in Quinnipiac’s poll and 70 percent of those in Marist’s said they trusted the media more, 78 percent of Republicans and 55 percent of Trump supporters said they trusted Trump more in those two polls respectively.
Republicans are more likely to give Trump the benefit of the doubt, as well. Eighty-four percent of Republicans told Quinnipiac that they trusted Trump to do what was right “almost all” or “most” of the time. Overall, that figure was 38 percent, with 40 percent saying they trusted him to do that “hardly ever.”
Pew Research found that two-thirds of Republicans believe that they could trust what Trump says more than what previous presidents said in office.
Most remarkably, a March Monmouth University poll asked if they thought that traditional media outlets ever reported fake news stories. Over 60 percent of respondents said they thought that this happened at least occasionally — with 79 percent of Republicans agreeing.
Asked why this happened, 17 percent of the total population said it was accidental. But more than half of Republicans said that it was “on purpose in order to push an agenda.”
Fox News, interestingly, is the only outlet that Republicans trust as much as Trump, contrary to Republican views of ABC News and MSNBC, according to that Monmouth poll.
Fox News itself asked about the Trump-media tension in February, asking if respondents thought the media should cover the president aggressively or, instead, give him the benefit of the doubt. Most people called for aggressive coverage. But 6-in-10 Republicans and two-thirds of Trump voters wanted Trump to get the benefit of the doubt.
Speaking of the benefit of the doubt, Fox’s home page did eventually add a story about the classified information revelations.
This is how the page ran it:
Update: In the hours after the story broke, Fox News’ coverage at first paid little attention to what others were reporting. Tucker Carlson, for example, sought to downplay criticisms of Trump as exaggerated, before sparring with a student who approves of former Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez.
On Tuesday morning, the message was different.
Fox & Friends chyron about WaPo story: MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING…MEDIA MISS
— Gabriel Sherman (@gabrielsherman) May 16, 2017