If a new report on how Fox News covered one of President Trump’s biggest alleged scandals is correct, then it sheds more light on why so many conservatives continue to give Trump some of the highest approval ratings in the past 40 years.
A new exposé in the New Yorker by one of journalism’s most respected investigative reporters suggests that individuals at the country’s most conservative network may have made multiple decisions to portray the president in the best light possible to its mostly right-leaning viewers.
One alarming assertion in the piece is that Fox employees may have alerted Trump before the network’s debate that Megyn Kelly was going to ask the president some tough questions, including one about the history of his alleged mistreatment of women and details about his conversion to Republicanism. If true, this move was at the very least hypocritical, as Trump was vocal in his criticism of former CNN contributor Donna Brazile when news broke that she resigned from Trump’s most disliked network amid revelations that she leaked debate questions to the Clinton campaign.
But reporting on how Fox handled one of the biggest scandals of the Trump administration might reveal the degree of the network’s commitment to minimizing the amount of negative news that made its way to viewers. According to the New Yorker’s Jane Mayer:
"Diana Falzone, who often covered the entertainment industry, had obtained proof that Trump had engaged in a sexual relationship in 2006 with a pornographic film actress calling herself Stormy Daniels. Falzone had worked on the story since March, and by October she had confirmed it with Daniels through her manager at the time, Gina Rodriguez, and with Daniels’s former husband, Mike Moz, who described multiple calls from Trump. Falzone had also amassed emails between Daniels’s attorney and Trump’s lawyer Michael Cohen, detailing a proposed cash settlement, accompanied by a nondisclosure agreement. Falzone had even seen the contract.
“But Falzone’s story didn’t run — it kept being passed off from one editor to the next. After getting one noncommittal answer after another from her editors, Falzone at last heard from [Ken] LaCorte, who was then the head of FoxNews.com. Falzone told colleagues that LaCorte said to her, “Good reporting, kiddo. But Rupert wants Donald Trump to win. So just let it go.” LaCorte denies telling Falzone this, but one of Falzone’s colleagues confirms having heard her account at the time.”
A Pew Research Center study found that consistent conservatives — the group that is most conservative in their worldview and voting patterns — are tightly clustered around a single news source, far more than any other: Fox News. Nearly half of the conservatives surveyed named Fox News as their main source for political news. Even if they do get news from other places, consistent conservatives distrust 24 of the 36 news sources (including The Washington Post, the New York Times, NPR and CNN) cited in the survey. Nearly 90 percent of consistent conservatives trust Fox News.
It was no secret that coverage of the Trump administration on Fox opinion shows skewed heavily pro-Trump. But there had been no reporting before now suggesting that the network had killed stories because the most powerful man at the network — chief Rupert Murdoch — wanted Trump to become the most powerful man in the world.
If this turns out to be an ongoing pattern at Fox, it could help explain why Trump continues to do so well with conservatives who mainly get their news from the conservative news outlet.
It is fair to surmise that much of the general population’s relatively low approval of Trump is shaped by the news they consume about his administration. And recent stories about the demise of conservative outlets such as the Weekly Standard suggest that there is little room for criticism of Trump in conservative media. If news that will cause viewers to view the Trump administration negatively is kept at a minimum, that means that those who get their news about the presidency only from pro-Trump networks will miss out on some of the most important stories. And that editorial decision could have implications on the viewers’ day-to-day lives in ways they may later find inconsistent with making American great.