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Fox News’s Jennifer Griffin fully loses her patience with Fox’s Ukraine punditry

Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Fox News National Security Correspondent Jennifer Griffin has corrected several of her colleagues' assertions while on-air. (Video: Blair Guild/The Washington Post)
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Among the many times in which punditry can go very wrong, few rank as high as wartime. And nothing demonstrates that better than some corners of Fox News right now. Tucker Carlson has spent years suggesting maybe Vladimir Putin isn’t a bad guy. Several of its hosts wagered that the threat of a Russian invasion of Ukraine was manufactured to distract from the Biden administration’s domestic political issues — right before Russia actually invaded. A number of its pundits and hosts have seen their statements on issues like sanctions contradicted by the network’s actual reporting on the situation.

Fox’s Jennifer Griffin seems to have almost completely lost patience with all of it.

The Washington Post’s Jeremy Barr reported Friday on how the network’s respected longtime national security correspondent has repeatedly found herself in the position of fact-checking her network’s hosts and pundits. And it continued this weekend, with Griffin apparently becoming even more exasperated. She even went so far as to seemingly question the platform her employer has afforded some fringe figures.

Barr last week recounted Griffin’s clashes with hosts of “The Five” who elevated into the manufactured-crisis conspiracy theory (she assured them this was “not some wag-the-dog situation”). When Sean Hannity pinned the blame for the situation on Biden, she assured this was a result of the policies of multiple recent administrations. She pushed back on “Fox & Friends” host Steve Doocy when he declared sanctions had somehow already proved a failure. Her biggest clash came with Harris Faulkner, who tried to end her segment after asserting the Biden administration could’ve done more, only to have Griffin cut in and note that bigger steps would mean bigger provocations of Russia.

After Barr’s report, Griffin was asked about it Sunday on Fox’s “Media Buzz.”

“I’m here to fact-check facts because I report on facts,” Griffin said. “And my job is to try and figure out the truth as best as I know it. I share those facts internally so that our network can be more accurate. That’s what I’ve always done.

“There’s nothing different than what I’ve been doing for the last 26 years working for Fox.”

If there’s one thing that’s different, though, it’s the terms in which Griffin is now talking about this.

Bookending that appearance were arguably Griffin’s most exasperated fact-checks — not of her network’s hosts, but of the military pundits it has given platforms.

On Saturday, retired Brig. Gen. Don Bolduc appeared on Steve Hilton’s show and leaned into more of a military presence.

“This is not a time for pause right now,” Bolduc said. “We need to get in there, and we need to help them on the ground. … But we’re just sitting back and we’re not doing anything.”

When pressed on exactly what he advocated, Bolduc said he was calling for “indirect fire” and “not boots on the ground, but putting great technical help on the ground.”

Soon, Griffin appeared and suggested that Bolduc wasn’t qualified to talk about the things he had been invited to talk about.

“I have to respond to something your previous guest, Brigadier General Bolduc, said, because he really was way off the mark in terms of talking about what the U.S. could do on the ground,” she began. She cited the fact that Putin has nuclear weapons, which is “why the U.S. military and NATO do not have troops on the ground inside Ukraine.”

She concluded: “Clearly, Brigadier General Bolduc is not a student of history; he’s a politician, he ran for Senate in New Hampshire and failed. He’s not a military strategist, and to suggest that the U.S. would put indirect fire or special operations or CIA on the ground to give Putin any sort of excuse to broaden this conflict is extremely dangerous talk at a time like this.”

By Sunday, Griffin appeared after as segment with retired Col. Douglas Macgregor, who went to the opposite extreme. He argued that the United States should “absolutely” just let Putin take what he wants in Ukraine — even calling for lifting sanctions. Macgregor said he was sure that Putin had “no interest in crossing the west” of Ukraine and would settle for the east. He cited Ukraine’s history of corruption and said that “more important, the population there is indistinguishable from [Russia’s] own.”

Griffin came on and declared that she needed to correct Macgregor, “and I’m not sure that 10 minutes is enough time to do so, because there were so many distortions in what he just said.”

“ … We have seen [Putin’s] own words, that he is talking in czarist terms, from a 19th-century view of imperial Russia,” Griffin said. “So what [Macgregor] just said was so distorted that I do feel our audience needs to know the truth.”

Griffin went as far as to say Macgregor sounded like an “apologist” for Putin, and she suggested the things he has advocated bear blame for what we’re seeing today. (Macgregor served in President Donald Trump’s Defense Department and was his controversial nominee to be ambassador to Germany. He has also appeared on the Russian-owned network RT and advanced a version of the white replacement theory.)

“The kind of appeasement talk that Colonel MacGregor, who should know better — when he was in government, he was the one who was advising Trump to pull all troops out of Germany,” Griffin said. “That projection of weakness is what made Putin think he could move into a sovereign country like Ukraine.”

(The host, Republican former congressman Trey Gowdy of South Carolina, assured that he was “surprised” by Macgregor’s commentary and called his “take on it stunning and disappointing.”)

Those are extremely strong words from a reporter. In the span of a weekend, she stated that her network was platforming someone who was engaging in “extremely dangerous talk,” and accused another guest of sounding like a Putin apologist and appeaser. It’s one thing to fact-check what others are saying; it’s another to do so in this manner.

Fox has often taken an extremely laissez-faire approach to the opinions it broadcasts, even when those opinions are based on thinly constructed conspiracy theories on issues like vaccines and voter fraud. This has often created tension at the network between serious reporters like Griffin and the unwieldy opinion hosts who drive a much more speculative and fact-challenged narrative. It has spilled over on a few occasions, but it has rarely led to a true shift in approach — save for benching the likes of Fox Business hosts Lou Dobbs and Trish Regan.

Now, with the world on edge amid a land war in Europe, at least one very significant internal voice is very publicly suggesting maybe that’s not the best approach for the most influential cable news network in the country.

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