The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Nick who? Fox News has barely mentioned the Nick Fuentes-Trump dinner

Right-wing podcaster Nick Fuentes, center right in sunglasses, greets supporters before speaking at a pro-Trump march on Nov. 14, 2020, in D.C. (Jacquelyn Martin/AP)
4 min

By now you’ve heard about the story that has captivated the political press this week: former president Donald Trump sitting down for dinner at his Mar-a-Lago estate with the rapper Ye (formerly Kanye West) and virulent antisemite Nick Fuentes. Trump has long turned a blind eye to the more extreme elements of his political support, including those who express overt hostility to minority groups. But there was no explaining away this one: Trump and Fuentes had dinner together at the club that doubles as Trump’s home.

Trump claims he didn’t know Fuentes, who arrived with Ye. That’s certainly possible. It’s also possible that many of Trump’s most fervent supporters still don’t know who Fuentes is, given that the most popular cable-news network among Trump supporters, Fox News, has barely covered the story at all.

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News of the dinner broke last week, as most Americans were distracted by the Thanksgiving holiday. Since then, though, there’s been a great deal of coverage of the sit-down, with several Republicans who normally ignore Trump’s various deviations offering on-the-record criticisms of Fuentes (and, occasionally, Ye). Fuentes’s name has come up at least 490 times over the past week on CNN and MSNBC, according to GDELT analysis of Internet Archive closed-captioning data.

On Fox News? He’s been mentioned nine times.

You can see the difference in coverage below. Fuentes’s name has been mentioned in 39 of the 109 hours since Nov. 25 on CNN (as of noon on Tuesday) and 52 of those hours on MSNBC. Usually, he’s mentioned more than once. On Fox, he’s been mentioned in four hours.

It also isn’t the case that Fuentes is being overlooked because networks are instead talking about the better-known Ye. Fox News is not really mentioning the rapper, either, though Ye has come up more often than has Fuentes. On average, CNN and MSNBC are mentioning Ye six and seven times as often as Fox News each hour, respectively.

On Monday evening, discussions of Fuentes were common on prime-time cable-news shows — except, once again, on Fox.

We’ve seen the network do this before. When the adult-film star Stormy Daniels (very credibly) alleged that Trump had paid her before the 2016 election to stay quiet about a sexual encounter, Fox News covered the story far, far less than its competitors. After our report on that drought, Daniels’ attention-fond lawyer, Michael Avenatti, told The Washington Post that, of the hundreds of interview requests he’d received, Fox News had never once reached out.

When the House select committee investigating the riot at the Capitol held hearings in prime time, Fox News was the only cable-news channel not to air them live, something host Laura Ingraham described matter-of-factly as the network “catering to its audience.” The network did carry the explosive testimony of Cassidy Hutchinson live — but didn’t mention Hutchinson much at all after that.

On Tuesday afternoon, Fox News did broach the Fuentes dinner. When House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) appeared before reporters outside the White House, he was asked about the dinner. That was a jumping-off point for Fox’s panelists not to evaluate the former president’s dinner guests but, instead, to criticize the media.

There’s an irony to that. If you notice, on the graphs of hourly mentions of Fuentes and Ye, Fox News did have small spikes on Sunday, Nov. 27, in which the dinner came up. That was during the network’s show “MediaBuzz,” in which host Howard Kurtz covers stories about the media itself.

On Sunday, Kurtz raised the subject of the dinner, and he and his guests (including Meghan McCain) discussed what had happened. Finally, Kurtz wrapped the segment.

“With the media being highly critical of this” dinner, he asked one guest, “you think that is deserved?”

“I think it’s definitely deserved,” the guest, Kristen Hawn, replied.

From that point on, Fox News itself offered little to no criticism at all.