Shock and alarm over reports that President Donald Trump shared classified information with Russian officials was evident Monday from both sides of the political aisle.
And curiously missing during the primetime shows at Fox News was the full-throated defence of Trump — and outrage at other media figures — that has typified the opinion-driven programs on the network.
While pro-Trump right-wing outlets online dismissed the story, the primetime Fox News shows offered Trump a far more muted defence than at other crisis points in his administration, including last week’s decision to fire former FBI Director James Comey.
Instead, multiple shows during Fox News’ primetime lineup did not dedicate significant airtime to the story. But they leaned heavily on the Trump administration’s pushback to the story, which was first reported by The Washington Post.
Fox News host Tucker Carlson dedicated little airtime to the contents of the reports, saying almost nothing about them himself.
White House correspondent John Roberts appeared at the top of the show to discuss the topic for several minutes, focusing less on the contents of the reports than the fact that the White House was irked by the information leaks that led to the public report.
“It’s almost like there are people in Washington who like to undermine the relationship between the US and Russia,” Carlson said, reacting to Roberts’ segment, before launching into a broadside against allegedly biased media outlets.
Fierce Trump loyalist Sean Hannity hardly acknowledged the report, as well, focusing his energies too on the supposedly skewed coverage of Comey’s firing.
The time he did dedicate to the report was spent urging White House staffers to stop leaking, arguing that “no White House can sustain these constant leaks.”
“Enough with the self-serving leaks,” Hannity said.
“If you have the honour and privilege of working in the White House, you should realise you’re there for a reason and one reason only: To serve the American people.”
Trump’s most enthusiastic supporter, though, was “The Five” panelist Jesse Watters, who said the investigation into the leakers “would seem to be the top priority of the Trump White House.” He declared that the leaks were “the story.”
During a relatively lengthy discussion of the report, Watters also dismissed The Washington Post’s reporting. He pointed to a minor correction to a previous story last week about White House press secretary Sean Spicer’s location before an impromptu briefing, as well as a report that deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein threatened to resign from the FBI.
“The Washington Post was wrong about Sean Spicer hiding in the bushes, they were wrong about Rosenstein, the deputy AG resigning,” Watters said. “We also know that Trump has been at war with the intelligence agencies for a very long time. And people have been leaking against him from the beginning.”
Still, Trump’s reported audacity in sharing the information with the Russians created at least one awkward moment for the right-leaning primetime stars.
During a later segment toward the end of “The Five,” host Bob Beckel suggested the Trump administration’s only option to combat resilient pockets of extremists in Afghanistan was to potentially deploy additional American ground troops.
“And share intel. Well, maybe not,” Perino quipped. “No, share intel. That’s always good.”
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