- Conservative media emphasised that the charges against President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort did not indicated his guilt of any collusion between Trump’s campaign and Russia.
- Many on the right have attempted to shift the focus to Democratic political figures, including Hillary Clinton.
Right-wing media came to President Donald Trump’s defence after charges were filed against his former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, and Manafort’s former business associate Rick Gates.
Shortly after the news broke around 8 a.m. on Monday, many of the president’s allies on right-leaning televised opinion programs defended Trump, distancing him from Manafort and counter-programming with negative stories about Democratic leaders.
“Fox & Friends,” the Fox morning show that’s a favourite program of the president’s, dedicated a good amount of time to the story, but interjected scepticism and didn’t allow the story to completely dominate the entire broadcast, as it did on other networks including MSNBC and CNN.
Co-host Steve Doocy argued that the charges could be unrelated to the Trump campaign, noting reports that Manafort was being monitored for wire transfers “many, many years before he joined Trump,” and added there’s a “pretty good opportunity this was a while back.”
Co-host Brian Kilmeade added that the timing of the indictment “makes you wonder about the credibility of the whole thing,” and reminded viewers that “just because you’re indicted doesn’t mean you’re guilty of anything.”
But the internet lit up when the program turned to other stories, including the conservative media firestorm over an Obama-era uranium deal and brief news packages on the cheese placement on Google’s hamburger emoji.
Shortly before the indictment, White House counselor Kellyanne Conway echoed the president’s dismissal of the pending charges, saying Americans should be focused on the Clinton campaign’s partial funding of a much-discussed controversial dossier on Trump during the 2016 election.
“The president has made it very clear as recently as this weekend that he considers this a hoax,” Conway told Fox News. “People should be looking into any coordination, if not collusion, between the Clinton campaign, the DNC, this Russian dossier.”
Other television personalities and Trump allies suggested a more sinister, conspiratorial reason for the indictment coming down today.
On Fox Business Network, host Charles Payne said there has been a “lot of pressure on Mueller since the Uranium One news surfaced, and the narrative in the last two weeks shifted sharply,” referencing an Obama-era deal to allow Russia to own a portion of the US’s domestic uranium.
Former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski agreed, saying he doesn’t “believe in coincidences.”
“There was a significant amount of pressure from members of Congress and now major media outlets asking for Mueller to be removed because this investigation has gone nowhere,” Lewandowski said. “And all of a sudden at the last minute, at the last hour on a Friday night, charges are brought forward.”
Lewandowski also argued that Manafort and Gates “should be be held accountable independent of the president.”
Many of Trump’s allies online were slightly more mum.
Right-leaning sites like Breitbart News framed the news of the story as a symptom of the “leaky Mueller team.”
Many conservative media outlets spent the weekend girding for the potential indictments and making arguments.
White House staff scrambled to dismiss the pending indictments, emphasising conservative outrage over the dossier funding and Uranium One deal.
On Friday, Fox host Jeanine Pirro called for Mueller to resign, an argument the Wall Street Journal’s editorial board made earlier in the week, and described the Russia investigation as a distraction from Democratic party scandals.
“Let’s defund Mueller and his special counsel and use that money to get people to start releasing [Clinton’s] State Department emails,” Pirro said.
Paul Manafort just agreed to turn himself in to the FBI. What should we report on?
CNN: Paul Manafort surrenders to authorities.
MSNBC: Paul Manafort surrenders to authorities.
.@CLewandowski_ on Manafort indictment: “Why is it FBI never reached out to me as the campaign manager?… This is a problem with the FBI.” pic.twitter.com/A1LFvNAa5e
— FOX Business (@FoxBusiness) October 30, 2017
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