How Conservative Media Reacted to the Trump News

From a Washington Post story by Paul Farhi headlined “How conservative media reacted to the latest Trump news”:

In the hours after Donald Trump announced on Thursday that he had been indicted, conservative media outlets and personalities jumped to the usual barricades.

“A dark day in America,” Fox News host Sean Hannity said on his program Thursday night. Hannity, who has sometimes advised Trump, continued: “Our system of justice has now been weaponized beyond belief, and this country is in serious trouble.”

“Well, they did it, and how dare they — they indicted him again,” fulminated Greg Kelly, a prime-time host on Newsmax, a smaller cable channel that has attempted to outflank Fox on the right. He added: “This will not derail Donald Trump, no way.”

By then, the framing of the indictment was largely set — initially by Trump, who broke his own news Thursday evening on his Truth Social platform. He called the at-the-time unreleased indictment the work of “the corrupt Biden administration,” even though the charges were the work of a grand jury that acted on evidence presented by a special counsel appointed by Attorney General Merrick Garland to limit perceptions of political influence.

“Peak Witch Hunt” said the red headline on Breitbart, though its lead story consisted of little more than the transcript of Trump’s comments from a video he posted on Thursday denouncing “the boxes hoax.”

The Trump talking points — the prosecution is unfair, Democrats are guilty of similar crimes, the indictment amounts to 2024 “election interference” — quickly echoed across Trump-partisan media. It was a replay of the reaction to Trump’s first indictment, in March, by prosecutors in New York City in connection to alleged hush-money payoffs to an adult-film star.

It was a reminder of how the modern news landscape offers safe spaces for partisan views, unmolested by contrary facts, analysis or interpretation. Trump’s fervent supporters could find immediate solace in information sources that confirmed their worldview.

On Fox, the umbrage was thick from the time the news broke. Host Harris Faulkner pointed out that classified material had been found at Biden’s residence in Delaware and in his former office in downtown Washington. “And then it was like an Easter egg hunt,” she said. “I mean, every place you looked there were more documents.”

She did not note a critical difference: that Trump had resisted efforts by the National Archives to retrieve classified documents for months, compelling the government to seek a subpoena to get the material back. Biden and Trump’s former vice president, Mike Pence, appear to have cooperated in efforts to return classified documents in their possession.

Faulkner was joined by Matthew G. Whitaker, a former acting attorney general under Trump, who lamented that government investigations had failed to indict Biden or Hillary Clinton for possessing classified material. “I think [Trump’s indictment] is the worst example yet of that two-tier system of justice,” he said.

The conservative rebukes of the criminal justice systems were accompanied by a conspiracy theory that emerged late Thursday — claiming that Trump’s prosecution was an attempt to distract attention from new Fox News and New York Post reports that a 2020 FBI document included secondhand allegations from an unnamed source that implicated Biden in financial malfeasance. (The New York Post plastered the story on its Friday front page, giving it equal billing with the Trump indictment.)

Both posted their stories about two hours before Trump broke his indictment news, leading to speculation among Republican members of Congress — also reported by — that Smith had taken action against Trump to distract from any embarrassment for Biden.

The pro-Trump takes were in keeping with Fox’s traditional support of the former president. The network’s erroneous claims tying the 2020 election results to manipulation by a voting-technology company — a theory championed by Trump — led to a defamation lawsuit that Fox’s parent company settled by paying Dominion Voting Systems $787.5 million in April.

Even without tying the two stories together, there was plenty of fury to go around in conservative media.

The Daily Wire, a news and commentary site co-founded by conservative commentator Ben Shapiro, played the news relatively straight, citing mainstream media reports about the indictment. But Shapiro played into the prevailing conservative analysis, tweeting Friday morning, “I can’t believe a high ranking government official stored classified documents in a private area, likely exposed those documents to foreign eyes, then attempted to destroy copies of those documents. We should definitely prosecute that presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton.”

But by Friday morning, the story seemed to have faded a bit for the conservative Washington Times, which led its homepage with a story about the smoke from Canadian wildfires drifting down the East Coast. Trump’s indictment was the second featured news story.

Trump coverage also took a back seat in the conservative Daily Caller. Its top story Friday morning was an “analysis” piece headlined, “The Left’s War on Masculinity is Destroying Western Civilization.” Its top Trump story was a rehash of former attorney general William P. Barr’s comments on Fox News before the indictment news on Thursday about a potential prosecution.

Its top sidebar? “Selena Gomez Gives Off Awkward Vibes While Desperately Hitting On Soccer Players.”

Samantha Chery, Janay Kingsberry and Jeremy Barr contributed to this report.

Paul Farhi is The Washington Post’s media reporter. He started at The Post in 1988 and has been a financial reporter, a political reporter and a Style reporter.

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