Tucker Carlson called it a “domestic espionage operation” “hidden under the pretext of national security”. Laura Ingraham characterized senior Obama administration officials as “exposed”. And Sean Hannity flatly proclaimed it the “biggest abuse of power, corruption scandal” the country had ever seen.
The person in the intelligence reports, after all, was Michael Flynn, who served as National Security Advisor to President Donald Trump before he was fired for lying to Vice President Mike Pence about his ties with Russia. The Obama officials who demanded the “exposure” of the US citizen would only have known Flynn’s identity after he was “exposed”.
During the transition, Flynn’s name would have appeared in intelligence reports because of his very infrequent contacts with foreign officials, including phone calls to the Russian ambassador and a meeting with a delegation from the United Arab Emirates. National security officials from the Obama-era said they “exposed” Flynn while trying to decipher this unorthodox diplomatic deal.
News that Trump’s Justice Department closed without charge landed on Fox News with a thud. Martha MacCallum covered it on her Tuesday night show, but a search for transcripts found no other cases of Fox covering it on the air. The story was briefly featured on Fox News’ home page before being removed on Wednesday afternoon. Even when featured on the network’s website, it wasn’t played like the first exposing stories back in May.
The episode marks yet another case in which Fox News and its presenters dishonestly implicated a harmless national security procedure in a supposed scandal, only to later watch it quietly fall apart before moving on to offer their audience something else.
A Fox News spokesperson failed to respond to a request for comment on Wednesday.
It’s hard to overstate how heavily Fox News promoted the exposing story back in May, regardless of whether it was advertised as an insidious conspiracy against Trump.
And it wasn’t just pro-Trump Fox News propagandists like Hannity and Ingraham who made history. Fox News presenters like Bret Baier, who the network is promoting to get the news across in a factual manner, have also highlighted the story on their programs.
Baier, for example, hosted right-wing commentator Mollie Hemingway to discuss the alleged scandal without questioning her claims, even though they disagreed with what the national security community said.
The topic was featured on myriad other news segments on the network, where experts would chew through the shared documents.
CNN’s Marshall Cohen contributed to the coverage.