Fox News brought up Hunter Biden twice an hour this week. What they ignored also speaks volumes.
A week in Fox propaganda, by the numbers.
Fox News and Fox Business obviously get a lot of criticism for the sorts of things they choose to cover, including from me. But sometimes the stories America’s most-watched cable “news” network ignores are just as revealing.
This week provided more than one good illustration of this. There were big political scandals that Fox almost totally ignored, and there was a nothingburger story that they tried to blow up into Watergate. The difference? The scandals make Republicans look bad, and the nothingburger provided an opportunity to insinuate that President Biden is corrupt.
These editorial choices are why I think it’s more accurate to describe Fox as a Republican propaganda outlet instead of a legit news network. So yesterday, I crunched the numbers to flesh out what I mean.
First, the scandals: Former President Trump again asked Russian President Vladimir Putin to interfere on his behalf in American elections by releasing dirt about the Biden family — I detailed what he said and why it is so beyond the pale in Wednesday’s newsletter. And Justice Clarence Thomas’s wife, Ginni Thomas, sent many. many texts to then-White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows in the weeks following the 2020 election, providing encouragement and advice to the Trump coup plotters as they tried to end US democracy.
Next, the nothingburger: Hunter Biden. The Washington Post this week published two book-chapter-length stories — one about Hunter’s business dealings in China and another about his laptop — that don’t amount to much. They detail how Hunter cashed in on his powerful family name, which may be gross, but is a tale as old as time. Not only do they contain no evidence of crimes, but they make clear that there is nothing even approaching evidence that President Biden “personally benefited from or knew details” about Hunter’s business dealings. That’s crucial, because while Joe Biden is obviously an elected official, Hunter is a private citizen.
The Post stories do note that Hunter is under federal investigation for possible violations of tax law. To be clear, if Hunter violated the law, he should be prosecuted. But that still wouldn’t mean that his father did anything wrong. And yet much of the Fox’s coverage of Hunter this week desperately tried to implicate the president in wrongdoing.
From Monday through late Thursday morning, Fox hammered on the Hunter Biden stuff, mentioning his name a whopping 143 times. That was about 140 times more than Fox mentioned Trump (again) appealing for Putin to release dirt on his political opponents, which was just mentioned three times, each of them in passing.
Clarence Thomas, meanwhile, was mentioned 29 times (Ginni was mentioned six times), but mostly in the context of downplaying Ginni’s texts, and trying to reframe the spouse of a Supreme Court justice’s involvement in a plot to overturn the result of a presidential election as the normal exercise of the first amendment right to free speech.
You can begin to see why the roughly 1.5 million Americans who are watching Fox News at a given time might come away with the impression that the vague scandal surrounding Hunter Biden’s business dealings is a bigger deal than a former president — and the presumptive 2024 Republican presidential nominee, whether he admits it or not — publicly trying to collude with the world’s foremost authoritarian villain to undermine the US president. It might seem like a bigger deal than scrutiny of a Supreme Court justice’s possible involvement in a plot against the Constitution he’s sworn to defend, too. Must be another witch hunt targeting patriotic Trump supporters.
Every media outlet makes editorial decisions about what to cover and what to ignore. Reputable outlets make those decisions based on perceived news value, but Fox’s calls boil down to what will help Republicans and hurt Democrats. And that, my friends, is why Fox is better understood as a right-wing political operation than a legitimate news organization.
Speaking of Trump asking Putin for political favors …
During an MSNBC interview, Republican Sen. Kevin Cramer’s defense of Trump’s conduct amounted to sure, he’s corrupt, but that’s nothing new and it’s really not that big of a deal.