If one thing can be gleaned from Fox News’ scorched-earth reaction to the FBI raid on Donald Trump’s private Florida estate, it’s this: The growing sentiment that the cable giant has been trying to distance itself from the disgraced ex-president may have been a bit premature.
For more than a year, Fox seemingly wandered the post-Trump wilderness, legally unable to play along with the disgraced ex-president’s election lies and drawing his ire in the process. But now, with the opportunity to stoke unhinged outrage over a warrant executed at Trump’s home, Fox News may have found a consequence-free (for them, at least) way to restore its MAGA mojo.
Even though the bureau executed the search warrant on Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate early Monday morning, news of the unprecedented raid of a former president’s home didn’t become public until that evening. It was eventually reported that the search was related to Trump taking classified documents from the White House as he left office—a potential felony violation of the Presidential Records Act.
However, with details initially scarce, right-wing media and Republicans quickly adopted the former president’s aggrieved talking points.
“Such an assault could only take place in broken, Third-World Countries,” Trump blared in a written statement on Monday night. “Sadly, America has now become one of those countries, corrupt at a level not seen before. They even broke into my safe!”
Moments later, Fox News host Dan Bongino parroted the MAGA chieftain, kicking off the network’s rage-fueled coverage of what they’ve repeatedly described as a “partisan witch hunt” of Trump.
“This is some third-world bullshit right here,” the Trump-boosting pundit told his colleague Jesse Watters. “Let me say it again: Third-world bullshit! I mean every word of that. I don’t care that it’s cable news.”
Watters, meanwhile, helped set the tone for the rest of the evening. Besides calling for the firing of “corrupt” FBI Director Christopher Wray, who was installed by Trump himself, the Fox News star seemed to justify any potential violence from Trump supporters in reaction to the raid.
“I think there is going to be some more action you are going to see out on the streets from the base after they see this break tonight,” he declared. “There are a lot of honest Americans that have had it with what this corrupt government and what the FBI has done.”
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Watters also brought on conservative talk radio host Buck Sexton, who hyperbolically announced that the executed search warrant was a “preemptive coup” with the “Rubicon being crossed” by the FBI’s “thug” tactics.
“This is undermining our faith, not only in the peaceful transition of power, but of the executive arm of the government under an opposition party,” Sexton exclaimed. “Not to act like the Stasi, not to act like the secret police that we've seen in totalitarian regimes.”
As high-profile Republicans and conservatives took to social media to rail against the raid and demand the FBI be disbanded and defunded, the network turned to various Trumpworld figures to deliver the ex-president’s marching orders to its viewers.
Trump’s former chief strategist Steve Bannon, for instance, called into Fox to call for Congress to cut off funding for the FBI while likening the agency to “the Gestapo.” Stephen Miller, a longtime senior Trump adviser, cried that the FBI’s search was an “abomination.” Russ Vought, Trump’s former director of the Office of Management and Budget, said a GOP Congress needed to “defund the FBI” and “dismantle the FBI into a thousand bits.”
And the Trump family popped up throughout the evening.
Lara Trump, the ex-president’s daughter-in-law and a Fox News contributor, complained that the raid was all “about weaponizing the justice system as it has been so many times in the past against somebody who you politically do not like.” Her husband Eric, meanwhile, ran to the show of his father’s one-time shadow chief of staff to whine at length about the “political persecution” of his dad.
“Sean, this didn’t come from the little local FBI field office in Palm Beach, Florida,” the Trump scion told Sean Hannity. “You know who this came from. This came from one place and one building, and that is the White House in Washington, D.C.”
Hannity echoed that sentiment, griping that the raid was a “dark day for our republic” and “the rule of law” while saying it could be a “shocking overreach” by the bureau. “The DOJ is now being used as a weapon against Biden’s top political rival, that’s the former president of the United States of America, Donald Trump,” he added.
As the night wore on, though, the take became increasingly unhinged and inflammatory. Fox News host Mark Levin—no stranger to histrionics—literally claimed to Hannity that the FBI executing a search warrant on Mar-a-Lago was worse than Pearl Harbor and 9/11.
“This is the worst attack on this republic in modern history. Period,” he emphatically stated. “And it’s not just an attack on Donald Trump. It’s an attack on everybody who supports him. It’s an attack on anybody who dares to raise serious questions about Washington, D.C., and the establishment in both parties.”
Once Hannity gave way to Laura Ingraham, the tone grew even darker.
Without any attempt at pretense, the Fox News star called for her party to exact revenge on “everyone” if they regained the majority in Congress. “When we get power back, it’s time to hold everyone accountable: the military leadership, the civilian leadership, the civil service, those in Congress who’ve abused their power. All of them have to be held accountable. All of them. It can’t be this nice guy routine where we just, ‘Oh, let’s be friends.’”
The reason conservatives need to retaliate, according to Ingraham, is that the raid on the twice-impeached ex-president who incited an insurrection on his way out of office was actually part of a continued “deep state” plot.
“Well, the search warrant served on Mar-a-Lago this morning had Donald Trump’s name on it. But the real target of this investigation isn’t Trump,” the informal Trump adviser fumed. “The real target of this investigation is you or anyone who dares to call out and take on the rank corruption of the D.C. establishment. This is the deep state’s revenge. They’re trying to show all of us that we’ll be destroyed if we fight them.”
While there were attempts by some news anchors to inject a bit of reality and sanity into the proceedings—Shannon Bream, for instance, noted that “this doesn’t happen overnight” and the DOJ would be “exceptionally careful” getting the warrant approved by a judge—overheated rhetoric continued to rule the network on Tuesday morning.
“You used the flag as toilet paper last night!” Bongino raged on Fox & Friends. “Don’t give me this rank-and-file crap! I don’t buy any of it! Every single person involved in this needs to be fired immediately.”He then called on Trump to dismantle the FBI and fill it with partisan loyalists when he “hopefully” takes the White House again.
“Every single person at the top of the DOJ and the FBI who cannot raise their right hand and pledge allegiance to the Constitution needs to be fired yesterday,” the far-right host screamed. “And then when the left starts whining and the media—fire 100 more the next day. Do not even let them breathe! Everyone has to go! You do not live in a constitutional republic anymore! There is no fixing this, only rebuilding it.”Even the so-called “hard news” division of Fox News was seemingly eager to directly parrot the Trumpworld script warning about a “banana republic” police state coming down on the average MAGA citizen—all because Trump isn’t above the law.
“I mean, if this could happen to a former president of the United States, and they’ve just hired—through this monster spending bill—87,000 IRS agents to come after the rest of us, I mean, what can this look like for the American people,” anchor Harris Faulkner wondered on Tuesday morning. “So on a bigger scale, I look at this and why we need to hear from the DOJ immediately!”
Prior to the ragefest of the past day, there’d been an increasingly growing perception that Fox News was slowly distancing itself from Trump, largely due to blistering Murdoch-owned editorial boards posting critical op-eds of the ex-president following bombshell revelations from the Jan. 6 House committee. Furthermore, the network hasn’t hosted the ex-president for an interview in months—another ostensible rift in the Trump-Fox relationship.
At the same time, though, Trump has continued to overshadow anyone else on the network by far, and many of the network’s stars have gone out of their way to make sure their loyal viewer Trump knows that he’s still their favorite.
This current, aggressive circling of the wagons should certainly put to rest the idea that Fox isn’t willing to go all-in on Trump again.
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