Fox News Channel’s Alternate Reality

In Fox News Channel's America, Donald Trump can do no wrong and Hillary Clinton is still a threat.

Chyron Montage

While CNN and MSNBC spent most of the night covering the reports about  the James Comey memorandum that potentially implicates the President in obstruction of justice and his disclosure of highly classified information to the Russians, Sara Fischer at Axios found that Fox News Channel was living in an alternate universe:

Fox News continued to deviate from MSNBC and CNN on Tuesday night, downplaying the new NYT report about Comey’s memo and Monday’s Washington Post report that Trump revealed classified information to Russia. Hosts called the reports “fake,” and criticized the journalists for using anonymous sources while pivoting to cover other stories, like the Clinton Foundation, the President’s first trip overseas and the conspiracy theory around the murder of DNC staffer Seth Rich, which was debunked by NBC earlier Tuesday evening.


By the hour:

  • In the 8 p.m. hour: Fox host Tucker Carlson discussed the Clinton Foundation, a tax provision in NY targeting Trump and a show cancellation, while Chris Hayes on MSNBC and Anderson Cooper on CNN focused almost exclusively on the Comey memo. At one point, NYC Councilman Corey Johnson told Tucker Carlson on his Trump NYC tax bill segment: “I’m just a lowly city council member. There’s bigger news today than this.”
  • In the 9 p.m. hour: Fox’s Jesse Waters on “The Five” called the Comey revelations a “fake scandal,” and Fox’s Kim Guilfoyle suggested Comey may have made up the memo, while Rachel Maddow focused almost exclusively on the Comey scandal and CNN aired its exclusive with Sally Yates and focused on the Comey memo.
  • In the 10 p.m. hour: Sean Hannity opened with a graphic reading “Washington Post WRONG AGAIN,” and called a CNN coverage of the Washington Post Russia report “fake news.” MSNBC continued to nearly exclusively cover the Comey scandal while CNN featured a town hall with Sen. Bernie Sanders and Sen. John Kasich where the Comey memo was discussed.

This is hardly a surprise, of course. Fox News Channel has spent its history acting as little more than a propaganda network for the Republican Party in general and conservatives in particular. In the same way that they saturated the network with negative coverage of Presidents Clinton and Obama during their time in office and in Hillary Clinton during her two campaigns for President, they were full of largely positive spin during the Presidency George W. Bush and rarely if ever spent any time on relevant news items that portrayed Republican candidates in a negative light, with the possible exception of candidates such as Jeb Bush and John Kasich who were deemed not to be “conservative” enough. They have also spent a considerable amount of airtime attacking what in conservative circles is now known as the “lamestream media,” to borrow a phrase invented by Sarah Palin, for alleged bias. To the extent there has been opposing points of view on the network it has been relegated to lightweight pundits who served as little more than punching bags for the overwhelmingly conservative hosts the network featured. This has been especially true in primetime, once headlined by Bill O’Reilly and now dominated by the likes of Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity, who is little more than a lapdog for Donald Trump at this point, and a panel show dominated by conservatives called The Five. Their morning news program, Fox & Friends, is more like a parody of the news hosted by three people who couldn’t find their way out of a cardboard box without relying on a teleprompter. To the extent that there are serious journalists at the network they are relegated to the late afternoon or, as in the case of Megyn Kelly, who committed the cardinal sin of asking candidate Donald Trump serious, hard questions about his record and his past statements, have left the network entirely. Given all of that, it’s no surprise that what’s left has turned into an alternate reality where the past 118 days of the Trump Administration haven’t happened, where Donald Trump is really just a victim of an “unfair media,” and where any report that even slightly critical of the President is labeled as “Fake News.” It’ also not a surprise that they continue to cover alleged scandals regarding Hillary Clinton even though she doesn’t currently hold any office, isn’t running for anything, and isn’t likely to run for any political office ever again.

Someone who limits their television news consumption to Fox News Channel and similar outlets lives in an alternate universe where Republicans can do no wrong and Democrats and the “lamestream media” are spreading lies about the President of the United States. Last night, while other networks were talking about a revelation that, if true, raises serious questions about the current President, a Fox News viewer was being told that these new reports were nothing but “Fake News” and that the American public was being deceived into ignoring real stories like questions about the Clinton Foundation that were raised two years ago and which haven’t really gone anywhere since then. If they listen to conservative talk radio and/or read the conservative blogosphere, that message is largely being reinforced by pundits who slavishly repeat the White House line no matter how incredulous it might be. As a result, it’s no surprise that Republicans are largely alone in continuing to overwhelmingly support the President notwithstanding all the news we’ve seen over the past 118 days, a fact that largely explains why Republicans on Capitol Hill are reluctant to speak out against him even after the past two weeks. As long as that’s the case, the odds that we’ll see all but a handful of Republicans stand up to this President remain quite low.

All of this isn’t to say that there aren’t examples of similar types of obsequious coverage from the left in the media, of course. MSNBC has been equally guilty of this type of thing, especially in its weekday primetime lineup that includes hosts with obvious political biases such as Chris Hayes, Rachel Maddow, and Lawrence O’Donnell. At times, CNN has also been guilty of overemphasizing negative coverage of people on the right as well, although that has changed in recent years with the addition of “hard news” hosts like Jake Tapper to the lineup and the fact that CNN’s programs generally try to do their best to give equal coverage to points of view from both side of the aisle, at least in my experience. MSNBC has begun to change as well, which in recent years has dropped far-left hosts like Ed Schultz and Al Sharpton and seemingly made conscious moves toward concentrating more on “hard news” in the manner that CNN does. In the era before cable news, when the news was dominated national newspapers like The Washington Post and The New York Times and broadcast networks based in New York City there was a definite bias in the news, but that was largely due to the geographic isolation of the news media from the rest of the country. In any case, none of that bias quite compares to what we see on Fox News Channel on a daily basis and, while it has been an admitted economic and business success for its parent company, there’s something not quite healthy about it and it goes a long way toward explaining the political polarization that we see infecting our politics today.

Chyron montage via Axios

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Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. CSK says:

    Well, I think Fox reportedly accurately last night when they said they couldn’t find any Republicans wiling to come on the show and defend Trump.

  2. KM says:

    Nothing’s wrong here folks. No scandals, no country-endangering acts of technically-not-treason, no President screwing over our allies in his stupidity. Them damn liberals be lying to you if they say Comey’s firing is problematic. The real danger is the Deep State that’s making Trump look bad by letting him be him and Hillary’s really running this coup attempt by repeating his Tweets verbatim to the public. Losers can’t handle that they lost and that’s why they keep bringing up stuff like Flynn and Russia and impeachment and ethics and stuff. Haters.

    Look over there! It’s a liberal plot! Evil Hillary is evil! Keep watching to find out what horrors she and Obama are secretly running and don’t listen to all that fake news about giving Russia classified info. Only snowflakes believe that – you’re not a snowflake are you?

  3. michael reynolds says:

    The Foxwashed need their Goldstein. They need their ‘two minute hate’ and if they can’t use the black man anymore, they’re fine using the woman.

  4. al-Alameda says:

    All of this isn’t to say that there aren’t examples of similar types of obsequious coverage from the left in the media, of course. MSNBC has been equally guilty of this type of thing, especially in its weekday primetime lineup that includes hosts with obvious political biases such as Chris Hayes, Rachel Maddow, and Lawrence O’Donnell.

    In radio and in television the effect of the commentariat on the Left is far less than that of the Right Wing opinionista. It’s not close.

    The Mainstream Right Wing Media has mobilized millions of conservative voters by providing them with one-stop shopping for their news and opinion. The Mainstream Left Media has nothing that compares with the power and by now enduring strength of the establishment Right Wing Media. Also, the Right now has quite a few subsidiary FakeNews and opinion operations, like Breitbart and NewsMax, that support all conservative talking points – in fact, Chris Ruddy (NewsMax) and Steve Bannon (Breitbart) are inner circle advisors in the Trump administration.

  5. Todd says:

    Even more concerning is this:

    Since significantly more people get their news from the local station’s nightly broadcasts than any of the cable channels.

  6. Todd says:

    Just to be clear, I’m not advocating that conservative opinions or story angles should be suppressed. It’s just concerning that on the right there tends to be no consequences (or apologies/corrections) for getting (or intentionally portraying) something wrong. Say what you will about progressive journalists such as Rachel Maddow, but when she gets something wrong, it’s not unusual to see a follow-up/correction segment shortly thereafter. I can’t imagine Hannity ever admitting he was wrong about anything. There’s no real equivalency.

  7. Stormy Dragon says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Just a nit, but Clinton can’t be a Goldstein since she was never on their side. Comey would more be the Goldstein since he was a big hero when he was investigating their enemies, but is now the worst thing ever for investigating them.

  8. James in Bremerton says:

    Less than five million people watch all cable news shows combined on any given day. It’s a dying medium, going the way of broadcast T.V. and newspapers. Their influence continues to wane as most people get their news online from thousands of sources of all stripes. It also means the days of sitting and being told what the news “is” are also over.

    We all have to be our own Cronkites and Murrows now. And most of us have never been taught how to do that effectively.

    “blame the media” is an argument that never worked, and is now out of gas.

  9. CSK says:

    Well, here’s some news you can use. According to Reuters, National Security Council officials have stated (anonymously) that the only way they can get Trump to read even a very short memo is by mentioning his name throughout it. He’ll keep reading if he sees his name. Otherwise, not.

    I believe this absolutely.

  10. cian says:

    I’ve always had the strong feeling that the country is in a kind of cold civil war situation. After 47 years of the Buchanan strategy (‘all you need is 51% to rule’) the country is irrevocably split and is not coming back together any time soon. Trump is a mess and will blow himself up, and when he does, the war will hot up. There’s no good resolution to what is happening and the next four years are going to be like nothing America has faced before. At this stage even China and the Russians are starting to get worried. A strong, vibrant, confident America at peace with itself is good for the world. The basket case we’re becoming is frightening everyone.

  11. Daryl's other brother Darryl says:

    Don the Con:

    Fox news is the most terrific. Everything else is fake news…sad!!!
    Now…if you’ll loan me $600,000,000 or so I ‘ll share some secrets with you!!!

  12. Daryl's other brother Darryl says:

    “Look at the way I’ve been treated lately by the media. No politician in history … has been treated worse or more unfairly,” Trump told graduates of the U.S. Coast Guard Academy in New London, Conn.

  13. Mark Ivey says:

    If only the Reagan administration had Fox News to back it up during the Iran-Contra scandal, Ollie North would of been President in 1988..

  14. MarkedMan says:

    @James in Bremerton:

    Their influence continues to wane as most people get their news online from thousands of sources of all stripes.

    FWIW, a recent survey showed that 40% of self declared Republicans got their news “primarily” from Fox. There was no news source that reached even half that for Dems or Indies.

  15. Timothy Watson says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    Just a nit, but Clinton can’t be a Goldstein since she was never on their side. Comey would more be the Goldstein since he was a big hero when he was investigating their enemies, but is now the worst thing ever for investigating them.

    Actually, Clinton was a College Republican.

    And the nuances of 1984 leave a reader with the impression that Goldstein never existed. That he is simply a propaganda tool created to direct the citizens’ hate towards and to draw out possible dissidents.

  16. CSK says:

    @Daryl’s other brother Darryl:

    Sweet Jebus. The cadets are graduating and on their way to active duty, and this pusillanimous sack o’ sh!t can’t think of anything better to do than whine about how the press is mean to him?

  17. reid says:

    @CSK: Yes, but Obama said “I” .01% more than he should have, so there.

  18. HarvardLaw92 says:

    Interesting piece …

    This part especially caught my attention:

    They don’t mean jobs at McDonald’s or an Amazon warehouse. They mean jobs that will allow them to have decent, middle class lives, that pay over $25 an hour, and come with health care and retirement benefits

    These people actually still believe that the fairy jobsmother is going to save them.

    I can’t help but wonder who they’re going to turn on when they finally figure out that – for them – help will never come.

  19. TM01 says:

    Has anyone here seen this alleged memo?

    Is Comey going to face charges for not immediately going to the DOJ once Trump tried to “influence” an investigation?

    Or is asking those questions Fake News?

  20. michael reynolds says:

    While we’ve got you here, which version of the Comey firing do you prefer? Trump A, Trump B, or the Trump C?

    And, do you need any special ointment or anything to stay flexible enough to instantly adapt to each new Trump lie? Is it, like, a yoga thing?

  21. michael reynolds says:

    @Timothy Watson:
    Indeed. Goldstein is inspired by Trotsky, but he’s a general concept not really dependent on the Trotsky example, but meant to be taken as more general and less specific. He is necessary to Big Brother as a symbol, and had there been no Trotsky (or actual Goldstein) it would have been necessary for the regime to invent him.

  22. Todd says:


    Is Comey going to face charges for not immediately going to the DOJ once Trump tried to “influence” an investigation?

    LOL, the “logic” here is just mind boggling. So, Director Comey was obstructing the start of an investigation into possible obstruction of justice??? … which is totally just a made up attack on the President anyway.

    Did you come up with this question on your own, or Is it a something going around right-wing media/twitter?

  23. TM01 says:

    @Todd: How does Trump obstruct an investigation that’s already over? Flynn was cleared by the FBI in January. This “memo” is mid-Feb.

  24. teve tory says:

    Trump and Comey had a private dinner Jan 27.

  25. teve tory says:

    Then in early feb Spicer said they couldn’t trust Flynn.

    Then feb 14th Trump did the obstruction of justice part.

  26. teve tory says:

    Flynn was only cleared in a specific set of Russia wiretaps. The FBI didn’t give him some kind of blanket clearing. There are still ongoing investigations.

  27. michael reynolds says:

    Are you unable to answer my question?

  28. KM says:


    Is Comey going to face charges for not immediately going to the DOJ once Trump tried to “influence” an investigation?

    Are you seriously asking why snitches didn’t get stitches? Very mature.

  29. Not the IT Dept. says:

    @HarvardLaw92: “These people actually still believe that the fairy jobsmother is going to save them.”

    Well, they don’t seem to have any other idea where jobs come from. I read an article last year, after Trump won, where people were thrilled because now they could drop out of their retraining courses and get their old jobs back. They saw the retraining courses as a sign that Obama had failed them. Seriously. No comprehension about what automation meant to their job prospects, how it highlighted their lack of knowledge-based skills. Trump was going to reopen factories that closed 35 years earlier.

    They’d somehow missed the entire 21st century.

  30. teve tory says:

    Is Comey going to face charges for not immediately going to the DOJ once Trump tried to “influence” an investigation?

    This is like telling the cop, “Oh yeah, well, you had to speed too, to catch up with me!”

    You may think it sounds smart, but it doesn’t.

  31. Jen says:

    @HarvardLaw92: “Fairy Jobsmother” is going into my regular rotation, starting today. (Along with “the Snowflake Paradox” coined today on Twitter by Matt Yglesias, after another person pointed out that the president is “constantly complaining” about how mean everyone is to him while his supporters attack his critics for being “too sensitive.”)

    The whole “Comey is in trouble for not reporting this immediately” looks to be what some on the right have settled on as a good defense. My guess is that Comey said no, that’s not going to happen, but documented it in case the President didn’t drop the issue.

    There’s a progression to this: invites Comey for dinner, requests loyalty, Comey says no. Flynn leaves, Trump asks Comey to drop it, Comey says no. Comey continues to investigate, makes it clear he will continue to do so to the bitter end, Trump fires him. The whole thing is an obstruction of justice, isn’t it? Or does it have to be a single, bright line instance of something? I have no idea, IANAL.

  32. Pch101 says:

    It’s definitely Fox.

    It certainly isn’t news.

    At least they got it half right.

  33. teve tory says:

    The news is that the intelligence source whose information Trump cavalierly exposed to the Russians was Israel. Let that sink in for a moment. Russia has a close ally in the region in Syria, whose regime has been hard-line against Israel essentially forever. The last time Trump told the Russians something the Syrians knew within minutes, too. And about the same for Russia and Iran, which is another trenchant enemy of Israel. Trump just gave the Russians some information that has implications concerning the intelligence capabilities of Israel, information that had been classified at top-secret codeword level to prevent letting even our allies piece together that sort of information about Israel. Of course, Israel was warned about the dangers of continuing to share sensitive intelligence with us during a Trump presidency. Hey, conservatives who measure presidents by their support of Israel, what do you think about that?

    -Wesley Elsberry

  34. gVOR08 says:

    Very interesting piece. What I find objectionable are these quotes:

    But just over 100 days into his presidency, he constantly sets in motion events that threaten to derail his economic agenda that would fulfill his campaign promises.

    Researchers at Goldman Sachs, an investment bank with deep ties to the Trump White House, now predict that tax reform won’t happen until 2018. And there are a lot of mixed signals coming from the White House on trade.

    Both Olsen and Mattice were waiting for Trump to reduce taxes and reform trade. They believe those policies could change their lives — and is also a positive for the future of their kids and grandkids.

    Trump has no economic agenda that will help any of these people. Even if Republicans do succeed in passing tax “reform” and the Republican establishment allow cutbacks in trade, (and we chase every Hispanic out of the country) there is no evidence it’ll help the economy, much less these people. They’ve simply been lied to. But when it all fails, FOX et al will tell them who to blame, and it won’t be Trump and the Rs. And CNN Money won’t be much more honest.

  35. JohnMcC says:

    If the political will existed at the appropriate places of leverage we would be seeing the House preparing the case for impeachment. The case is obviously right there to be assembled and have the batteries added. The Fox Nation is why there can be a strong enough counter-force to make it impossible for the R-party to allow the case that far.

    When approval for Pres Trump drops below the 27% of legend, then and only then will there be any real chance of taking the case to the Senate. And in the Senate it requires a 2/3ds supermajority to turn out a President. And in this case the new President would be Mike (frigging) Pense. Or if something like the VP Agnew lightning-bolt happened, maybe President Ryan?

    There is no good thing that can happen in the near term.

  36. michael reynolds says:

    @teve tory:

    You may think it sounds smart, but it doesn’t.

    It’s amazing to me that these people come here again and again to trot out their little Fox/Limbaugh/Infowars talking points and are instantly annihilated, and yet keep doing it. Over and over again. It’s like watching a trapped bee trying to head-butt its way through a window pane. Bzzz…wham! Bzzz…wham! Again and again. They have both the persistence and the mental capacity of zombies.

  37. HarvardLaw92 says:


    Oh, I know. The piece was written by one of those bright eyed supply siders. I ignored her completely. The only parts I gave any consideration to were the direct commentary by voters – and those people are in for a rude awakening.

  38. teve tory says:

    Everyone who throws their lot in with trump gets humiliated. This includes internet commenters.

  39. HarvardLaw92 says:


    The whole thing is an obstruction of justice, isn’t it?

    It’s pretty much the textbook definition of obstruction.

  40. Joe says:


    My pet theory is that Comey was basically running an entrapment scheme. By just hanging around Trump, he was collecting pieces of evidence about Trump’s ongoing wishes if not attempts to sway or impede investigations (which Comey had no intent of heeding). Comey was just waiting for Trump to take a sufficiently concrete step toward commission of the crime and, wham, Trump fires Comey: Trap sprung. Now Comey can basically wait for Congress to come ask him for his file and watch the system grind Trump up. I hope it works out.

  41. Steve V says:

    @CSK: The people who hated Obama for making everything about him must really hate this Trump guy!

  42. Kylopod says:

    @michael reynolds: Of course, I’m sure Orwell’s use of one of the prototypical “Jewish” surnames for this character wasn’t accidental. Jews are always put at the forefront of the nefarious secret organizations plotting worldwide domination. (One possible modern equivalent is Soros.) Trotsky was, of course, Jewish, and his birth name was Bronstein.

  43. Hal_10000 says:

    I read something today that Fox News’s ratings have no fallen below CNN and MSNBC. I think their trapped in an epistemological loop. As they get more out there, they hemorrhage all but the most devoted viewers and sponsors, which pushes them further out, which narrows their viewerbase even further, which pushes them even further out.

    At one point, I watched them, knowing they were biased but accounting for it. But over Obama’s term, they became unwatchable. Same thing with Limbaugh and other talk show hosts. They’re no longer about advancing conservatism. They’re about opposing liberalism, whatever they define that to be. Trump is the apotheosis of this. He’s not conservative. He has no ideas. But he pees off liberals, so … YEAH!

  44. panda says:


    And CNN Money won’t be much more honest.

    Man, I was infuriated by the economic illiteracy of that column, and didn’t even reailize it was CNN Money. Trump didn’t come from nowhere..

  45. Kylopod says:

    @Hal_10000: I remember a piece about Fox News from Slate (I think) around 2000 or 2001. (Curiously, I haven’t been able to find the article on the web; it seems Slate doesn’t have an online archive going back that far.) What was striking about the critique was how anodyne it looks today. If I’m remembering correctly, the article described Fox as a “conservative tabloid.” But it conceded that the station’s general news coverage was relatively fair, it praised some of the reporters, and it even compared Fox to NPR.

    I’ve always thought of Fox as being sort of the media equivalent of one of those despotic countries that try to maintain the pretense of having a democratic system, free elections, and so forth. It was designed to have all the trappings of a conventional 24-hour news channel. Perhaps the first real giveaway that it was something else was its very signature line, “fair and balanced.” That’s the sort of thing that should raise a red flag for anyone with a modicum of life experience; it’s like when a character in a movie says “You can trust me,” you practically know he can’t be trusted. As a general rule, if you’re boasting about how credible you are, that’s an excellent reason for people to doubt your credibility.

    What’s happened over the years is that Fox has simply become less interested in putting in the necessary effort to keep up that pretense. Hannity & Colmes became simply Hannity, and along with O’Reilly, it began to look increasingly like just a TV version of talk radio. This move did come at a price; believe it or not, Fox actually once had some clout in the cable news industry. (In 2000, the widely reported “fact” that Bush had won the election, before Gore decided to ask for a recount, came from Fox–specifically from Bush’s cousin John Ellis, a Fox reporter at the time.) But as a business move, they clearly felt it was worth it.

    The conservative excuse has always been that the “mainstream” media is so slanted toward liberals they need something to balance it out. But as Fox has increasingly shown, the problem with the conservative media world isn’t bias but bullsh!t–they’ve moved into a pure fantasy world and are peddling lies to the gullible masses while claiming that the normative, mainstream stuff is all “fake news.”

  46. Just 'nutha ig'nint cracker says:

    @Todd: You clearly don’t understand. The conservative media never have to apologize for getting things wrong because they simply don’t make any mistakes. Just listen to Levin or Limbaugh or Medved or Ingram and they will tell you that everybody else is lying and it is all that they can do to correct the lies of the other side daily. After all, they’re only on for 3 hours each. Fox News has all that it can do to set the record straight each day. It certainly doesn’t have any time to make up stuff.

  47. SC_Birdflyte says:

    @Todd: I got into an endless fandango on Facebook yesterday with a troll who complained that Comey hadn’t identified any crime that needed to be investigated. Efforts by a number of us to explain that investigations are very often done to establish that a crime was committed were unavailing. I marvel that, in this nation, there are people who apparently have the free time to devote to endless repetition of the same brain-dead stories.