The Fox Propaganda Machine in Operation

What about Biden?

I almost avoided commenting on this story because I understand the degree to which discussing these types of things, even in the context of criticism, can amplify them. But given the Trump indictments and his rhetoric about the charges, and specifically about the Biden administration, as well as the violent rhetoric we see already regarding those charges, I think it is essential to understand the general media environment and to specifically see what consumers of FNC and like outlets are seeing.

First, I will remind everyone that the Dominion lawsuit exposed Fox’s business model as telling their viewers what they want to hear, regardless of whether it was true or not.

Some examples of internal communication that came out as a result of the suit, as a basic reminder:

“This has to stop now,” [Suzanne Scott, Fox News CEO]  wrote in an email to a network vice-president in early December, referring to anchor Eric Shawn’s fact-checking of Trump. “This is bad business and there clearly is a lack of understanding what is happening in these shows. The audience is furious and we are just feeding them material. Bad for business.”


In an internal message, [Raj Shah, Fox Corporation senior vice-president] shared a survey with colleagues showing that the network’s brand was “under heavy fire from our customer base.” In a different email, he wrote, “We are not concerned with losing market share to CNN or MSNBC right now. Our concern is Newsmax and One America News Network … I’d like to get honest/deeper feedback from Fox viewers on the brand, the handling of the election, if they feel like they have been somehow betrayed by the network.”

In a memo from Shah to Lachlan Murdoch on November 13, Shah wrotethat “Fox News is facing a brand crisis” and “open revolt.” He added that the “precipitous decline in Fox’s favorability among our core audience… poses lasting damage to the Fox News brand unless effectively addressed soon.”


“Our audience doesn’t want to hear about a peaceful transition,” [Abby Grossberg, Maria Bartiromo’s producer] texted Bartiromo, who had asked whether she should have covered the topic on a recent show. Grossberg later added that Fox viewers “still have hope.”

This trip down memory lane is relevant because I think we are going to see, indeed, have been seeing a similar playbook as it pertains to Trump-related corruption. The whole Hunter Biden/ “Biden Crime Family” schtick has been, without any doubt, a way for many Fox viewers to “still have hope” that their guy isn’t the corrupt one. On, no, it’s the other guy.

I would note that the Fox model looks a lot like what we see in Putin’s Russia. Here is a description from a 2016 RAND paper (The Russian “Firehose of Falsehood” Propaganda Model):

We characterize the contemporary Russian model for propaganda as “the firehose of falsehood” because of two of its distinctive features: high numbers of channels and messages and a shameless willingness to disseminate partial truths or outright fictions. In the words of one observer, “[N]ew Russian propaganda entertains, confuses and overwhelms the audience.”2

Contemporary Russian propaganda has at least two other distinctive features. It is also rapid, continuous, and repetitive, and it lacks commitment to consistency.

Interestingly, several of these features run directly counter to the conventional wisdom on effective influence and communication from government or defense sources, which traditionally emphasize the importance of truth, credibility, and the avoidance of contradiction.3 Despite ignoring these traditional principles, Russia seems to have enjoyed some success under its contemporary propaganda model, either through more direct persuasion and influence or by engaging in obfuscation, confusion, and the disruption or diminution of truthful reporting and messaging.

This sounds all too familiar as it pertains to FNC’s brand of infotainment.

This all leads me to this FNC story: Joe Biden allegedly paid $5M by Burisma executive as part of a bribery scheme, according to FBI document, which is a pretty incendiary headline.

President Joe Biden was allegedly paid $5 million by an executive of the Ukrainian natural gas firm Burisma Holdings, where his son Hunter Biden sat on the board, a confidential human source told the FBI during a June 2020 interview, sources familiar told Fox News Digital.


The FD-1023 form, dated June 30, 2020, is the FBI’s interview with a “highly credible” confidential source who detailed multiple meetings and conversations he or she had with a top Burisma executive over the course of several years, starting in 2015. Fox News Digital has not seen the form, but it was described by several sources who are aware of its contents.

An FD-1023 form is used by FBI agents to record unverified reporting from confidential human sources. The form is used to document information as told to an FBI agent, but recording that information does not validate or weigh it against other information known by the FBI.


The confidential source said the Burisma executive told him he “paid” the Bidens in such a manner “through so many different bank accounts” that investigators would not be able to “unravel this for at least 10 years.”

The document then makes reference to “the Big Guy,” which, has been said to be a reference to Joe Biden.

Emphases all mine.

Ok, so what we have is a report that someone has described a document, and that document contains unverified allegations. But it is enough to blast a headline that the president was allegedly (and that word is doing a lot of work here) paid a major bribe. Oh, and it just so happens that the allegation would make Trump look better because it would justify his actions surrounding his first impeachment.

I would note a few additional tells about the story. First, it repeats “FD-1023” over and over and over again. In my view, it is clearly trying to emphasize to the readers how official all of this is. I mean, it’s in a special form! Second, the reference to “the Big Guy” strikes me as a rhetorical flourish because, at least to my recollection, that used to be a phrase associated with China and hints of corruption there. But I do know it has become a sinister-sounding nickname to go along with the whole “Biden Crime Family” rhetoric. Third, the fact that the allegations are linked to a crime so perfect that it would take “at least ten years” to unravel is a great way of allowing the allegations to linger but without any burden of proof being in place.

All of this is important because it will give Fox News talking head a cornucopia of chances to “what about” the Bidens as they have to deal with Trump’s federal indictment (to go along with his NY indictment, his loss in the Carroll case, and potential additions federal and state level indictments). You see, all of those are political hack jobs. Meanwhile, Hillary’s server, Hunter’s laptop, and FD-1023s will be presented as a web of deceit that proves that it is the Bidens who are the nexus of corruption, not the Trumps.

BTW, here is an FBI press release on the FD-1023 issue, which is at the heart of a conflict between the House and Director Wray.

Back to FNC, on Friday we see all of this in action. LARRY KUDLOW: Evidence against the Biden crime family is mounting across the board.

It’s no coincidence that the Donald Trump indictment was announced on the same day the FBI FD-1023 form was finally opened up to the House members of the Oversight Committee. No coincidence! 

And speaking of the RAND Corporation analysis cited above notes that Russian propaganda exhibits a lack of commitment to consistency:

Then, of course, the Biden classified documents investigation continues at a snail’s pace. Biden kept classified documents all over the place in Washington, D.C. and Delaware, but here’s the rub: Biden as a senator took classified documents. That isn’t supposed to happen. You can read them in a SCIF in the middle of the National Archives building, but you can’t take them anywhere. That’s against the law.   

So, somehow, when Biden has documents, that is a problem. But, not for Trump! And never mind the way that Biden responded (he cooperated) versus how Trump did (he didn’t cooperate–quite the opposite), Kudlow doesn’t need to worry his viewers about that (nor about Pence and his documents).

All of this is important because it makes the odds of political violence higher because it will provide justification for the notion that the DOJ is, in fact, up to no good. It is the same cycle we saw in the build-up to January 6th.

A side note on the consistency issue: the Steel Dossier is practically a satanic text according to FNC, but the FD-1023, which would appear to be of a similar kind of raw intelligence, is practically gospel!

It does not matter that this approach utterly undercuts the rule of law and fealty to the truth. Rest assured that FNC viewers are going to be fed a lot of this over the coming months because that is what they want to see and we know that FNC execs know what they have to do to retain those precious eyeballs.

And just a reminder of how I view Hunter Biden (and also James Joyner‘s similar post).

FILED UNDER: 2024 Election, Europe, Media, US Politics, World Politics, , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter


  1. CSK says:

    Unless Fox goes full-throttle pro-Trump nonstop, it will continue to lose its audience. MAGAs dont’ forgive or forget anyone who slights their savior.

  2. CSK says:

    Unless Fox goes full-throttle pro-Trump nonstop, it will continue to lose its audience. MAGAs don’t forgive or forget anyone who slights their savior.

  3. EddieInCA says:

    I sat through the WSJ Report on Fox yesterday, and if anyone wants to see a breathtaking example of projection and misinformation, they should watch it.

    One commentator said, paraphrasing,”Rather than negotiate with Trump, or ask him to return the documents, or going to court to get Trump to return them, the Federal Government chose to raid Mar a Lago with armed FBI Agents to confiscate the President’s personal papers.”

    It was stunning in it’s misrepresentation of the facts. It was a complete alternate reality. And this is the message/talking points the network is sticking with.

  4. Modulo Myself says:

    The funniest part about Hunter Biden is they have his laptop. The guy was sleeping with his dead brother’s widow and keeping records of every time he got high, and yet when it comes to financial crimes he was circumspect, apparently. Is there another laptop where he stored everything else?

    People say that Fox is misleading its viewers, but most of the people focused on Hunter Biden aren’t even capable of thinking it through. I don’t think there is that much deception going on. These are stupid, stupid people.

  5. Mikey says:

    @Modulo Myself:

    most of the people focused on Hunter Biden aren’t even capable of thinking

    Could’ve stopped there and been equally accurate.

  6. Chip Daniels says:

    The most striking example of contemporary propaganda is the sudden flareup of LGBTQ hatred on the right.

    Only a couple years ago after the Obergefell decision, it appeared that the Ameerican conservatives had made their peace with LGBTQ issues.

    Maybe they had, or maybe they were just temporarily subdued. But what we are seeing now is a concerted and coordinated effort to revive the hatred. People like Chris Rufo, FOX News, Libs Of Tik Tok, Moms For liberty and others have worked tirelessly to amplify venomous rhetoric and propaganda to whip up an atmosphere of fear and anxiety.

    It isn’t organic or grassroots. We’re seeing how people who only a couple years ago, if they were aware of a Drag Queen Story hour would have maybe snorted derisively or shrugged in indifference, but are now motivated to go to school board meetings and scream.

    We all like to imagine that the stuff Hannah Arendt talked about can’t happen here, but it is, right here right now in front of us.

  7. gVOR10 says:

    @Chip Daniels: Hanna Arendt famously explained Moscow’s approach to propaganda, and FOX’s,

    In an ever-changing, incomprehensible world the masses had reached the point where they would, at the same time, believe everything and nothing, think that everything was possible and that nothing was true. … Mass propaganda discovered that its audience was ready at all times to believe the worst, no matter how absurd, and did not particularly object to being deceived because it held every statement to be a lie anyhow. The totalitarian mass leaders based their propaganda on the correct psychological assumption that, under such conditions, one could make people believe the most fantastic statements one day, and trust that if the next day they were given irrefutable proof of their falsehood, they would take refuge in cynicism; instead of deserting the leaders who had lied to them, they would protest that they had known all along that the statement was a lie and would admire the leaders for their superior tactical cleverness.

    Something like COVID communication requires, as RAND said, “truth, credibility, and the avoidance of contradiction.” But there the government was, as best they could under Trump, pushing objective truth. Neither Moscow, nor, FOX, nor Republicans have any interest in objective truth.

    ETA – Hot damn. Like Daryl, or was it Daryl, I had to change my handle and use an alternate email address, but I’m back.

  8. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    The thing that came to my mind reading

    “We are not concerned with losing market share to CNN or MSNBC right now. Our concern is Newsmax and One America News Network…

    was if these are your competitors, what is your product or service? My follow-up question would be how durable do you imagine business in the product or service is, anyway?

  9. Flat Earth Luddite says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker:

    My follow-up question would be how durable do you imagine business in the product or service is, anyway?

    Yeah, but that would require that they be looking further out than this week’s P&L statement. The days of long-range planning are over.

  10. Ken_L says:

    1. For years, the Ukrainian energy company Burisma has been trying to convince the US government that it is really an upright corporate citizen, despite it having come under scrutiny by prosecutors in both Ukraine and the UK.

    2. In 2019, the President of the United States told the President of Ukraine that he wanted him to dig up dirt on the Bidens. He would, he said, take it as a favor.

    3. Also in 2019, the CEO of Burisma told a known FBI informant that he had bribed the Bidens, but it would take years to prove it.

    Only the rankest cynic would see any connection between these points.