Fox News didn’t broadcast Trump’s DC speech live days after News Corp editorials slammed former president

·8 min read

Donald Trump and Mike Pence were both in Washington, DC on Tuesday to deliver speeches at separate events, with this being the first time the former president has returned to the nation’s capital since he left office.

While both events generated a lot of media attention and speculation about 2024 presidential runs, CNN’s chief media correspondent Brian Stelter noted a particular difference in their coverage from one network in particular — Fox News.

Former vice president Mr Pence spoke first on Tuesday morning, addressing the Young America’s Foundation at the JW Marriott, a short walk from the White House.

He outlined his “Freedom Agenda”, proposed “pro-life protections in every state”, and notably said that while some people focus on the past, “elections are about the future”. This highlighted a growing division in the Republican Party between those who refuse to accept the results of the 2020 election and those who want to move on.

Mr Pence, who also teased an upcoming memoir titled So Help Me God, received as much as 17 minutes of coverage on Fox News for his mid-morning speech per Mr Stelter.

When his former boss spoke in the afternoon at the America First Policy Institute’s summit at the Marriott Marquis across town, rattling through a list of culture war staples and painting a horrifying picture of a crime-ridden “cesspool” of a country, there was a marked contrast.

While far-right network Newsmax carried the whole speech live, Mr Trump was not broadcast at all on Fox News’ main channel — though clips were shown later in the evening. The contrast with the coverage of Mr Pence infuriated some on social media.

A spokesperson for Fox News confirmed to The Independent that the network did not take Mr Trump’s speech live but would not comment beyond that.

This decision attracted attention as it comes after blistering critiques of the former president from the editorial boards of stalwart conservative publications The Wall Street Journal and The New York Post following Thursday’s eighth January 6 committee hearing. Like Fox News, they are also owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp.

The editorials variously described the former president as having “utterly failed” by not defending the Capitol from the mob, and said he had proved “himself unworthy to be this country’s chief executive again”, withdrawing any support for another White House run.

The significance of this condemnation from two leading conservative publications was not lost on Liz Cheney, Republican vice chair of the January committee when she appeared on Fox News on Sunday morning.

Speaking to host Bret Baier, she said: “It’s not just me that’s saying that Donald Trump is unfit for office. It’s other entities owned by Rupert Murdoch. It’s The New York Post in their editorial on Friday. It’s The Wall Street Journal.”

She added: “They said the same thing after our hearing on Thursday night. So I’m going to continue to be guided by making sure I do my duty and making sure the American people understand the truth.”

Many leading Fox News hosts continue to show solid support for the former president, with Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham lauding Mr Trump’s speech during the transition between their Tuesday night shows. In addition, the network did not broadcast the primetime hearings of the January 6 committee on its main channel’s feed, choosing instead to stick with its regular line-up of evening opinion shows — those of Tucker Carlson, Hannity, and Ingraham.

All the daytime hearings were broadcast live on the main Fox News Channel. The primetime hearings were carried on Fox Business Network, Fox Nation, Fox News Audio, live streamed on Fox News Digital for free, and offered to broadcast affiliates across the country. Mr Trump’s speech was available to stream on foxnews.com, Fox News Audio, and Fox Nation.

However, choosing to air neither the committee hearings nor Mr Trump’s dark and gripe-filled speech on its flagship channel could signal a shift by the network towards joining its fellow News Corp stablemates in moving on from the Trump presidency. Though perhaps it is not ready to take the leap just yet.

In the meantime, the groundwork can be laid for whoever is able to pick up the baton for the Republican Party in the run-up to 2024. Which could still be Mr Trump. Some argue that having the primetime lineup continue to back the former president so wholeheartedly is a sign that nothing has changed at all.

Potentially losing favourable coverage on Fox News has not escaped the attention of the former president. He has already hit out at Fox & Friends, the network’s flagship morning show.

On Monday, he lashed out at the show’s coverage of a straw poll of potential 2024 candidates at the Turning Point USA student summit in Tampa, Florida. Mr Trump came top by a huge margin, but this was dismissed by presenter Steve Doocy as the opinions of “young people who are activists” and very different from other polling.

Taking to his online platform Truth Social, the former president posted that the show’s hosts “really botched my poll numbers, no doubt on purpose”.

He continued: “That show has been terrible – gone to the ‘dark side.’ They quickly quote the big Turning Point Poll victory of almost 60 points over the number two Republican, and then hammer me with outliers. Actually, almost all polls have me leading all Republicans & Biden BY A LOT. RINO Paul Ryan, one of the weakest and worst Speakers EVER, must be running the place. Anyway, thank you to Turning Point, the crowd & “love” was AMAZING!”

Former Speaker Paul Ryan joined the Fox Corporation board in 2019. Mr Trump often criticised the network’s news side throughout 2020 and 2021 for not covering his false claims about widespread fraud supposedly leading to his defeat in the 2020 election against Joe Biden.

The News Corp legacy print publications made their intentions clear in last week’s editorials. The Journal slammed Mr Trump’s actions on 6 January 2021 in a piece titled: “The President who stood still on Jan 6.”

“No matter your views of the Jan 6 special committee, the facts it is laying out in hearings are sobering,” the op-ed begins. “The most horrifying to date came Thursday in a hearing on President Trump’s conduct as the riot raged and he sat watching TV, posting inflammatory tweets and refusing to send help.”

Recounting the desperate appeals to the then-president to call off the mob and the danger to former Vice President Pence, the board writes: “Still, the brute facts remain: Mr Trump took an oath to defend the Constitution, and he had a duty as Commander in Chief to protect the Capitol from a mob attacking it in his name. He refused. He didn’t call the military to send help. He didn’t call Mr Pence to check on the safety of his loyal VP. Instead, he fed the mob’s anger and let the riot play out.”

Contrasting the two men, then at the helm of the US government, the op-ed concludes: “Character is revealed in a crisis, and Mr Pence passed his January 6 trial. Mr Trump utterly failed his.”

The Post was more visceral in its condemnation of the former president in an op-ed headlined: “Trump’s silence on Jan 6 is damning.”

Emphasising that Mr Trump did nothing to stop the violence for three hours and seven minutes and that he was the only person that could, the editorial board wrote: “To his eternal shame, as appalled aides implored him to publicly call on his followers to go home, he instead further fanned the flames by tweeting: ‘Mike Pence didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done to protect our Country and our Constitution’.”

The article continues: “His only focus was to find any means — damn the consequences — to block the peaceful transfer of power. There is no other explanation, just as there is no defense, for his refusal to stop the violence.”

Concluding, the editorial board of the influential tabloid is clear in their opposition to a second Trump term: “It’s up to the Justice Department to decide if this is a crime. But as a matter of principle, as a matter of character, Trump has proven himself unworthy to be this country’s chief executive again.”