How Fox News Is Handling the Stormy Daniels and Donald Trump Drama
Donald Trump’s many scandals have regularly been breaking news since he became president. And his controversy surrounding his alleged affair with adult film star Stormy Daniels has been an especially hot topic.
But that’s not necessarily the case where his favorite news channel is concerned. Fox News has handled its coverage of the Daniels story differently than most of its competitors.
Here’s everything they’ve said — and not said — so far, including exactly how much airtime the network has devoted to the story (page 6) and the shocking way Fox News may have made things worse for Trump where Daniels is concerned (page 8).
1. Fox News has known about Daniels since 2016
In January 2018, the Daniels story officially broke. But according to CNN, Fox News knew about the alleged affair during the 2016 presidential campaign. The network chose not to cover the story. But a spokesperson for Fox News insists it wasn’t trying to bury the story.
Noah Kotch told The Wrap, “Like many other outlets, we were working to report the story of Stephanie Clifford’s account in October 2016 about then-Presidential candidate Donald Trump and a possible payment by Trump lawyer Michael Cohen. In doing our due diligence, we were unable to verify all of the facts and publish a story.”
Next: This Fox News host was honest about how they cover Daniels, even though it doesn’t look good for them.
2. Dana Perino admitted Fox News was showing some bias in its coverage
Stories about Daniels and Trump reached a fever pitch in the first two weeks of March 2018. But while other networks were covering every last detail, Fox News’ hosts were dismissive at best.
At first, Dana Perino admitted that each network had the right to choose how it would cover the alleged affair. And she said that if the players were different, Fox News might be covering it more heavily, too.
On Mar. 7, 2018’s edition of The Five, she said, “I’m pretty sure that if John Podesta had paid $130,000 out of his account to pay off somebody in Bill Clinton’s world that was salacious, there would be coverage.”
Next: Fox News hosts had a bold response to why they aren’t covering this scandal.
3. Brian Kilmeade thinks the scandal is a waste of time
Less than a week after Perino sort of defended other networks’ coverage of the Daniels scandal, though, the host had changed her tune. On Mar. 12, 2018, she and Brian Kilmeade made it clear they thought other networks were covering the story too much.
Kilmeade criticized CNN for, in his view, following Daniels around and giving her non-stop attention. And Perino agreed, saying if she were a CNN reporter, it “might make you think, ‘Why did I go to journalism school again?’”
The hosts also were prepared to defend their network’s choice to minimize its coverage of the story. Even though they acknowledged that if the alleged payment to Daniels had occurred during Trump’s campaign, it might be newsworthy, Kilmeade thought viewers wouldn’t care.
After all, he argued, “People knew what Donald Trump was doing before [he was president].”
Next: Another Fox News host blamed other news sources for using Daniels.
4. Laura Ingraham thinks her competitors are using Daniels as a distraction
One of Trump’s biggest rallying cries has consistently been that there’s a fake news conspiracy against him. Fox News has leveraged his claims to convince viewers that they are the only ones offering the real story.
So it’s not a surprise that when Laura Ingraham addressed the Daniels scandal, she did so by casting shade at her network’s competitors. On Mar. 8, 2018, she claimed that the nonstop coverage of the alleged affair was meant to serve as a distraction.
Ingraham said that other networks wanted to downplay Trump’s economic success. And so they chose to focus on scandals as a means to avoid talking about what he was doing well.
That doesn’t explain, however, the fact that the network may have failed to cover the story even before Trump was president.
Next: Fox New’s primetime coverage of Daniels and Trump’s affair is pretty shocking.
5. Fox News has downplayed the Daniels story as much as possible
The way we consume news has shifted in the digital age. But most networks still consider primetime to be one of the best times to cover the most pressing stories. That’s why it’s strange that Fox News has barely mentioned Daniels during their evening news coverage. Between Mar. 5 and Mar. 9, 2018, her name came up just nine times on the air between 7 p.m. and 11 p.m.
When you compare that number to the more than 200 mentions of the story on CNN and MSNBC during the same time frame, Fox New’s coverage seems shockingly low. And in the following week, Daniels wasn’t mentioned once during primetime.
Viewers have caught a few more references to the scandal if they’ve tuned in later at night. Fox News @ Night has logged the most mentions so far. That program airs at 11 p.m. — well past the time that most viewers have tuned in.
Next: The numbers don’t lie when it comes to Fox News’ coverage of Daniels and Trump.
6. Fox has devoted considerably less time to Daniels than other networks
If you’ve watched CNN or MSNBC, or been reading news online in the past few weeks, chances are you’ve heard a lot about Daniels. Most major news outlets have devoted a considerable amount of time to not just her alleged affair with Trump, but her life before and after.
Fox News viewers, on the other hand, haven’t been exposed to the Daniels onslaught. That’s because the network has barely talked about her. According to The Washington Post, on Mar. 7, 2018, when Daniels filed a lawsuit against Trump, less than 1% of Fox News airtime was been devoted to Daniels. By comparison, the scandal was given 2.5% of airtime on MSNBC, and 4.6 percent on CNN.
And when you look at how they’ve covered the story during peak times, the numbers are even crazier.
Next: Is there another reason Fox News has barely covered Daniels?
7. Fox News knows its audience
Some might argue that Fox is purposely underplaying the story to avoid appearing critical of the president, whom many of their viewers still support. And that may very well be the case.
A recent poll from Suffolk University shows that there’s a strong correlation between Fox News viewership and people who approve of Trump’s performance as president.
So, in downplaying a potential scandal that could plague the president, they may be telling their audience what they want to hear. However, in trying to make Daniels’ accusations against Trump look insignificant, they may have ended up helping her case against him.
Next: One Fox News host seems to have accidentally stirred up more Daniels drama.
8. Fox News accidentally helped Daniels case against Trump
When Rudy Giuliani appeared on Hannity on May 2, 2018, it was clear that he was there to support the president. The two men discussed Daniels and the controversy over Cohen’s payment to her, and the former New York City mayor (and current Trump legal aide) was clearly trying to paint his client in the best possible light.
This revelation reignited scrutiny around whether the payment may have violated campaign finance laws. And so, even though they’ve tried to stay out of it, Fox News wound up as a central player in the ongoing Daniels scandal.
Follow Katherine Webb on Twitter @prufrox.
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