Fox News is in a state of crisis. Its management is caught between trying to maintain the profile of their most well-known Trump-defending conservative anchors, who draw in the audience, and trying to maintain the peace with advertisers, who have been increasingly unwilling to fund their inflammatory rhetoric as they face boycotts from consumers.
The ongoing disaster for Trump that is the fallout from special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation has only brought this conflict to a head, with Fox anchor Chris Wallace in particular calling out Attorney General William Barr, as well as his colleagues for not holding him to account.
Here are four clips from Wednesday that demonstrate how the struggle in Fox's newsroom is leaking out into their programming:
- Wallace debunks Ken Starr's defense of Barr.
Former independent counsel Ken Starr tried to defend Barr's conduct, insisting that the information he provided about Mueller's report was accurate. "But the key is did you get something wrong? Were you misleading or inaccurate? Is something you said false? And there Bill Barr gets a 100% grade — an A plus.”
Wallace, who came on after, corrected this. "I disagree respectfully ... On March 24, Barr sends his letter to Congress with his — not summary — but bottom-line conclusions from the Mueller report. On March 28, Barr receives a letter from Mueller basically saying I don’t think you accurately characterized this."
"Then on April 9, Barr is up testifying before Congress and he is specifically asked by Charlie Crist, a congressman from Florida: There is a report in the paper that the Mueller team is upset with the way you characterized this? Do you have any idea what that’s about? And Barr says no, I don’t. Well, obviously he does," Wallace explained.
- Laura Ingraham claps back at Wallace for not toeing the line on Barr.
Right-wing opinion commentator Laura Ingraham called in to express dissatisfaction with her colleague criticizing President Donald Trump's attorney general.
"I think Bill Barr's going to get roasted today by the Democrats," said Ingraham. "I know Chris Wallace at the top of your hour was indicating that I guess that he kind of agrees with these other cable networks that this was an attempt by the DOJ to spin what the conversation was between Barr and Mueller. So I don't know if Chris Wallace has information that I don't have, but that he is saying that Barr is perpetuating a lie about this conversation between him and Mueller?"
- Two Fox hosts try to claim Mueller's letter did not dispute Barr's accuracy, and Wallace shuts them down.
Later, two other Fox hosts, Martha MacCallum and Sandra Smith, tried to push a similar line to Starr, suggesting that Mueller's letter to Barr wasn't disputing the accuracy of his public statements.
"Clearly, when you look closely at the letter, Bob Mueller was concerned about the public perception of his team," said MacCallum, while Smith said that "He did make it very clear, William Barr, that when he called Robert Mueller to ask him about his concern in that letter, that none of that was concerned about accuracy."
"I know that is what Barr said, but I don't think if you read — what we got today was we finally got a copy of the letter that Mueller sent to Barr on March 27. When he read the letter, there's really a lot in it," said Wallace, pushing back. "[I]t wasn't the only letter that Mueller sent Barr ... Later, he sends him another letter. In it he says — and he isn’t talking about press reaction. He’s talking about the Barr [summary]. And he says, the summary letter, that the department sent a Congress did not fully capture the context, nature, and substance of this office’s work and conclusions. He says we communicated that to you on March 25. He said there is now public confusion about critical aspects of the results."
- Wallace accuses his network's opinion commentators of 'pushing a political agenda' on Mueller.
Later, Wallace explicitly accused much of his own network of trying to whitewash the seriousness of the situation Barr was in, for the sake of politics.
"I know there are some people who don’t think this March 27 letter is a big deal," said Wallace. “And some opinion people, some opinion people who appear on this network, who may be pushing a political agenda. But, you know, we have to deal in facts. And the fact is that this letter from the special counsel … was a clear indication that [he] was upset, very upset, with the letter that had been sent out by the attorney general, and wanted it changed, or wanted it at least added to."
Fellow host Shepard Smith agreed, adding, "It's been my experience that when lawyers go to paper, as they put it, it's not that they want the person in question to know, it's that they want all to know ... They want the people to know that they believe what the attorney general did was mislead the people, create a false narrative."