After Wednesday’s testimony from Ambassador Gordon Sondland in the impeachment inquiry against President Donald Trump, CNN and MSNBC were full of legal and political analysts who found Sondland’s testimony to be terrible for the president. But Fox News, a report by Media Matters’ Matt Gertz demonstrates, generally had very different coverage of Wednesday’s hearing — coverage that was overtly favorable to Trump and his allies.
Not everyone at Fox News has been consistently critical of the impeachment inquiry: Judge Andrew Napolitano (a legal analyst at Fox) and Chris Wallace, despite their conservative leanings, have not hesitated to be critical of Trump at times. But Gertz’ report shows a major contrast between how CNN covered Wednesday’s hearing and how most at Fox News covered it.
Gertz notes that Jeffrey Toobin, appearing as a legal analyst on CNN, found Wednesday’s testimony highly compelling and asserted, “I think you can divide the Trump presidency into two periods: before November 20, 2019, and after — because now we know. I mean, now we know that every fantasy about how corrupt this administration was is actually true.”
But in contrast to Toobin, Gertz asserts, Fox News is full of “pro-Trump propagandists” who are “serving up an alternate reality in which Wednesday was a great day for the president.”
Gertz quotes the reaction of Fox News’ Sean Hannity to Wednesday’s testimony: Hannity told his audience, “The charade on Capitol Hill is effectively over. It’s done, it is finished. This was the day the Democrats’ Trump/Ukraine quid pro quo coup impeachment attempt and hoax officially died. Their phony, their weak narrative was just ripped to shreds. The gigantic, self-serving political stunt is now blowing up in their faces as we all knew it would.”
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 21, 2019
Gertz finds Tucker Carlson’s coverage of Wednesday’s hearing to be equally ridiculous, noting that Carlson criticized Sondland “for hiring lawyers who have donated to Democrats, suggesting that his testimony might have been the result of his attorney’s desire to impeach ‘public enemy number one.’”
Gertz argues: “This is absurd. Sondland is a major Republican donor and a bundler for Trump’s 2016 campaign who subsequently gave $1 million to support his inauguration. But that didn’t keep Trump himself — apparently taking his own advice and tuning in to Fox — from highlighting the attack.”
What the Trump impeachment inquiry means for the rest of the world
Once again, the United States is experiencing the profound drama of Presidential impeachment proceedings. But, dissimilar from the past, this time the implications for the rest of the world could be large.
Consider the two modern predecessors to today’s impeachment inquiry into President Donald J. Trump’s attempt to persuade Ukraine’s government to begin a criminal investigation of one of his leading Democratic challengers, former Vice President Joe Biden and Biden’s son Hunter.
The first was the slow-brewing crisis that began with a midnight break-in at the Democratic National Committee’s offices at the Watergate Hotel in Washington in 1972. This impeachment went on for two years and consumed the American political system. It finally ended in President Richard Nixon’s resignation in August 1974. The second was the special counsel investigation of President William J. Clinton, who was impeached in the U.S. House of Representatives but acquitted by the Senate in 1999.
Cynicism may be the real threat to impeachment
Cynicism is to democratic politics what rust is to motor vehicles. Both are corrosive if left unchecked. Rust will destroy a vehicle, and cynicism, if it becomes endemic, will ultimately destroy democracy.
This thought struck me after some recent conversations with a few friends and acquaintances about the possible impeachment of President Trump. The cynical view of the process is that all politicians are corrupt in one way or another; they act based on self-interest and not in the public interest. In this view, Trump is no different; he is just doing what politicians do. This type of public cynicism may very well be the greatest impediment that Democrats face during the impeachment process. As David Brooks recently wrote in the New York Times, “it’s a lot harder to do impeachment in an age of cynicism, exhaustion and distrust” especially when Trump’s actions are viewed by many as “the kind of corruption that politicians of all stripes have been doing all along.”
Trump’s Senate trial will be an utter mess — can Democrats beat the GOP disinformation machine?
Monday morning brings us the second round of House Judiciary Committee hearings to determine whether President Donald Trump has committed impeachable acts. Last week's hearing with constitutional experts laid out the history of the impeachment process and the somewhat ambiguous criteria. Now we will hear "opening arguments" from three lawyers.
Representing the Democrats on the Judiciary Committee will be Barry Berke, whom you will recognize as the attorney who got former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski to admit that he often lies to the media, among other things, in an earlier hearing. You may also remember Daniel Goldman, the former federal prosecutor from the House Intelligence Committee who skillfully questioned various witnesses during the hearings into the Ukraine bribery scandal. And the Republicans have chosen Stephen R. Castor, the longtime House GOP staff investigator and lawyer who led the questioning at the House Intelligence Committee hearings.