Just before it was publicly disclosed that Special Counsel Robert Mueller had filed indictments against as-of-yet-unnamed Trump-tied figures, Fox News went on an absolute tear against Mueller—with talking heads like Sean Hannity demanding the special counsel resign. They also engaged in one of the most transparent attempts at partisan propaganda-peddling the network had ever undertaken, suddenly puffing up a conspiracy theory linking Hillary Clinton to uranium mining that had never before taken root among conservatives because it had always been a wee bit too stupid-sounding even for the Sean Hannity crowd.
A week later, that push appears to be clear evidence that Fox had information that indictments were forthcoming—and was seeking to undermine their impact. This would be unthinkable for a “news” operation, but as a network devoted to propagandizing the news in service to a narrow subset of the Republican agenda, it was unsurprising.
Vox took it upon themselves to analyze how the Fox network covered the Mueller investigation, the guilty plea of Trump campaign adviser Papadopoulos, and the indictment of campaign head Paul Manafort. The Fox efforts to propagandize the news were robust, consisting both of substantive omissions.
Fox also talked significantly less about George Papadopoulos — the Trump campaign adviser whose plea deal with Mueller provides the most explicit evidence thus far that the campaign knew of the Russian government’s efforts to help Trump — than its competitors.
And contrafactual misdirections:
Both of these stories were used by Fox News to say the Mueller investigation is really about Clinton and the FBI. Conservative news outlets bought into this framing and ran with it. In fact, even as Mueller was about to bring indictments, Fox News couldn’t stop talking about the investigation in the context of Clinton:
And after the indictments were made public, Fox doubled down on their efforts to discredit not the indicted Trump aides, but the man who indicted them.
As intriguing as the network’s coverage (or non-coverage) of the indictment of Trump campaign officials may be, it is at this point par for the course. It is a given that the Fox network will intentionally slant the news they present to the American public in order to paint a picture that boosts Republicans and renders all news that may be unflattering to Republicans “suspicious” or the result of a conspiracy against those Republicans.
But the efforts Fox took to preemptively attack Mueller on the eve of the released indictments, now that’s interesting. The urgent (and bizarre) focus on a new “Uranium One” conspiracy came just days before the Mueller investigation produced its first guilty plea from a member of the Trump campaign team; outside observers can be forgiven for wondering whether the network had received advance information about the state of the Mueller probe that drove the new efforts to muddy the waters of the Russia election-hacking investigation.