clock menu more-arrow no yes

Fox News really doesn’t want to say “Trump” and “porn star” on air

Fox News is censoring a Trump sex scandal again.

There is something Fox News really doesn’t want on air, and it’s this: President Trump’s name uttered in the same sentence as the words “porn star” or “Stormy Daniels.”

And the network has done an astounding job limiting those utterances on air.

Here’s the saga to date: First, there were reports of an alleged affair between Trump and Daniels, a porn actress whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, and that Trump’s lawyer Michael Cohen paid her $130,000 as part of a nondisclosure agreement. Then earlier this month, Clifford filed a lawsuit against Trump asking to get out of the hush agreement, arguing that Trump himself did not sign the agreement.

But Fox News has barely covered the Stormy Daniels story:

And it’s even rarer for Fox News to mention what Daniels does for a living.

And during this saga, the words “porn star” or similar descriptions have certainly not been uttered by Fox News’s most popular hosts — the ones Trump watches most. We haven’t heard it from Sean Hannity, Tucker Carlson, or the trio on Fox & Friends.

Fox News knew about the Daniels story in October 2016, before the election, but decided not to report on it. But now that it’s come to light, the network is just outright ignoring it.

It’s yet another example of the star pundits at Fox News creating an alternate reality to protect Trump. Sometimes, though, this veneer cracks. When a guest mentions “Stormy Daniels” or “porn star,” some panicked moments ensue:

Eventually a host shouts over those words, the guest is cut off, and order is restored to Fox News.

Meanwhile, a former Playboy model is also filing a lawsuit in hopes of telling her story about what she says was a 10-month affair with Trump.

It’s easy to think the Stormy Daniels scandal is a silly story, but as my colleague Matt Yglesias writes, this isn’t just a story about infidelity with a porn star. Rather, “It’s about the corruptibility of Donald Trump — a president whose personal life and finances are shrouded in unprecedented opacity.”

This isn’t the first time Fox News has tried to bury this kind of Trump story

In October 2016, a leaked tape of Trump and NBC host Billy Bush from 2005 caught Trump bragging about sexual assault, saying, “And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything. Grab ’em by the pussy. You can do anything.”

Fox News gave the story much less attention than other cable news channels did.

As it turns out, this was around the same time Fox News found out about the alleged Daniels affair, but the network decided not to report on that and gave limited airtime to the Access Hollywood story.

In the past year, there have been several other mini stories about Trump’s alleged sexual misconduct — and in virtually all of those cases, Fox News ensured those stories got a limited platform.

Fox News is brazenly shielding its viewers from news that makes Trump look bad — which is crucial because 40 percent of Trump voters consider Fox News their main source of news. Not just that, but Trump won 81 percent of white born-again and evangelical Christian voters in 2016, and they might not take too well to being inundated with stories about Trump’s alleged affair with a porn star.

It’s not like Fox News doesn’t usually cover sexual harassment stories

The suppression of the Stormy Daniels and Access Hollywood stories is clearly about protecting Trump. When we compare the way Fox News covered those stories to the way it covered the Harvey Weinstein sexual abuse story, its coverage levels more closely mirror the other networks’ levels, and sometimes even exceeded them:

The part of this story that was often highlighted was Weinstein being a big Hillary Clinton donor, but there was plenty of coverage that was outside the Clinton-Trump axis.

And while we don’t have transcript data from the Bill Clinton sex scandal in the mid-1990s, Fox News didn’t hold back in covering that story. In fact, Fox News’s executive editor John Moody once said, “Monica [Lewinsky] was a news channel’s dream come true.” And Lewinsky wrote in a 2017 op-ed that Roger Ailes, Fox News’s longtime CEO, was her nightmare.

If it isn’t clear enough already, this is about protecting Trump. Fox News is carefully choosing the stories to cover, and the kinds of words it uses to cover those stories, to shape an alternate reality in which Trump’s alleged affair with a porn star is yet another piece of fake news.