On Monday, the FBI raided the offices of President Trump’s personal lawyer Michael Cohen, seizing documents and records related to the $130,000 payment Cohen made to porn actress Stormy Daniels, as well as other matters.
It was exactly the kind of story Fox News pundits could use to further the narrative that the “deep state” is conspiring to take down Trump.
But since news of this raid broke, Fox News has spent significantly less time covering the story than the other major cable news networks.
In addition, Fox News spent less of its airtime on Trump’s angry press conference about the raid.
This lack of coverage from Fox News was best crystallized by a segment on Tucker Carlson’s show, where he focused on other crucial and breaking news:
For those still in disbelief that Tucker Carlson was talking about pandas instead of Trump's attorney getting raided by the feds pic.twitter.com/UP0IaappUA— Timothy Burke (@bubbaprog) April 10, 2018
How Fox covered the FBI raid on Cohen’s office
It’s not that Fox didn’t cover the story at all. It’s just that it covered it less — and when it did, the story was folded into a long-running narrative of “deep state” perfidy.
It’s a narrative Fox News pundit Sean Hannity has been pushing since before the election, arguing that unelected bureaucrats are working to get Hillary Clinton elected. And it’s a narrative that Fox News used to justify the firing of FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe.
In his coverage of the FBI raid, Hannity wasn’t interested in explaining why the FBI was raiding Cohen. Rather, he focused on shoring up his argument that the FBI is out to take down Trump. He said, “Mueller and [Deputy Attorney General Rod] Rosenstein have declared what is a legal war on the president. And a source close to President Trump tonight is telling Fox News that Mueller’s investigation is way out of control.”
Fox & Friends, Trump’s favorite morning show, appeared to be talking directly to the president, assuring him that his lawyer was being treated unfairly. They stressed that Cohen had been cooperating with this investigation, “and all the cooperation got them was a huge breach.”
Then they aired an interview with lawyer Alan Dershowitz, who said, “If this were Hillary Clinton being investigated and they went into her lawyer’s office, the ACLU would be on every television show in America, jumping up and down.”
In short, they continued to push the story that the FBI and American institutions are unfair to Trump.
Carlson, who was ridiculed for his coverage of pandas, didn’t completely ignore this story. He talked about how ridiculous it was that the mainstream media, specifically CNN, covered it by taking time away from what he considered more important news. Then he tried to paint the raid as a mere sex scandal that the FBI wants to use to unravel the Trump presidency.
One possible reason the FBI raid might be a tricky story for Fox News: Stormy Daniels
According to the New York Times, the FBI seized documents related to “several topics,” including the payment to Daniels, the porn actress and director who says she had an affair with Trump and was paid off for her silence.
As Vox’s Anna North writes:
The FBI didn’t raid Cohen’s office to find out if Trump was cheating on his wife. The agency is investigating whether Cohen violated campaign finance, banking, or wire transfer laws in connection with the payment to Daniels.
And as I showed in a recent piece, Fox News really does not want to talk about Stormy Daniels.
So when it came time to cover the Cohen raid, Fox News tried to minimize mentions of Daniels’s name:
For the most part, Fox News’s coverage of this raid was predictable. It explained away the FBI probe as part of a “deep state” attack on Trump, just like the Mueller investigation. But this time, the network’s top pundits also had to tiptoe around a scandal — Stormy Daniels — that has plagued the president.
In other words, it was just another night on Fox News.