If you watch Fox News, you probably don’t know about Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt’s vast array of scandals.
But in the past two months, we’ve also learned Pruitt used taxpayer money for first-class travel arrangements, requested an unprecedented amount of security detail, and spent a comically large sum of money on 12 customized fountain pens. In addition, we learned he was living in a discounted luxury condo owned by a lobbyist, had an aide look for Chick-fil-A franchises his wife could purchase, and sent an aide to pick up a Trump hotel mattress for his personal use.
On Fox News, though, these stories barely made a blip:
There were signs this week that conservatives were turning on Pruitt.
On Wednesday evening, the Fox News research team sent out this tweet:
(E)xpensive (P)ruitt (A)gency:— Fox News Research (@FoxNewsResearch) June 6, 2018
Condo Deal: $50/night
12 Pens: $1,560
Trump Hotel Mattress: $1,750
Private 40-min flight: $5,719
Chik fil A Franchise: $10K
Phone Booth: $43K
2 Desks: $70K
Friends’ Pay Raises: $85K
Italy Trip: $120K
Security: $3.5M pic.twitter.com/VbSWS56sJq
After the lotion story broke, Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA) piped up:
Senator Kennedy (R-LA) to EPA Administrator Pruitt (1/2): "The appearance of impropriety matters. The waste of taxpayer money matters. If you can’t use good judgement and put taxpayers first it’s time to find another line of work." pic.twitter.com/IWmieJmy9u— Alan He (@alanhe) June 7, 2018
But a look at Fox News’s coverage Thursday night suggests that the cable network might be staying the course. There was little coverage of Pruitt on Fox News. A search of Fox News’s website, where the network recaps its television segments, found no mention of the lotion scandal.
Of special interest was Fox News host Sean Hannity, who reportedly has nightly conversations with Trump and has been called the shadow chief of staff. He did not mention Pruitt. Instead, he led the show by covering his favorite villains: the FBI and Hillary Clinton. (The inspector general will release a report next week on the FBI’s probe of the Clinton emails.) Later in the show, he talked about Bill Clinton, who recently said he regretted not ending North Korea’s missile program.
Oh, and he spent a good part of his show talking about the media’s attacks on, well, him.
Fox News holds a great deal of power. It’s not only the main news source for 40 percent of Trump voters, but it’s the main news source for the president. With that power, however, Fox News is painting an alternate reality to shield the president and discredit mainstream media.
In this instance, Fox News isn’t trying to spin the Pruitt scandals in some positive manner. Instead, it’s just ignoring a story that makes the administration look bad, as it so often does.
And as long as the Fox News machine builds an alternate reality where none of this happened, Pruitt might be able to sleep peacefully on his Trump hotel mattress.