If President Donald Trump had been tuned in to Fox News immediately following former FBI Director James Comey’s Senate hearing on Thursday, he would not have heard the same type of staunch defense he has become used to receiving on shows like Fox & Friends and Hannity.
Instead, Fox viewers were treated to a harsh assessment of the political fallout for the Trump administration by the network’s more serious news anchors Bret Baier and Chris Wallace.
Baier went first, unwilling to say definitely “who won the day,” but quick to call Comey’s opening statement “surprising” and “strong,” noting that “he took the gloves off right away” and “numerous times, essentially, directly calling President Trump a liar.”
At the same time, Baier called former Attorney General Loretta Lynch, not Trump, the day’s biggest “loser” because of the way Comey characterized her handling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation.
“I think Jim Comey comes off as answering all questions pretty forthcoming,” Baier concluded.
Wallace, who hosts what is arguably Fox’s least biased news program on Sunday mornings, was even tougher in his assessment of the political ramifications Trump will face after today’s hearing.
On the one hand, Wallace said, “If I were Donald Trump's lawyer, I'd be pretty happy because repeatedly, and up to the day he was fired, Comey says there is no evidence that led to an investigation of Donald Trump. He was not under investigation and on the question of obstruction of justice, he said that's an open question that will have to be decided by the special counsel, Robert Mueller.”
But “politically,” Wallace added, “I thought it was very damaging to the president.”
“Repeatedly, James Comey called the president a liar, said that he lied about that the FBI was in disarray, that he defamed him and the FBI, said that the reason he kept those kinds of notes in the first place is that he thought this was the kind of man who would lie about those kinds of things,” he continued. “Not good stuff to have said on national television.”
That is a very different message from the one Fox & Friends pushed just a few hours earlier. The hosts of the right-wing gabfest said President Trump was right to feel “vindicated” by Comey’s statement and that Trump was in no way telling Comey to “stop the investigation” into his campaign’s Russia ties. Co-host Steve Doocy went so far as to argue that there was nothing wrong with Trump demanding “loyalty” from a supposedly independent FBI director.
“Keep in mind Mr. Comey had been appointed FBI director by Barack Obama, and Barack Obama had a bunch of people who were trying to blow up Mr. Trump as he came into the presidency,” Doocy said, without citing evidence. “Also, if you're a CEO or a leader, that's what you want your team to be, a bunch of people who are loyal to the team.”
And then there was Sean Hannity, who opened his show Wednesday night by railing against what he described as Comey’s “self-serving” written statement. In Hannity’s view, Comey’s testimony proved that “every conspiracy theory you have heard for month after month about President Trump colluding with the Russians” is “not true."
Just before Comey sat down to take questions from the Senate Intelligence Committee, Hannity was on Twitter escalating his never-ending feud with MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough. So far, at least, he has stayed silent on Comey’s testimony.