Trouble brewing at Fox News aka Trump TV

0
584

There is trouble brewing at Fox News aka Trump TV. It’s resident “legal analyst” Judge Andrew Napolitano has been going off the reservation as of late, being highly critical of the unlawful actions of Donald Trump.

In this segment of Judge Napolitano’s Chambers, he breaks down the Mueller Report and finds that Donald Trump committed multiple acts of obstruction of justice for which the remedy is impeachment.

Judge Napolitano followed this up with an opinion at Fox News. Judge Andrew Napolitano: Did President Trump obstruct justice? (excerpt):

On obstruction, [Attorney General] Barr is wrong.

So, the dilemma for House Democrats now is whether to utilize Mueller’s evidence of obstruction for impeachment. They know from history that impeachment only succeeds if there is a broad, national, bipartisan consensus behind it, no matter the weight of the evidence or presence of sophisticated legal theories.

They might try to generate that consensus by parading Mueller’s witnesses to public hearings, as House Democrats did to Nixon. Yet, when House Republicans did that to Clinton, and then impeached him, they suffered politically.

The president’s job is to enforce federal law. If he had ordered its violation to save innocent life or preserve human freedom, he would have a moral defense. But ordering obstruction to save himself from the consequences of his own behavior is unlawful, defenseless and condemnable.

When Trump has lost Judge Napolitano, he is in big trouble.

Trump’s Minister of Propaganda at Trump TV, Sean Hannity, is so upset that Vanity Fair reports he is considering leaving Trump TV in the transition of Fox Corp. after the sale of its entertainment division to Disney. “EXECUTIVES ARE VERY WORRIED FOX & FRIENDS WILL BE NEXT”: AFTER TAKING OVER FOX, LACHLAN MURDOCH IS IN A TRUMP TRAP (excerpt):

The network has never been more powerful—and at the same time so vulnerable. Fox programs influence Trump daily, but that has opened the network up to charges that it is State TV. Inside Fox, a long-running cold war between the network’s journalists and right-wing, prime-time hosts has turned hot. Fox journalists, bristling at being branded an arm of the Trump White House, are lobbying Fox News C.E.O. Suzanne Scott and president Jay Wallace to rein in Fox & Friends, Sean Hannity, Lou Dobbs, and Jeanine Pirro. “Reporters are telling management that we’re being defined by the worst people on our air,” a frustrated senior Fox staffer told me last month. News staffers are feeling emboldened to go after Trump in increasingly visible ways. Fox’s opinion hosts, meanwhile, have made the case that the prime-time lineup not only reflects the audience’s worldview but is responsible for the majority of the network’s advertising revenue and fees paid by cable companies that carry Fox. “We make the money,” an anchor close to Hannity told me. According to a source, prime-time staff complained to Fox management in March when a Muslim producer on Bret Baier’s staff tweeted criticism of Jeanine Pirro. “You can’t have a producer attacking talent. [Roger] Ailes would never have allowed that,” a prime-time staffer said. While Fox’s prime-time shows generate the lion’s share of the network’s ratings and ad revenues, there have been increasing issues with lost advertising. Many blue-chip companies don’t want to buy time on those shows because of the divisive pro-Trump content. “Executives are very worried Fox & Friends will be next. If advertisers start bailing on them, they’re screwed,” an insider said. (Marianne Gambelli, Fox’s president of ad sales, responded: “Advertisers know the value of our loyal and engaged audience and we expect no change in our business going forward.”)

Going forward, though, Lachlan is in a trap. He can’t simply issue a directive to temper the pro-Trump coverage to win back advertisers and calm restive reporters, because he would risk antagonizing the network’s most important viewer: Trump. That happened in March when Fox suspended Jeanine Pirro for delivering an offensive monologue questioning Democratic congresswoman Ilhan Omar’s patriotism. Trump quickly criticized Fox and lashed out at Fox journalists, tweeting: “Were @FoxNews weekend anchors, @ArthelNeville and @LelandVittert, trained by CNN prior to their ratings collapse? In any event, that’s where they should be working, along with their lowest rated anchor, Shepard Smith!” He implored Fox to “keep fighting for Tucker”—Media Matters had uncovered a series of offensive statements Tucker Carlson had made while calling in to Bubba the Love Sponge’s radio show—“and fight hard for @JudgeJeanine.”

Inside Fox, staffers speculated Pirro would be fired, two sources told me, but Trump pre-empted such a move by calling Rupert Murdoch to complain about her suspension. Fox agreed to allow Pirro to come back on the air but cut her opening monologue, a venue for her most incendiary rhetoric. When Trump found out about that, he called Rupert again, a source said. A compromise was proposed: Pirro could return and deliver a shortened version of her opening statement. “Trump called Rupert, and Rupert put pressure on the executives,” a source briefed on the conversations told me.

Another risk that Lachlan faces if he intervenes in Fox’s programming is antagonizing Trump’s favorite host. According to sources, Hannity is still angry over the Murdochs’ firing of Fox News C.E.O. Roger Ailes and co-president Bill Shine, Hannity’s close friend and former producer. Hannity believes the Murdochs are out to get Trump. “Hannity told Trump last year that the Murdochs hate Trump, and Hannity is the only one holding Fox together,” a source who heard the conversation told me. Hannity has told friends that he intends to leave Fox when his contract expires in early 2021, two people who’ve spoken with him said. “Sean doesn’t feel supported,” a staffer close to him said. “He has no relationship with Lachlan. Sean thinks, Wait a second, I was hired to get ratings and I get ratings, but now people are embarrassed about me? He feels Fox spends a lot of time supporting Shepard Smith but his show makes no money. That’s annoying to him.” (Hannity did not respond to a request for comment.)

In the short term, Lachlan is likely to stay the course. His politics are much more in line with his father’s. “There’s a sigh of relief with James being gone. When he was around we were worried we would put something on the air that pissed off James’s wife,” a former Fox executive said, referring to Kathryn Murdoch, an environmentalist who once worked at the Clinton Climate Initiative. But Fox staffers share Hannity’s view that in the long run Fox could drift to the center. Though Lachlan hired West Wing stalwart Hope Hicks, staffers believe he is likely to nudge the network away from its close marriage to Trump. Sources close to Lachlan pointed out that Lachlan is a libertarian conservative, not a MAGA diehard, who in private has expressed annoyance at Trump. “He doesn’t like Trump,” one person who has spoken with Lachlan told me. “There’s a lot of talk of the direction of the network changing under Lachlan,” the senior Fox staffer said. Sources also pointed out the hiring of Donna Brazile and the appointment of sometime Trump critic Paul Ryan to Fox Corp.’s board as signs of Lachlan’s view on Trump. “Donna is a shot in that direction,” the staffer said. “Management knows they have an image problem.” But the staffer cautioned that any changes will be modest, at least at first: “Lachlan is not James.” (A spokesman for Lachlan declined to comment.)

* * *

Indeed, Fox News transformed American politics, shaping and motivating the voters that Trump stepped in to claim. But now, creating distance from Trump may be the necessary first step in a larger strategy. Some believe it’s inevitable that the Murdochs will sell Fox News. “Everyone thinks they’re going to sell it. It’s too small to be independent,” the anchor told me.

Sean Hannity can always go to work for RT, the Russian international television network funded by the Russian government. He already parrots their propaganda in perfect unison.