Fox News is gaslighting the American public about how former President Donald Trump would have handled Russian aggression against Ukraine, claiming Trump was a stronger leader than President Joe Biden and would have better protected vulnerable countries. In reality, Trump often promoted a foreign policy agenda that aligned with Russian President Vladimir Putin’s interests.
The disgraced former president publicly sided with Putin in 2018 against U.S. intelligence officials’ determinations of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. He also reportedly sided with Russia, in conversations with other world leaders, over Russia’s illegal annexation of the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine in 2014. Trump also attempted to extort Ukraine into launching an investigation against then-presidential candidate Biden by withholding military aid vital to their defense against Russia, in a scheme that led to Trump’s first impeachment. (The scheme almost worked, too.)
Trump was also infamously biting toward the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the linchpin of European military security against Russian aggression, calling the organization “obsolete” before being forced to backtrack. Trump publicly wavered in his commitment to NATO's “Article 5” assurances, which bind member states to one another's mutual defense if they were ever to be attacked, before again backtracking.
In Fox News’ alternate reality, none of this happened. Prime-time host Sean Hannity spoke Monday night with Fox News contributor and retired Army Lt. Gen. Keith Kellogg, who held a number of national security positions in the Trump administration, with the two suggesting that Trump had been a stronger leader against Russia.
SEAN HANNITY (HOST): Let me ask you this. Why is it that this happened in the Obama-Biden administration? It didn't happen in the Trump administration, and now it's happening again. Do you have any strong belief as to why that is?
KEITH KELLOG (FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR): Yeah, Sean, I do have two words: weakness and opportunity. When you look at this administration and when you look at the chief executive and you look at the national security staff that he has around him, and you look at the vice president, it’s a constant pattern of weakness.
When President Trump was in office, you know, he was resolute and he was also predictably unpredictable. He kept adversaries on their back foot all of the time and he would do things that would surprise people but adversaries would look at him and say, “Well, look, this may happen to me.”
Hannity is in fact linked to both disgraceful chapters of the Trump-Russia relationship. Hannity took a major role in pushing conspiracy theories meant to absolve Russia from the hack of Democratic emails in 2016, a role that culminated in Fox paying an out-of-court settlement to the parents of murdered Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich.
Hannity also pushed disinformation about Ukraine and the Biden family, as part of a propaganda effort linked to then-Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani, which the Fox News’ internal research “Brain Room” eventually acknowledged wasn’t credible. Hannity had also pushed a false narrative that the “real collusion” in 2016 had been between Ukraine and Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, thus helping to stoke Trump’s anger and desire to scapegoat the Eastern European country.
On Tuesday morning, Fox’s America’s Newsroom spoke with Fox News contributor and former Trump-era Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who falsely insisted that Trump had been tougher on Russia in comparison to Biden’s alleged weakness.
BILL HEMMER (CO-ANCHOR): For four years, Democrats said that Donald Trump was in awe of Vladimir Putin — and Joe Biden was one of them. Lay out for us what a proper deterrence would have been, if you believe you could have stopped Putin when you were in office.
MIKE POMPEO (FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR): Well, Bill, I can say this, The only thing that has changed in the last 14 months is the leadership in the United States of America. We’ve all known Vladimir Putin a long time. I spent a great deal of time with him and his lieutenants. He hasn't changed, his vision for reinstating the greater Soviet Union and creating a sphere of influence was precisely the same for the four years that I was in office alongside President Trump. We were determined to convince him that there were things he could not do, and we put lots of sanctions on him. But where we could work with him, we could. We had a model for engagement and deterrents that stopped him from doing precisely what you’re seeing happened this morning.
Pompeo failed to recall, however, the occasion in December 2020, when Trump publicly contradicted Pompeo about Russia being behind a massive hack of the federal government and industries. Pompeo had said that “we can say pretty clearly that it was the Russians,” but Trump instead said that it might have been China. (Trump was also very busy during that period attempting to overturn his defeat in the 2020 election — an assault on American democracy in which Pompeo also seemingly participated.)
And on Tuesday afternoon’s edition of Outnumbered, co-host Harris Faulkner said to co-host and former Trump White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany, “The White House response to Russia was quite different in the last administration. Talk to us about it.”
McEnany responded, in part: “The real truth here is this — that there is no greater supporter of the Democrat Party than Vladimir Putin.”
During her time at the White House, McEnany pushed false talking points that investigations into Russian interference in the 2016 election had resulted in “the complete and total exoneration of President Trump.”
Reprinted with permission from Media Matters