Fox Shows Herald A 'Kinder, Gentler' Trump, But That Guy Never Shows Up

Fox Shows Herald A 'Kinder, Gentler' Trump, But That Guy Never Shows Up

Sean Hannity

Former President Donald Trump

As Donald Trump prepared to speak following his unexpectedly narrow victory over former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley in the New Hampshire Republican primary, Trump loyalists Kellyanne Conway and Sean Hannity predicted a courteous and focused performance from the former president.

“I think Trump tonight will continue to be very gracious,” Conway said. The Fox News host responded, “I think you're right, I think he will do that tonight,” adding that Trump’s recent “tone” shows he's “been dialed in in a way that I've not seen, honestly, since 2020.”

That kinder, more deliberate Trump did not appear on stage. Instead, the likely Republican presidential nominee raged throughout his speech. He castigated Haley as “delusional,” criticized her “fancy dress that probably wasn’t so fancy,” suggested that she would be “under investigation” if she won the nomination due to things “she doesn’t want to talk about,” and falsely claimed that he won New Hampshire in the 2016 and 2020 general elections.

After the speech ended, a deflated Hannity said that while Trump's ire with Haley was “understandable,” he wished Trump had instead focused on President Joe Biden.

There’s a long tradition of political journalists declaring that a new tone from Trump is either imminent or has finally arrived, only for the former president to double down on his typically unhinged behavior and make those people look ridiculous. The likes of Hannity, Conway, and several others at Fox who offered similarly rose-colored views of Trump over the last few days seem to be going further than that — they are desperately trying to will such a pivot into existence.

Martha MacCallum, a Fox anchor who the network props up as one of its “straight news” types in spite of her obvious right-wing views, applauded Trump’s “very kind of different, earnest demeanor” in a recent Fox town hall. “I think that his tone was very different,” she told TheWrap in an interview. “He did not talk about a rigged or stolen election at all during the entire hour. I don’t know that you could go back and find it an hour when he hasn’t brought it up since all of that happened back in 2020. I think he wants to broaden his appeal and we’ll see if it works.”

Fox contributor Newt Gingrich also argued that Trump had adopted a new, less polarizing tone. “If you watch his tone, he has very correctly begun to move toward a unifying [message], bring us together, solve problems,” he told Hannity on Monday. “So I am encouraged that this could be a remarkable general election.”

A similar discussion broke out on Fox Business' Varney & Co. after National Review editor Deroy Murdock praised Trump’s “new tone” as “delightful, warm — kind of a kinder, gentler Donald J. Trump.”

“You see that too?” an elated Stuart Varney replied. “It is a different tone, and it started with Fox's town hall.”

“He just seems calmer, less bombast, less name-calling, that sort of stuff,” Murdock said. “And if he keeps that up, that will calm people down. A lot of people just want to see that, and they’re happy to go along with him otherwise.”

Murdock’s comments get to the heart of the matter. Right-wing figures at Fox and elsewhere will inevitably back Trump for financial and ideological reasons. They’re undeterred by the numerous crimes the former president allegedly committed, his naked corruption and authoritarianism, or his attempts to overthrow the 2020 election and end American democracy. But it would be more pleasant for them to rally behind Trump if they didn’t have to alternatively defend or ignore his deranged public statements.

Unfortunately for Hannity and company, that behavior is the core of who Trump is. Defending the indefensible is the life they’ve chosen in exchange for maintaining their audiences and securing a policy agenda of tax cuts for rich people and bans on abortion, and there’s no way around it.

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.

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