Reprinted with permission from MediaMatters
“As a reporter,” Fox News anchor Chris Wallace said of Ambassador Gordon Sondland’s bombshell testimony before the House impeachment inquiry on Wednesday afternoon, “it seems to me, we have to go to what the headline is today.” And that headline, Wallace explained, was that Sondland had directly implicated President Donald Trump in a quid pro quo in which an Oval Office meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and potentially U.S. military aid to Ukraine were conditioned on Zelensky’s public announcement of investigations intended to benefit Trump politically.
On the websites of many national news outlets, journalists had indeed determined that the headline coming out of the hearing was Sondland’s acknowledgement of the quid pro quo and his declaration that senior officials, including Trump, were engaged in its formulation.
But that sentiment was not universal. Shortly after Wallace’s remark, I checked FoxNews.com, the website associated with his own network. There, the top headline was “President Trump declares ‘it’s all over’ for impeachment inquiry after Sondland testimony.”
Other headlines on the site hyped Sondland’s statement that Trump had told him he wanted “no quid pro quo” from Zelensky — Sondland made clear that whatever Trump said, it was obvious the Ukrainians weren’t going to get the meeting or aid if they didn’t announce the investigations — or promoted diatribes from House Republicans and the network’s own commentators denouncing the inquiry.
As the afternoon went on, FoxNews.com moved even further away from the story Wallace had considered the hearing’s “headline.”
That’s typical for FoxNews.com, whose homepage is a window into pure, unfiltered GOP propaganda, downplaying or ignoring stories damaging to the president while vigorously promoting his interests.
The tendency has been particularly clear since last summer. That’s when Fox — for all its airs about having separate news and opinion divisions — put Sean Hannity’s then-executive producer, Porter Berry, in charge of its website.
Reporters would consider Sondland’s bombshells about Trump and the quid pro quo “the headline” coming out of the hearing, as Wallace points out. But reporters aren’t in charge at FoxNews.com.