Ever since former President Donald Trump was indicted by a federal grand jury, some on the political right have attempted to characterize the indictment as the current president arresting his top political opponent, the way one might do in a “communist” country or “banana republic.”
Earlier this week, for a few seconds anyway, Fox News Channel made that charge a bit more explicit.
On Tuesday night, hours after Trump appeared in court in Florida to answer the charges, and as he appeared at his club at Bedminster while President Joe Biden spoke at the White House, Fox used the chyron “Wannabe Dictator Speaks at White House After Having His Political Rival Arrested.”
If You Wannabe … a Dictator
Per the Telegraph, the chyron appeared on screen for 27 seconds, during an 8 p.m. hour hosted by Brian Kilmeade, who was sitting in on Tucker Carlson’s former Fox time slot. Following an outcry, Fox issued a statement that said: “The chyron was taken down immediately and was addressed.”
The message on the chyron is not, it’s clear, true. All reporting indicates that Biden was not involved in the process of the investigation of Trump’s document case, which was carried out by Special Counsel Jack Smith. Biden even declared that he would not speak to his attorney general, Merrick Garland, about the case.
“I have not spoken to him at all and I’m not going to speak with him,” Biden said of Garland on June 9.
Garland, for his part, defended Jack Smith, the special counsel who he appointed himself, this week. The entire point of the appointment of a special counsel was to avoid the appearance of impropriety, with the Biden Administration investigating its past and possible future opponent. A separate special counsel was appointed to investigate Biden’s own handling of classified information.
Garland praised Smith as a “veteran career prosecutor” who “assembled a group of experienced and talented prosecutors and agents who share his commitment to integrity and the rule of law.”
A Washington Post analysis described the chyron as “unusually politically charged,” while noting that “sharp political commentary” is far from a rarity in the chyrons of Fox News segments.
The White House reacted negatively to the use of the chyron, without addressing it at much length.
“So there are probably about 787 million things I can say about this,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Wednesday, joking about the $787 million settlement Fox agreed to earlier this year with Dominion Voting Systems. “That was wrong what we saw last night, but I don’t think I’m going to get into it.”
Others liked the chyron and were upset that it was taken down after 27 seconds.
The conservative website Town Hall went on to report that “Fox News Brass Didn’t Like the Epic Chyron Blasted During Trump’s Speech,” with a subsequent post carrying the headline “Whoever Wrote This Chyron at Fox News Deserves a Massive Raise.”
Sen. J.D. Vance (R-OH), a Trump backer, announced this week that he will be blocking all nominees to the Justice Department, in retaliation for the Trump indictment.
“Donald Trump is merely the latest victim of a Department of Justice that cares more about politics than law enforcement,” Vance said in a statement about the move. “Starting today, I will hold all Department of Justice nominations. If [Attorney General] Merrick Garland wants to use these officials to harass Joe Biden’s political opponents, we will grind his department to a halt,” Vance’s statement said, per The Hill.
According to the report, Vance’s hold doesn’t mean the Senate can’t confirm nominees, but that Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-NY) will have to “schedule votes on individual nominees, which will eat up floor time.”
Expertise and Experience: Stephen Silver is a Senior Editor for 19FortyFive. He is an award-winning journalist, essayist and film critic, who is also a contributor to the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Broad Street Review and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver.