Tucker Carlson described it as an “internal espionage operation” that was “hidden under the pretext of national security.” Laura Ingraham described senior Obama administration officials as “exposed”. Sean Hannity categorically declared it “the biggest corruption and abuse of power scandal” the country has ever seen.
The person in the intelligence reports ended up with Michael Flynn, who served as a national security advisor to President Donald Trump before he was fired for lying to Vice President Mike Pence about his contacts with Russia. Obama officials who asked for the “unmasking” of the American citizen, however, would not have known Flynn’s identity until after he was “unveiled.”
During the transition period, Flynn’s name would have appeared in intelligence reports due to his extremely erratic contacts with foreign officials, including phone calls with the Russian ambassador and a meeting with a delegation from the United Arab Emirates. Obama-era national security officials said they “exposed” Flynn as they attempted to decipher these unconventional diplomatic dealings.
The news that Trump’s Justice Department had expired landed without charges being brought against Fox News. Martha McCallum covered it on her show Tuesday evening, but a search of the texts did not reveal any other instances that Fox has covered it on air. The story was briefly shown on the Fox News homepage before it was removed Wednesday afternoon. Even when it was shown on the network’s website, it wasn’t given the same play as the initial disclosure stories in May.
This episode represents another case where Fox News and its hosts unfairly inflated a harmless national security measure into a supposed scandal, only to later watch it quietly collapse before moving on to feed something else to its audience.
A Fox News spokesman did not respond to a request for comment on Wednesday.
It’s hard to overestimate the extent to which Fox News promoted the revelation story in May, let alone as a malicious plot against Trump.
And it wasn’t just pro-Trump advocates on Fox News, such as Hannity and Ingraham, who shared the story. Fox News broadcasters, such as Brett Bayer, whom the network promotes as covering the news in a meaningless “live news” manner, have also raised the story on their shows.
For example, Bayer has hosted right-wing commentator Molly Hemingway to discuss the presumed scandal without challenging her assertions, although it is far from the path of what the national security community says.
The topic was featured in countless other news portions on the network as experts chewed through declassified documents.
CNN’s Marshall Cohen contributed to this report.