The Times reported Sunday—via three tax-return pages, sent anonymously—that the real-estate mogul lost nearly a billion dollars in 1995 and seemingly used such severe losses to avoid paying taxes for 18 years.
The tax return demonstrates that despite Trump’s repeated claims to being a near-superhuman businessman, he managed to lose $916 million on bad business casino deals and a failed airliner; and that, despite his objections to “elites” like Hillary Clinton, Trump himself is among the wealthy few who can afford to game the tax system to avoid paying their share.
The first mention on Fox News of the Times’s scoop, however, attempted to make The Gray Lady into the villain.
“A bold move from the New York Times trying to take down Trump claiming he has not paid taxes in years,” Fox & Friends host Abby Huntsman read from the teleprompter. “But the evidence and how they got it raising a lot of questions this morning.”
Her co-host, Tucker Carlson, played lead spinmeister for much of the weekend. His take: blame Bill Clinton and President Obama.
“Who was president in 1995 when [Trump’s tax returns] took place? Bill Clinton,” Carlson said during Sunday’s 7 a.m. hour. “I don't remember him arguing that our tax code was in favor of rich people against normal people. I don’t see Obama saying that.”
The take was so hot, Carlson repeated it again an hour later.
“Why didn't anybody in 1995 say anything about this system we now all acknowledge is corrupt and bad for ordinary people? Bill Clinton was the president in 1995. I was covering politics. I don’t remember Bill Clinton saying, ‘You know, our tax code is so rotten, you can lose a billion dollars and write it off your taxes for 20 years.’”
“This is exactly why we don’t have other good people that want to run for office because everything is so public,” Huntsman later lamented. “You can’t get away with anything in life.”
“This is a sign of desperation by the liberal mainstream media,” he said, when asked how the Times story will hurt Trump, if at all. “They’re throwing everything they have, at some point, they’re going to tire out, and the American people, on November 8th, they’re going to fire back and knock the liberal mainstream media out in terms of their influence over the American public and their politics.”
Carlson gleefully served up a self-answered softball in return.
“If Donald Trump is so corrupt, you would imagine every federal lobbyist in D.C. would be giving him money, don’t you think? But is that happening? Oh, wait, none are.”
Unsurprisingly, Fox’s more respected shows like Fox News Sunday and a weekend edition of Bret Baier’s Special Report, treated the Times revelations much more soberly: interviewing both Clinton and Trump surrogates on the story, followed by panels featuring political experts from across the spectrum.
But later that evening, one of Fox’s most vociferous Trump sycophants led the charge in spinning the story against the Times. With the help of Trump economic adviser Stephen Moore, host Jeanine Pirro promptly dismissed the scoop as a non-story obtained through illegal and possibly more shifty means than disclosed.
According to Moore, the IRS may be responsible for the leaks:
“We’ve seen the way they’ve prosecuted conservative organizations,” he said. “This might have been someone within the IRS under Obama.”
And then the pair slammed the Times for their “liberal bent,” suggesting that the tax-returns report shows how the newspaper is “no longer impartial.” (For the record: the Times is the newspaper that also broke Clinton’s private email server scandal.)
The obfuscation machine started up again on Monday morning’s edition of Fox & Friends.
“The New York Times reporting Donald Trump may not have paid federal taxes for 18 years, as more shady deals untravel from the Clinton Foundation,” host Heather Childers opened a segment. “So which is worse?”
An hour later, Brian Kilmeade repeatedly wondered aloud whether the Obama IRS purposely leaked the documents. Steve Doocy, too, came to Trump’s rescue, noting that “even after audio was leaked of Hillary Clinton mocking Bernie Sanders's supporters back in February in Virginia, the headlines are still caving for Clinton. So are these just more examples of the media's double standard? Yeah, probably.”
Ed Henry asked the same question 24 hours earlier.
And their co-host Ainsley Earhardt tried to make the story about Clinton: “Here’s the ironic thing, though. Hillary Clinton has done it. She's calling it a scheme. Yet in 2015 she took a $700,000 loss.”
(The Clintons’ 2015 tax returns claim that loss from the prior year, but received only $3,000 in deductions and paid $3.2 million in taxes.)
An hour later, Earhardt repeated: “Maybe Hillary Clinton is going after his taxes because she wants the focus off of the email scandal. And then if you look at her tax returns, in 2015, she took a $700,000 loss. So she's doing the same thing that Donald Trump did.
“And look at the Clinton Foundation. What's happening there? The question is is that illegal?”