Fox News on Wednesday afternoon bucked its usual us-against-them mentality towards CNN and publicly expressed solidarity with the rival network over White House press access.
“We stand in strong solidarity with CNN for the right to full access for our journalists as part of a free and unfettered press,” Fox News president Jay Wallace said in a statement after CNN’s White House reporter Kaitlin Collins was banished from a Rose Garden press conference.
Fox News anchor Bret Baier hammered home the company line, saying on-air, “As a member of the White House press pool, Fox stands firmly with CNN on this issue of access.”
But Lou Dobbs, as one of Fox’s biggest stars, apparently didn’t get that message. Or he did and just didn’t care for it.
Shortly after Wallace and Baier made clear where Fox News stood on the issue, Dobbs took to his top-rated Fox Business Network primetime show to cheer the Trump White House (as is his wont) for its decision to punish the CNN reporter for shouting a question at the president during a photo-op.
“It’s about time there were consequences for disrespectful behavior in the White House,” he declared.
Dobbs bashed Collins, a well-respected White House reporter who actually hails from a pro-Trump, conservative media outlet.
“I guess my question would be, ‘Who the hell are you?’” he said. “The president does insist on respect.”
Dobbs was virtually alone at Fox in his public support for the White House in this situation. His fellow conservative Fox Business host Stuart Varney voiced his support for CNN’s White House reporter on Thursday morning.
“Fox News has come out in support of the CNN reporter. I support her as well,” he said. “I support CNN, I think you have the right to ask questions if you want to ask.”
Along with Fox News ratings leader Sean Hannity, Dobbs remains one of the president’s favorite cable-news hosts. Several people familiar told The Daily Beast earlier this year that Trump enjoys the Fox Business host so much that he has dialed Dobbs into White House meetings to seek advice on policy.
Fox News did not respond to a request for comment on Dobbs’ direct undermining of the company’s line. But his Wednesday evening remarks were not the first time Fox’s right-wing opinion wing has been completely at odds with the network’s hard-news reporting and standards.
Months into the Trump presidency, in March 2017, Fox News judicial analyst Judge Andrew Napolitano made the unverified claim that the British government aided former President Obama in allegedly wiretapping Trump during the 2016 campaign.
“Fox News cannot confirm Judge Napolitano’s commentary,” consummate news anchor Shepard Smith said on-air several hours later, effectively representing the outlet’s “hard-news” division. “Fox News knows of no evidence of any kind that the now president of the United States was surveilled at any time in any way—full stop.” Napolitano was briefly suspended by the network.
Later in the year, when Hannity spent a week touting a debunked conspiracy theory that Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich was murdered in 2016 for talking to WikiLeaks, Fox News hard-news staffers expressed dismay to The Daily Beast over how network brass failed to put the kibosh on Hannity’s irresponsible antics.
“The other reporters I’ve talked to [about this] are similarly pissed about the whole thing,” one reporter said. “Some find it embarrassing, others downright heartless [to spread this].”
And earlier this year, Hannity insisted that there was a spy in the Trump campaign during the 2016 election, despite the fact that Smith had reported earlier that Fox News had no evidence to support that claim.
Fox has often explained away the contradictions between its hard-news operation and its right-wing primetime stars by trotting out the age-old claim that commentators are entitled to their opinions—cold, hard facts be damned.
Last fall, hours after Smith used his daily news broadcast to debunk the fever-dream conspiracy that former Secretary of State Clinton approved a sale of uranium to Russian in exchange for donations made to her foundation, Fox primetime star Tucker Carlson blared on-air about the so-called “Uranium One” ordeal being “the real Russia scandal.” In the next hour, Hannity stood in front of an elaborate chart connecting the deal to the “Clinton crime family.”
Fox’s explanation for the deep, troubling paradox within its organization?
“We support both of our talent. Shep is an outstanding journalist, and Sean is an outstanding opinion commentator.”