Fox News hosts and pundits spent much of Friday morning pushing back against an eye-popping report from The Atlantic alleging President Donald Trump called fallen military heroes “losers” and “suckers.” The network largely focused on the story’s multiple anonymous sources to suggest it was fabricated.
And without a hint of irony, Fox News correspondent John Roberts on Friday morning cited on-air two anonymous sources refuting the bombshell report, claiming “the president never said that according to both of these sources.” Roberts also backed the president’s denial that he canceled a trip to a France war cemetery “filled with losers” because he didn’t want to get his hair wet.
(UPDATE: Further complicating Fox’s mixed messaging on the use of anonymous sources in reporting, the network’s senior national security correspondent Jennifer Griffin on Friday afternoon confirmed The Atlantic’s reporting. A former Trump official told Griffin that Trump had said aloud that soldiers who went to Vietnam were “suckers,” asked “what’s in it” for vets, suggested “wounded guys” in a military parade would be “not a good look,” and did not want to lower flags for McCain’s death.)
The morning after the president vehemently denied the story's allegations and said he’d “swear on whatever” that he never called the late Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) a “loser”—even though he very publicly has—the president's favorite morning show Fox & Friends ran cover for him.
Airing their own report on The Atlantic’s story and Trumpworld’s reaction to it, co-host Pete Hegseth—an unofficial adviser to the president—groused about the magazine’s sourcing while implying it was a politically timed hit job.
“Always anonymous sources, this happened, supposedly, two years ago, now we’re finding out about it 60 days before the election,” he grumbled. “By the way, the Trump campaign has scores of people on the record saying that’s of course not what we heard or saw. This story in The Atlantic has been catnip for haters of the president.”
Hegseth, speaking to Fox News analyst Gen. Jack Keane (Ret.), also suggested the outlet had made up the report in order to “try to muddy the waters” prior to November’s election. He further touted a White House spokesperson calling the story “false.” Keane also said the story should be looked at skeptically due to its dependence on unnamed sources.
During an interview with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo—who said he “never heard the president” call fallen soldiers “losers” and “suckers”—co-host Steve Doocy sneered that The Atlantic “would sit on the story, that was composed of anonymous sources” for two years, claiming it was to “maximize pain” on Trump.
Following Fox & Friends, Roberts appeared on the network’s “hard news” broadcast America’s Newsroom to deliver his own report on the president’s alleged comments and actions.
“This morning I have spoken with two people who were in the meetings about whether to cancel that trip,” the reporter said to co-anchor Sandra Smith. “One of them would not be described as a supporter of the president, current.”
“The president never said that, according to both of these sources,” Roberts continued. “Did not use the words losers or suckers.”
The veteran White House correspondent went on to say that the recommendation not to go to the cemetery was not the president’s but an adviser to then-Chief of Staff John Kelly, citing an email sent out at the time.
Roberts also personally remarked that he didn’t believe the story’s claims that the president waved off the trip partly because he didn’t want his hair getting wet.
“The next day, Sandra, I was with the president at the Serre cemetery, where it was raining, and he stood out for an hour in the rain and paid tribute to America’s fallen heroes,” Roberts concluded.
In a subsequent report on Friday afternoon, Roberts named one of the sources in his original report, noting it was former Trump national security advisor John Bolton, who has become a vocal Trump critic. Bolton, in his recent book The Room Where It Happened, claimed that the decision not to go to Aisne-Marne Cemetery by motorcade was made by Kelly's aide Zach Fuentes.
Roberts wasn’t the only Fox News personality citing unnamed sources to dispute the anonymously sourced Atlantic story. Fox News contributor Dan Bongino, a fervent Trump loyalist, blared on Twitter that he had it “CONFIRMED” from “LEGITIMATE sources” that the “story is BS.” Reacting to the Associated Press confirming The Atlantic’s reporting, Bongino exclaimed that it was “TOTAL BULLSHIT” and “flaming garbage.”