Several prominent Fox News hosts could not believe what they saw Monday in President Trump’s overtly deferential presser with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The joint conference in Helsinki took a turn for the shocking when, after being asked by Reuters whether he held Russia responsible for meddling in the 2016 election, Trump said he holds “both sides responsible.” The president also directly contradicted his own intelligence officials, saying he believes Putin when he says Russia did not intervene in the election.
Following the presser, Fox News anchor Neil Cavuto—appearing on the Fox Business Network—called it a “disgusting” display.
Trump was “essentially letting the guy get away with this, not even offering a mild, a mild criticism,” Cavuto said. “That’s what made his performance disgusting. Only way I feel. Not a right or left thing to me. It is wrong.”
Fellow Fox host Stuart Varney, who routinely boosts Trump’s policies, bashed the president for what was “not a very forceful presentation.” Two of the conservative host’s guests joined in, saying Putin came out ahead.
“He outmaneuvered our president,” FBN business reporter Ashley Webster said. “I was very surprised. I thought Trump was going to push hard.”
Fox Business Network anchor Trish Regan, normally an enthusiastic Trump booster, described the press conference as “horrible.”
“From what I saw, I did not like that our president was not defending us and honoring his intelligence community,” she said during her Monday show.
Fox & Friends Weekend host Abby Huntsman—daughter of Jon Huntsman, Trump’s ambassador to Russia—also minced no words in criticizing the president whom she regularly defends.
“No negotiation is worth throwing your own people and country under the bus,” she wrote in a forceful tweet following the presser. Her comment appeared to be pushing back on an emerging pro-Trump argument that the president’s deference to Putin was a means to making diplomatic in-roads with Russia.
Some of the network’s political correspondents seemingly agreed that Trump had failed.
White House correspondent Kevin Corke, who has previously flirted with alt-right politics, conceded on-air that Trump “did miss an opportunity,” while national correspondent Ed Henry said the president’s refusal to side with U.S. intelligence agencies was “really going to backfire on him.”
Brit Hume, a former anchor turned correspondent, wrote on Twitter that Trump’s “vague and rambling” answer on whether he believes Russia interfered in 2016 was a “lame response, to say the least.”
Other Fox personalities took issue with the presser, but suggested it was part of a grander Trump strategy.
On Fox News’ daytime talk show Outnumbered, host Kennedy said she doubted that Trump actually believed Putin’s denial of interference, but acknowledged that she “would like to see the president be more forceful.”
Co-host Melissa Francis, however, maintained that it was possible Trump was more forceful during the private meeting with Putin. “You have to view what he's saying outside the room as a PR campaign by the president to send a message to Vladimir Putin,” she said. “We don’t know what happened inside the room, we don't know how tough he was there."
Meanwhile, Fox News’ resident right-leaning media critic Howard Kurtz criticized the president’s “troubling” performance, but then—as is his wont—found a way to make it about the trouble with liberal media.
“It’s troubling that Trump wouldn't embrace his own intel agencies’ findings on Russian meddling against the ‘strong & powerful’ Putin denials,” Kurtz tweeted. “Liberal commentators denouncing him as Neville Chamberlain, calling for censure & impeachment, also going over the top against Trump.”