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Attacking ‘hysterical’ media a go-to segment at Fox

July 19, 2018

President Donald Trump arrives to sign an Executive Order that establishes a National Council for the American Worker during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House, Thursday, July 19, 2018, in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

NEW YORK (AP) — What do the phrases “blind hatred,” ″frothing,” ″hysteria,” ″meltdown,” ″freak-out” and “derangement” have in common? They’ve all been used by Fox News Channel personalities this week to describe media coverage of President Donald Trump’s Helsinki summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Both Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham denounced the media at the top of their programs Wednesday. Ingraham instructed viewers on the “Anatomy of a Freak Out” and Hannity offered a history lesson with clips that dated back to election night 2016. Tucker Carlson and the “Fox & Friends” crew also joined in.

“The media has spun around like whirling dervishes,” Ingraham said. “They’re giddy with excitement. Never has so much been made of so little.”

Attacking the media is hardly a new strategy for politicians like Trump, who popularized the term “fake news,” or at Fox. The segments illustrate how Fox’s opinion leaders circle the wagons when their heroes are questioned. What’s interesting is the pushbacks came on a week when others at Fox News joined with those critical of the president.

Hannity is the acknowledged master of the anti-media strategy. A headline behind him Wednesday read “Shocking: Media attempts to undermine legitimately elected president of the United States.”

“They move from crisis to crisis — hysteria, hysteria, hysteria,” said Hannity, the top-rated personality in cable news.

A day earlier, he told viewers: “You have just witnessed the single worst 24 hours in the history of your mainstream media. And according to the abusively biased press, well, the sky is literally falling. The world as you know it is now over, and the president that you and the American people duly elected is a traitor, in the pocket of Vladimir Putin and Russia. If all this hysteria seems patently absurd to you, well, that’s because it is.”

The “destroy-Trump media” is a regular Hannity talking point. The liberal watchdog Media Matters for America noted that Hannity made reference to the media 393 times, in 93 percent of his opening monologues, between May 15 and Sept. 1, 2017.

During her show Wednesday, Ingraham mentioned Trump’s “self-inflicted wound” of answering “no” to a reporter who asked whether Russia was still targeting the U.S. for election meddling. White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders later said the president was indicating that he wasn’t answering questions — even though Trump subsequently went on to address Russia.

“The rabid media, Democrats, the neo-cons, the never-Trumpers, they hope to turn that little nick into a mortal blow,” Ingraham said. “And now, they’re just making no sense at all.”

Another Fox prime-time host, Tucker Carlson, hosted a professor who likened the reaction against Trump to “mob violence.”

During his campaign and since, Trump has been able to galvanize voters who consider the media part of the establishment that they resent, said Jeff McCall, a communications professor at DePauw University.

“For the people who don’t like the media to start with, they were glad to see that,” McCall said. “And these are the people who are in the audience watching Fox in prime time.”

Fox’s ratings indicate they know what works with their audience, he said.

The anti-media segments were often accompanied by video clips of other news organizations. Particular favorites this week were CNN’s Anderson Cooper saying Trump’s performance at his news conference with Putin was “disgraceful,” and CNN’s John King calling it the “surrender summit.”

Not included were clips from Fox News or its sister Fox Business Network, where several personalities criticized Trump in the hours after the summit. Neil Cavuto said Trump’s performance was “disgusting.” Bret Baier called it “almost surreal.” To Trish Regan, it was “clearly not his best performance.”

Seven hours before Ingraham acknowledged Trump’s “self-inflicted wound” on Wednesday, Fox’s Shepard Smith made the incident the lead of his news show. “The truth is recorded,” Smith said. “Why he says one thing and the White House attempts to change it, we don’t know.”

Brian Kilmeade of “Fox & Friends” suggested Tuesday that Trump should pay attention to his critics, while co-host Steve Doocy called the president’s performance “puzzling.” That seemed forgotten a day later, when the morning show aired a package of critical clips under the headline “Media Blasts Trump’s Approach.”

Fox did not make an executive available to talk about its shows. A spokeswoman noted that the media is an important part of the story and that some of the statements others made on the air are worthy of debate. Despite being clearly opinionated, Ingraham and Hannity included guests that were critical of the president, spokeswoman Carly Shanahan said.

Fox also draws distinctions between its journalists and commentators. One of its most respected journalists, Chris Wallace, drew widespread praise for his tough interview with Putin this week. Interviews of Trump by Hannity and Carlson were seen much less favorably.

The president tweeted Thursday about coverage of the summit, claiming the “fake news media” badly wants to see a major confrontation between the U.S. and Russia. The media “hate the fact that I’ll probably have a good relationship with Putin,” Trump tweeted.

Fox’s White House correspondent John Roberts noted via Twitter that Trump had doubled down on his “fake news media, enemy of the people mantra” for reporting that his meeting with Putin was widely panned by fellow Republicans.

“That makes me an enemy of the state,” Roberts wrote.

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News Researcher Rhonda Shafner contributed from New York.

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