For anyone who watches Fox News Channel, it’s not at all surprising that its anchors and hosts (with few notable exceptions) talk up President Donald Trump while knocking down the Democrats running against him in 2020.
While that position puts Fox somewhere in the gray area between journalism and activism, it’s not exactly new. There are ratings in partisanship – so Fox News engages in partisanship.
But even partisanship should have its limits. And one of those limits should be raising entirely unfounded questions about a presidential candidate’s health. Which is exactly what two Fox News personalities – Kennedy and Sean Hannity – have done, according to this terrific piece by the Daily Beast Justin Baragona:
“Since the end of May, Fox Business Network and Fox News star Lisa ‘Kennedy’ Montgomery and Fox News prime-time host Sean Hannity have speculated on-air, on at least four separate occasions, that the current Democratic presidential frontrunner is secretly dealing with health issues, often comparing his condition to illness-related conspiracy theories the network pushed about Hillary Clinton during the 2016 election.”
Kennedy claimed that conversations among Democratic opposition-researchers all center on “you know there is something wrong with the former vice president.” She offered no proof for this claim.
Hannity, Fox’s biggest star, said this: “Joe Biden’s tired. He does not have the energy for this. He’s not up for this challenge. They’re already hiding him like they hid Hillary. They don’t want him out there.”
Those baseless attacks echo how Trump attacked Hillary Clinton during the 2016 campaign. “She doesn’t have the look,” Trump said of Clinton in late September 2016. “She doesn’t have the stamina, I said she doesn’t have the stamina, and I don’t believe she does have the stamina.” (Trump’s attack came two weeks after Clinton was caught on video shakily leaving a September 11 anniversary commemoration.)
Trump himself has hinted at similar themes in his early attacks on Biden, the current frontrunner for the 2020 Democratic nod. “Joe Biden got tongue tied over the weekend when he was unable to properly deliver a very simple line about his decision to run for President,” Trump tweeted in March. “Get used to it, another low I.Q. individual!” And his nickname for Biden – “Sleepy Joe” – isn’t accidental either.
The President kept up that dog-whistle drumbeat on Biden’s health before heading to Iowa on Tuesday. “I think he’s the weakest mentally,” Trump said of Biden, adding: “I like running against people who are weak mentally.”
Trump also said, without evidence, that Biden is “slower than he used to be.”
These attacks clearly are designed to raise questions in voters’ minds about electing Biden, who would be 78 on Inauguration Day 2021. That would make Biden the oldest president elected to a first term, breaking the record of – you guessed it! – Donald Trump, who was elected at age 70. Which makes the he’s-too-old-to-do-the-job argument a little tin-eared.
The Point: Trump – and his surrogates, including those at Fox – showed they were willing to do anything and everything to get him elected in 2016. These baseless hits on Biden’s health – more than a year before the election – suggest they’ll be following that same blueprint again.