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A version of this article first appeared in the “Reliable Sources” newsletter. You can sign up for free right here.

As a reporter who spends a lot of time consuming and covering right-wing media, it has been surprising to see such little coverage of the role pro-Trump media, specifically Fox, is playing in Trump’s impeachment scandal. You might not be watching “Fox & Friends” and reading Breitbart and listening to Rush Limbaugh — but GOP lawmakers know their voters are.

Much of Fox currently serves as an arm of the White House messaging operation. Make no mistake: If Trump survives the deepening scandal he now finds himself in, it will be because of Fox and the rest of the pro-Trump media machine muddying the waters and poisoning the public conversation.

Cable news is all over a long list of angles related to the Ukraine (and now China) scandal. But this is a KEY part of the story, and deserves coverage as well.

Right-wing media has locked Republicans from access to its own voters

Analysts frequently say that Trump is maintaining support among his GOP base. Why is that? It’s because his supporters are getting their info from Fox, talk radio, and a cluster of pro-Trump websites. That’s the root issue.

If you wonder why Senate Republicans are so afraid to speak out against Trump, just think: Where do the voters who elected these Senate Republicans get their news? Then ask, if you’re a Senate Republican up for re-election, would it be smart for you to say something that would very likely result in you being excoriated on these outlets? Probably not.

The big picture

Over the years, right-wing media has successfully managed to lock the Republican Party from access to its own base. Republican voters have been taught not to trust politicians or the mainstream media. So who have they been conditioned to trust? Media personalities like Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, Tucker Carlson, etc. Elected Republicans know that speaking out against Trump will result in facing a vicious wrath from the very people who their voters trust most.

Don’t believe me? Just ask Justin Amash, who was celebrated for years by the conservative media. Ask him what happened when he spoke out against Trump…

House Dems release text messages between US diplomats and Ukrainians

Three House committees released documents and text messages provided by former American Special Envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker on Thursday. You can read the full document here on CNN…

>> Key line from the letter: “The President and his aides are engaging in a campaign of misinformation and misdirection in an attempt to normalize the act of soliciting foreign powers to interfere in our elections…”


That was the Thursday evening headline on HuffPost, and one that I thought summarized things magnificently. CNN also had a great chyron earlier which said, “Trump Admits To Very Offense Dems Looking To Impeach Over.” Trump on Thursday attempted to move the goal posts by repeating what he said privately in public.

That leaves newsrooms with an inherent challenge. As James Poniewozik put it: “One endemic problem in the media is that it finds it easier to cover a ‘scandal’ in a minor act that’s kept secret (or that’s just purported to be secret) than in a major, egregious act that’s done right out in the open.”

He’s right. There is this perception that if someone is doing something out in the open, then it must be OK. Newsrooms, using reputable legal analysts and historians, must explain clearly to their readers that this is not the case.

Todd: “This moment should be a national emergency”

To that point, Chuck Todd noted on his program, “This moment should be a national emergency.” Todd explained that “the precedent” Trump’s calls for foreign interference “would set” would leave “lasting damage” to the country. But Todd noted that “there has been virtually no condemnation” from the Republican Party.

In fact, The Financial Times said it “contacted all 53 Republican senators on Thursday to ask if they were concerned that Mr Trump had encouraged China, a US adversary, to investigate the Bidens. While some were unavailable for comment due to their travel schedules, not one of the members responded via their staff to express any concern.”

Glasser: The restraints “are gone”

“Did Donald Trump just self-impeach?” That’s what Susan Glasser asks in her newest Letter from Trump’s Washington for The New Yorker. Glasser says we don’t know where the probe will end, but we do know that “the restraints on him are gone, and they are not coming back.”

Whistleblower attorney calls out Laura Ingraham

Mark Zaid, a lawyer for the whistleblower, called out Fox’s Laura Ingraham in a scathing Twitter thread Thursday evening. Zaid said Ingraham had accused him on her show of having had previously represented Chuck Schumer and Hillary Clinton.

“To use coined phrase: FAKE NEWS!” Zaid wrote, adding, “To be clear, at no time have I ever represented Senator Schumer or Secretary Clinton. Ever. Never.” Zaid wrote that his colleague, Andrew Bakaj, once interned for Schumer and Clinton nearly 20 years ago in college. But that is not what Ingraham said.

>> On her program Thursday night, Ingraham conceded she was “incorrect.” You can see that here…

What the heck happened today?

Brian Stelter emails: I am grateful to the news websites that are coming out with daily digests and compilations of the day’s Trump- and impeachment-related news. CNN, for instance, has both a Live Story with chronological updates, AND a “top takeaways” list by Zach Wolf. I thought I was plugged-in all day long, but I missed several of the stories on here.

The NYT also has a newsletter and page called “What Happened Today,” all about the impeachment inquiry, which is worth reading here…

Coming Friday…

Josh Campbell tweeted Thursday night: “Just think, the really crazy stuff usually breaks on Fridays…”


– Most-read story on the WaPo website Thursday night: “IRS whistleblower said to report Treasury political appointee might have tried to interfere in audit of Trump or Pence” (WaPo)

– Back to the Ukraine scandal: “When the story is written, the whistleblower will just be an afterthought,” Jim Geraghty notes… (NRO)

Read more of Thursday’s “Reliable Sources” newsletter… And subscribe here to receive future editions in your inbox…

– Hell of a visual here: “Donald Trump is part of a digital human centipede of his own making,” Ryan Broderick writes… (BuzzFeed News)

– “The much-delayed $100 million deal for American Media Inc. to sell theNational Enquirer to Jimmy Cohen, owner of magazine wholesaler Hudson News, now looks as though it could be wrapped up in the next 60 days…” (NY Post)

– Chris Cillizza writes about those Breitbart “polls” Trump keeps tweeting… (CNN)

– Uh oh: Over the last week, there have been more “positive readings for bedbugs,” per a Thursday memo that went out to NYT staff. The new readings were located on two floors, including the second floor which is where the main newsroom is located…