Did Fox Cover Paul Manafort? The Network Showcased Cheeseburger Emojis Instead Of The Indictment
Anyone who follows American politics was on edge all weekend, wondering who the first indictment in the Mueller investigation would target. When the news finally broke on Monday morning that former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and his longtime associate Rick Gates would be charged, nearly all of major news organizations rushed to cover it — well, most of them, at least. Fox News' coverage of the Manafort indictment didn't exactly follow the pattern, instead focusing on topics such as cheeseburger emojis.
On Fox & Friends, a program that the president watches regularly, the subject of discussion was the report that the Obama campaign had paid the company that funded the dossier. While CNN and MSNBC reported that Manafort was going to turn himself into the FBI, Fox covered the tantalizing issue of a change to the cheeseburger emoji.
Fox & Friends did briefly discuss the Manafort indictment eventually — right before moving on to a segment about the most popular Halloween candy.
When asked for a comment, a Fox News spokesperson pointed to several breaking news segments that the network has done since the Fox & Friends program ended.
Paul Manafort just agreed to turn himself in to the FBI. What should we report on?— Roberto Ferdman (@robferdman) October 30, 2017
Fox News: Hamburger emoji pic.twitter.com/Wjsvkb2coW
The report that Mueller would serve an indictment on Monday sparked a full weekend of speculation on who would be charged, and many news organizations immediately jumped on the chance to provide new information on the subject. Fox, however, did not. While their coverage has since turned to Manafort's indictment, the initial reporting was decidedly lagging behind.
"We have split screen TVs throughout the office ... and the juxtaposition was stark," says Roberto Ferdman, a correspondent at VICE News/HBO who pointed out that very juxtaposition on Twitter. "We shouldn't pretend like they aren't talking about it," he tells Bustle, pointing out that they have since turned their focus to the indictments. "They were just slower to it than others, and the hamburger coverage didn't help."
Fox & Friends is on a commercial break right now, but here is what they were discussing a few minutes ago. pic.twitter.com/gqpgtwx7XH— Marina Fang (@marinafang) October 30, 2017
It wasn't just the hamburger emoji, either. After the news about Manafort and Gates' indictment had already started rolling in, Fox & Friends turned its coverage to a what they saw as a controversial op-ed in Newsweek. Unlike many media bombshells that come with no prior notification, this time it had already been clear since Friday, when CNN initially reported that the indictments had been filed and that those mentioned there could be taken into federal custody as early as Monday morning.
Guys everybody turn on Fox and Friends, they are ALL OVER what is clearly the biggest news of the morning pic.twitter.com/Fo5ZYuRNII— James Poniewozik (@poniewozik) October 30, 2017
Fox didn't keep their audience in the dark after Fox & Friends ended, and the next show, America's Newsroom, featured several segments about the Manafort indictment. On their website, the Mueller investigation eventually became the top story. While many love to point out various pieces of evidence for Fox's conservative bias, it cannot be said that Fox has entirely neglected to cover the Manafort indictment and how it relates to the Trump/Russia story.
However, even on a show like Fox & Friends, it's still striking that they would choose to cover something so seemingly banal as an emoji when such a hotly anticipated story had just dropped. The writers for Fox & Friends, after all, had access to the same information as anyone else did. What their coverage shows, though, is that they chose not to prepare for the not unlikely outcome that someone would be indicted while their program was going on.
It's an unfortunate coincidence for the network that Fox's critics were able to get such jarring images — the Manafort indictment vs. a hamburger emoji — but they easily could have prevented it by simply covering the indictments earlier. The fact is that a Fox & Friends viewer who turned away from their television after that show would only have seen a few minutes of discussion about the Manafort indictment, before the discussion moved on to Halloween candy.
For someone who gets their news from Fox & Friends, the charges brought against Trump's former campaign chairman weren't even a big enough deal to displace a story about Reese's Peanut Butter Cups.