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Media Watch: On the Right

Fox News coverage of the Comey memo highlights media war

Viewers tuning into CNN and Fox News on Tuesday evening for coverage of the purported memo by former FBI Director James B. Comey were treated to wildly different accounts.

A close associate of Comey confirmed that the FBI director had written a memo reporting that President Trump had asked Comey to "lay ... off" the investigation of former national security advisor Michael Flynn and his connections to Russian officials. The memo, as first reported by the New York Times, was written after Comey met with the president in February.

While CNN's coverage focused heavily on whether Trump's actions constituted obstruction of justice, much of Fox News' coverage implied the media reports were part of a campaign by Democrats and those media outlets to discredit Trump. "Dems & Media in meltdown over Trump-Russia ties,” read a headline.

In a straight-ahead report, Fox News chief White House correspondent John Roberts said of the bombshell news: “I think it bears repeating: the White House saying the president has never asked Mr. Comey or anyone else to end any investigation, including any investigation involving Gen. Flynn. But what we don’t know, though, is what the president actually did say to the former FBI director during that meeting. We only know what the White House is claiming.”

What followed on Fox News were a series of appearances by guests, including a U.S. senator, who repeated refrains that Trump uses regularly: The outcry was the result of a media double-standard and the real culprits were the government officials who leaked information to reporters.

“You have a couple of large newspapers that are so vitriolic and hateful against the president that every little scrap of paper that blows across their desks that says something bad about him -- they blow it up, and I think that’s what you got,” Sen. Jim Risch (R-Idaho) told Fox News anchor Martha MacCallum.

“There is only one person who committed a crime, and that is whoever the weasel was that disclosed this information,” Risch said. “That’s a felony, it’s un-American, and they endangered the lives of their families and other Americans. And that person is guilty of treason and should be held to answer for it.”

Republican strategist Karl Rove, also speaking on Fox, said there was a double-standard.

“What about President Obama publicly saying that Hillary Clinton had not done anything wrong while the FBI was investigating whether or not she had done something improper?” Rove asked.

He suggested that Trump did the same thing as Obama. “Saying, 'She hasn’t done anything wrong' -- in essence, signaling to the FBI: drop it,” Rove said.

Rove, an advisor to former President George W. Bush, suggested that Trump's problem is his political affiliation.

“He’s a Republican,” Rove said. “He was elected with an R behind his name. Who thinks he is going to get the same treatment that either Bill Clinton or Barack Obama got?  Let’s wake up and live in the real world. This is everything that every Republican president has to deal with, and that is that the press is against him.”

Some conservative commentators, however, were more critical of the president's action.

Marc Thiessen, a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, said Trump was paying a “heavy price” for his handling of the Comey firing.

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