In an October, 2019 meeting between Bill Barr and Rupert Murdoch, the attorney general of the United States reportedly pressured a cable news network to “muzzle” legal analyst Andrew Napolitano, who opined that Trump deserved impeachment.
The Guardian obtained a copy of Stelter’s forthcoming book, “Hoax: Donald Trump, Fox News and the Dangerous Distortion of Truth” (out Tuesday) and reported:
Citing an unnamed source, Stelter writes that Trump “was so incensed by the judge’s TV broadcasts that he had implored Barr to send Rupert a message in person … about ‘muzzling the judge’. [Trump] wanted the nation’s top law enforcement official to convey just how atrocious Napolitano’s legal analysis had been.”
Though Barr’s words to Murdoch “carried a lot of weight”, Stelter writes, “no one was explicitly told to take Napolitano off the air”. Instead, Stelter reports, Napolitano found digital resources allocated elsewhere, saw a slot on a daytime show disappear, and was not included in coverage of the impeachment process.
In Stelter’s telling, Napolitano thought he was being kept off air by “25-year-old producers” who didn’t think viewers could handle his analysis. Stelter, however, says an unnamed “twentysomething staffer” confirmed that one host, Maria Bartiromo, would only book Napolitano to discuss non-Trump topics, because he would upset Bartiromo too much if he criticised the president.
Two thoughts: There seems to be a lot that is “not explicitly told” at Fox but is widely understood. Former O’Reilly Factor producer Joe Muto has written that shows were not given “marching orders,” per se, but that each showrunner “knew exactly what was expected of them, knew what topics and guests would be acceptable.”
“Theoretically, each show could talk about whatever they wanted to talk about, and take any angle they wanted to take, and book any guest they wanted to have on,” Muto continued. “Realistically, there was tremendous pressure to hew closely to the company line.”
My other thought is that Shepard Smith, a Napolitano ally, abruptly resigned two days after Murdoch’s meeting with Barr. You may recall that Carlson had publicly smeared Smith and Napolitano after Napolitano opined that it appeared Trump had committed an “impeachable offense” when he pressured Ukraine to give him dirt on the Bidens, and Smith defended Napolitano.
You can watch Sherman discuss Smith’s departure below, from MSNBC’s October 11, 2019 The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell.
(Napolitano image via screen grab)
(H/T reader Eric J.)