Trump on disputed claim: Hey, check with Fox News
At a joint news conference Friday with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, President Trump fielded a question from a German journalist about whether he felt it was a “mistake” to accuse British intelligence of assisting President Barack Obama in allegedly surveilling him. Wrapped up in the question was a pivotal issue regarding the relationship between the Trump White House and the conservative media. After all, the claim about British intelligence stemmed directly from a report by Fox News’s Andrew Napolitano, a former New Jersey judge.
“Three intelligence sources have informed Fox News that President Obama went outside the chain of command. He didn’t use the NSA. He didn’t use the CIA. He didn’t use the FBI and he didn’t use the Department of Justice. He used GCHQ. What the heck is GCHQ? That’s the initials for the British spying agency. They have 24-7 access to the NSA database,” Napolitano said on the March 14 episode of “Fox & Friends.”
In response to the German reporter’s question, Trump said, “We said nothing. All we did was quote a certain very talented legal mind who was the one responsible for saying that on television.”
Therewith, a full-on contradiction. From the podium on Thursday, White House press secretary Sean Spicer had repeated Napolitano’s allegations about GCHQ involvement in surveillance almost verbatim. With that, the White House was exerting ownership over the reporting of Fox News. Then, alongside Merkel at the “very famous” White House, Trump disexerted ownership. “I didn’t make an opinion on it. That was a statement made by a very talented lawyer on Fox, so you shouldn’t be talking to me. You should be talking to Fox.”
The shorter version: Before Fox News’s reporting is challenged, we stand by it. After Fox News’s reporting is challenged, hey, that’s on them. With this sort of attitude, how long will it be before Trump loses his allies in the conservative media?
According to Fox News, Napolitano is standing by his story. Yet Fox News anchor Shepard Smith on Friday afternoon said that the news side of the organization couldn’t confirm the contention. “Fox & Friends,” by contrast, is considered an opinion show. Perhaps the network should send out user guides to its viewers.