One of Fox News’s star journalists found himself battling his own viewers after an appearance by former President Donald Trump on his show that many independent observers said was damaging for the ex-president’s credibility.
Bret Baier won compliments from his colleagues in the media this week for the no-ground-given interview with the ex-president, which aired in two parts over Tuesday and Wednesday. But the reaction from the twice-indicted ex-president’s fanbase was less enthusiastic.
One commenter, a blue-check Trump supporter, wrote a tweet attacking both the interview and Baier’s upcoming gig moderating the first Republican primary debate, set to be held on 23 August. They attacked Baier as a “Murdoch mouthpiece” and suggested that Mr Trump should skip the Fox debate.
A second commenter then seemingly admitted that Mr Trump had said something incriminating during their discussion, while questioning whether the journalist had coordinated with the Department of Justice.
“Bret and Martha [MacCallum], two anti-Trumpers, will be moderating the first GOP debate. Why the hell would Trump show up to that? Especially after this interview that was actually a debate between Trump & Murdoch mouthpiece. Remember Murdoch’s are all in for DeSanctimonious!” wrote the first critic, Alex Bruesewitz.
The second tweeter added: “The big question is did @BretBaier have any contact with the DOJ to try and entrap @realDonaldTrump into incriminating himself. Who wrote his questions. The DOJ will be using his interview against him.”
Baier flatly rejected that conspiracy in a short statement: “I’ll answer that. No. I wrote my own questions. And frankly I didn’t know that I would get much on the indictment questions assuming he might say he couldn’t talk about it. Thanks for watching.”
He would later go on to approvingly retweet another viewer who took a mocking shot at a third critic of the Trump interivew.
The comments are a sign of the increasingly tight spot that Baier and others on Fox’s news side find themselves in.
Their network faces a ratings slide following the ouster of star opinion host Tucker Carlson, and increasing disfavour from the channel’s largely pro-Trump audience over any journalism that conflicts with the former president’s conspiracy theories.
Baier struck a nerve with the former president in the segment of the interview which aired on Tuesday, as he rejected Mr Trump’s claim that the 2020 election was stolen and pressed him to admit that all of his efforts to prove otherwise had failed.
But that wasn’t the only moment when the two men clashed during the discussion. Baier would also question Mr Trump about his new push to expand use of the death penalty to those convicted of selling narcotics, a plan that would likely have little if any chance of success of being passed into law.
The Fox journalist noted that a woman Mr Trump took public credit and admiration for having her sentence commuted would have instead been executed under his plan, forcing the ex-president to back off his hardline stance and qualify that degrees of severity would ideally be considerd under this imaginary system.
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