Fox News won't let new facts get in the way of a good conspiracy
Today’s edition is a special collaboration with Public Notice, a newsletter by my friend and former colleague Aaron Rupar. You can subscribe to Public Notice and get regular updates from Aaron and his excellent roster of contributors here.
After months of innuendo and speculation, they finally had their man.
On May 14, House Oversight Committee Chairman James Comer (R-KY) appeared on Fox News and said he had identified an "informant" who had evidence that "Joe Biden, when he was vice president, was involved in a quid pro quo with a foreign country in exchange for foreign aid."
There was just one problem, according to Comer: the informant had gone missing. "[W]e can't track down the informant," Comer told Fox News' Maria Bartiromo. "We're hopeful that the informant is still there."
What happened to the informant with bombshell information? Comer was vague. "These informants are kind of in the spy business," he said. "So they don't make a habit of being seen a lot or being high-profile or anything like that." Comer suggested that one of the reasons he wasn't able to get in touch with the informant is that "the Biden White House" is "intimidating" people with relevant information. Right now, the missing informant and other people with dirt on the Bidens, Comer alleged, "fear for their lives."
"This is absolutely extraordinary and it is stunning that some people are missing," Bartormo said. "Just stunning, a stunning breaking news story this morning, that some of these people now may be missing."
On May 31, Miranda Devine of the New York Post, which has the same parent company as Fox News, reported that the "missing" witness was Gal Luft, a dual US-Israeli citizen. Devine provided more details of Luft's allegations:
In March 2019, Luft met with four FBI officials and two DOJ prosecutors at the US Embassy in Brussels to provide information that Chinese state-controlled energy company CEFC had paid $100,000 a month to Hunter Biden and $65,000 to his uncle Jim, in exchange for their FBI connections and use of the Biden name to promote China’s Belt and Road Initiative around the world.
Luft also alleged "that Hunter had an FBI mole named 'One Eye' who had tipped off his CEFC business partners… that they were under investigation." Luft said that he shared this information with the FBI in 2019.
Devine also acknowledged that Luft had been arrested in Cyprus in February on charges that he conspired to sell Chinese weapons to foreign countries, violated the Foreign Agents Registration Act, and lied to law enforcement. Luft had gone "missing" when he skipped bail while awaiting an extradition hearing to the United States.
Devine appeared on Laura Ingraham's Fox News show on June 2 and described Luft as a "mild-mannered professor in Washington, D.C." When Bartiromo picked up the story a few days later on Fox News, she only said that Luft was "on the run from the law on charges he denies."
On July 5, Luft emerged again, sharing a 14-minute video with Devine outlining his allegations against the Bidens. Luft alleged he came forward because he was concerned about Joe Biden's corrupt relationship with China. "I did it out of deep concern that if the Bidens were to come to power, the country would be facing the same traumatic Russia collusion scandal — only this time with China," Luft said in the recording. "Sadly, because of the DOJ’s cover-up, this is exactly what happened."
But, according to a 58-page indictment filed by the Department of Justice on November 1, 2022, and unsealed on Monday, it was Luft who had a corrupt relationship with the China. According to prosecutors Luft "conspired with others in an effort to act within the United States to advance the interests of the People’s Republic of China as agents of China-based principals, without registering as foreign agents as required under U.S. law." Specifically, Luft allegedly "agreed to covertly recruit and pay, on behalf of principals based in China, a former high-ranking U.S. Government official ('Individual-1”), including in 2016 while the former official was an adviser to the then-President-elect, to publicly support certain policies with respect to China without LUFT or Individual-1 filing a registration statement as an agent of a foreign principal with the Attorney General of the United States." According to the indictment, Luft also was involved in illegally selling Chinese arms and Iranian oil.
Did the detailed criminal charges against Luft have any impact on the tenor of Fox News' coverage? Absolutely not.
How Fox News took the news about Luft
On the heels of the unsealing of Luft’s indictment on Monday, Bartiromo led the effort to portray his prosecution as the fruit of a sprawling DOJ conspiracy to protect Joe Biden and keep Luft from testifying before Comer's committee — nevermind that Luft was charged months before Republicans took control of the House.“You’re not getting the witnesses that you need, because many of them are getting intimidated,” she told Rep. Greg Murphy on Tuesday. “Gal Luft was just indicted!”
The idea that Luft’s indictment represents an effort to intimate witnesses in Biden investigations was a recurring theme of Bartiromo’s show on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Bartiromo also played a leading role in spreading the big lie in the weeks following Trump’s loss in 2020. But as was the case with her unhinged theories about election fraud, Bartiromo has enlisted prominent and powerful people in the Republican Party to lend credibility to her conspiracies about Luft.
On Tuesday, for instance, Bartiromo discussed Luft’s indictment with purported moderate Congresswoman Nancy Mace (R-SC). Mace pushed the narrative that Luft’s indictment is an effort to kneecap Republican investigations, saying the DOJ is“trying to silence our witnesses.”
On Wednesday, Bartiromo interviewed Kevin McCarthy and pushed Luft conspiracy theories while the House Speaker nodded along. “This guy who tried to tell the FBI and the DOJ what he knew about the transactions, business deals in the Biden family, now he had to go on the run and is getting indicted,” Bartiromo said, prompting McCarthy to boast that Republicans are “showing the truth, not playing politics.”
Bartiromo’s conduct is egregious, but she’s far from the only voice on Fox trying to flip reality on its head. During an interview with Comer on Monday evening, Ingraham questioned the “timing” of Luft’s indictment, even though Ingraham is a highly trained lawyer who almost certainly understands the difference between being indicted and the unsealing of the charges.“The timing is always coincidental, according to the Democrats at the Department of Justice,” Comer replied.
And it’s not just Fox News opinion hosts who are refusing to let facts get in the way of their narrative. On Tuesday, “news” host John Roberts suggested that Luft’s indictment increases the credibility of his allegations against the Biden family.
“The fact that he's been arrested now and is accused of being an agent of China has got the left just having a field day with this, saying it shreds his credibility, but the flip side of that coin is if you're accused of being a foreign agent for China, you probably know who else is working with them,” Roberts said during an interview with Rep. Darrell Issa.
A responsible news organization would respond to the indictment of a key source with self-reflection and incorporate new facts into their reporting. But not Fox News. When facts arise that cut against their narrative, Fox News simply enlarges their conspiracy theory to accommodate them.