Fox News has never cared about having a coherent and consistent message. As a propaganda and disinformation network, it's not Fox News' job to make sense: It's Fox News' job, these days, to cover for Donald Trump. Yet in the wake of the unfolding Ukraine collusion scandal, where Trump has admitted to pressuring a foreign country to dig up dirt on his domestic rival, Fox News and the conservative media seem particularly lost and scatterbrained as they search for a Trump defense. And yes, it's difficult to land on a defense strategy when Trump himself has admitted to the attempted Ukraine collusion.
The looming challenge for Fox News: How do you defend Trump from allegations of collusion, when Trump has confessed to doing it? (Trump to reporters: “There was pressure put on [Ukraine] with respect to Joe Biden.”) For his media defenders in the conservative biosphere, the Ukraine scandal represents a completely different assignment than the Russian election interference scandal, which Trump vociferously denied being involved in. “The last time he was accused of collaborating with a foreign power to influence an election, he denied it and traveled the country practically chanting, “No collusion!” This time, he is saying, in effect, so what if I did?” The New York Times noted.
Perhaps sensing his political mistake in admitting to collusion, Trump on Tuesday tried to change his cover story, claiming he withheld aid to Ukraine because Europe wasn't contributing any funds, not because he wanted the Ukraine government to dig up dirt on Biden.
Of course, Fox News will likely defend Trump no matter what he does, and no matter what protocols he shreds and which laws he breaks. But the network’s Ukraine messaging in recent days doesn’t make for very compelling programming, and that's what Fox News is in the business of. The Ukraine spin doesn't seem to fire up the base the way Fox News's 18-month crusade against special counsel Robert Mueller and his Russian investigation likely got the blood pumping for hardcore viewers. Feasting on having a proper man-made villain, Fox News and the right-wing media depicted the lifelong prosecutor as a snake and a political assassin hired by Democrats to upend Trump's presidency.
The current Ukraine confusion extends to the Republican Party as well, where top officials seem unsure of how to respond to Trump's admitted collusion.