Donald Trump and Fox News played it safe Thursday with an Iowa town hall event that went over the former US president’s election lie and sexual assault liability.
The uncharacteristic omissions were a stark contrast to Trump’s recent town hall on rival network CNN, and likely a relief for both his lawyers and those for Fox News.
In April, the embattled network agreed to pay Dominion Voting Systems $787 million to avoid trial in the company’s lawsuit over its promotion of Trump’s debunked claims about the 2020 election.
The case had already embarrassed Fox News for several months and raised the possibility that its founder, Rupert Murdoch, and stars like Tucker Carlson and Sean Hannity could testify publicly. Fox News is still facing a defamation lawsuit from another voting technology company, Smartmatic.
But Thursday night’s town hall with Trump in the Des Moines suburb of Clive was pre-recorded, giving Fox News the option to release egregious lies about the 2020 election in general, or Dominion and Smartmatic in particular, before they air.
That choice may have informed CNN’s fateful decision last month to go head-to-head with Trump’s city council from New Hampshire. The former president repeated a barrage of false election claims and insulted writer E. Jean Carroll one day after he was found guilty of sexual assault and defamation charges against her; Carroll now intends to return to court to seek additional damages.
The Fox News version, hosted by Hannity in front of a pro-Trump partisan rally, manages to avoid references to the stolen election conspiracy theory or the Carroll case. Instead, with soft questions and staccato answers, he’s taken aim at Joe Biden and his opponents in the Republican primary like Ron DeSantis, the governor of Florida.
Hannity began: “Unlike CNN fake news, it’s not my job to sit here and debate the candidate. We’re going to ask him about the issues of the day that are important to people — voters who will also have their questions.”
Despite that promise, Hannity kicked off the event by showing film of the 80-year-old Biden suffering a fall at the U.S. Air Force Academy’s graduation ceremony earlier Thursday. Republicans and Fox News have long sought to make the president’s age a campaign issue.
After Trump broke into yells, jeers and chants of “USA! USA!”, Hannity asked him to comment on the incident. “Not good,” said Trump, 76. “It’s sad, it’s sad. They represent — we all represent the country when you become president — and you’re not allowed to.
“But it happened. It happened and it happened very badly. We’re not going to get into that, but we all know those and they count those actions and, you know, they’ll never forget it. But that was a bad downfall.”“
Hannity went on to suggest that Biden is “not an epistemologist”. Trump responded that he had urged Hannity not to joke about the matter, for example by suggesting that Biden needed a “sippy cup”. he added “This is the most dangerous time in the history of our country because of the power of weapons and we have people who do not understand what is happening.“
Later, Trump also launched an attack against his Republican primary challengers, whose names drew boos from the crowd. He rejected DeSantis’ claim that he is a better candidate because he could theoretically serve two terms. “I heard DeSanctis say, ‘Oh, I have eight years, he gets four.'” “You don’t need four or eight. You need six months.”
The former boss poked fun at Chris Christie’s approval rating in his native New Jersey, called Asa Hutchinson “Ada” Hutchinson, and suggested DeSantis wouldn’t be his main rival soon: “I really go after the second person and I think the second is dropping so much and so quickly that I don’t think “He’s going to be second for a while longer. I think he’ll be third or fourth. He had a really bad day today. He got so angry with the press.”
Trump added, as the audience laughed: “He was outraged by the fake news.“
Just as on CNN’s town council, Trump stressed his role in appointing the Supreme Court justices who helped overturn Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court that enshrined the constitutional right to abortion, but he warned against alienating voters by taking an extreme stance on the issue. DeSantis recently signed a six-week abortion ban in Florida.
Trump said, “She did something no one thought was possible. She got rid of Roe v Wade and in doing so, she put the pro-life in a very strong negotiating position. Now they’re negotiating about different things and I’m from the Ronald Reagan school on waivers, where you have a life.” The mother, the rape and the incest. For me, that’s something that works very well and maybe 80 or 85%, because don’t forget, we have to win the election.. “
He noted that the issue galvanized Democrats in last year’s midterm elections. “When you didn’t have exceptions, they viciously went after people — ads — and those public speaking people didn’t do very well in terms of elections.“
The former president also blasted several criminal investigations into his behavior (“If my poll numbers go down, it’s all over”), insisted everything he did dealing with classified documents was “correct” and made false assurances about the amount of documents found in Biden’s possession. He made racist comments about Washington’s Chinatown district and claimed he could settle the war between Russia and Ukraine “within 24 hours”.
Ammar Musa, a spokesman for the Democratic National Committee, said: “In what has been mostly a rambling, incoherent appearance full of recycled lies on Fox News, Donald Trump has told the truth at least once in his safe place — no one has done more to pave the way for him to ban abortion. across the country from it.
When Trump is given a platform, he is reminding America not only of the failure of his presidency, but just how dangerous and extreme he has been. While President Biden focuses on continuing to deliver historic results for working families and protect Americans’ hard-won freedoms, all Trump does is remind the American people to reject him and his failed presidency.”
DeSantis, who aims to recover from the launch of a misleading campaign, was touring New Hampshire on Thursday. In Laconia, he cast a glance at former reality TV star Trump by remarking that “driving isn’t about entertainment.” Former Vice President Mike Pence and former New Jersey Governor Christie are expected to join the race next week.