White House condemns Fox News chyron calling Biden ‘wannabe dictator’ as broadcaster walks back accusation

Conservative network has long battled charges of slanted reporting

John Bowden
Washington DC
Thursday 15 June 2023 12:58 BST
Fox hosts shout down co-presenter as she tries to explain charges against Trump

The White House has fired back after a producer at Fox labelled the president a “wannabe dictator” in a chyron on Tuesday evening while former President Donald Trump spoke about his criminal indictment.

Press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre called the incident “wrong” at her daily briefing on Wednesday.

"So, there are probably about 787 million things that I can say about this, that was wrong about what we saw last night, but I don't think I'm gonna get into it,” she said.

Fox News says that the chyron was taken down quickly and addressed with staff internally.

A spokesperson for the network provided news outlets with a response to questions about the stark imagery that blared across Fox viewers’ screens Tuesday evening as the network played a split-screen of Mr Biden at a White House Juneteenth event and the former president’s speech denouncing his criminal indictment.

“The chyron was taken down immediately and was addressed,” read the short statement in full.

The explanation came more than 12 hours after the actual incident and nearly as long after disbelieving and disgusted reactions began pouring in.

“This country is completely unprepared for a full-time propaganda network,” wrote David Lazarus, a journalist for KTLA in Los Angeles.

The chyron had played as Mr Trump protested the 37 counts he has been charged with in connection to a trove of presidential records, including classified materials, which were taken from the White House in January of 2021. The former president’s legal team resisted handing them over for months, finally resulting in an FBI raid of Mar-a-Lago last year.

Some allies of the president have attempted to paint the situation, without a shred of evidence to support the serious charge, as a personal political vendetta held by Joe Biden who is supposedly pulling the strings at the Justice Department. Meanwhile, the president has in actuality refused to comment about the investigation at all, insisting only that he remains committed to the continued independence of the agency by receiving no briefings on the subject whatsoever.

Mr Trump’s own allies in the GOP, meanwhile, have been far from lock-step in agreeing with the charges of a politicised prosecution. While the president’s most fervent loyalists, lawmakers like Lindsey Graham and Kevin McCarthy, have fallen into line, others in their own party like Mitt Romney, Mike Pompeo and Chris Christie have ridiculed their defences and backed up both the credibility of the Justice Department’s investigation and the seriousness of the charges themselves.

On Fox, loyalty to the former president is still a valued commodity but less so in the wake of Tucker Carlson’s firing from the head of the network’s primetime lineup and the cable giant’s massive settlement with Dominion Voting Systems over spreading falsehoods and conspiracies about the 2020 election, including Dominion’s machines.

Former Trump Attorney General Bill Barr made that clear in an appearance on the network earlier this week, where he speculated that Mr Trump was “toast” if the DoJ could prove even half of their allegations.

“It's a very detailed indictment and it's very, very damning,” he told the network. “And this idea of presenting Trump as a victim here, a victim of a 'witch hunt,' is ridiculous."

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