May 9, 2017, was a momentous day in American politics—unless you were watching Fox News.
Late that afternoon, President Trump stunned Washington by firing James Comey less than a week after the FBI director had testified to Congress about, among other things, the bureau’s investigation into the Trump campaign’s possible connections to Russia. On the heels of that news came a rapid-fire series of revelations that cast the dismissal in lights ranging from sinister to farcical.
Trump claimed in his letter axing Comey that the latter had informed him “on three separate occasions” that Trump was not under investigation, which if true would have violated FBI protocol. Trump’s White House sought to justify the firing, implausibly, as a response to Comey’s handling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation—for which Trump had previously praised him. Comey learned of his dismissal when he saw it on TV, and he thought at first it was a prank. White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer hid in the bushes—no, among bushes—to dodge questions from reporters. The night unfolded as if scripted by a screenwriter with a gift for dark humor.
And indeed, to anyone watching the news on CNN or MSNBC, here was a real-life, high-stakes drama wrapped in layers of deception and absurdity, unfolding minute by minute, one jaw-dropping development after the next.
On Fox News, however, it was an altogether different story. Viewers of the nation’s most-watched cable network were told first that Comey had “resigned,” then that he had been fired and that the move was controversial. But on show after show, from late afternoon into the night, the reasons for Comey’s dismissal and the nature of the controversy were glossed over, and the juicy details that followed went…