How often do you see a news bureau make a point of refuting a big scoop from one of its own contributors? But I guess that’s what has to happen when your network’s in the middle of an international incident — enabled by the president of the United States, no less.
“You shouldn’t be talking to me” about Napolitano’s claim, Trump said at today’s press conference, “you should be talking to Fox.” So Smith started talking:
Shep: "Fox News knows of no evidence of any kind that the president of the United States was surveilled at any time in any way, full stop." pic.twitter.com/W3XkViL4ES
— John Whitehouse (@existentialfish) March 17, 2017
That’s a notably broad claim — not just that Fox has no evidence of GCHQ being involved but no evidence of any surveillance of Trump, period. The hard-news side of Fox has always had to battle for credibility among centrist and leftist viewers who are suspicious of the pundit side’s conservative agenda. Imagine how pissed the Bret Baiers and Chris Wallaces are today knowing that they’ve been saddled with Andrew Napolitano’s mess.
The British MP who now chairs Parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee issued a statement today knocking down Napolitano’s theory. Pretty comprehensive. Click the text to enlarge:
Full statement from Dominic Grieve, chair of Intelligence and Security Committee, on GCHQ/Trump. POTUS can't ask for interception. pic.twitter.com/Fwx3TExYF1
— Tom Cheshire (@chesh) March 17, 2017
Point three is the key, I think. Even if, as Napolitano claimed, Obama went to GCHQ to avoid a paper trail within the United States and asked them (not “tasked” them) for material on Trump, there would still be a paper trail in the UK. Someone should be able to prove it. Where’s the proof?
Nevertheless, even with Theresa May’s government angry, Fox News in full retreat, and Spicer and H.R. McMaster having reportedly apologized last night, the White House seems to be shifting back to Trump’s “never say you’re sorry” approach. They now claim that no one apologized; Spicer and McMaster merely fielded the Brits’ complaints and defended Spicer’s decision to mention the Napolitano story. Spicer, when asked about this today, replied, “I don’t think we regret anything. We literally listed a litany of media reports that are in the public domain.” Sounds like the word has come down from the boss himself to stop admitting error, probably because it’s terrible for Trump’s perpetual talking point about how his supporters shouldn’t trust “fake news.” “Fake news” is usually just code for stories that reflect badly on him whereas the Napolitano story reflects well on him and badly on Obama (and comes from his favorite cable network, no less). Admitting that that’s “fake news” would confound the whole equation. That’s how we got Trump mentioning Napolitano’s “very talented legal mind” at a presser with the chancellor of Germany today even though literally no one else, including the people who pay Napolitano’s salary, are backing him up on this.
Here’s Jake Tapper doing one of his now-daily “I can’t believe this sh*t” takes about the White House, this time about the GCHQ mess. Note his point near the end about how Fox’s news division had been conspicuously silent in supporting Napolitano’s allegation. And now Shep has turned around and shot it down.