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Fox News and right-wing media have already decided the Trump trial verdict

Charly Triballeau/Pool via AP

Editor’s Note: A version of this article first appeared in the “Reliable Sources” newsletter. Sign up for the daily digest chronicling the evolving media landscape here.

The jury might still be deliberating, but Donald Trump’s media allies have already delivered a verdict to their audiences.

Throughout the duration of the Manhattan hush-money trial, Fox News and the rest of MAGA Media have set the stage to absolve Trump in the historic case. Day after day, week after week, popular personalities such as Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham, and Steve Bannon have lampooned the judicial system, portraying Trump as an innocent victim of political persecution.

Inside this alternate media universe, the actual facts of the case never penetrate the bubble that shields its audiences from detrimental developments for Trump. Instead, alternate dishonest storylines are disseminated as the gospel truth.

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Not only is Trump entirely innocent of any and all wrongdoing in the MAGA Media world, but President Joe Biden is guilty of nefariously weaponizing government to wage “lawfare” on his political opponent. Audiences are told that Biden cannot win a fair fight with Trump, so he has resorted to illegal “election interference” by rigging the judicial system against Trump.

It goes without saying that these narratives are built on foundations of lies and innuendo that do not hold water. Biden does not control the judicial system. The hush-money case is taking place in New York state court with charges brought by the Manhattan district attorney. And it isn’t Trump’s left-wing enemies who have been making headlines testifying against the GOP candidate in the case, it’s his former allies, such as one-time fixer Michael Cohen and former National Enquirer boss David Pecker.

Nevertheless, millions consuming right-wing media have been fed these deceptive storylines, impacting how voters perceive current events and, more importantly, cast their ballots. In the Republican Party, voters absorb their information from outlets like Fox News, which has dishonestly run defense for Trump over the course of the trial.

“WHERE’S THE CRIME?” demanded a banner on Ingraham’s prime time show Wednesday along with a graphic showing images of Biden, Judge Juan Merchan, and Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg “THE REAL FRAUDS.”

In the following hour, Jesse Watters accused Merchan in an on-screen graphic of “LEADING THE JURY” and intimated how “very fishy” it was that a “stop Trump” judge was selected to preside over the case.

The progressive Media Matters said in a study published this week that Fox News has leveled at least 200 attacks on Merchan alone since the trial commenced — a staggering number that does not include the attacks on others associated with the case. And the study only accounted for Fox News, not the host of other entities that make up the right-wing media universe.

It can be tempting to ignore the torrent of attacks Trump’s media allies are launching in their unrelenting efforts to undermine the case. But those forces are shaping how a large swath of the country understands the high-stakes and unprecedented trial taking place in lower Manhattan. And they’re a reminder that if Trump were to return to power, he has a powerful propaganda apparatus at his disposal that will do everything in its power to sanitize his actions — whatever they may be.

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