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.

Days after explosive bribery claims about President Joe Biden came ripping apart at the seams, Fox News and the broader MAGA Media universe have declined to walk back their factually-challenged narrative.

Instead, unscrupulous right-wing media figures have stuck by their corruption claims against Biden, which permeated the conservative information space to such a degree that they spawned Republican-led investigations on Capitol Hill and fueled an eventual impeachment inquiry against the sitting president.

In fact, in the wake of Special Counsel David Weiss charging the FBI informant, Alexander Smirnov, with fabricating the bribery allegations against Biden, some prominent right-wing personalities have used the revelation as supposed evidence of an even deeper conspiracy theory, suggesting that the Biden administration weaponized federal law enforcement in retaliation against Smirnov for revealing the supposed scheme.

“He was too credible,” Fox News host Jesse Watters told his sizable prime time audience in the wake of the informant’s arrest, baselessly suggesting Biden “is locking up the source” to “discredit” the allegations against him.

Sean Hannity, the GOP propagandist who has spent years using his powerful media perch to dishonestly attack Biden, delivered the news to his audience in a similarly heavy-handed way. Hannity reacted to the implosion of his narrative by deflecting and questioning the credibility of various news outlets, ranting about their previous coverage of the Steele dossier and what he decried as the “Trump Russia collusion hoax.” He also assailed the integrity of Weiss, suggesting he is a Democratic hack, despite Weiss having been appointed U.S. attorney by Donald Trump. Then, after berating Weiss’ credibility, in his next breath Hannity portrayed Smirnov as having been credible.

While Fox News’ stable of hosts have declined to properly correct the record, the outlet’s supposedly non-partisan news website has also failed to update its “EXCLUSIVE” reporting from last summer publicly surfacing the informant’s false claims. Articles by reporter Brooke Singman advancing Smirnov’s bribery allegations remain unaltered on the website without a correction or mention that the one-time FBI informant has been charged with lying to the federal law enforcement about the very claims she reported.

The lack of a retraction or any real sign of contrition comes as the Smirnov allegations continue to implode in spectacular fashion. In court documents filed by Weiss on Tuesday, the special counsel said Smirnov admitted during an interview with law enforcement that “officials associated with Russian intelligence were involved in passing” along dirt on the Biden family.

“The false information he provided was not trivial. It targeted the presumptive nominee of one of the two major political parties in the United States,” Weiss underscored. “The effects of Smirnov’s false statements and fabricated information continue to be felt to this day.”

But when presenting the news to its viewers on Wednesday, Fox News anchor Harris Faulkner framed the story around the network’s chief villains, stating “Democrats and much of the media are insisting this is all a huge blow to the impeachment inquiry effort.” Faulkner added that Republicans “say there is a lot of evidence,” though she was apparently unable to do the math herself and conclude that the central witness being charged by federal authorities for fabricating claims is, indeed, a big blow to the impeachment effort.

While Fox News’ audience, like other cable outlets, has fallen in recent years, the significance of its behavior cannot be overstated. The network functions as the main organ in the right-wing media universe and has tremendous influence over the Republican Party base. By refusing to fully acknowledge the false claims and press GOP lawmakers on their relentless promotion of it, Fox News is effectively giving GOP lawmakers permission to continue doing so. In fact, the outlet creates an incentive structure for Republicans to double down on their corruption claims, given they will be rewarded with airtime on the network’s highly rated programs.

A Fox News spokesperson did not off me a comment on the network’s coverage of the revelations surrounding the informant.

The behavior, however, is par for the course for the right-wing network, which is notorious for poisoning the public discourse with dishonest propaganda aimed at propping up Trump and assailing his political opponents. Fox News rarely admits mistakes and often sticks with narratives long after they have been debunked.

Even after the Rupert and Lachlan Murdoch-controlled company paid a historic $787 million to settle its election lies-related lawsuit with Dominion Voting Systems, the network declined to run an on-air retraction. In the time since, Lachlan has publicly voiced support for Fox News’ dishonest election coverage, which helped create the conditions that led to the violent January 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.

Tim Miller, the former Republican political operative turned author, MSNBC contributor, and Bulwark writer-at-large, predicted that Fox News will never retract their Burisma claims, telling me they “have a psychological and political need for it to be true.”

“The Smirnov indictment reveals that Republican leadership in the House is advancing literal Russian propaganda about the president,” Miller said. “This should be a massive triple red siren story and yet conservative media is unbowed and completely at peace with doing Putin’s dirty work. [It’s] astounding.”

For more CNN news and newsletters create an account at

2024-02-22T13:25:37Z dg43tfdfdgfd