On Friday morning, Fox & Friends host Steve Doocy proudly proclaimed that “the Russia story is starting to fall apart.”
But by early evening, his exasperated colleague Shepard Smith was calling out the Trump administration for a level of deception he labeled “mind-boggling.”
Smith simply couldn’t contain his mounting frustration amid Friday’s news that there were more people involved in a 2016 meeting involving Donald Trump Jr. at Trump Tower. Rinat Akhmetshin, a former K.G.B. counterintelligence unit agent and Soviet army veteran who is now an American lobbyist, admitted to the Associated Press on Friday he was part of the meetings.
Akhmetshin also said Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya brought a plastic folder to the meeting with printed-out documents that detailed what she believed was the flow of illicit funds to the Democrats. Akhmetshin said she presented the documents to Trump Jr. and his associates, former campaign manager Paul Manafort and Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, and suggested that making the information public could help Trump’s presidential campaign.
Smith was speaking with Chris Wallace, host of Fox News Sunday, who has also been a vocal critic of the administration’s false statements in regards to connections with Russia and their willingness to smear the media over reporting on them.
“This really shouldn’t be a matter of liberal versus conservative, pro-Trump versus anti-Trump,” Wallace said, noting that the administration claimed at first that the meeting was about nothing more than adoption laws. “If you’re a fair minded citizen, you should be concerned about the fact that we were repeatedly misled about what this meeting concerned.
Smith was a bit less diplomatic. In less than two minutes, he tore into the White house for its handling of the controversy surrounding its ties with Russia after new reports indicated there were up to eight people in the 2016 meeting.
“We’re still not clean on this, Chris,” Smith said. “If there’s nothing there, and that’s what they tell us, why all these lies? Why is it lie after lie after lie?”
At first, Trump Jr. originally denied he met with any Russian officials, but reporting by the New York Times forced him to release emails showing he set up the meeting while seeking dirt on Hillary Clinton. Even as he claimed he was being transparent, Trump Jr. failed to disclose Akhmetshin’s presence in the meeting, and hasn’t yet identified the eighth person who was also in attendance.
“The deception is mind-boggling,” Smith added before delivering what could be viewed as a warning to Fox News colleagues who have defended the White House’s reported connections with Russia and called out the media as promoting an anti-Trump agenda.
“There are still people out there who believe we’re making it up, and one day they’re gonna realize we’re not, and look around and go, ‘Where are we? And why are we getting told all these lies?’” Smith said.
Wallace, who called the meeting a clear attempt at collusion and has been critical of the administration’s false statements in regards to connections with Russia, remained speechless for several seconds before responding.
“I don’t know what to say,” Wallace responded. “I think that there’s a lot of truth to everything that you’ve said.”
By Friday evening, Fox News opinion hosts returned to a narrative sympathetic to President Trump and his administration. Fox News Specialists host Eric Bolling speculated that “maybe the Russians were colluding with Hillary Clinton to get information on Donald Trump.” His colleague, The Story host Martha MacCallum, ripped Democrats and said their shift on the danger Russia poses “can’t be taken lightly.” The Five co-host Jesse Watters proclaimed, “Everybody wants to talk about Russia, Russia, Russia, but Russia doesn’t affect anybody.”
Sean Hannity, Trump’s biggest supporter on the network and perhaps in all of media, said Democrats and the “destroy-Trump media” have been colluding in “an effort to damage, to delegitimize, and ultimately overturn an election of you the American people and destroy the president.”
“This show will always be fair and balanced,” Hannity said to close his program.