After spending weeks heaping praise onto Ron DeSantis, Fox News has suddenly turned its attention back to Donald Trump. As with other organs in Rupert Murdoch’s media empire, the network’s Relationship-fox-news” target=”_blank”>interest in Trump had been notably waning, giving Trump’s Republican competitors valuable airtime ahead of the 2024 presidential primary. But the former president’s prediction Saturday that he would soon be arrested for authorizing a 2016 hush money payment to porn star Stormy Daniels has catapulted him right back to the A block.

“Of course a radical New York prosecutor is trying to take down Trump before 2024. Duh,” Fox News host Laura Ingraham scoffed in the opening moments of her Monday show. She then informally inducted Alvin Bragg, the Manhattan district attorney investigating the payment, into “the Trump haters hall of fame,” claiming the prosecutor was treating Trump as a bigger priority than “violent criminals.” Ingraham’s segment was subsequently picked up and disseminated by a Trump-aligned super PAC.

The former president’s relationship with the network has been on shaky ground since last month, when private texts unearthed in Dominion Voting Systems’ lawsuit against Fox News revealed that several of its top personalities had bemoaned Trump’s election lies despite spouting them on air. In one message Dating back to shortly after the 2020 election, Tucker Carlson expressed his distaste for Trump, writing, “I hate him passionately”—a remark that caught Trump’s attention. But Carlson took an approach similar to Ingraham’s in his coverage of the looming indictment, arguing Monday that such a development would pose an existential threat to the democratic system. “If the Democratic Party is allowed to do this, allowed to crush the presidential front-runner—the main threat to their power—with a bogus criminal case, where does that leave us?” he said. “We’re done, because that precedent will live forever. And voters will never again determine the outcome of a presidential election.”

Carlson also attempted to downplay the severity of the alleged crime, which stems from a campaign finance violation Trump may have committed by paying Daniels off. “You can believe whatever side you want to believe,” he said, “but paying people not to talk about things—hush money—is ordinary in modern America.” (To that point, Bill O’Reilly, the man who last occupied the prime-time slot now enjoyed by Carlson, once paid an accuser a whopping $32 million in hush money.)

Meanwhile, on the Monday edition of The Five, cohost Jesse Watters claimed that Bragg was attempting to “trigger another January 6” by needling Trump’s passionate base. “They better not put my president in prison,” Watters said, referring to Trump, who is not the sitting president. “He represents 74 million Americans. And if he’s the nominee, you’re putting 74 million votes in prison. And that’s how I see it.”

As for the network’s DeSantis coverage, the 2024 shadow candidate was coming off of a week in which he finally outpaced Trump in the Fox News attention primary. A Media Matters report found that the network’s hosts, anchors, and guests mentioned DeSantis 35 more times than they did Trump during the week beginning March 5. But that was before the Bragg case restored Trump’s perch at the top of the news cycle.

Noting the sudden shift in media attention around Trump, Fox News host Greg Gutfeld theorized that Bragg was trying to “guarantee” that Trump wins the Republican nomination by reinvigorating media interest in his campaign. “Since Morning Joe and CNN aren’t giving Trump the free media…which effectively drowned out all of his competition [in 2016],” he said, “this will have the same outcome.” Ingraham, in a distinct but parallel theory, asserted that the establishment was “thrilled to use [a Trump indictment] or any other distraction” to prevent voters from recognizing the supposed national “decline” that has taken place under Joe Biden.

Still, Fox News has managed to inject some DeSantis talk into its coverage around the looming indictment. On Tuesday, Fox & Friends cohost Brian Kilmeade remarked that Trump was “blowing up Ron DeSantis” by saying that he, too, could face accusations from a woman or “possibly a man” in the future. Steve Doocy then knocked Trump for breaking “Ronald Reagan’s slogan not to talk ill of fellow Republicans.” But Pete Hegseth, a weekend Fox News host, felt DeSantis threw the first blow by subtly noting that he was a novice in terms of hush money and porn stars. “I was actually disappointed in Ron DeSantis today,” said Hegseth. “He started with a too-cute-by-half political jab at Trump.… The donors kind of chuckled—in some ways it felt sanctimonious. It felt like a Jeb Bush, sort of Scott Walker cheap shot.”

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