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Following the bombshell testimony of former Trump White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson at Tuesday’s surprise Jan. 6 hearing, the more “mainstream” wing of conservative media has seemingly begun to turn against former President Donald Trump.
Damning allegations that the rage-filled ex-president attempted to orchestrate an armed coup appear to be a near-final straw for some outlets that dutifully stood by Trump for several years. For evidence of this growing rift, look no further than Fox News, the conservative kingmaker that, even in the Trump presidency’s darkest moments, found ways to spin the narrative in his favor.
Even before Hutchinson—a former top aide to Trump’s chief of staff Mark Meadows—had wrapped up her testimony, the cable giant’s “hard news” anchors informed viewers that the hearing was bad news for Trump.
During a break in Tuesday’s testimony, Fox News chief political anchor Bret Baier described the hearing as “jaw-dropping” and comparable to Watergate. He went on to say that Hutchinson’s revelations about Trump’s actions—which included him demanding that police let his armed supporters attend the Jan. 6 rally because “they’re not here to hurt me”—were both “compelling” and “stunning.”
Baier’s colleague Martha MacCallum agreed that the hearing was “obviously riveting” and “very dramatic,” adding that Hutchinson came across as “very credible” and seems to have a “great memory.” And while she did say that the account of Trump throwing his lunch plate against the wall isn’t “wholly out of character” for him and showed his “deep frustration” over his inability to prove the election was stolen, she noted that the problem was he “couldn't back it up with evidence.”
And amid Trump’s online meltdown as Hutchinson testified, which featured the ex-president describing his former aide as a “total phony” and “Whacko,” Baier expressed clear skepticism over Trump’s denials.
“We are now hearing from the former president on various posts where he questions her accuracy,” Baier said. “He goes after her directly. He says he doesn’t know who she is and said he didn’t lunge at the Secret Service agent in The Beast. That didn’t happen, he says. He didn’t throw his lunch against the wall, that didn’t happen, and that she’s lying.”
Baier then deftly added: “Cassidy Hutchison is under oath on Capitol Hill. The president is on Truth Social making his statements.”
Of course, not all of Fox News is ready to move on from Trump. Some of his most loyal sycophants at the network have continued to stand by the disgraced ex-president, pointing to minor disputes regarding some of Hutchinson’s testimony to roundly dismiss the entirety of her accounts of Trump’s behavior before and during the Capitol insurrection.
Among those disputes is the fact that the Secret Service has denied that Trump “lunged” at his security agents, a relatively inconsequential disagreement with a second-hand account that hardcore MAGA outlets claim has discredited all of Hutchinson’s testimony.
And yet, more mainstream conservative media figures have almost uniformly painted the hearing as “devastating” for Trump.
Mick Mulvaney, Trump’s former budget chief and acting chief of staff, wrote in a USA Today op-ed on Wednesday that Hutchinson “briefly worked” for him at the White House and he finds her testimony “eminently credible.” While he has long felt the ex-president’s attempts to overturn the 2020 election were “wrong but legal,” Mulvaney wrote, the revelations from Tuesday’s hearing have forced him to reconsider.
“Things could get very dark for the former president,” Mulvaney, now a CBS News contributor, warned.
The editorial board of conservative Beltway paper The Washington Examiner went even further, declaring that Hutchinson’s testimony “ought to ring the death knell” for Trump’s political career. “Trump is unfit to be anywhere near power ever again,” the board wrote.
Noting that “Hutchinson was a conservative Trumpist true believer and a tremendously credible one at that,” the Examiner stated that what she revealed was “disturbing,” “distressing,” and “believable.”
The editorial concluded with a stunningly clear parting note: “Trump is a disgrace. Republicans have far better options to lead the party in 2024. No one should think otherwise, much less support him, ever again.”
And in a column for the influential conservative magazine National Review—yes, the same one that futilely rallied against Trump ahead of the 2016 election only to become more deferential during his tenure—columnist Andrew McCarthy wrote that “things will not be the same after” Hutchinson’s “compelling” and “devastating” testimony.
“All in all, though, Hutchinson showed the nation, moment by moment, what he was like on a day when, undeniably, Trump was at his worst,” the Fox News contributor asserted. “It was worse than America thought.”
Not everyone in the more mainstream halls of right-wing media seems willing to toss in the towel on Trump and fully move on to another GOP hopeful (cough, Ron DeSantis, cough) for 2024.
Fox News primetime hosts Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham—who both served as informal Trump advisers and texted Meadows and other Trump associates during the Capitol attack—lashed out at Hutchinson and the committee on Tuesday night.
“Today the so-called witness also claimed President Trump wanted to get rid of the metal detectors at the January 6 rally and allow armed individuals to attend,” Hannity huffed at the top of his show. “Today, President Trump flat out denied this claim and pointed out a simple fact. Zero guns were ever discharged by those that breached the Capitol or in D.C. that day.
He also slammed Hutchinson’s “incredibly bizarre hearsay” allegations about Trump’s volatile limo ride before taking a personal shot at her.
“She wanted to work for Donald Trump outside the White House when he wasn’t president—at Mar-a-Lago—and according to people that I talked to tonight, until others advised the former president not to hire her,” the ex-president’s close pal fumed.
Ingraham, for her part, conceded that she had met Hutchinson “a few times” but still downplayed Meadow’s one-time top aide’s role at the White House. Furthermore, she mocked Hutchinson’s “bad acting” while insisting that “former White House staffers” she spoke with didn’t have “anything good to say about” Hutchinson’s performance.
Still, one wonders what possible shocking revelations could finally convince Hannity and Ingraham to hop off the Trump train—or what will eventually convince the other conservative squishes to decide to once again jump back aboard.
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