- News host describes White House ‘deception’ as ‘mind-boggling’
- Smith dismisses administration claims that meeting was unimportant
Fox News host Shepard Smith broke with network orthodoxy on Friday, issuing a sharp denunciation of the Trump administration’s handling of investigations into its links with Russia.
Smith, a relative moderate in the Fox ranks who has decried Trump camp untruths before, described White House “deception” as “mind-boggling”.
“Why all these lies?” he asked fellow anchor Chris Wallace. “Why is it lie after lie after lie?”
The outburst came after it was reported that more people attended a meeting between Donald Trump Jr and Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya at Trump Tower in New York in June 2016 than had previously been disclosed.
Donald Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, and then-campaign chair Paul Manafort attended, and were included on emails setting up the meeting with intermediary Rob Goldstone, a British music publicist.
Rinat Akhmetshin, a Russian American lobbyist and veteran of the Soviet military, confirmed on Friday that he attended the meeting. Akhmetshin denies ties to Russian intelligence. A Kremlin spokesman said the Russian government was not familiar with him. Anatoli Samochornov, a Russian-born translator, was also reported to have attended the meeting.
Smith dismissed administration claims that the meeting was “a waste of time” and, in the words of White House chief of staff Reince Priebus, a “nothing burger”.
“We’re still not clean on this, Chris,” Smith said. “If there’s nothing there – and that’s what they tell us, they tell us there’s nothing to this and nothing came of it, there’s a nothing burger, it wasn’t even memorable, didn’t write it down, didn’t tell you about it, because it wasn’t anything so I didn’t even remember it – with a Russian interpreter in the room at Trump Tower?
“The deception, Chris, is mind-boggling. And there are still people who are out there who believe we [the media] are 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’s exasperation was echoed by Wallace.
“This really shouldn’t be a matter of liberal v conservative, pro-Trump vs anti-Trump,” he said. “If you’re a fair-minded citizen, you ought to be concerned about the fact that we were repeatedly misled about what this meeting concerned.”
It may be too soon to expect others in the Fox sphere to break ranks, despite what appeared to be another significant departure from Donald Trump Jr’s earlier pledge, to supportive Fox News host Sean Hannity, that “everything” about the meeting had been disclosed.
Trump Jr’s statements on the meeting, which according to the New York Times were in the first instance worked on by White House staff and signed off by the president, have been successively proven to be incomplete regarding what was discussed and who attended. Trump Jr published the emails on Twitter on Tuesday, pre-empting the Times.
On Friday Trump Jr’s lawyer, Alan Futerfas, told the Washington Post the supposed lapses in his client’s memory about attendees at the meeting could be ascribed to the lack of significance the Trump campaign attached to it.
“The frustrating part of all this for me is that this meeting occurred 13 months ago,” he said. “It was not a memorable meeting for anyone. Now 13 months later, everyone expects we should have a perfect recollection.”
Two days before Smith’s on-air rant, senior White House adviser Kellyanne Conway created an internet meme when she spoke on Fox to Hannity.
Conway used flash cards to illustrate the administration’s denial that the Trump campaign ever sought “incriminating” material from Russia to damage Hillary Clinton, despite Trump Jr’s publication of emails showing he thought such material would be offered at the June 2016 meeting.
Close to the end of her interview, Conway held up her first placard. It read: “Conclusion, collusion”.
Conway crossed out the second word and said: “What’s the conclusion? Collusion? No. We don’t have that yet.”
She then held up a second card, which read: “Illusion, delusion”.
“I just thought we’d have some fun with words,” she said.