Sunday, May 26, 2024

Analysis | Maria Bartiromo hyped the false Biden-bribe story hundreds of times

Analysis | Maria Bartiromo hyped the false Biden-bribe story hundreds of times


The first time many Americans probably heard of House Oversight Committee Chairman James Comer (R-Ky.) was in May, when his guest appearance on Maria Bartiromo’s Sunday morning show on Fox News went spectacularly poorly.

Bartiromo was following up on an allegation that Comer and Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) had made, that the FBI was in possession of a document detailing an interview with an informant who alleged that President Biden had received a bribe of $5 million from the Ukrainian energy company Burisma.

“You also spoke with an informant who gave you all of this information,” Bartiromo claimed. “Where is that informant today?”

“Unfortunately, we can’t track down the informant,” Comer replied. “We’re hopeful that the informant is still there.”

The informant wasn’t missing, as Comer’s staff quickly clarified. He was referring to another person making allegations about the Bidens — Gal Luft, who had been indicted by the federal government and was on the run.

The informant, whom Comer had not talked to, was still providing information to the FBI … up until the time that he was arrested on charges that he made up the entire bribery claim.

According to an analysis published by Media Matters on Friday, Bartiromo would amplify the claim more than 200 times before it was finally and thoroughly debunked. This, despite the utter lack of evidence ever presented in support of the allegation.

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It is not surprising that Bartiromo would hype an anti-Biden conspiracy theory. Her recent career has been defined both by her sycophantic approach to former president Donald Trump and her elevation of even patently ridiculous assertions. In the wake of the 2020 election, for example, she seized on the idea that rampant fraud had occurred. A Fox executive even noted, in a message unearthed during the lawsuit filed by a company that makes voting machines, that Bartiromo had “GOP conspiracy theorists in her ear and they use her for their message sometimes.”

That pattern has continued well into the Biden administration and perhaps nowhere more than on the bribery allegation.

“Bartiromo’s two programs, Fox Business’ Mornings with Maria and Fox News’ Sunday Morning Futures, featured references to the now-indicted FBI informant’s claims at least 219 times in 2023, according to a Media Matters review of show transcripts,” the new report reads. “The former, a three-hour weekday program, featured 181 such claims over 62 episodes, while the latter broadcast the remaining 38 claims over 9 episodes.”

Not all of these claims came directly from Bartiromo, obviously, though many did. Media Matters documents some of them:

  • June 9: “These are the most serious charges ever leveled at a president and the mainstream media will not report it at all.”
  • July 21: “Explosive new allegations against President Biden. A newly released FBI informant’s file alleges Joe and Hunter Biden coerced a Burisma executive into paying them $5 million each to get [a] Ukrainian prosecutor investigating the company fired.” (This was after Grassley simply released the interview documentation.)
  • Oct. 4: “A whistleblower testimony that says you accepted $5 million from Burisma executives, as your son did as well, the influence peddling and the charges of bribery against President Joe Biden. We’re not going to let that go off of the front page.”

More often, she played host to Republican legislators who amplified the same allegations. You can see them for yourself at the Internet Archive’s database of cable news clips. The word “alleged” does make some appearances, certainly, but often in the context of breathless assertions about the scale of this alleged corruption.

“FOX News Media has reported on all key developments since the announcement that Alexander Smirnov was charged with lying to the FBI, featuring the story prominently,” a network spokesperson said in statement provided to The Post. “We will continue to report on developments in all aspects of the ongoing investigations, hearings, and trials.”

Media Matters had previously reported that Fox News host Sean Hannity talked about the bribe allegation more than 80 times on his program, amateur numbers compared with Bartiromo. But both played a key role in contributing momentum to the Republican effort to impeach Biden. It was to Bartiromo that Comer offered one of his most dishonest delineations of alleged wrongdoing by Biden, earning no pushback from the Fox host. In December, he boasted to Bartiromo that a new allegation “fits a pattern that we’ve been talking about on your show for months” — a recognition of how important Bartiromo’s platform has been to the Republican efforts.

Hannity, at least, has copped to elevating the unverified story. On his radio show, he told listeners that he should have learned not to trust the FBI after the investigations into Trump. He did not seem concerned about listening to people like Comer who were willing to amplify unverified claims; in fact, Hannity hosted Comer and other Republicans this week for a segment in which they misrepresented testimony from Biden’s son Hunter.

Bartiromo took a different tack. She suggested that the FBI was trying to silence the informant by arresting him and putting him in jail. On Friday morning, she used part of her show to elevate baseless claims from House Republicans that Joe Biden was involved in his son’s business.





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