Minutes after the first presidential debate of the 2020 election season wrapped, Fox News turned the keys over to its chief propagandist, Sean Hannity.
“The extremely weak, the frail, the confused, kind of angry Joe Biden just got steamrolled by President Trump,” Hannity declared.
The Fox News host, who took over the network’s special coverage following a brief panel hosted by anchors Bret Baier and Martha MacCallum, quipped that Biden “probably stayed up too late” and “needs a nap.”
The characterization of what transpired when President Donald Trump met former Vice President Joe Biden on the debate stage stood in stark contrast to what viewers believed took place. A CNN instant poll found that debate watchers thought Biden beat Trump in the debate, with 60% saying Biden won compared to 28% for Trump.
But throughout the hour, Hannity and his guests continued to depict Biden as a senile old man — a notion that has been promoted by the conservative network for weeks — who lost the face-off. Meanwhile, they portrayed Trump as a fearless warrior.
“I felt like I’m looking at a confused corpse versus this Energizer bunny that’s ready for battle and combat,” Hannity said, summarizing the general message of his show.
“When I talk about the President, I talk about the President being the kind of guy who goes into the lion’s den and he comes out with a pelt over his shoulder and his ties straight,” Fox News host Jeanine Pirro replied. “And tonight was an example of that.”
“Joe Biden kept looking down,” Pirro continued. “I don’t know, his eyes looked closed to me. He kept looking down and writing.”
This line of messaging was repeated over and over again.
“I think what we saw tonight, Donald Trump is absolutely a fighter,” said Sarah Sanders, the former White House press secretary. “He has been since day one.”
“Trump is an apex predator, he’s the Lion King,” Fox News contributor and right-wing media personality Dan Bongino declared. “Trump went out there tonight and did what Trump does. He’s the shark in the ocean and he acted like it.”
“Joe Biden did look frail,” commented Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz.
The commentary was not surprising for Fox News. The network has long employed opinion hosts who advocate for Trump while dishonestly criticizing his political opponents.
Other networks, however, were quick to call out Trump in sharp, clear-eyed terms following the debate.
“It was a train wreck. But it was a train wreck of the making of one person,” said “Meet the Press” host Chuck Todd on NBC News. “We know who did it. President Trump did this.”
“Donald Trump came across like a bully,” said ABC News chief White House correspondent Jonathan Karl.
“That was a hot mess, inside a dumpster fire, inside a train wreck,” said CNN anchor and chief Washington correspondent Jake Tapper. “That was the worst debate I have ever seen. It wasn’t even a debate. It was a disgrace.”