Right-wing media personalities are rushing to defend former President Donald Trump against charges of falsification of business records by claiming the former president is being persecuted for a run-of-the-mill non-disclosure agreement, hush money payment, and inaccurate business ledger keeping.
The former president pleaded not guilty during his arraignment hearing on Tuesday, April 4 to all 34 felony charges connected to a $130,000 hush money payment made during his presidential campaign. Hosts on Fox News and conservative internet personalities alike have taken to downplaying the severity of the charges against the former president, both before and after his arraignment, with some claiming it’s hypocritical of District Attorney Alvin Bragg to charge Trump with these run-of-the-mill crimes.
Prior to the unsealing of the indictment, right-wing media were sharing the defense that Trump’s behavior is not out of the ordinary among those with his wealth and influence, especially if the intent was to keep someone from speaking out.
- On Fox & Friends, co-host Ainsley Earhardt sympathized with the former reality TV star-turned-president on March 31, and asserted that this kind of payment “happens all the time in business, especially, you know, when you are talking about politics or wealthy people who are public figures.”
- The morning of the arraignment, Earhardt made similar claims, making a point to ask if similar treatment will be given to Democratic politicians. She said, “When you have successful, powerful people, they're accused of different things and sometimes they pay people off so that they don't talk about it. It's not illegal to do it.”
- On One America News, Trump’s daughter-in-law Lara Trump was also keen on joining this defense for Trump’s crimes. On March 31, using the “slippery slope” argument, Lara Trump claimed that conservatives are being unfairly treated by the law as “thousands of these contracts are signed and paid for every single day in this country” without being investigated.
Following Trump’s arraignment, right-wing media doubled down on the argument:
- Far-right podcaster Steven Crowder said on his Rumble live stream in defense of Trump, “You could go through anyone’s ledger, you can go through anyone’s business and find numbers aren’t perfect.”
- On Fox News host Tucker Carlson’s April 4 show following the arraignment hearing, Carlson attacked MSNBC for covering the indictment by claiming hush money is frequently used at the network, saying, “How many women alleging sexual harassment or assault has NBC news paid off this year? I mean, spare us.”
- During his show, Carlson also claimed that every company has employees sign NDAs and they “probably” don’t commit federal crimes and claimed what Trump did “doesn’t even approach the appearance of a crime.”
- On Fox host Sean Hannity’s radio show, the pundit claimed, “By the way, NDAs happen every single day, nondisclosure agreements. So this is what's outrageous.”
- Hannity also claimed that in New York it is a “very common practice” for companies to have unlisted business expenses, and implied Trump is only being charged because of his party affiliation, stating, “If you're a Democrat, it's called an NDA. If you're a Republican, they call it hush money.”
- Appearing on Tucker Carlson Tonight, lawyer Alan Dershowitz claimed “hush money goes back to Alexander Hamilton, it’s one of the oldest phenomena in American history” and challenged Bragg to “name one case where anybody has ever prosecuted somebody for not honestly disclosing that he paid hush money to cover up a sexual manner. It’s never happened.”
- The following day on Steve Bannon’s podcast, Dershowitz repeated similar claims, saying, “There are hundreds — hundreds — of hush money payments every year, it’s never ever been a basis for a crime.”
- Daily Wire host Matt Walsh tweeted sarcastically about the charges: “Ah yes the serious felony crime of trying to stop negative stories from coming out during a political campaign. This is something no other politician has ever done in history” implying falsifying business records is a commonplace crime.
- Editor of the right-wing news site RedState Jennifer Van Laar tweeted, “Alvin Bragg is talking about the necessity of accurate business records in Manhattan bc it's the financial capital of the world?? I agree, but we ALL KNOW that is not happening. OPEN ALL THE BOOKS.”