John Bolton’s old comrades from "Fox & Friends" have officially unfriended him.
The longtime Republican national security hand and Fox News contributor went straight from his cable TV perch to a front-row seat in the White House for the Ukraine imbroglio that would lead to President Donald Trump’s impeachment.
But the former national security adviser’s forthcoming tell-all has added explosive details to the Senate’s impeachment trial in the eleventh hour. And his old pals at Fox News, where he was a paid contributor for 11 years, have quickly disowned him from the pro-Trump family with a broadside of character attacks and critical news coverage.
“I’m not, today, recognizing the guy that I thought I knew,” primetime host and de facto Trump adviser Sean Hannity told viewers in his monologue Tuesday night. "I have a message for John Bolton tonight: You have something to say, John? Come here.”
FoxNews.com added in the headline of its lead story Wednesday morning, drawing directly from Trump’s tweets, “NASTY & UNTRUE BOOK.”
The guy Hannity thought he knew is set to publish a memoir in March with claims that have upended the GOP’s impeachment defense. As The New York Times reported on Sunday, Bolton wrote in an unpublished manuscript that Trump told him to freeze aid to Ukraine until it investigated the Biden family.
Trump defenders have long claimed there was no such quid pro quo. But the Bolton leak has helped a few fence-sitting GOP lawmakers jump off and consider bringing Bolton in to testify.
The Fox News universe wants none of that, and has tried to tar their old coworker’s reputation in the process. In his own monologue on Monday evening, primetime host Tucker Carlson went so far as to compare Bolton to a snake.
“Republicans in Washington might seem shocked to discover that Bolton has turned and betrayed his former boss, Donald Trump, but they shouldn't be shocked,” Carlson said. “That's who John Bolton is. That's who John Bolton has always been. That's what John Bolton does. And not to brag, but we called it long ago.”
Fox News has hosted numerous Republican lawmakers and aides — many of them former Bolton fans — who have lambasted him in recent days. It’s a sharp U-turn for a network that had long hyped Bolton, who’s worked in four Republican administrations, as a patriotic wiseman of conservative foreign policy.
In 2016, during a "Fox & Friends" segment featuring hosts and guests on workout balance boards (really), host Brian Kilmeade made a direct appeal to Trump on Bolton’s behalf. “He's watching!” Kilmeade said. “Mr. President-elect, this is what you could have!"
Kilmeade’s tenor was much different on "Fox & Friends" Monday. “He’s got to do a better job hiring people,” he said.
A representative for Fox News did not respond to a question of how viewers should parse these conflicting spins on Bolton.
Perhaps nowhere was the about-face more jarring than with Fox Business host Lou Dobbs. The staunch Trump defender, who’s praised Bolton in the past, rolled out a visualized org chart placing him within a broader deep-state conspiracy to undermine the president.
"Not so complicated, is it?" Dobbs said. "John Bolton himself has been reduced to a tool for the radical Dems and the deep state with his, well, with his allegation that the president once told him the aid to the Ukraine was entirely dependent on whether or not [Ukrainian President] Zelensky carried out investigations of his political opponents."
Cover: Fox News Channel and radio talk show host Sean Hannity interviews U.S. President Donald Trump before a campaign rally at the Las Vegas Convention Center on September 20, 2018 in Las Vegas. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)