Near the end of Monday's impromptu White House news conference, Fox News reporter John Roberts asked President Trump what he thought of a story that had little to do with his governing agenda: Hillary Clinton's opinion of NFL players taking a knee during the national anthem.
"In an interview earlier today, Hillary Clinton said that she did not believe that players taking a knee in the NFL was about disrespecting the flag; at complete odds with the way that you have portrayed this," said Roberts. "You fired back in a tweet, saying you hope that she runs again in 2020."
"I hope Hillary runs," said Trump. "Is she going to run? I hope. Hillary, please run again."
Roberts pressed on. "She's at odds with you over whether or not this is disrespecting the flag," he asked. "Is she right or is she wrong?"
The president knew a clean shot when he saw one. "When you take a knee — she — well, that's why she lost the election," he said. "I mean, honestly, it's that thinking. That is the reason she lost the election."
The Clinton question generated some fast headlines — and some criticism for the reporter who asked it. Obama White House veteran and "Pod Save America" co-host Tommy Vietor challenged Roberts on Twitter, accusing him of asking a "stupid clickbait question." Roberts defended himself, saying Clinton, the Democrats' defeated 2016 nominee, had "not yet left the stage."
Clinton, one of just nine living Americans who has lost a presidential election, remains an instant newsmaker. But on no other media platform does she dominate headlines as she does on Fox News. All year, the network's commentators have covered Clinton's post-campaign life and comments as breaking news, often with screaming "NEWS ALERTS," as if the long wars of 2016 never ended.
Fox's coverage of Clinton has synced up with its cable news competitors only a few times, most recently when Clinton began the American tour for her memoir, "What Happened." Since then, Fox has continued to put Clinton at the center of breaking news stories, as a ready foil for the president and as an emblem of a corrupt liberal establishment.
On Monday, for example, Fox's flagship prime time shows spent its sixth consecutive night discussing the political support that disgraced Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein gave to Clinton.
On other networks, Weinstein's support for Democrats has been a major part of coverage, especially as a posse of Democrats up for re-election in 2018 gave his money to charities, and as the Democratic National Committee fumbled by routing the money to other political groups.
On Fox, however, the story is less complicated — it's one of political hypocrisy that should remind viewers (and voters) that Clinton is a hypocrite. The network, which lost a string of big-name talent in the past year over revelations of sexual harassment, has plowed ahead with Clinton stories. Sean Hannity, who has used the story to play back his interviews with women who accused Bill Clinton of harassment and assault, has led with the Weinstein story almost every night since the New York Times's initial expose; Hannity only paused on Oct. 11, when he sat down with Trump for an exclusive interview.
"Hillary Clinton, she is up to her eyeballs in this," Hannity told viewers on Monday night. "The spokesman for the Clinton Foundation indicated the hundreds of thousands of dollars that Weinstein donated to the Clinton Foundation will not be returned. They spent it. And meanwhile, Hillary Clinton wants to lecture all of us about the misogyny epidemic in America? How out of touch can Hillary possibly be?"
After playing back clips from his interviews with Bill Clinton's accusers, Hannity went on to say she "sat silent" as women suffered.
"Harvey Weinstein helped finance the defense of your husband's shenanigans," said Hannity. "Now Weinstein literally bankrolled Clinton's defense team. Hillary, you had to know. Stop lying. We don't believe that you are a champion of women's rights."
Tucker Carlson's show, which has also covered the Weinstein story as one that discredits liberals, spent part of Monday night asking why the Clinton Foundation would not turn over money equal to Weinstein's donations to other charities. (She would be donating money that Weinstein gave to her campaigns.) To discuss the topic, he invited on Peter Schweizer, whose reporting about the Clinton Foundation was bankrolled in part by the Mercer family as part of a media strategy that became clear only after the 2016 election.
"If you are Hillary Clinton and Bill Clinton who spent a better part of a week not responding to your old friend's sexual harassment scandal, why wouldn't you just give the money to some virtuous charity and call it a day?" Carlson asked Schweizer. "Why would you refuse?"
"This is not a relationship with a celebrity or a Hollywood person that was sort of a flash in the pan," said Schweizer. "The Clintons are in a tough spot. But, you know, that said, there really is no other choice other than for them to give this donation to someone else. You know, I'm not buying that this was spent well to help other people."
Schweizer was not the only one-time Clinton inquisitor who returned to the hunt thanks to the Weinstein story. On Monday's episode of "Fox and Friends," former Republican Rep. Jason Chaffetz of Utah, who had promised to probe Clinton if she won the election but ended up resigning in early 2017, hammered Clinton over the Weinstein money.
"There's no excuse for this," Chaffetz said. "She's arguing that she wants to lead with women and women's issues. And then this issue comes up and she's like, 'No, I'm going to go ahead and keep that money.'"
In an interview with the BBC that aired Sunday, Clinton said she was "shocked and appalled" by the allegations against Weinstein, adding: "I think it's important that we not just focus on him and whatever consequences flow from these stories about his behavior, but that we recognize this kind of behavior cannot be tolerated anywhere, whether it's in entertainment, politics, you know, after all we have someone admitting to be the sexual assaulter in the Oval Office."
Howard Kurtz, a former Washington Post media columnist who now hosts Fox's weekly media analysis show, tried to frame the Clinton/Weinstein story as a simple case of a politician stumbling by trying to pivot.
"But by trying to turn the controversy against Trump, she left herself wide open for questions about the 42nd president, unintentionally turning the focus back to the dark days of impeachment," said Kurtz in an on-air commentary.
In that commentary, Kurtz also accused Clinton of smearing the president by calling him an "admitted sexual assaulter" in an interview with the BBC.
"Trump has not 'admitted' to engaging in sexual assault," said Kurtz. "On the 'Access Hollywood' outtakes, made public a year ago, he talked to Billy Bush about grabbing women — but in his apology, Trump said it was just locker-room talk. In the wake of that tape, a number of women accused the candidate of harassing or groping them, allegations that Trump denied. Many in the media thought that would derail his campaign, but it didn't."
Kurtz's commentary made no mention of other Trump stories that make up the "sexual assault" accusation, such as his comments to Howard Stern about bursting in on nude beauty pageant contestants. What mattered, according to Kurtz, was that Trump won the 2016 election despite "many in the media" thinking the scandals and admissions would sink him.
Other Fox News personalities, meanwhile, took aim at the comment that Roberts first asked Trump about — Clinton's observation, in a Sunday interview on her book tour's European leg, that NFL players who took a knee were choosing to "demonstrate in a peaceful way against racism and injustice in our criminal system."
Laura Ingraham, a Fox News commentator who is soon launching a prime time show on the network, joked at a weekend conference of social conservatives that Gloria Allred, the attorney representing some Trump accusers, would be joining the legal firm of "Clinton Weiner Spitzer & Weinstein." On Monday, she reacted to video of Clinton's NFL comment by saying it explained her defeat.
"Hillary Clinton proving once again why she was not fit for the presidency," said Ingraham on Fox's morning show. "If there's a choice, she will always go on the wrong side of an issue. Maybe if this had nothing to do with Trump, she would say something different ... (but) she cannot deviate from identity politics."
And on "The Five," Clinton's comment was covered the same way, as proof of the NFL protests looming as political disasters for Democrats.
"Hillary siding with the kneelers is the kiss of death," said co-host Jesse Watters. "The woman is a day late, a dollar short, and how corny is she, too?"
"How many electoral votes?" added co-host Kimberly Guilfoyle.
"Exactly," said Watters. "Who is she to lecture us on errors? We all know what happened, Hillary!"
In April, Watters left "The Five" for a week after making a sexual-seeming comment about Ivanka Trump. In a CNN poll last month, 49 percent of voters said that NFL players were wrong to protest during the anthem; 60 percent said Trump was wrong to criticize them.