The backlash was swift.
Fox News and pundit Jesse Watters are receiving a flurry of criticism for suggesting over the weekend that the FBI and Special Counsel Robert Mueller are planning a “coup” to overthrow President Donald Trump.
Watters, a host of The Five, said text messages from FBI agents that were critical of Trump were “smoking gun evidence” that the investigation by Mueller, which is looking into Russian interference in the 2016 election and possible ties between Trump’s campaign and the country, was indicative of a “coup” in the United States.
“Is the FBI part of the resistance?’ Watters said, later adding: “So the investigation into Donald Trump’s campaign has been crooked from the jump. But the scary part is we may now have proof the investigation was weaponized to destroy his presidency for partisan political purposes and to disenfranchise millions of American voters. Now, if that’s true, we have a coup on our hands in America.”
— Fox News (@FoxNews) December 17, 2017
Watters remarks echoed Trump’s instance that the Russia investigation was a “witch hunt,” and fellow Fox News pundit Sean Hannity, who said the investigation was on the verge of turning the United States into a “banana republic.”
The idea of a “coup” was reinforced by Fox News during an interview with Trump’s counselor Kellyanne Conway, who said “the fix” was in for the president “from the beginning” when a chyron—the lower third text you see at the bottom of a news report–read “A Coup In America?”
“The fix was in against Donald Trump from the beginning and they were pro-Hillary,” she said. “We understand people have political views. But they are expressing theirs with such animus and venom toward the new-President of the United States. They can’t possibly be seen as objective, or transparent, or even-handed, or fair.”
Watters kept Conway going, saying that it appeared the investigators were “plotting what appears to be some sort of subversion campaign against the President.”
.@KellyannePolls: "The fix was in against @realDonaldTrump from the beginning, and they were pro-Hillary… They can't possibly be seen as objective or transparent or even-handed or fair." pic.twitter.com/DZKKR0OOPo
— Fox News (@FoxNews) December 17, 2017
The suggestion of a “coup” was criticized vehemently as being “irresponsible” and “dangerous.”
“A coup in America?” This is incredibly irresponsible rhetoric. It’s no surprise that the same network that still denies Russian interference for Trump, also uses this kind of language to describe law enforcement efforts to uphold the law and our sovereignty. https://t.co/VUilAaAhAD
— Evan McMullin (@Evan_McMullin) December 17, 2017
Cable news banners don’t just appear out of thin air. Producers brainstorm, fact-check, proof-read them. Hosts are sometimes involved too. Yes, mistakes slip through occasionally. But this doesn’t look like a mistake… pic.twitter.com/nZkbRyKxUE
— Brian Stelter (@brianstelter) December 17, 2017
Let the seriousness of this sink in for a second. A prominent journalist covering the Middle East can credibly compare the rhetoric used by this administration and its enablers to what she has covered in undemocratic regimes. @SulomeAnderson https://t.co/IK2R0IVx4X
— US Rep Brendan Boyle (@RepBrendanBoyle) December 17, 2017
I'm an academic studying coups. This is embarrassing and dangerous. There is no coup in America, but there is a de-facto state propaganda outlet named Fox News. pic.twitter.com/Rtg37N84ZC
— Marcel Dirsus (@marceldirsus) December 17, 2017
Coup?! I cover wars. Militaries. Actual coups. Where citizens violently rise up and kill each other for power over each other.
This is alarmingly irresponsible language, even for Fox. Inflammatory. Baseless. Dangerous. https://t.co/1tGrKZGfTR
— Kevin Baron (@DefenseBaron) December 17, 2017
Watters characterization is the latest in a line of conservatives attempting to discredit the investigation into the president.