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Conservative media offers mixed reaction to Kavanaugh-Ford hearing

Conservative commentators were split on Ford's testimony, but rallied around Kavanaugh.
Image: Students watch television screens showing the hearing of U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication
Students watch television screens showing the hearing of U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University, Phoenix, Arizona on Sept. 27, 2018.Harrison Mantas / Reuters

Conservative news outlets that have at times shied away from politically sensitive stories related to the Trump administration gave wall-to-wall coverage to Thursday's hearing that featured testimony from Christine Blasey Ford, the woman who has accused Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault.

And several of them did not follow the White House line.

The panelists on Fox News, featuring chief political anchor Bret Baier and "The Story" anchor Martha MacCallum, mostly found Ford’s testimony persuasive.

Chris Wallace, anchor of "Fox News Sunday," called the hearing a "disaster for Republicans" after listening to Ford read her prepared statement.

The panelists went on to suggest that the hearing had not been good for the Supreme Court prospects of Kavanaugh, who has denied Ford’s allegations and those of other women who have come forward with claims of sexual misconduct.

The commentary and coverage alienated some Fox News fans, prompting a response from Baier on Twitter.

"We are covering the news," he tweeted in response to one critic. "No matter where it falls."

The tone changed, however, when Kavenaugh began testifying, and many of those outlets were strongly supportive of his forceful and angry presentation.

"Congratulations and God bless you, Justice Kavanaugh!" tweeted author Ann Coulter.

"Kavanaugh has me on the brink of tears," tweeted Candace Owens, communications director for Turning Point USA, a conservative student organization.

"That was simply tremendous—appropriately angry, personal, wrenching, detailed, persuasive. He helped himself immensely," tweeted Rich Lowry, editor of National Review.

Thursday's hearing garnered a wave of media coverage, with people tuning in from bars, airplanes and universities. The hearing also dominated Twitter and Google searches in the U.S.

Conservative news websites similarly dedicated the bulk of their coverage to the hearing, with The Daily Caller leading its website in the mid-afternoon with Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., asking Ford how sure she was that Kavanaugh was the person who assaulted her. "100 percent," Ford answered.

Breitbart, previously run by former Trump advisor Steve Bannon, gave the hearing rolling live coverage. Newsmax, a media outlet founded by Trump associate Chris Ruddy, led with reports that Trump was telling people that Ford's testimony "seems credible."

While liberal commentators broadly applauded Ford's testimony, many conservative commentators were mixed in their reactions.

Jonah Goldberg, senior editor at National Review, tweeted: "I think Ford came across as very sympathetic and sincere. I think the format with these five minute chunks is a disaster, politically, so far."

Erick Erickson, a conservative blogger and radio host, tweeted "Emotion is not fact and all of Ford's witnesses contradict her."

Several conservatives were critical of Rachel Mitchell, a prosecutor who specializes in sexual assault cases. Mitchell was selected by Republicans to question Ford and Kavanaugh at the hearing.

"They should have @LindseyGrahamSC do the questioning of Kavanaugh — not Mitchell. Wrong format for her. Gotta understand the Washington bloodsport," tweeted Fox News host Laura Ingraham.

Others took issue with the format of the questioning, in which Mitchell traded off five-minute segments with Democratic senator.

"[Sen. Sheldon] Whitehouse isn’t adding a single thing of value to this process. Let Mitchell ask questions. This five minute format is garbage," tweeted radio host and National Rifle Association spokeswoman Dana Loesch.