How Media Outlets Are Covering Michael Cohen’s Testimony

How Media Outlets Are Covering Michael Cohen’s Testimony

The country’s liberal and conservative media outlets seemed to agree on one thing this week: Michael D. Cohen, the government’s star witness in its case against former President Donald J. Trump, was worth belittling.

But they made that argument in far different ways.

Conservative outlets painted Mr. Cohen, a former lawyer for Mr. Trump, as a traitor to the conservative cause. Liberal outlets focused on Mr. Cohen’s testimony about how he would do anything to impress Mr. Trump.

But there was also one bigger difference about their coverage of Mr. Cohen’s testimony. Most of the liberal news outlets gave prominent coverage to what he said at the trial, the first criminal trial against a former president. Numerous conservative outlets downplayed much of what he said in court.

Here is how it played out:

MSNBC has given extensive coverage to Mr. Cohen’s testimony both on its TV channel and its website. The coverage has often acknowledged that Mr. Cohen was an imperfect messenger for details about the hush-money case, in part because he spent more than a year in prison for crimes that included lying to Congress. But most commentators still suggested his testimony hurt Mr. Trump’s case.

Mr. Cohen paid $130,000 to the porn star Stormy Daniels to stop her from telling the public about an affair with Mr. Trump. Prosecutors say Mr. Trump then reimbursed Mr. Cohen and falsified records to disguise the payments as legal expenses. Mr. Trump has denied the affair and any wrongdoing related to the payments.

Hayes Brown, an opinion writer for MSNBC, wrote on its website that Mr. Cohen was a “known liar,” and was a “terrible person to rely on for the prosecution’s case.”

But, Mr. Brown wrote, prosecutors did not shy away from Mr. Cohen’s checkered past, which “ironically makes him more credible as a witness.”

Lawrence O’Donnell, on the prime time show “All In,” remarked that Mr. Cohen had seemed much more measured than usual in his appearances in the courtroom. His demeanor on the stand, Mr. O’Donnell suggested, signaled Mr. Cohen was telling the truth. Mr. Cohen was attempting to “save what could be left of his life by the simple course of telling the truth to prosecutors,” Mr. O’Donnell said.

The popular liberal podcast “Pod Save America” devoted the first 10 minutes of its Tuesday episode to the trial. Host Jon Favreau said Mr. Cohen was “not exactly an honest broker.” Another host of the show, Dan Pfeiffer, said he was a “sleazy goofball.”

But the hosts, both of whom had worked in the Obama administration, said Mr. Cohen’s claims were ultimately substantiated. Mr. Favreau said Mr. Cohen came off as credible to reporters in the courtroom.

“It seems like there’s a document for everything that Michael Cohen testified, or at least some corroborating evidence,” Mr. Favreau said.

Like MSNBC, Fox News has also given Mr. Cohen considerable coverage online and on TV. Much of it has argued he is not a credible witness and that his testimony ultimately damaged the prosecution’s case.

Greg Gutfeld, a Fox News host and commentator, said of Mr. Cohen, “no one can take this guy seriously.”

“It’s hard to poke holes in Cohen’s testimony because it’s all holes and no cheese,” Mr. Gutfeld said on “The Five.” “It’s just air.”

Standing outside the courthouse Tuesday morning, Jon Glasgow, a reporter for Newsmax covering the trial, said “we haven’t really seen a lot” from Mr. Cohen’s testimony to suggest Mr. Trump would be convicted.

Greg Kelly, a Newsmax anchor who often praises Mr. Trump, said he had not read Mr. Cohen’s testimony. Instead, he characterized Mr. Cohen as someone who craved public attention: Mr. Cohen, he said, is “not a smart man” and “loves this kind of moment.”

“Sorry, there’s something really wrong with this man,” Mr. Kelly said Monday on “Greg Kelly Reports.” On Tuesday, he called Mr. Cohen a “pathetic clown.”

The day after Mr. Cohen first appeared on the stand, The New York Post’s front page made no mention of him at all. Instead, it focused on a falsehood in a book by Jen Psaki, President Biden’s former press secretary. In her new book, Ms. Psaki wrote that Mr. Biden did not look at his watch until after a ceremony for dead U.S. soldiers in 2021. (He had, in fact, checked it during the ceremony.)

The Post ran a full-page image of Mr. Biden looking at his watch during the ceremony, with the caption “Yes, on his watch.”

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