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Three months ago this week, the missile strikes began. It was early morning in Ukraine, local time, and mobile phones there started pinging with frantic texts from friends and loved ones, conveying the same terrifying message as the blasts that were rocking cities around the country: The war has started.
Russian President Vladimir Putin gave a speech to his nation announcing the onset of a “special operation.” In the wake of Russia’s horrific and unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, Western companies raced to sever ties with the aggressor — and US news networks likewise scrambled quickly, deploying teams of journalists to the region. To locales like Przemyśl, Poland, where — from platform four of the city’s railway station in the city — correspondents like Scott Pelley of the newsmagazine 60 Minutes reported on the packed railcars, full of refugees.
CNN was, of course, on the ground early, with journalists like the network’s chief international correspondent Clarissa Ward delivering harrowing personal stories from Ukraine. At one point during his own coverage from the front lines, CNN’s Matthew Chance barely escaped from a firefight. Other reporters from around the world likewise headed to the country, many of them to interview Ukraine’s comedian-turned-Churchillian head of state who would inspire the world — and rally his citizens.
At home in the US, meanwhile, there’s no question about where most cable news viewers have been largely getting their news coverage of the conflict from. Based on viewership data from Nielsen covering the months since the Russian invasion of Ukraine began on February 24, Fox News Channel has drawn a bigger share of the US cable news audience than CNN and MSNBC combined — including when measured over the total day as well as in primetime.
Earlier this month, Fox News also notched its 65th consecutive week at #1 in primetime. In terms of total day audience results for Fox’s Ukraine coverage to-date, the Nielsen data also shows that Fox has enjoyed a 54% share of total viewers.
Fox News Ukraine coverage
Media reporters spend an outsized amount of time and attention following Fox’s top-rated primetime stars, as well as the network’s opinion programming hosts. Likewise, CNN’s international reporting always commands attention during moments of global crisis. The Nielsen data, though, suggests that more cable news viewers in the US have in fact been watching a different network’s international correspondents for the duration of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
“I still have trouble understanding why people kill each other,” Fox News foreign correspondent Trey Yingst told me during the early days of the war. I caught up with him, because his work — and that of his colleagues like Fox correspondent Benjamin Hall, among others — has helped shape what a large swath of the TV viewing audience in the US sees and understands about the war.
Hall suffered gruesome injuries while covering an attack in Ukraine that also killed Fox cameraman Pierre Zakrzewski and a local journalist, Oleksandra “Sasha” Kuvshynova, who was working with the Fox team. Yingst is still there, producing dispatches from the field, along with two other Fox News correspondents: Greg Palkot, reporting from Kyiv; and Mike Tobin, reporting from Lviv.
“One woman told us about how she and her husband were inside of a potato storage unit, underground underneath a shed,” Yingst said, during a late-April Fox News segment. “And that Russian troops came in, and they could hear the footsteps as they were walking. And ultimately they survived, but that wasn’t the case for many other people. We met soldiers in this region who showed us photos on their phones of Ukrainian civilians who were executed in basements in this area.”
Yingst, based in Kharkiv, has used his Twitter feed to offer a mix of stark on-the-ground updates (like one from May 23: “Explosion in Kharkiv, followed by air raid sirens”) along with footage from his Fox TV packages.
Fox News’ ongoing Ukraine news coverage, meanwhile, has also included:
Meeting a Ukrainian commander
Correspondent Griff Jenkins interviewed Ukrainian war commander Mamuka Mamulashvili in mid-April. Fifty-two days into the conflict, the commander lamented to Jenkins how much of the world still wants to “feed the (Russian) monster with one hand” and “help Ukraine with another.”
Jenkins asked him at one point during the segment whether the commander thinks what he’s seen on the battlefield from Russian soldiers rises to the threshold of war crimes, or of genocide.
His response: “It is exactly the definition of war crimes.”
In another Fox News story about the conflict, correspondent Aishah Hasnie, reporting on the humanitarian crisis in Eastern Europe stemming from the war, focused on refugees from Ukraine pouring into neighboring countries.
“If there was one word I could use to describe the mood of this train station right now,” Hasnie says during the segment, as refugees pack the facility behind her, “it would be ‘exhaustion’ …”
Protester in Moscow
Arina Vakhrushkina, a young woman protesting the Ukraine war from Moscow, told Fox News in March that Putin “can put us in prison, he can kill us, but we are still going to fight with him, with his regime, with police aggression.”
She continued: “My family are really terrified. They want me to stop (protesting). They don’t want me to make any public statements. But I think it will be dishonest. I want to stay honest to myself, and do my best as long as I can.”
A mother comforts her children
And then there was Olena Gnes, a mother who spoke with Fox’s Neil Cavuto from a bomb shelter in Kyiv just days after the Russian invasion began. During the interview, she made an emotional appeal for the world to intervene militarily to stop a “genocide” from taking place in Ukraine.
“We’re really hoping it will all be okay,” she says at one point during the segment, appearing to fight back tears. “My husband, their father, he just … right now, he’s with the other guys and ladies. He is fighting with the Russian aggressor.” She gestures her head toward her son. “He thinks that daddy will not come back.” Her voice shakes. “I told him no … he will.”