NEW YORK – Fox News' Maria Bartiromo says that it's “absurd” to think that she personally lobbied former Attorney General William Barr to aggressively investigate Donald Trump's charges of voter fraud during the 2020 election.
Instead, she said she was doing a journalist's job in asking follow-up questions.
A passage in Jonathan Karl's new book, “Betrayal,” raised questions about whether Bartiromo overstepped her bounds as a journalist in the weeks after the election. Karl wrote that Bartiromo called Barr to complain that the Department of Justice hadn't done anything to stop Democrats from stealing the election.
“She called me up and she was screaming,” Barr told Karl, according to the book. “I yelled back at her. She's lost it.”
Bartiromo, through a spokesperson, said that “at no point did I lobby or make any demands of Bill Barr ... nor did I call him screaming. The insinuation is absurd.”
The “Sunday Morning Futures” host said she called to follow up on a June 2020 interview she had done with Barr, where he said the possibility of expanded voting by mail “opens the floodgates to fraud.”
Barr did not respond to requests from the AP to talk about their conversation.
Barr drew Trump's ire when he declared in an interview with the AP that the Justice Department uncovered no evidence of widespread voter fraud, disputing Trump's persistent, baseless claims. Trump’s unfounded allegations of massive voting fraud have also been dismissed by a succession of judges and refuted by state election officials and an arm of his own administration’s Homeland Security Department.
Barr's comments were particularly striking because he had been one of the president’s most ardent allies. Before the election, he had repeatedly raised the notion that mail-in voting could be especially vulnerable to fraud during the coronavirus pandemic as Americans feared going to polls and instead chose to vote by mail.
Karl, the ABC News White House correspondent, is critical of Bartiromo in his book for giving airtime to some of the Trump team's post-election claims without pressing for proof.
She is hardly the first Fox News personality with a pipeline to power. Tucker Carlson asked for and received a meeting with Trump in the early days of the pandemic to urge him to take it seriously. It was widely reported that Sean Hannity spoke to Trump frequently when he was in the White House, although the nature of those calls hasn't been revealed.
“There’s been a lot of speculation about my relationship with the president," Hannity told the New York Post in an interview published last month. “Nobody has ever gotten it right. And I'm not going to tell them.”
Writer Michael Balsamo in Washington contributed to this report.