How Fox News is betraying America — even Trump supporters
As the Select Committee to Investigate the Jan. 6 Attack on the U.S. Capitol began to present its case to Americans on June 9, 20 million people tuned in. But another, separate audience was watching an American cable channel that refused to air the hearings in prime time.
While Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson (a Democrat) and Vice Chairman Liz Cheney (a Republican) outlined the committee's findings that President Trump had engaged in a seven-point plan to overturn the 2020 election results, an alternate reality unfolded on Fox News.
Instead of the hearings, the channel ran its regularly scheduled programming: not news reporters, but the very commentators who had denied the election result and promoted Trump's attempts to overthrow it.
Immediately after the hearing, under a banner that read "Democratic propaganda," Laura Ingraham said Cheney's presentation was painful to sit through — so she must have watched while Fox denied that privilege to its viewers. She egged on a guest who claimed, without evidence, that Cheney was lying.
Fox, after apparent embarrassment that every other major network and cable news channel had carried the hearings, announced it would show the daytime hearings this week during its "news" programming but still would not interrupt its nightly opinion shows.
The ironies piled up. The same Fox personalities who had texted the White House during the deadly siege on Jan. 6, 2021, urging aides to persuade Trump to call off his rioting supporters, were now telling their viewers that nothing happened that day.
And the very viewers who most need to hear a balanced account of Jan. 6 still believe that the insurrectionists were either tourists wandering the halls of Congress taking selfies or anti-fascists known as Antifa.
What does Fox not want its audience to know?
That aide after aide, from campaign manager Bill Stepien to Trump loyalist Jason Miller, told the president that he could not declare victory on election night when the mail-in ballots were still being counted.
That instead of listening to his aides, Trump followed the advice of former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, whom one witness said was inebriated on election night, to declare victory anyway.
That Attorney General William Barr told the president repeatedly that none of the wacky theories being fronted — that voting software company Dominion had changed vote totals; that boxes of illegal votes were dumped at polling places; that ballots were scanned in more than once — held a shred of truth.
In a process Barr equated to "Whac-a-Mole," he testified that every allegation had been investigated by the Justice Department and found baseless.
The president's response? To continue to repeat the accusations to rile up his base of supporters. This would climax in a rally where Trump stoked the crowd's anger before the march on the Capitol.
Fox viewers also don't know the consequences of these lies. They have not heard testimony from a Capitol Police officer who was knocked unconscious during the riot, or watched her face as the Committee played video of the assault.
They have not seen footage from a documentary filmmaker showing members of two far-right militias, the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers, meeting in a parking garage the night before the riot and casing the Capitol the following day.
They have not heard or seen riot participants repeating the lies about election fraud as their reason for marching on our seat of government. They have not heard them say that Trump sent them on this mission.
They don't know that the $250 million in donations Trump collected after the attack was donated too late to fund any legal appeals of election results. That some of it was funneled to think tanks started by his aides or to benefit his businesses or family members.
Thanks to Fox, these viewers — who might still be giving their hard-earned money to the grifter of all time — do not know that they have been had.
This is more than pitiful. It is dangerous, because good government depends on a well informed electorate. By distorting the truth about the Jan. 6 attack and hiding the committee's investigation from its viewers, Fox is not acting in the public interest.
The rioters on Jan. 6 failed to stop the peaceful transfer of power. But Fox's continuing misinformation campaign may be the darker threat to our democracy.