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Whatever it is, it’s not journalism


We’re about to find out if the name “Fox News” has any meaning.

For two decades before January 2021, Fox News had the largest viewer audience in all of cable television. But that month both CNN and MSNBC overtook and surpassed it.

The reason? In the weeks just before the November 2020 election, some Fox News reporters started to commit journalism. They questioned the claims of some top Donald Trump campaign supporters that election equipment provided by Dominion Voting Systems was rigged to switch presidential votes from Trump to Joe Biden, thereby illegally making Biden the winner. At least 28 states used Dominion voting machines in 2020. 

Not trivial.

The Trumpers began spreading the claim that the machines were somehow rigged against Trump at least as far back as March 2020 and continued using it as a Trumpworld mainstay through the election and beyond. Trump lawyers Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell, as well as Trump supporter Mike Lindell, “the pillow guy,” hammered away incessantly at Dominion at campaign stops and news conferences, and on Fox News.

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Fox News was perfectly willing to provide a platform for spreading the claims against Dominion, doing so repeatedly. Fox News evening hosts and some of the company’s reporters exchanged private emails, obtained by Dominion, agreeing that the wild claims were false. But saying so on air, they feared, would lose them much of their loyal viewership. 

There were cable alternatives for Trump’s true believers: Newsmax and One America Network (OAN), which were even more pro-Trump than Fox. Trumpworld didn’t want to hear anything on cable TV that questioned their guy or his campaign. So they stopped watching Fox and clicked their remotes to the other Trump-pumping channels shortly before and after Election Night.

Newsmax prime-time viewership skyrocketed from 58,000 the week before the election to 568,000 the week after.

Dominion sued Fox News in March 2021 for “enormous and irreparable economic harm” from its support of the Trump campaign claims, seeking $1.6 billion. That’s $1,600,000,000. That’s a lot of zeros.

Fox viewers also condemned Fox for its election night prediction that Biden would carry the state of Arizona. The prediction panned out. But Fox News host Sean Hannity emailed host colleagues Tucker Carlson and Laura Ingraham on Nov. 12 that the Arizona call “destroyed a brand that took 25 years to build and the damage is incalculable.” Carlson agreed: “It’s vandalism.”

Maybe the most telling of the Fox insider email exchanges is one that Carlson sent Hannity on Nov. 12, four days after the election. Fox reporter Jacqui Heinrich had sent a fact-checking tweet on the false claims about Dominion. That drew this from Carlson: “Please get her fired. Seriously . . . what the f—? I’m actually shocked . . . it needs to stop immediately, like tonight. It’s measurably hurting the company. The stock price is down. Not a joke.” 

Carlson apparently had a clear-eyed opinion of Trump lawyer Powell: “Sidney Powell is lying. F—ing b—-.” He also called her an “unguided missile” and “dangerous as hell.” A “crazy person.” A “lunatic.” A “nutcase.” “Poison.”

But not on air. He shared his true opinions only with Fox News insiders by emails.

On Jan. 6, 2021, after the Capitol insurrection attempt, Carlson had pillow guy Mike Lindell on his show. Lindell discussed how he “found” “the machine fraud” and had “all the evidence” about Dominion. 

Carlson’s on-air response: “Mike Lindell, I really appreciate your coming on tonight. Thank you very much. God bless you.”

I don’t know how Dominion’s lawsuit will end up. And I don’t know what to call Fox News’s performance. Maybe Trump’s mantra of “fake news” fits. Maybe not. 

But whatever it is, it’s not journalism.

The Dominion trial jury selection is set to start in April. ♦

One Comment

  1. David W Letsch says:

    May this be the beginning of the end for Trump.

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