COMMENTARY

Fox News viewers have no clue: Network blocks nearly all critical coverage of Donald Trump

Fox News viewers are almost completely in the dark about Trump's Jan. 6 insurrection or the revelations since then

Published June 8, 2022 9:49AM (EDT)

Mike Pence, Donald Trump, and the Trump supporters mobbing the US Capitol building on January 6, 2021. (Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images)
Mike Pence, Donald Trump, and the Trump supporters mobbing the US Capitol building on January 6, 2021. (Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images)

I doubt there is anyone in America who is surprised that Fox News has decided not to carry the January 6th committee hearings. Why would they want to make their audience feel disoriented with a bunch of disturbing information they've heard nothing about despite tuning in regularly to their favorite "news" network? It would be like getting a dispatch from another planet. It's very upsetting, and if there's one thing neither Republicans nor their propaganda channels are willing to do it's make their followers angry.

Recall that Fox News was the first network to call the Arizona election for Joe Biden, which sent the entire right-wing into a frenzy. It resulted in Fox finally giving up any pretense of being a real news network. According to "Hoax: Donald Trump, Fox News, and the Dangerous Distortion of Truth" by CNN's Brian Stelter, Trump got the ball rolling by tweeting out his anger and going on "Fox and Friends" to complain, asking: "What's the biggest difference between this and four years ago? I say Fox. It's much different now." Soon his rabid supporters were gathering outside the Phoenix, Arizona counting center yelling "Fox News Sucks" and Facebook groups were forming telling people to switch to Newsmax and One America News. And for a while, they did just that. In December of 2020, for the first time, Newsmax actually beat Fox News in the ratings. Fox executives greeted this crisis as an existential threat with one producer telling Stelter, "we're bleeding eyeballs, And we're scared." Their ratings were nosediving "20, 25, 30 percent, even though the news cycle was nothing short of epic." Remember, this was the post-election period — it was epic indeed. Stelter wrote:

"Our audience hates this," one executive said to me in a moment of candor. "This" was Biden as president-elect and Kamala Harris as VP-elect. "They're pissed," said a second source. "Seething," said another.

RELATED: Jan. 6 blackout: Fox News refuses to air hearings as GOP plans "counterprogramming" to defend Trump

The word apparently came from on high that they'd better figure out a way to get their audience back. So Fox News fired the election team that called the Arizona election results and re-tooled immediately, starting by giving the audience what they were demanding: false hope. They pushed the voter fraud conspiracies to the point that Fox News even became the subject of huge defamation lawsuits by the voting machine companies. And then the network went after anyone who didn't go along with the program.

If "the news" was a person, it could sue Fox News for fraud and win. 

Rupert Murdoch himself was said to be guiding decisions to remove anyone who wasn't deemed hysterical and shrill enough to entice the disappointed Trumpers back into the fold, marginalizing the few more or less straight news people and giving carte blanche to their "opinion" personalities to follow their bliss into the right-wing fever swamps. The result is Tucker Carlson and his Great Replacement Hour.


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Media Matters did a deep dive a while back into how Fox News ended up covering the post-election period:

Fox and its associates did everything they could to support Trump's autocratic maneuvers. In the two weeks after media outlets called the race for Biden, Fox personalities questioned the results of the election or pushed conspiracy theories about it nearly 800 times. They put the credibility of the network behind deranged lies about fraud plucked from the internet fever swamps, beaming batshit fantasies out to a huge national audience. It worked—polls following the election showed a majority of Republicans believed that the election was stolen from Trump.

But hosts, contributors, and guests went further than simply lying to their viewers—they pushed for action. They attacked Republican state officials for being insufficiently committed to Trump's scheme; called for the arrests of election workers; suggested that Republican state legislators in states Trump lost should "appoint a clean slate of electors" who support him; promoted fake Trump electoral slates for supposedly keeping Trump's "legal options open"; suggested a "do-over" election as "the only remedy"; called for congressional investigations; endorsed a lawsuit by Republican state attorneys general asking the Supreme Court to throw out results in four states Biden won; urged Republican governors not to certify unfavorable results; and denounced Republican members of Congress for "destroying the Constitution" by voting to count the electoral votes.

As for the January 6th committee, Philip Bump of the Washington Post compiled a comparison of the three cable networks' coverage and found that Fox covered January 6th itself far less often than the others and the committee even less. He writes that "CNN has mentioned the committee more than four times as often as has Fox News on average; MSNBC has mentioned it five times as much on average." There is almost a blackout on the stories regarding the Oath Keepers and the Proud Boys who have been indicted on charges of seditious conspiracy. 

Fox viewers are almost completely in the dark about the insurrection or the revelations since. 

Basically, Fox viewers are almost completely in the dark about the insurrection or the revelations since then, including the work of the Department of Justice and the January 6th Committee, not to mention the many stories reported in the media about the coup plot itself. They know almost nothing about former Chief of Staff Mark Meadows' involvement in every aspect of the attempts to overturn the election and they certainly don't know that as the mob was storming the Capitol, their favorite Trump-loving Fox News celebrities were bombarding the White House with texts begging them to get Trump to call off the rioters.

Fox intends to keep it that way. They announced on Tuesday that they will have their news anchors follow the hearings on Fox Business Network (which only gets a fraction of the audience of Fox News during that time period) so their marquee talent can do their usual shows. One of them even said the quiet part out loud:

Their audience doesn't want to hear any news that makes them unhappy so Fox will keep giving them what they want: owning the libs, Dr. Suess and Mr. Potatohead --- and white nationalism. ( As you can see, they've even got the beloved, charismatic, superstar Steven Miller on as a regular these days.) If "the news" was a person, it could sue Fox News for fraud and win. 


By Heather Digby Parton

Heather Digby Parton, also known as "Digby," is a contributing writer to Salon. She was the winner of the 2014 Hillman Prize for Opinion and Analysis Journalism.

MORE FROM Heather Digby Parton


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