Fox News, the propaganda arm of the Republican Party, is still the most-watched news network in the U.S. Will the recent revelations hurt it?
The right-leaning U.S. television network Fox News got into trouble after evidence surfaced that for many months it repeated Donald Trump’s lies about the allegedly stolen election, although the journalists who disseminated the revelations knew the truth perfectly well. Despite emerging claims about an “existential crisis” at Fox News, the Republican Party’s propaganda arm is still the most-watched news network in the U.S. Its audience averages about 2.12 million viewers — more than both of the more liberal news stations, CNN and MSNBC, combined.
The World According to Fox News
The storm at Fox News began on Election Day in November 2020. The station reported – truthfully – that Joe Biden won in Arizona, one of the swing states where the fate of the election was being decided. Since this was inconsistent with the reelection seeker Trump’s claims that the Arizona election was rigged, Fox News quickly “corrected the hastily broadcast news.” The television executives fired their political news director, Chris Stirewalt, as well as their Washington bureau chief, Bill Sammon, who were trying to inform viewers reliably. Because Fox was the first to report the results in Arizona, ahead of CNN, it sparked the outrage of millions of supporters of the incumbent president, backed by the station’s popular commentators: Sean Hannity, Tucker Carlson and Laura Ingraham.
According to Trump and his camp, the Democrats rigged the election using electronic voting machines manufactured by Dominion Voting Systems, which was allegedly part of an international leftist conspiracy involving Venezuela. The company is suing Trump’s lawyers Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell for defamation as architects of the Big Lie, as well as his main ally in the business world, pillow maker Mike Lindell. Dominion insists that no credible evidence of forgery has been provided and is seeking $1.6 billion in damages. The lawsuit’s fate could be decided on March 21 or sometime in April.
On Jan. 6, 2021, when Trump supporters, encouraged by Trump himself, attacked the Capitol to prevent Congress from approving Biden’s victory, Fox News gave a different version than CNN and MSNBC, trying to downplay the significance of the event. The network questioned the fact that the president incited the crowd and suggested that the attack could have been a provocation of the far left. Popular TV presenters commented in this spirit, and far right politicians who supported Trump were invited to comment on the air.
Trump’s Stars under Pressure from Murdoch
Meanwhile, the media has recently obtained recordings of private conversations between Fox commentators Hannity, Carlson and Ingraham, which show that they were well aware that there were no cases of election fraud or even irregularities on a larger scale. In addition, they all privately condemned Trump for the attempted coup. Carlson, who boasts the highest viewership, said he “hates” Trump, and Ingraham called the president’s lawyers “nuts.”
Fox’s stars, however, repeated Trump’s narrative on the air, under pressure from TV chief Rupert Murdoch. He convinced commentators that if they acted against Trump, Fox News viewers would stop watching their network and start watching other, competing ultraconservative networks. Such networks, e.g., Newsmax TV, have emerged in recent years, inspired by the president’s populist-right faction of the Republican Party. At Trump’s rallies, voices of condemnation of Fox News have multiplied, alleging that Fox News is “the television of the establishment” or the “deep state.” Murdoch’s network was indeed threatened by the loss of a huge number of viewers fixated on the defeated president.
Earlier, during Trump’s presidency, more honest journalists, such as Chris Wallace, Shepard Smith or Carl Cameron, disgusted with the president’s policies, began to flee the station because they wanted to inform viewers honestly. However, they were in the minority, and a loss of viewers would mean a drop in ratings, which would obviously mean a drop in advertising revenue. Murdoch, as we have learned from various leaks, also had no illusions about Trump. Yet he decided to continue the ultra-right course of his medium for the same reasons that the former president was supported by mainstream GOP politicians, the opportunistic fear of his voters, without regard for the good of the country.
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