Fox News and the Drug of the Steal

Rupert Murdoch and his chief lieutenants at Fox News knew Donald Trump’s claims of election fraud during the 2020 election were false. But, faced with the fear of losing their viewership, their dependence on ratings morphed into a dependence on the stolen election lie.

This is what has emerged from information revealed during the $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit filed by Dominion Voting Systems against Fox News. The company, which makes machines that record votes during elections, aims to show that producers at the television network did all they could to push the false theory of a stolen election so as not to lose viewers, even if they knew deep down that it was a lie.

Fox News the Traitor

It all began in November 2020, while America waited impatiently for the final results of the presidential election. Against all expectations, Fox News, media darling of the Republican Party and Trump supporters, called Arizona for Joe Biden in its projections which mathematically confirmed his victory over the incumbent president.

For the right, it was an earthquake, made worse by Fox News being the only one of all the media outlets to call Arizona for Biden. No other network followed suit before Saturday, Nov. 7, the official date of Biden’s victory.

What followed was a series of political aftershocks that ultimately led to the attack on the U.S. Capitol, fed by the theory Trump and his supporters devised that the election was stolen.

Because basically, Biden did beat Trump in the 2020 election, and those who believed that Trump had won were either fooling themselves, were misled or were willfully ignoring the facts.

Regardless, when Fox News announced Biden’s win in Arizona, the Trumpists were distraught and disgusted by the treason of Murdoch’s network. As a result, they abandoned it and went elsewhere, to networks like Newsmax and OANN, which are even more to the right. Fox News took a hit and fell to third place, losing its label as leader of the 24-hour news networks.

Fox viewers who loved Trump refused to abandon their defeated president, preferring to go along with his delusions of a rigged election rather than admit defeat.

Panic on Board

There was panic within the Fox News leadership, as lower viewership means less ad revenue. But the star hosts at the network had qualms and doubted the theory of the rigged election peddled by Trump but also by Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell, the former president’s lawyer.

For Powell, a former prosecutor, the Dominion machines changed votes intended for Trump into votes for Biden. During an interview with Fox News host Lou Dobbs, she pushed a theory by which a secret CIA program called Hammer and Scorecard flipped votes to Biden, but this attempt to foment a scandal fell flat. She then added that Dominion Voting Systems used a special algorithm to manipulate votes to favor the Democratic candidate.

Behind the scenes at Fox, Powell’s theories raised eyebrows. For example, it would later be revealed that Tucker Carlson, in exchanges with other employees, wrote, “Sidney Powell is lying … [It’s] insane.” And he is not the only one to think so, as his colleague Laura Ingraham added that Powell “is a complete nut. No one will work with her. Ditto with Rudy.”

As for Sean Hannity, one of the headliners of the evening news, who is also close to Trump, he was no more convinced. “That whole narrative that Sidney was pushing, I did not believe it for one second.”

However, Murdoch’s network became addicted to the drug of the stolen election. To avoid disappointing their viewers further, network heads attempted to stop the hemorrhaging by playing up the absurd theory and inviting figures on air like Giuliani, the former mayor of New York and Trump ally, who supports the theory, as well as Powell.

These broadcasts would serve to feed the theory of an unprecedented attack on the integrity of the American democratic election system and that of the detrimental role of the infamous machines made by Dominion Voting Systems that are used to register and tally voter ballots.

Their proof? There was none! The farce lasted for weeks, from lawsuit to lawsuit in the courts, at times presided over by Republican judges, yet with the same verdict: There is no proof of the massive fraud promoted by Trump and … Fox News.

A Lawsuit That Reveals Many Secrets

These attacks persuaded Dominion Voting Systems to sue the cable news network and its parent company, Fox Corporation, which Murdoch owns, for $1.6 billion, forcing it to respond to repeated claims that Dominion had rigged its machines as part of a conspiracy aimed at stealing the election from Trump.

This well-publicized lawsuit has allowed for a behind-the-scenes look into decisions made by Fox News producers regarding the stolen election lie. The surprising revelations contained in Dominion’s legal filings are supported by internal emails, witness testimony under oath and the text messages of Fox News producers and hosts.

For example, when Fox News journalist Jacqui Heinrich fact-checked live on air a Trump tweet that repeated fabrications about Dominion and election fraud, Carlson sent a text message to Hannity that read, “Please get her fired. Seriously … What the fuck? … 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.”

Through these revelations, we also learned that, after the elections, Murdoch ultimately decided to drop Trump. After the insurrection on Jan. 6, 2021, the media magnate wrote in an email to a former Fox executive, “We want to make Trump a non-person.”

But after the November 2020 election, Murdoch did not quite have free rein. Fox News CEO Suzanne Scott reminded him not to anger their viewers.

“We have to lead our viewers,” Murdoch wrote to his son Lachlan in another email, “which is not as easy as it might seem.”

In his deposition, Murdoch acknowledged that he had the power to prevent Trump lawyers Giuliani and Powell from appearing on Fox News to spread false information on the presumed election fraud and falsely accuse Dominion of using its machines to manipulate the votes. But when asked if he could have told the CEO of Fox News Media and network hosts to stop putting Giuliani on the air, Murdoch responded, “I could have. But I didn’t.” Even if, behind the scenes, he and others knew that Trump’s legal team was spreading lies and even questioned their sanity, according to the deposition.

Trump’s Anger

Ever since Murdoch’s statements, Trump has launched unbridled attacks against Fox News and taken the opportunity to continue to disseminate the myth of the stolen election on his Truth Social network.

“Rupert Murdoch should apologize to his viewers and readers for his ridiculous defense of the 2020 Presidential Election. How many forms of cheating and rigging does he have to see? He should also apologize to those anchors who got it right, and fire the ones who got it wrong, or were afraid to speak up (of which there were many!). It’s time to get rid of Fake News, and call it like it is!”

A Meaningful Silence

Fox News has publicly denied the allegations against it and in statements argued that lawyers for Dominion had “cherry-picked” quotes to make their case. The defamation trial planned for April promises to be fascinating because it will showcase a business culture where suspect ideologies serve to fill the coffers of the company. The fear that certain facts said on air might undermine the economic model of the network seems to have motivated a management that sought profits at any cost.

This trial will definitely take place since, surprisingly, neither Dominion nor Fox has shown any public interest in an amicable settlement. It is unusual given that, in general, lawyers for media companies do not want to run the risk of bad publicity.

In an interview with The Hill, Catherine Ross, a constitutional law professor at George Washington University who specializes in First Amendment issues, said she believes that “Fox does not appear to have any plausible defense, particularly in light of what Dominion uncovered.”

“You can cover this without giving a platform to people like Sidney Powell because when you invite her on her show, you’re responsible for her lies if you don’t correct them in real time,” Ross added.

In any case, for several days now, CNN, MSNBC and others have had a field day with these revelations. But what about the airwaves of the network at the center of this affair which risks costing the Murdoch family a lot of money should Dominion win its case? The most complete silence …

About this publication

About Reg Moss 115 Articles
Reg is a writer, teacher, and translator with an interest in social issues especially as pertains to education and matters of race, class, gender, immigration, etc.

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