Unless you have been living under a rock the last few weeks, you have heard about efforts made by Fox News to protect its ratings after the 2020 election. It falsely claimed that President Donald Trump was being cheated out of his reelection bid in several states, including Arizona, which Fox News correctly called for candidate Joe Biden.
Emails released in a current court case brought by Dominion Voting Systems show Fox News personalities giving credibility to Trump’s election fraud claims while on the air, but dismissing his claims as “mind-blowingly nuts,” “completely BS” and “off the rails” in private emails.
It turns out Fox News is the “Fake News” its listeners have long assigned to mainstream media outlets. The emails also revealed that the Fox News audience can’t handle the truth. Once Fox News announced Biden won Arizona, a significant portion of its audience reportedly switched to a different right-wing station. Once Fox News personalities saw they were losing viewers by telling the truth, they switched to the false narrative that the election was being stolen and silenced Fox News reporters reporting the facts.
One has to wonder what will happen on the night of the 2024 and other future presidential elections. Will Fox News call only states the Republican candidate wins? Perhaps the other states will be considered “contested” or some other made-up category that does not offend its sensitive audience.
As a Fox News host, it must be difficult to go on the air each night and sell your soul to maintain the appearance of actually believing the ridiculous and easily disproven lies about the 2020 election or the Jan. 6 insurrection attempt by Trump supporters. I wonder how these folks face their children and grandchildren as they spread their lies and work to destroy our democracy. Are they not aware their children and grandchildren will be reading about them in future history books? Perhaps they are counting on future Republicans to ban those books.
Not all employees of Fox News are willing to completely sell their souls. Stephen Hayes and Jonah Goldbert, two prominent Fox News journalists, recently resigned in protest to Tucker Carlson’s false narrative about the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. It was, they said, their breaking point. Good for them, but what took them so long? Were the network’s election lies not enough?
Interestingly, Trump is now trashing Fox News on the campaign trail and many of his followers are switching to even more right-wing sources. This goes to show that no matter how much you sell your soul to Trump, he will end up throwing you under the bus. He is loyal only to himself.
As Carlson tweeted about Trump on Jan. 4, 2021, “I hate him passionately.” He went on to tweet, “We’re all pretending we’ve got a lot to show for it because admitting what a disaster it’s been is too tough to digest. But come on. There really isn’t an upside to Trump.”
So true. Nevertheless, Carlson continues to try to defend Trump by continuing to spread false information to his viewers who, apparently, need a daily diet of false information to feed their continued support for a former president and political party members who couldn’t care less about them.
After House Speaker Kevin McCarthy gave Carlson 44,000 hours of surveillance footage from the Jan. 6, 2021, U.S. Capitol insurrection, Carlson cherry-picked through the footage to show only peaceful folks walking through the Capitol in an effort to falsely portray the insurrection as a peaceful gathering.
Does Carlson understand that most Americans have already seen the footage showing Trump supporters violently breaking into the Capitol and attacking the police with anything they could get their hands on? But Carlson and other right-wing media sources need to continue to lie about the 2020 presidential election and the Jan. 6 insurrection in order to cover up their previous lies.
Sooner or later, everyone discovers the truth. Emails from Carlson and other Fox News personalities documented the extent of their deception and their efforts to continue to deceive their viewers, even as they disparage Trump privately.
In spite of all of this deception, however, we still live in a democracy and thank goodness for a free press where factual information can still be shared. So when Republicans try to say Trump won the 2020 election, we have the free press to show us emails from Fox News personalities documenting the truth versus what they proclaim on the air.
Deception, however, is not limited to Fox News. Republicans in Congress are trying to blame our nation’s debt on Biden, who has been in office for just two years. Jim Tankersley of the New York Times, however, was able to publish a study showing nearly 75% of our nation’s current debt “came from bills approved by a majority of Republicans in at least one chamber of Congress.” Another significant portion of our nation’s debt — at least $2 trillion under Trump alone — is the result of Republican tax cuts for corporations and the rich.
Where democracy prevails, the truth is eventually revealed to those who seek it. This is why we must fight to preserve democracy here and abroad.
Tom Zirpoli is the Laurence J. Adams distinguished chair in special education at McDaniel College. He writes from Westminster. His column appears Wednesday. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.