Opinion: Jan. 6 hearing coverage shows why Fox News Channel isn't news
FNC's primetime Tucker Carlson and Sean Hannity shows, and morning 'Fox & Friends,' mostly have ignored allegations about Donald Trump's efforts to overturn the 2020 election made during the televised January 6 committee hearings.
Fox News Channel's refusal to report revelations from the January 6 committee on its primetime and morning shows about Donald Trump's efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election — after his advisors told him repeatedly that he lost — proves that "Fox News" isn't news.
It's mostly Republican Party propaganda, especially with its popular primetime lineup (Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham) and morning Fox & Friends, none of which last week even MENTIONED the allegations made about Trump during the televised January 6 Congressional hearing Tuesday afternoon.
I spent much of Tuesday and Wednesday morning last week watching the Fox cable channel. I mean no disrespect toward Chad Pergram and the company's other journalists, but Fox fills the screen morning and night with noise, not news. Hosts present opinions and information through a right-wing filter, and give fellow Republicans an open forum to bash President Joe Biden, the "really radical Democratic socialist party" (as Sean Hannity says) and the legitimate news media.
To be clear: the Fox cable channel (I can't call it "news") did carry the January 6 committee's sixth hearing Tuesday afternoon from 1 p.m. to 3:57 p.m. It has carried the five afternoon hearings live, despite much lower ratings than its usual daytime programming, after refusing to air the committee's first hearing June 9, an evening session which would have pre-empted the lucrative, highly rated Tucker Carlson Tonight and Hannity. We'll see if Fox carries the committee's final hearing at 8 p.m. Thursday, July 21, or sticks with Carlson and Hannity.
After Tuesday's afternoon hearing, Fox aired only about 15 minutes of analysis of the committee's disclosures — then quickly pivoted to other topics: Biden meeting with Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, Biden's upcoming Mideast trip, inflation and the mid-term elections.
CNN and MSNBC continued their recap and exploration of the committee's revelations most of the night, except for reporting of the disturbing 77-minute Uvalde elementary school video of armed officers loitering in the hallway instead of confronting the gunman.
The legit news channels replayed clips in primetime, showing former White House counsel Pat Cipollone explaining how Trump's "outside" advisors Sidney Powell, Michael Flynn and Rudy Giuliani wanted Trump to authorize the federal government to seize voting machines; how Trump refused to concede after the Dec. 14 Electoral College vote and Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) saying Biden had won; and how Trump wanted to appoint Powell special counsel to investigate election fraud during that contentious "unhinged" White House meeting on Dec. 18, after she had lost 60 court suits in an effort to overturn the election.
(Hours after that meeting Trump tweeted to his supporters that it was "statistically impossible to have lost the 2020 Election. Big protest in D.C. on January 6th. Be there, will be wild." The panel says the tweet was a call to motivate the Proud Boys, Oath Keepers and other followers who believed his claim that the election had been stolen from him.)
Over on Fox Noise, Tucker Carlson instead talked at 8 p.m. about the global "GREEN ENERGY DISASTER," Biden's failures and Jill Biden's comments to Latinos in San Antonio. (The first lady's comments were the dominant topic that morning on Fox & Friends, along with "BIDEN'S BORDER CRISIS" and a July 1 murder in a New York City bodega.)
Carlson verbally attacked the first lady by quoting Hunter Biden — yes, the president's son and laptop owner who has been criticized constantly for years by Carlson and other right-wing media folks — by saying Hunter described her as a "vindictive moron." Carlson enjoyed repeatedly calling her a "moron," even if he's never believed another word that Hunter Biden has ever said in his life.
After the committee's first hearing on June 9, Carlson actually acknowledged the proceedings. That's when the committee showed former Attorney General William Barr and Trump's daughter, Ivanka, saying they knew Joe Biden won the election, and there was no massive voter fraud. Barr called the stolen election claim "bull----."
Carlson called the hearings "propaganda" on June 9. He said he supported the channel's decision not to air the hearings because "they are lying." Hannity that night called it a "boring" Democratic "fundraiser."
Let me point out that Carlson and Hannity were on the air the same time the hearings were on, and they could not hear the testimony.
After the hearings last week, Hannity opened his show at 9 p.m. Tuesday with what he called "several breaking stories," but talked mostly about Biden's low poll numbers with Democrats, Biden's "bizarre blunders," his wife's comments to Latinos the previous day, and "the imploding White House and radical Democratic Party."
Hannity also made a passing reference to the "one-sided January 6th committee," a frequent complaint by Republicans who never mention that their party did have an agreement for a bipartisan commission last year. However, after John Katko, the top-ranking Republican on the House Homeland Security Committee, made a deal with Rep. Bennie Thompson with the blessing of House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, McCarthy then did a 180 and rejected the agreement. His Plan B was to nominate Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan, who was actively communicating with Trump leading up to the January 6 insurrection, for the committee. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi rejected him.
McCarthy was a guest last Tuesday on Sean Hannity, but of course they didn't talk about any of the January 6 committee revelations about Trump. McCarthy instead repeated his desires to investigate the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan and origins of COVID.
Jordan, the Ohio congressman, also chatted last Tuesday with Hannity about other Republican grievances, such as why House Democrats aren't investigating the summer unrest of 2020 after George Floyd's murder. Of course, there were no questions about Jordan and the 10 other Republican congressional members attending a strategy meeting with Trump at the White House in December 2020 that was mentioned during Tuesday's hearings. And there was no conversation about committee member Rep. Liz Cheney's June 9 statement that Rep. Scott Perry and "multiple Republican congressmen" had sought "presidential pardons for their roles in attempting to overturn the 2020 election."
No, that would be news.
The "one-sided committee" was Hannity's only reference to the two-hour congressional hearing. He didn't bother to contest Tuesday's damning portrayal of Trump, to whom he texted advice before and after the January 6 insurrection, according to committee evidence presented last month.
On June 28, Hannity had defended Trump after Cassidy Hutchinson's blockbuster testimony while he put the words "MEANINGLESS," "RUMORS, HEARSAY AND GOSSIP," "THE DISHONEST PRESS" and "PURE THEATER" on the screen.
Hannity declared that Hutchinson, the "so-called witness" and "hearsay witness," was not "a game-changer." He's wrong, of course. Cipollone soon agreed to testify under oath, and reportedly corroborated many of her statements. And Trump advisor Steve Bannon also volunteered to testify since her appearance.
While the committee rehash continued on CNN and MSNBC last Tuesday night, the Laura Ingraham Angle opened at 10 p.m. with a commentary about how COVID school closings resulted in escalating teen violence. Her on-screen graphics read "STOLEN FUTURES," "THE LEFT'S WAR ON OUR KIDS" and "THEY HAVE TURNED OUR CITIES INTO VIOLENT WASTELAND."
They? Who are they? Aren't Republicans more likely to oppose gun restrictions than Democrats? Shouldn't it say "WE," meaning everyone: Democrats and Republicans?
The spin cycle continued Wednesday morning. For a second consecutive day, Fox & Friends ignored the January 6 committee. (After the initial June 9 hearing, co-host Pete Hegseth told viewers that "nothing new came out of it," which was inaccurate.)
While ABC's Good Morning America, NBC's Today, CNN and MSNBC opened at 7 a.m. Wednesday with revelations from Tuesday's January 6 congressional hearing — and CBS led with the stunning Uvalde school video — Fox Noise spent the first 10 minutes talking about "a massive group of migrants entering the U.S." from Mexico; Biden's meeting with the Mexican president; more talk about the two-day-old New York Times poll about Democrats bailing on Biden; and more commentary about Jill Biden's Monday comments to Latinos.
There was no mention in the Fox Noise alternative universe about that "unhinged" marathon meeting with Trump, Powell, Giuliani, Cipollone and others, or revelations that Trump was planning the march to the Capitol days before "spontaneously" announcing it at his Jan. 6 rally.
On Fox Wednesday morning, it was Biden who was unhinged. Fox & Friends played a clip of Biden telling reporters that "92% of Democrats would vote for me" in an election, which, to be fair, isn't quite correct. While the poll showed most Democrats — particularly those under 30 — would prefer to not see Biden run in 2024, 92% said they prefer Biden over Trump, a stat Fox didn't report.
"What a fantasyland he (Biden) is living in," said Ari Fleischer, former White House press secretary for George W. Bush (2001-03), who was promoting his new book on Fox & Friends Wednesday morning.
Isn't Fantasyland a good description of a president who refuses to accept defeat after the Electoral College voted? Or a president who called Georgia state officials asking them to "find 11,780 votes" for him after the vote had been certified? Or wanting to seize all the voting machines in the U.S.? Or pressuring his vice president to interfere with the peaceful transfer of power?
Fantasyland? The term also fits Fox Noise. It's an alternative universe where some of the nation's biggest news stories are ignored in primetime and mornings, contributing to this nation's inability to agree on basic facts. In the Fox Noise echo chamber, everyone else is at fault.
"This is the problem with the media today," explained Fleischer last Wednesday to the Fox & Friends universe. "They are no longer objective. They are no longer neutral … and I'm talking about the mainstream media — NBC, ABC, CBS, CNN, The New York Times and Washington Post."
Not Fox, of course.
Let me be clear: I've been a newsman for nearly 50 years, sifting through the fabrications and fiction in search of the truth. To me, this is not a conservative vs. liberal issue, or Republican vs. Democrat.
For me, it's about the right way vs. wrong way to operate a powerful cable channel calling itself "news." The Fox cable channel, which has more viewers than CNN or MSNBC, does not present objective news in the morning or in primetime, when most people are watching TV. It's mostly noise.
It's noise that makes millions of dollars for the Fox Corporation, controlled by the Rupert Murdoch family, by spewing information and opinion under the guise of presenting "news."
The sad fact is that when Fox Noise viewers are exposed to the truth the cable channel has generally ignored — like the revelations during the televised January 6 committee hearings — the channel's ratings have dropped precipitously. FNC lost half its viewers during the live hearing telecast last Tuesday afternoon, according to Brian Stelter, CNN's media analyst.
Viewers who have been shielded from the facts, or repeatedly told lies by Trump that the election was "stolen," don't want to hear the truth: That Donald Trump was told by numerous advisors that he lost a fair and free election, and yet he still tried to hatch various schemes to overturn the results and stay in power.
We'll never heal and unite this divided nation if we can't agree on the facts. First, we all have to hear them.
The next hearing for the U.S. House Select Committee to investigate the January 6 attack on the United States Capitol will be 8 p.m. Thursday, July 21.
Cincinnati Public Radio's Media Beat writer John Kiesewetter has been a Cincinnati journalist since 1975, when he was hired by the Cincinnati Enquirer after earning a journalism degree from Ohio University.