Fox News hosts question election legitimacy without evidence
(CNN Business)A version of this article first appeared in the “Reliable Sources” newsletter. You can sign up for free right here.
Joe Biden is closing in on the presidency. He has the facts on his side. President Trump? He has feelings and “Fox & Friends.”
I don’t know what the electoral college map will look like at the time you’re reading this. But I know that all of Thursday’s news coverage and social media chatter reminded me of one saying: “Facts don’t care about your feelings.” Conservative commentator Ben Shapiro popularized the phrase in 2015. In the Trump age, it has been wielded like a sword in left-right debates. Conservatives like Shapiro have portrayed themselves as the rational, factual ones while liberals are the emotional ones.
Now consider what we all witnessed on Thursday: Trump tweeted in ALL CAPS and sounded despondent in the briefing room. He lied so brazenly that the broadcast networks cut away. He refused to answer questions from reporters. It was all about his feelings, not facts.
Fox News tried to protect Trump’s feelings. The prime time propagandists pretended like the election is being stolen. Lou Dobbs shouted for help from the Department of Justice. The network’s news anchors treated him exceedingly gently. Correspondents emphasized that Trump “feels” like this process is unfair. Fox’s coverage matters enormously because tens of millions of Trump voters are being misled by it. But this landmark moment in American history is about FACTS, not feelings. So let’s start there, then deal with the pro-Trump media’s poisonous content…
Friday’s front page
“Biden sees gains as path becomes clearer” is the Washington Post’s banner headline. The first subheadline notes that Biden urged “calm.” The second subhed notes Trump’s “baseless” allegation of “mass fraud.” Consider the presentation: The facts about Biden are being played much more prominently than Trump’s feelings.
Showing your work
Remember what your math teacher said — to “show your work?” This week is the television version of showing your work. “This is exciting because votes are being counted. This is the experiment of democracy,” Jake Tapper said on CNN. It’s something to be celebrated, “and it IS being celebrated by everyone except President Trump and his minions…”
“Networks cut away from Trump’s White House address”
That’s the headline on David Bauder’s report for The AP. I have to confess, I was surprised when this happened. All the major networks went live to the WH when Trump spoke at 6:45… but ABC, NBC, CBS, and MSNBC all cut away due to Trump’s bogus, dangerous claims. POTUS “knew exactly what he was doing… in coming on in the middle of our newscasts tonight,” ABC’s David Muir said later. “We knew when we heard that — if you count legal votes, I easily win, if you count illegal votes, they could try to steal the election — that it was time to pull out of that and fact-check it in real time. And I thank Jon Karl for joining me in that moment. And it is a surreal moment that we’re even having this discussion in this country.”
CNN and Fox News carried all of Trump’s remarks live, but CNN’s banner warned about Trump’s lies while Fox’s banner dutifully repeated his words. CNN immediately followed up with fact-checks, corrections and appropriately harsh language. “What a sad night” for the country, Jake Tapper said. “Pathetic.” Over on Fox, Bret Baier and Martha MacCallum simply repeated and summarized some of Trump’s lies. Later on, Baier briefly noted that “we have not seen evidence” of Trump’s allegations. Not a single host or guest sufficiently criticized or called out Trump’s undemocratic conduct. Instead, they pretended like it was normal.
There was talk on Thursday, among media critics, about a “Murdoch pivot.” There was speculation that Rupert and Lachlan Murdoch were taking steps to break with Trump. But this talk was wildly overstated. Fox’s biggest stars are promoting voter fraud innuendo, denigrating cities like Philly, and treating Trump’s long-shot lawsuits like serious pursuits. Hannity, for example, told his viewers that “it will be impossible to ever know the true, fair, accurate election results. That’s a fact.”
The executives are complicit
Oliver Darcy writes: “It is hard to overstate how reckless, irresponsible, dishonest, and dangerous the rhetoric coming from Fox’s biggest stars is. But, that said, it’s not really surprising that Hannity and the other pro-Trump propagandists are undermining the election. They care about raw power and ratings. No one expects more of them. But it is striking that the Murdochs are allowing them to go on air with this undemocratic language. Where are the execs and managers? Their employees are riling up viewers and essentially claiming that the election is being stolen by corrupt Democrats. Words have consequences, and it’s frightening what sort of action this rhetoric might inspire.”
Daniel Dale’s assessment
Here’s what he wrote for CNN.com: “I’ve watched or read the transcript of every Trump speech since late 2016. I’ve cataloged thousands and thousands of his false claims. I have never seen him lie more thoroughly and more egregiously than he did on Thursday evening at the White House.”
Colbert threw away his script…
Stephen Colbert and the producers of “The Late Show” threw away their planned show and started from scratch after Trump’s shocking remarks. Here’s the first part of the monologue. “If you did not know that Joe Biden was getting close to 270, Donald Trump just provided all the proof you will ever need,” Colbert said…
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