If you needed further proof of the rot inside Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News organization, a US$1.6-billion defamation lawsuit filed by Dominion Voting Systems is providing it.
Dominion, the voting-machine company whose products were used during the 2020 U.S. presidential election, is suing Fox for maligning its reputation by airing conspiracy theories that the election was stolen. Among these theories: the baseless claim that millions of ballots supporting Donald Trump were changed to votes for Joe Biden by Dominion’s machines.
As part of the discovery process, Dominion’s lawyers got access to internal Fox emails, which revealed just what contemptible creatures network hosts Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham and Tucker Carlson truly are. What is evident in the emails is that even though many Fox hosts knew the evidence supporting these outlandish assertions was slim to non-existent, it didn’t stop them from propagating the Big Lie.
Mr. Carlson was furious that on the night of the election, the Fox Decision Desk called a Biden victory as early as it did. “Do the executives understand how much credibility and trust we’ve lost with our audience?” he e-mailed a producer. “We’re playing with fire, for real.”
Mr. Hannity was upset over the backlash the network was receiving from Trump supporters. “You don’t piss off the base,” he texted to Fox & Friends host Steve Doocy.
So the network, worried about its viewers deserting them for the new, MAGA-friendly Newsmax, decided it was in their interest to feed their right-wing followers lies and falsehoods about election fraud. The complete cowardice and hypocrisy of both Fox and its high-priced on-air talent were laid bare in other emails, which showed the contempt they held for Mr. Trump himself.
“I hate him passionately,” Mr. Carlson wrote to a producer.
One might have thought that Dominion’s lawsuit would temper things a bit at Fox. Maybe made them a little hesitant to fan the flames of hate and division racking America and threatening to rip the country apart. But no. For people like Mr. Carlson, his power is in his numbers. He is the No. 1-rated talking head on Fox, which is why his multi-year contract is worth tens of millions of dollars.
His job is to rage-farm every night. Feed the MAGA masses more red meat to gorge on. This week, he may have outdone himself.
A few weeks ago, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy granted Mr. Carlson and his producers exclusive access to surveillance footage from the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol. It will go down as one of the most humiliating displays of a politician attempting to ingratiate himself with someone who holds the power to undermine his position in the Republican party.
What Mr. Carlson and his team decided to do with the 41,000 hours of footage was find the most benign images they could and cast the rioters as anything but violent. In fact, he now believes (or at least says on TV) that the footage he cherry-picked demolishes the claim that what happened on Jan. 6 was an insurrection. “It was a big lie,” he told his viewers.
On the contrary, he said, what took place that day was “peaceful, orderly and meek.” He said most of the rioters were mere “sightseers.”
This may rank as one of the most odious things Mr. Carlson has done on television, which is really saying something about a race-baiting liar who, over the years, has provided cover for Tea Party zealots and QAnon nutbars.
His characterization of the Capitol riot is that it was a fun little tailgate party that offended Democrats and (some brave) Republicans alike. The chief of the Capitol Police service, Tom Manger, was appalled, saying the show Mr. Carlson aired around the footage was “filled with offensive and misleading conclusions.” Not to mention, the disrespect it showed for the nine people who lost their lives (including four police officers who committed suicide shortly after it happened), and the 140 police officers who were assaulted by Mr. Carlson’s “sightseers.”
In many respects, Fox made Donald Trump. Or at least, it created the paranoid environment in America that allowed him to thrive. When Mr. Trump came to power, Fox became dependent on the MAGA followers they had helped radicalize to ensure the company’s prosperity.
When Mr. Trump lost in 2020, Fox and its hosts faced a critical moment of truth: come clean about what really happened or lean into the con that the election had been stolen.
Fox decided it was more important to pander to a mob it had helped create, than to make their viewers face the facts about what was truly going on in America. In the end, Fox News has no one else to blame for the stench emanating from its rotten core.