It was partly easier thanks to Fox News. From the first hours after the riot, Fox News opinion leaders presented the riot as something other than it was – despite having just texted Trump’s chief of staff, Mark Meadows, asking him to get Trump to take a firmer hand. against violence. Over the past 17 months, Fox News hosts (especially Tucker Carlson) have been at the forefront of casting doubt on the riot and portraying efforts to investigate what happened as partisan. There is a news side to Fox, but it sits in the shadow of the late-night hosts. The effect is that Fox News has a unique power to influence Republican politics and the Republican electorate.
So, of course, the network will not air hearings conducted by the House Select Committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack.
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On Monday, I examined how two conflicting narratives emerged in the aftermath of the 2020 election. In reality, Trump’s self-serving insistence that he could only have lost through fraud, combined to his desire to retain power, led him to demand that staunch supporters show up in Washington on Jan. 6, creating a demand economy that Trump allies and Fox News have sought to take advantage of. But many on the right see Trump as unfairly targeted as he simply sought to challenge a flawed electoral system — a narrative that itself received sympathetic treatment on Trump’s favorite cable news network.
The result is that Fox News was significantly less likely to cover stories related to Jan. 6 than its two competitors, CNN and MSNBC. It’s not, of course, the case that Fox News has to cover what its competitors are doing — which we’ll get to — but it’s nonetheless telling about how Fox views the subject.
For example, here’s how many times each network has mentioned “January 6” in the week since the Capitol attack. Each network’s weekly date mentions are shown overlapping; notice that Fox News’ columns consistently underperform those of its competitors. On the right, the average over the entire period. This shows that Fox News mentioned the date less often.
More dramatic is the comparison of mentions of the House select committee itself. CNN mentioned the committee more than four times more often than Fox News on average; MSNBC mentioned it five times more on average.
A similar pattern emerges for mentions of the attack on the Capitol itself. Fox News just doesn’t talk about it much.
Earlier this year, a team of researchers released a study showing how Fox News influences the perceptions of its viewers through what it chooses to cover. Participants were paid to watch CNN instead of Fox News and, at the end of a month, were less likely to agree with the political framing amplified by Fox coverage. In other words, the Fox News coverage had a demonstrable effect.
So consider what this means that Fox News spent almost no time covering the Proud Boys or the Oath Keepers, two of the extremist groups that played a leading role in the storming of the Capitol on the 6th January, and members of both, who faced charges. seditious conspiracy. CNN mentioned the Proud Boys seven times more often than Fox News on average over this period; they mentioned Oathkeepers 34 times more often.
There have been topics that other networks have been outliers on, such as with MSNBC’s focus on alternative voter lists submitted by Trump allies before Jan. 6 in hopes they might disrupt the vote counting process that day.
But on topics like these text messages sent to Mark Meadows — messages that not only describe who gained access to the White House on Jan. 6, but also broadened our understanding of efforts to overturn President Biden’s election — Fox News was again an outlier. (No average for the period is shown since the posts only appeared late last year.)
Where Fox News stood out was in its mentions of “antifa” in the weeks following the attack. You will recall that within hours of the attack, network hosts raised the idea that antifa, a loose group of far-left activists, was involved in the riot.
All of this speaks to a pattern: Fox News has been uninterested in covering new developments in the Capitol riot investigation. For that reason alone, it’s no surprise that the network isn’t broadcasting the hearings.
There’s another model at play, too. Fox News aired hearings during Donald Trump’s first impeachment, but often just showed the proceedings in silence as its hosts engaged in discussions. During the second indictment, the one focused on the January 6 attack, the network cut itself off at key points.
This has not always been his approach to investigations. Media Matters determined that the network aired 1,100 segments about the terrorist attacks in Benghazi, Libya, in 2012 at the time a select committee was formed to investigate those events – and to interview the alleged 2016 presidential candidate. , Hillary Clinton. When Clinton herself testified, however, Fox News interrupted the hearing, which the Post’s media columnist assumed was because the network was “reluctant to expose its viewers to the live denouement of many Benghazi themes.” which he pushed on air.
In all honesty, there’s one more reason Fox News might not want to air the January 6 committee hearings. After all, imagine if any of the speakers casually mention Meadows texting or the role of the Oath Keepers. Those Fox News viewers would be trying to catch up, wondering what those bizarre references meant to things their favorite network had only mentioned occasionally or only in passing.