2 thoughts on “Fox News Knowingly Spreads Falsehoods to Its Audience

  1. Originally posted on 2/18/2023

    If I made a case against trusting Murdoch outlets like Fox News, New York Post, this would be one of the articles I’d cite. (You should be able to read the article if you click the link.)

    Fox Stars Privately Expressed Disbelief About Election Fraud Claims. ‘Crazy Stuff.’ from the NYT

    Also, I recommend reading Brian Stelter’s reactionto the information in the Atlantic is also worth reading.

    From the NYT article:

    Fox News stunned the Trump campaign on election night by becoming the first news outlet to declare Joseph R. Biden Jr. the winner of Arizona — effectively projecting that he would become the next president. Then, as Fox’s ratings fell sharply after the election and the president refused to concede, many of the network’s most popular hosts and shows began promoting outlandish claims of a far-reaching voter fraud conspiracy involving Dominion machines to deny Mr. Trump a second term.

    The following supports the belief that Murdoch and his minions are primarily motivated by profits–not journalism or even political ideology.

    On Nov. 12, in a text chain with Ms. Ingraham and Mr. Hannity, Mr. Carlson pointed to a tweet in which a Fox reporter, Jacqui Heinrich, fact-checked a tweet from Mr. Trump referring to Fox broadcasts and said there was no evidence of voter fraud from Dominion.

    “Please get her fired,” Mr. Carlson said. He added: “It needs to stop immediately, like tonight. It’s measurably hurting the company. The stock price is down. Not a joke.” Ms. Heinrich had deleted her tweet by the next morning.

    In the Atlantic piece, Stelter mentions how Sean Hannity responded to this tweet:

    Hannity replied and said he had already sent the accurate and thus offending tweet to Fox News Media CEO Suzanne Scott.

    “Sean texted me,” Scott wrote to two colleagues. Apparently Hannity had threatened to tweet back at Heinrich. “He’s standing down on responding,” Scott wrote, “but not happy about this and doesn’t understand how this is allowed to happen from anyone in news.” Scott was bothered too. She worried that reporters at other outlets would notice Heinrich’s tweet: “She has serious nerve doing this and if this gets picked up, viewers are going to be further disgusted.”

    High level staff at Fox News didn’t believe the election fraud claims:

    “No reasonable person would have thought that,” said the network’s politics editor at the time, Chris Stirewalt, referring to the allegation that Dominion rigged the election. Bill Sammon, Fox’s managing editor in Washington, is quoted as saying, “It’s remarkable how weak ratings make good journalists do bad things.”

    Fox pushed out both journalists after the 2020 election.

    Ron Mitchell, a senior Fox executive who oversaw the Carlson, Hannity and Ingraham shows, texted privately with colleagues that the Dominion allegations were “the Bill Gates/microchip angle to voter fraud,” referring to false claims that microchips were injected into people who received Covid-19 vaccines.

    At times, Fox employees are described as disparaging one another. The president of the network, Jay Wallace, is quoted at one point criticizing the former Fox Business host Lou Dobbs — one of the biggest megaphones for Mr. Trump’s lies. “The North Koreans do a more nuanced show” than Mr. Dobbs, the brief says.

    On Nov. 6, 2020, three days after Election Day, as Mr. Biden pulled into the lead, Mr. Murdoch told Ms. Scott in an email that it was going to be “very hard to credibly cry foul everywhere,” and noted that “if Trump becomes a sore loser, we should watch Sean especially,” referring to Mr. Hannity.

    Along similar lines, Stelter mentions a Fox News producer whom he interviewed for his book Hoax. This producer worked on Fox and Friends:

    It was clear from the tone of his voice that he had profound regrets from his time working on the morning show, and that’s why he wanted to be a confidential source.

    The former producer said he sensed himself being brainwashed while consuming all of the right-wing content from the Fox & Friends hosts and guests. He felt himself transforming into one of the millions of Fox addicts across America. “People don’t care if it’s right, they just want their side to win. That’s who this show is for,” he said. “It’s sad.”

    More on the idea that Murdoch is all about profit–not responsible journalism:

    Other sources at Fox told me to think of it not as a network per se, but as a profit machine. They feared doing anything that would disrupt the machine. “I feel like Fox is being held hostage by its audience,” a veteran staffer told me, perhaps justifying his own participation by portraying himself as a victim.

    When I printed these confessions in Hoax, I wrote that everyone at Fox was “profoundly afraid of losing the audience and the resulting piles of cash.” I cited the former morning-show producer, who told me, “We were deathly afraid of our audience leaving, deathly afraid of pissing them off.”

    I agree with Stelter below:

    This is my biggest takeaway: In the days after Biden won the election, while Trump tried to start the steal by shouting “Stop the Steal,” the most powerful people at Fox News were not concerned about the health of U.S. democracy. They were concerned about Fox’s brand and their own bottom line.


    One snippet of texts shows Scott telling Lachlan that viewers were “going through the 5 stages of grief.” Angling to impress her boss, she said the Arizona projection was damaging, “but we will highlight our stars and plant flags letting the viewers know we hear them and respect them.”

    What a curious word—respect. Journalists are taught that to respect the audience means to report the truth clearly and carefully. But inside Fox, which is first and foremost a provider of entertainment, respect meant something else.

    and finally this:

    A senior staffer at Fox railed against the network’s journalists and math wizards who had called Arizona for Biden, calling them “arrogant fucks” who “are rubbing it in our viewers’ faces.”

    Rubbing what? “Biden. They’re rubbing Biden in our faces.”

    I never fully understood that objection until I read the new Dominion filing. Somewhere around page 157, it clicked. Inside Fox, the prime-time stars and senior executives raged against the network’s reporters not because they doubted that Biden had won, but because the truth was too disturbing to the audience that had made them rich. Fox’s postelection strategy, the texts and emails suggest, was to stop rubbing Biden in its viewers’ faces. But in their effort to show their viewers “respect,” they ultimately disrespected both their audience and the American experiment they claim to protect.


    (In response to this post, the following was posted on 2/28/2023)

    Murdoch Acknowledges Fox News Hosts Endorsed Election Fraud Falsehoods from the NYT

    Asked by Dominion’s lawyer, Justin Nelson, whether he could have ordered Fox News to keep Trump lawyers like Ms. Powell and Mr. Giuliani off the air, Mr. Murdoch responded: “I could have. But I didn’t.”

    The document (submitted by Dominion) also described how Paul D. Ryan, a former Republican speaker of the House and current member of the Fox Corporation board of directors, said in his deposition that he had implored Mr. Murdoch and his son Lachlan, the chief executive officer, “that Fox News should not be spreading conspiracy theories.” Mr. Ryan suggested instead that the network pivot and “move on from Donald Trump and stop spouting election lies.”

    (parenthetical statement added)

    If the following proves true, it seems pretty damning:

    On Jan. 5, 2021, the day before the attack at the Capitol, Mr. Murdoch and Suzanne Scott, the chief executive of Fox News Media, talked about whether Mr. Hannity and his fellow prime-time hosts, Tucker Carlson and Laura Ingraham, should make it clear to viewers that Mr. Biden had won the election. Mr. Murdoch said in his deposition that he had hoped such a statement “would go a long way to stop the Trump myth that the election was stolen.”

    According to the filing, Ms. Scott said of the hosts, “Privately they are all there,” but “we need to be careful about using the shows and pissing off the viewers.” No statement of that kind was made on the air.

    The following bolsters accusations that Fox News is basically a wing of the Republican party.

    Dominion details the close relationship that Fox hosts and executives enjoyed with senior Republican Party officials and members of the Trump inner circle, revealing how at times Fox was shaping the very story it was covering. It describes how Mr. Murdoch placed a call to the Republican leader of the Senate, Mitch McConnell, immediately after the election. In his deposition, Mr. Murdoch testified that during that call he likely urged Mr. McConnell to “ask other senior Republicans to refuse to endorse Mr. Trump’s conspiracy theories and baseless claims of fraud.”

    Dominion also describes how Mr. Murdoch provided Mr. Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, with confidential information about ads that the Biden campaign would be running on Fox.

    When asked in his deposition if Fox executives had an obligation to stop hosts of shows from broadcasting lies, Mr. Dinh (Fox Corporations top legal officer) said: “Yes, to prevent and correct known falsehoods.”


    Inside the Panic at Fox News After the 2020 Election from NYT

    But the next day (November 4, 2020), with Mr. Biden’s lead in Arizona narrowing, Mr. Baier noted that Mr. Trump’s campaign was angry and suggested reversing the call. “It’s hurting us,” he wrote Mr. Wallace (Jay Wallace, the president of Fox News) and others in a previously reported email. “The sooner we pull it even if it gives us major egg. And put it back in his column. The better we are. In my opinion.”

    While Mr. Biden held onto Arizona by 10,000 votes, the explosive fallout from the Fox call panicked the network. Viewers erupted. Ratings fell. “I’ve never seen a reaction like this, to any media company,” Tucker Carlson told Ms. Scott in a Nov. 9 message released in a court filing. Ms. Scott complained to a colleague that Mr. Sammon (managing editor for Washington, who didn’t want to change the initial call that Biden won Arizona) did not understand “the impact to the brand and the arrogance in calling AZ” and it was his job “to protect the brand.”

    Fox News eventually let Sammon and Chris Stirewalt (the latter a key person in determining that Biden won Arizona) go.

    What no one said at the meeting was that Ms. Scott would not let Mr. Sammon’s team risk the network’s brand again. She decided to push out Mr. Sammon and Mr. Stirewalt, but fearing criticism for firing journalists who had gotten the call right, opted to wait until after Georgia.

    Mr. Murdoch was not keen on waiting. On Nov. 20, four days after the Zoom meeting, according to documents filed by Dominion, he told Ms. Scott, “Maybe best to let Bill go right away,” which would “be a big message with Trump people.”

    Mr. Sammon, who had called every election correctly over 12 years at Fox and had just been offered a new three-year contract, was told that same day that his contract would not be renewed after all. He heard not from Fox but from his lawyer, Robert Barnett. Mr. Stirewalt was out too.


    (The following was originally posted on 3/2/2023)

    The way Fox News responds to lies about election fraud–the other mainstream outlets are lying and untrustworthy:

    In this clip, Kellyanne Conway challenges viewers not into politics to examine the number of times the media and government have lied about Trump–primarily because they want to get him.

    Here’s what I would say to those same viewers:

    1. How can you trust a news agency, given the revelations from texts, emails and legal depositions that indicate their owner, executives, and top news pundits knowing lied to their audience because they were afraid of losing them to competitors.

    2. Given this, is it possible that the media has accurately covered Trump’s words and actions? To verify this, read his tweets, and watch his speeches and press conferences. Also, read and watch criticisms of Trump and his administration from people from his administration.

    3. Finally, ask yourself the following questions: If a future president behaved like Trump, what kind of coverage would you expect from the media? If a future president behaved in the similar fashion, would it warrant the end of their presidency?

    (On a side note, I realize that married couples may have entirely different political beliefs, but given Conway’s mendacious and irresponsible attempts to undermine faith in the press, and George Conway’s public positions, it makes me question his sincerity; it makes me wonder if his public stance is merely a facade to protect his daughter and their family overall–while allowing their family to reap the benefits from Kellyanne’s behavior.)


    (The next post originally posted on 3/8/2023)

    Tucker Carlson whitewashing 1/6 insurrection

    GOP Senators criticize Fox News and Tucker Carlson’s use of 1/6 security footage.

    McCarthy response to Manu Raju’s question, regarding giving the footage exclusively to someone who downplayed the 1/6 insurrection is reprehensible. McCarthy wants “transparency” and people can come to their own conclusions. If McCarthy were sincere, he would not have given it to Carlson.

    Kudos to the GOP Senators who puplicly criticized Fox News.

  2. How Fox Chased Its Audience Down the Rabbit Hole by Jim Rutenberg from the New York Times Magazine (Gifted article, so it can be read.)

    This long piece provides historical overview of Rupert Murdoch’s rise in the media industry.

    (Note: These are quotes that stood out for me. But I will go back and cut out some passages as well as add commentary.)

    a Fox News White House correspondent, Kristin Fisher, went to the network’s camera position outside the West Wing and fact-checked the allegations. “So much of what he said was simply not true,” she told Fox viewers. Giuliani, she said, provided no hard proof for a claim that “really cuts to the core of our democratic process.” Fox’s opinion hosts, who had been broadcasting the Giuliani-Powell Dominion fantasies to varying degrees themselves — some appearing to endorse them outright — had been complaining internally that the news division’s debunking efforts were alienating the core audience. An executive at the Fox Corporation, the network’s parent company, had recently started a brand protection effort to, among other tasks, “defend the brand in real time.” After Fisher’s segment, the group sent an alert to top news executives. In a follow-up email, Scott vented to a deputy. “I can’t keep defending these reporters who don’t understand our viewers and how to handle stories,” she wrote. “We have damaged their trust and belief in us.” One of Fisher’s bosses told her that she needed to do a better job of “respecting our audience,” and Fisher later complained of feeling sidelined.

    In the wake of the New York vs. Sullivan decision, which set a high bar for suing a news oulet for defamation, this is how Murdoch reponded:

    Murdoch saw an underserved audience, one that loved Nixon, wanted the United States to fight on to victory in Vietnam, was wary of the changes brought by the civil rights movement and, perhaps as much as anything else, had a secret yen for the lurid, the titillating and the sensational. “We’re not here to pass ourselves off as intellectuals,” Murdoch said. “We’re here to give the public what they want.”

    “If the reader buys it, it’s moral,” Dunleavy (a young Aussie reporter Murdoch brought to the New York Post, after he bought it) said only half-jokingly.

    Murdoch had always wanted some degree of respectability, or at least the influence that respectability afforded: He bought The Times of London in 1981 and would go on to buy The Wall Street Journal in 2007. The point was to balance the news and the screaming to reach the biggest possible audience. In 1996, that would become the formula for his most successful media property, the Fox News Channel, which would serve his largest news audience yet: American conservatives who saw no television news network speaking to them. Murdoch and his new chief, Roger Ailes, a television executive and longtime Republican operative, came up with a different kind of television format — news during the day, like the “A section” of a newspaper, opinion at night, like the editorial page — and a clever slogan: “Fair and Balanced.”
    Having a proper news division meant sometimes disappointing that audience — for instance, when Fox broke news before the 2000 election that George W. Bush had once been arrested for drunken driving. But as Ailes saw it, conservatives were so delighted to have something addressing their worldview that they would keep flocking to the channel no matter what.

    In one notable case, a right-wing website called Insight falsely reported that Obama attended a Muslim madrasa as a child in Jakarta. The story caught the attention of the hosts on the network’s popular morning talk show, “Fox & Friends,” and one of them asked on air why no one ever mentioned that a potential Democratic presidential contender “was educated in a madrasa.” Anything could have happened there. Had he been educated in a form of Islam that “pretty much hates us”? Under pressure from the newsroom, the show later told viewers that Obama’s office had called to say the report was “absolutely false.” Fox’s vice president for news editorial, a former Time magazine editor named John Moody, put a finer point on it with a memo to the staff warning against lifting unverified reports from the internet. “The hosts violated one of our general rules,” Moody told The Times amid the controversy, “which is know what you are talking about. They reported information from a publication whose accuracy we didn’t know.”

    This was the company, and the audience, that were confronted by Trump’s election lie in 2020. The president could create and distribute a story in real time, and Fox could track the viewer response minute by minute. What it found was exactly what Trump intuited after Romney’s loss in 2012: The audience wanted the election lie. When Fox stopped giving it to the audience, there was an instant falloff. That falloff came quickly after Fox News became the first network to call the state of Arizona for Biden in 2020, undermining his contention that he was winning. The president and viewers were furious, and competitors were ready to take them away.

    Murdoch had stood by the Arizona call, even as the White House, behind the scenes, called him to question it. A few days later, after Fox News and all of its competitors called the election for Biden, the consequences were becoming clear. “Getting creamed by CNN!” Murdoch wrote to Scott. “Guess our viewers don’t want to watch it. Hard enough for me!” Scott, who had been at the network during the Romney election-night fiasco, had told Murdoch that the “first 72 hours will be the worst of it.” But CNN was not the only competition now. Newsmax was coming in hard and fast. “Fox is having something of an identity crisis, and I don’t know if they know the country as well as we do here,” boasted its star anchor, Greg Kelly, a former Fox News correspondent. Kelly “had over 1 million total viewers on Newsmax,” the president of the Fox Business network, Lauren Petterson, wrote to a colleague. “I see it,” the colleague responded. “Jesus.”

    If they didn’t want it from Carlson — who was at the same time seeding other false notions about voter fraud — they certainly didn’t want it from the news correspondents, who were not. It was then that Fox’s journalists began hearing about “respect” for the audience. What the journalists didn’t understand was that in all the news-side election calling and debunking, “the audience feels like we crapped on them,” Scott explained to her deputy. They were going to have to rebuild trust.
    An executive at Fox News, who would speak about the court proceedings only on the condition of anonymity, said that showing “respect” did not mean relinquishing the job of debunking the false reports. In the executive’s view, those who were drawing Scott’s ire were being unduly “snarky” in doing so and appeared to be “talking down to” viewers and “even rolling their eyes.”
    But for all the executives’ venting about a lack of “respect” among Fox journalists, what is not apparent in the emails is any dressing down of those on the staff who were spreading the falsehoods. There is certainly no obvious concern about what the anger that was stemming from the belief in those falsehoods might lead to. As a producer texted to Bartiromo in late November: “To be honest, our audience doesn’t want to hear about a peaceful transition. They still have hope.”

    A few months later, Tucker Carlson began promoting his “Patriot Purge” documentary, portraying the Jan. 6 insurrection as a result not of the boiling rage he helped feed with his ample coverage of “dead voters” (who weren’t dead) and a rigged system, but of a “false flag” staged by federal authorities. That was followed by the exit of one of the network’s most respected anchors, Chris Wallace. “When people start to question the truth,” he later told The Times, “I find that unsustainable.”

    In the 2022 midterms, the network didn’t spend a lot of time promoting the electoral conspiracy theories of the huge slate of 2020 election deniers who won the Republican Party’s nominations. In battleground states, nearly all of them would lose in the general election. Yet even as the Dominion case began producing reams of embarrassing texts and emails, Carlson presented “exclusive” and selective Capitol Hill security video to dispute that Jan. 6 was an insurrection and reassert that the 2020 election was “unfairly conducted.” Bret Baier, Fox’s lead news anchor, ran a segment that was critical of Carlson’s report. When I caught up with him recently, he said he has always been free to report the news as he sees fit, without interference from his bosses. But journalism is about getting the story right in the first place, not just straightening it out afterward. There, of course, lies the path toward actual malice.

    The facts are clear to all. “Trump insisting on the election being stolen and convincing 25% of Americans was a huge disservice to the country,” Murdoch wrote to Scott on Jan. 20, 2021, the day Biden became president. “Pretty much a crime. Inevitable it blew up Jan. 6th.” But what will Murdoch and his employees make of the facts? What will happen when everything is on the line again and that audience wants Trump on Trump’s terms again? Fox could deny them. It could promote the truth, inform its viewers and serve the First Amendment role that the justices in Times v. Sullivan so carefully defined and protected. But that might antagonize Trump and his audience. And, at least as Murdoch had explained to Dominion’s lawyers, doing that would be stupid.

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