Jun 08, 2022
Fox News is under fire this week for declining to broadcast the first public prime-time hearing of the congressional committee investigating the January 6, 2021 insurrection--a Thursday night event set to be covered by other major networks and livestreamed online.
The House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol plans to hold its first of six public hearings beginning at 8:00 pm ET on June 9. Fox News' regular prime-time programs "will cover the hearings as news warrants" while a team at the lower-rated sister channel Fox Business handles live coverage, their parent company said Monday.
"This marks a new phase of Fox's complicity in the violent right-wing coup attempt," declared Matt Gertz, a senior fellow at Media Matters for America (MMFA), on Wednesday.
As Gertz detailed:
The network's biggest stars went all-in to support former President Donald Trump's lie that the 2020 election had been stolen. When that incitement triggered the storming of the U.S. Capitol--an attempt to overturn the election results by force and end American democracy--they privately begged Trump to stop the assault, then publicly excused it. In the months that followed, they pivoted to defending Trump and his insurrectionists and punishing any Republicans who spoke out against the depravity.
And now, as the bipartisan congressional committee convenes to detail the fruits of its investigation, Fox will, at best, downplay and conceal what happened from its viewers--or, more likely, have the very people who helped bring about that bloody day lie about the events.
"The specter of another January 6 still looms over the American political system," Gertz warned. "If it comes to pass, everyone at Fox--and everyone who does business with the network--will bear responsibility for the result."
Frank Figliuzzi, a former assistant director for counterintelligence at the Federal Bureau of Investigation, tweeted in response to Fox's decision that "radicalization includes suppression of truth."
Nicole Hemmer, a historian at Columbia University and the author of Messengers of the Right: Conservative Media and the Transformation of American Politics, toldThe New York Times that the move aligns with the right-wing narrative that the attack was "not that big of a deal."
"To air it on their tiny sister network, they are reinforcing that argument: This isn't important," she said, adding that "the base isn't clamoring to tune in, because they agree that January 6 hearings are just a political stage show and that January 6 has been blown out of proportion."
While Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) reportedly blasted the network's move as one of the "most cowardly journalistic decisions in modern memory," MMFA president and CEO Angelo Carusone pushed back, comparing Fox to a super political action committee (PAC).
"It's not cowardly. It's Fox News acting like what they are: a partisan political operation," Carusone said. "It's like wondering why a GOP super PAC isn't livestreaming the hearing. The only people that don't seem to get this these days are many Dem leaders and others in party."
\u201cThis is a disservice to the tens of millions of Americans who watch Fox News. Every American deserves the opportunity to watch the hearings and learn the truth about January 6th. \nhttps://t.co/DXSEuvD5qu\u201d— Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi (@Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi) 1654624919
Washington Post national correspondent Philip Bump similarly wrote that "of course the network is not going to carry hearings," sharing a series of charts showing Fox's disproportionately low mentions of the committee, January 6, the attack, and a pair of involved extremist groups--the Oath Keepers and Proud Boys--relative to CNN and MSNBC.
"Fox News has not been interested in covering new developments in the investigation into the Capitol riot," Bump stressed. "For that reason alone, it is not surprising that the network won't [be] carrying the hearings."
Bump and others--including Robert Reich, a former U.S. labor secretary who's now a professor at the University of California, Berkeley--contrasted the decision with how the network covered the 2012 attack on a pair of U.S. government facilities in Benghazi, Libya, which was investigated by a House select committee formed nearly two years later.
MMFAreviewedFox News coverage from the attack to the May 2014 formation of the panel, and found 1,098 evening segments--105 of which included "attempts to link Benghazi" to the potential presidential ambitions of Hillary Clinton, who served as secretary of state from January 2009 to February 2013.
When Clinton testified to the House panel, Bump noted, "Fox News did cut away from the hearing, something that the Post's media columnist speculated might have been because the network was 'hesitant to expose its viewers to the live-on-the-spot unraveling of many Benghazi themes that it has pushed on air."
Bump suggested that the decision regarding the upcoming hearing could have similar motivations, writing that if someone mentioned a topic the network has ignored or downplayed, "Fox News viewers would be left trying to play catch-up."
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