For more than two months, Fox News has been announcing to its viewers that the presidential election has been stolen. Or, at the very least, it could were stolen.
Now, faced with the fatal consequence of that lie – a riot on the United States Capitol that left at least four people dead – America’s most popular news network is telling its viewers that events were sad but also understandable. Because voters think the presidential election was stolen.
“We came to this sad, chaotic day for a reason. It’s not your fault; it’s their fault “, Fox’s Tucker Carlson said last night in his opening monologue, saying that “millions of Americans sincerely believe the last election was bogus.”
You might hear the same argument throughout Fox’s Wednesday night lineup. “Does anyone in the media, someone on the left, understand how hundreds of thousands of Americans, what motivated them to leave their homes and their towns and their towns and often steal or travel long distances to be at the mass gathering? ” Sean Hannity asked on Wednesday night.
And Fox and his friends Host Brian Kilmeade had at least part of the answer: He was a “frustrated electorate” who felt they “didn’t have their day in court.”
Brian from Fox @Kilmeade: “It was the culmination of four years during which they denied that the president had won the election and claimed that the Russians had reversed the votes. It’s four years of investigation, and four years of a frustrated electorate who feels they haven’t had their time in court. pic.twitter.com/EaAuYf0uHu
– TV News HQ (@TVNewsHQ) January 7, 2021
The cynical circular logic is infuriating, even by Fox News standards. It’s also the logical conclusion of the path Fox charted after the 2020 presidential election, when she began to prepare for life in a Biden administration. The plan was obvious: Fox would spend four years pissing viewers off telling them that the Democratic president was illegitimate – as he had done for the last two Democratic presidents.
But Fox can’t back down now, even after the deadly debacle he helped instigate. He will have to keep telling millions of Americans that they are right in thinking the election was stolen from them. If you’ve been on a regular diet of red meat, your customers suddenly won’t accept chicken or tofu.
So think of this as a glimpse into the next four years: a key information resource for much of the country, trying to trace an imaginary line between inciting violence and offering sympathy to the violent.
The “people have a right to be angry” is not the only rhetorical line of defense Fox employed in the hours following the violence. Fox’s hosts and guests also argued that rioters made up only a small percentage of the MAGA movement that met in Washington; they put forward theories that the rioters were in fact disguised antifa instigators; and they found out what by comparing the riot to the protests and violence that erupted after the murder of George Floyd last summer.
And Fox isn’t the only one who says supporters of Donald Trump should be furious after losing. Large swathes of the Republican Party have backed Trump’s unfounded and disproved fraud claims, or at least allowed the rest of the party to indulge in them. Even after the riots on Wednesday, more than 100 legislators supported a futile attempt to overturn the elections.
Fox is also not the only medium or movement encouraging lies. Fringe networks like OANN and Newsmax have done their best to make Fox look in the middle of the road, and at least managed to worry Fox employees on a competitive threat.
The internet and social media fever swamps are even worse, leaving rampant conspiracy theories like QAnon thrive unchecked. Ashli Babbitt, the woman shot dead at the Capitol on Wednesday, appears to have been a QAnon adherent. (Carlson, in his monologue, wondered aloud why Babbitt, who he said “looked pretty much everyone”, would storm the building.)
All of this puts even more pressure on Fox News to respond to its most unhinged and dangerous viewers – if they don’t get what they want from Tucker and Co., there are plenty of options just a click away. . But at the same time, Fox must also keep its programming acceptable to enough Americans to justify the advertising and affiliate costs that make it the key driver of a business. worth around $ 20 billion.
There is no way Fox is using the tactic that Twitter and Facebook just put in place – to make a late public announcement. break up with Trump in the final hours of his presidency – because he needs Trump supporters to stay for the next show. They are therefore stuck with a delicate balance. Don’t waste any sympathy on them.