Thursday’s prime time presentation by the House’s 1/6 committee was the most Fox-centric hearing yet — and none of it was shown live by Fox.
House lawmakers brought up the right-wing network by name half a dozen times. They revealed, through witness testimony, that Donald Trump’s dining room TV was tuned to Fox during the siege of the Capitol. They confirmed what journalists like Maggie Haberman reported in the immediate aftermath of the riot: That Trump sat back and watched the show instead of upholding his oath of office.
Hannity was live on Fox when the texts were showcased — but he was busy talking about President Biden. The main Fox News Channel did not air a single minute of Thursday’s hearing. Live coverage was relegated to Fox Business, the low-rated sister channel. Other right-wing outlets, like Newsmax and The Daily Caller, also ignored the hearing. I know this is not surprising — right-wing media has been downplaying the riot aftermath almost ever since it happened — but it is still important to document, lest anyone think that the United States was united in watching this summer’s series of hearings about 1/6. Far from it.
As Rep. Adam Kinzinger said in his closing remarks, “The forces Donald Trump ignited that day have not gone away. The militant, intolerant ideologies. The militias. The alienation and the disaffection. The weird fantasies and disinformation. They’re all still out there, ready to go. That’s the elephant in the room.”
So with that in mind, here’s a survey of Thursday night’s TV landscape…
Tucker boasts about not showing the hearing
Carlson then said “no one wants to watch it” (untrue), said that on Jan. 6 “some guy in viking horns wandered around on mushrooms and made weird noises” and “that was kind of it” (untrue), and said that none of the attackers “had guns” (untrue). Carlson jammed all three of those falsehoods into 10 seconds. He concluded his screed by mocking the press, claiming that the riot “makes the people covering it feel like they lived through Vietnam.” He sneered: “More lifestyle liberal narcissism.” That was the only reference to the 1/6 hearing on Carlson’s show. The rest of the program was filled with the usual anti-vaccine, anti-immigrant type rhetoric one might expect.
One hour later, Hannity brought up the hearing repeatedly, but denied the committee; blamed Democrats for security failures on Jan. 6; said Capitol Hill needs a “better perimeter” with fences and walls; condemned Dems for “violent rhetoric” in the past; said Congress should convene a committee about the summer of 2020’s riots; and called the 1/6 committee “a one-sided political smear that does nothing to improve our lives.” Later, his guest Mark Levin said “this is a rogue committee that is appointed by Nancy Pelosi to stop Donald Trump from running for president.”
A change in Fox’s approach
When the House select committee held its first prime time hearing, back in June, Fox News stuck with its usual talk shows in a dramatic break with other major networks. It was Fox’s way of siding with its Trump-supporting audience. But on that night, Carlson and Hannity’s shows plastered live pictures of the hearing on screen, then proceeded to talk over it. The approach on Thursday night was noticeably different: Fox avoided any live pictures of the hearing.
Newsmax, a much smaller right-wing channel, also took a different tack on Thursday. Newsmax aired much of the first prime time hearing live, while criticizing it the rest of the time. But Newsmax largely ignored the follow-up prime time hearing and focused on other topics instead.
And yet, despite those best efforts, Thursday’s revelations will still seep through to at least some GOP media viewers and readers. For example, Fox’s midnight Eastern time program — although not nearly as popular as the prime time talk shows — did provide analysis of the hearing’s main findings…
A night of “infuriating” testimony
“There is no job of responsibility,” John Dickerson said on CBS, “where a failure this grave of your central task wouldn’t bounce you from the job immediately.” It is extraordinary that “you cannot say that out loud as a Republican right now without getting in trouble,” he added, acknowledging that GOP officials fear they’ll “end up like Liz Cheney, who is facing possibly losing her seat.”
“This isn’t a prosecution of the past,” his colleague Margaret Brennan said, “it’s a warning of the future.”
“See you all in September”
BRIAN LOWRY WRITES:
>> Rep. Bennie Thompson, joining remotely due to Covid-19, said “we are pursuing many additional witnesses for testimony” and “we will reconvene in September, to continue laying out our findings to the American people.” Cheney said “we have much work yet to do, and we will see you all in September…”
CNN media analyst David Zurawik writes: “Another media takeaway from the hearings on the insurrection involves the role of TV in American life. While television was widely accepted as the principal storyteller of our national life during the last half of the 20th Century, many analysts have downplayed its importance with the rise of the Internet and social media during the last two decades. But these hearings have shown the enduring political and cultural power of the medium. This summer, at least, TV has been the principal storyteller of what happened on January 6, 2021. The dinosaur can still roar…”
About the outtakes
BRIAN LOWRY WRITES: