MEHDI HASAN (HOST): While the networks' hosts knew Donald Trump's big lie was false, it was simultaneously promoting 2020 election fraud claims on air. The filing released as part of a defamation lawsuit brought by Dominion Voting Systems shows how the conservative platform pushed threats to democracy in public while acknowledging privately that they were bogus.
Angelo Carusone is the president and CEO of Media Matters, which serves as a watchdog for right-wing extremist media, and specifically Fox. Tara Setmayer worked as a Republican communications director on Capitol Hill. She currently serves as a senior adviser at the anti-Trump Lincoln Project. Thank you both for joining me. Angelo, as someone who has scrutinized countless Fox segments and hosts, how much did the contents of this court filing surprise you?
ANGELO CARUSONE (PRESIDENT OF MEDIA MATTERS): I mean, there were some parts of it that were a little shocking -- not the substance itself. That was expected. It was the scale. You can glean that this stuff has been happening. We’ve gotten leaked emails in the past where it showed individual executives directing the network to sort of distort, or to lie, to deceive about certain content -- or climate change so they can push a narrative. But it was very -- you know, smaller in scale. This was industrial scale. And so, we knew that the network as a whole was an industrial scale misinformation operation. But I think the part of it that was surprising was how many people were involved in the deception.
And then the other part that was a little shocking was how mean Fox News is to its own audience. And basically everybody else. They were calling their viewers disgruntled. They were attacking Newsmax. They were attacking their own hosts and personalities. That was a little surprising. It’s very contradictory to the narrative that Fox News tells about itself, which is that they close ranks and they never sort of criticize or attack each other but they’re in lock step.
CARUSONE: They basically were able to change reality in much the same way that they did after the election, where they went for a couple days accepting the results, and then on the last two weeks of November, did 774 individual segments explicitly attacking and undermining the election, in part because they were consuming all of this nonsense about Dominion and all these other people out there, and because they were concerned that Newsmax and One America News were going to leapfrog them and capture their audience in much the same way that Donald Trump did in 2016.