On MSNBC's All in, Angelo Carusone discusses Fox News priming its audience to believe the 2024 election is rigged against Trump

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Citation From the June 19, 2024, edition of MSNBC's All In With Chris Hayes

CHRIS HAYES (HOST): If you watch this network all day, and I know some of you do, you would come away thinking, yeah, the presidential race is basically a coin flip right now. Donald Trump definitely has a real chance to win. And that's essentially what the polls are saying. But, that is not the case in the echo chamber of Fox News, where the notion that this race is essentially tied or that Joe Biden could win is unthinkable.


HAYES: Now they're telling their audience what they want to hear, which okay. But remember the last time they did that, after the 2020 election? Fox personalities parroted Trump's election lies suggesting voter fraud was the only way he could have lost, and they ended up getting sued for it by Dominion, the voting machine company. That led Fox to make the largest media defamation settlement of all time, seventy hundred and eighty-seven million dollars. Their coverage also contributed to the atmosphere that gave rise to a violent insurrection and the first attempt to overthrow the constitutional republic since the Civil War. And they're doing it again, which is dangerous, but also potentially hilarious on nights like this when Fox News' own polling data from the field gave them an unexpected and for their viewers uncomfortable result.


HAYES: Margin of error, folks. Margin of error. Michelle Goldberg is an opinion columnist for the New York Times. Angelo Carusone is the president and CEO of Media Matters for America. And they both join me now. And Angelo, let me start with you because I've been — I watch a fair amount of Fox. We have it on and it has been striking to me that inside their programming, the notion this is a tied race is ludicrous. It is just obviously the case that Donald Trump is romping, running away with it. Biden's gonna collapse. It's gonna be a 1980 kind of election. Is that a fair characterization?

ANGELO CARUSONE (MEDIA MATTERS): Absolutely. And the thing that I — it's totally fair. I mean, they really have cemented for their audience. And then by extension, that reverberates to a larger sort of right-wing media consumer, the Trump supporters, that there's actually no chance that Trump can lose. In fact, one of the Fox hosts even said that there's no way that anyone would accept the election as legitimate unless Donald Trump is declared the winner. So, I mean, they've validated that very observation, and they've gone on one step further than that, which is actually to sort of build up his Paul Bunyan sort of chops. Right? Which is to say, not only is he guaranteed to win, but he's doing it against all of these odds, all of this malfeasance and cheating and other sort of hijinks that the Democrats are engaging in. So it's sort of a both / and. They reinforce that, and they're also sort of seeding the ground for any sort of, you know, blips in pulls or anything that comes off expectations. They're already building the argument for how Trump could be declared, say, not the winner.

HAYES: Yeah. And Michelle, the thing about this unnerves me is that, you know, we've seen polling misses in different directions. It's very hard to get a very tight race, like, exactly correct. And there's a universe in which, like, Donald Trump is up in the polling average by 2 or 3 points on election day and Joe Biden wins. That is like —

MICHELLE GOLDBERG (NY TIMES): The reverse of what happened in 2016.

HAYES: Exactly. Reverse what happened in 2016 somewhat similar to 2022 in a few of those marquee races the Democrats over-performed what the final polling average was. And under those conditions, it's like, yeah, our — you've already got — Donald Trump's not gonna accept defeat. We've already seen what he's done. It feels like they're packing it like gunpowder into an explosive.

GOLDBERG: Oh, yeah. Absolutely. And I mean, the 2020 race was a race overseen by Donald Trump's Justice Department. I mean, the idea that they're going to accept a race overseen by the Biden administration, at least on the federal level, it seems impossible. And that's kind of what they're preparing their people to do. And it's also that they've kept them in — I think that they are themselves and they keep their viewers in such a bubble. Right? So that they're seeing these clips. Some of them quite doctored, you know. You'll see kind of Biden wandering off and you don't see the person he's wandering off to talk to.


GOLDBERG: And so —

HAYES: This is at the G7 summit where they had the the paratroopers come down.

GOLDBERG: Right. So to the end, it's — I mean, politically, it actually makes no sense because the thing that Biden benefits from most is rock bottom expectations.

HAYES: Yes, exactly.

GOLDBERG: I've been consistently outspokenly worried about Biden's age and his performance, but he's going to be sentient at the debate just as he was at the State of the Union. And people are going to remember like, oh, this isn't the, you know, sort of, you know —

HAYES: Zombie

GOLDBERG: Right, that I've been told to expect. And so what they're doing makes no sense unless they really either are in that bubble or are so devoted to just kind of stoking the wish casting of the people who are in that bubble.

HAYES: Yeah. And I think I can't I can't speak their motives, Angelo, but it does strike me that, like, it's pleasant to hear good news about your candidate as just a general thing for everyone. And I think part of it is just it's they this works for them at a ratings level to be like Donald Trump is winning.

CARUSONE: Yeah. I mean, we don't ‚ in some ways, we don't have to make too many guesses here. I mean, what came out during the Dominion lawsuit was that they didn't — they felt like they didn't have a choice. And that was in some ways, it's even worse and more destructive and that they both knew that they were the only voice that could actually tell the truth to Trump's people and actually get some of them to believe it or at least, as you note, sort of take some of that gunpowder out of the keg. They were the only ones equipped to do that in 2020. And in fact, they did the opposite. They helped build the scaffolding for the January 6th insurrection by telling 774 segments explicitly undermining the election results and towing Donald Trump's lines in the first two weeks after the results came in. So, you know, they sort of — they knew that they're lying, but they also acknowledge that if they don't do this, their audience will cannibalize them. And that's even more so right now because think about it. The right-wing media, which is typically a function as an echo chamber, Fox has always been the center of gravity for that, you know, talk radio as well, but it's always been pretty concrete. This is the first election cycle of 25 years that Rush Limbaugh is not the single largest get-out-the-vote operation in the country. The entire right-wing media is a jump ball. There is no center of gravity, but they're at least the loudest voice in the room, and they can't lose that megaphone. And what that does mean is they not only have to toe the line, but they have to reinforce it because they know that their audience will come at them, but they also know that they're the only ones that could penetrate. So it's really terrible.

HAYES: Well, they did they did promote their own poll today. Their polling operation, I think, is, relatively sound. But it also strikes me — we talk about this fair amount, Michelle. Just the asymmetry of the of the psychological disposition of these two groups of people, which is like people on the sort of, you know, center left, are are just constantly hand wringing, constantly nervous, completely neurotic.  You know, up at night, like, where what's going on? Panicking at every turn. It's completely the opposite. If you told people, like, Donald Trump might win, they'd be like, yeah. I know that.

GOLDBERG:  Well, part I mean, part of it is just kind of maybe dispositional neuroticism. But part of it is also that Democrats and liberals are so self-conscious about their own, limitations, you know, their own bubble. Right? They often will flagellate themselves with this semi-apocryphal Pauline Kael quote about not knowing anyone who voted for Nixon. I mean, JD Vance, who could be the vice president, the thing that has elevated him was that Democrats and, you know, liberals rushed out to buy his book to understand what had happened when Donald Trump was elected. Right? They're like, you know, we must understand — Fox News viewers don't care about the resentments of liberals and making, you know and so they are — they have a sense that they are the quote-unquote real Americans and that either they are a majority or they have a right to be a majority. And so it just kind of could — it almost doesn't compute the idea that the country at large is not seeing what they're seeing.

HAYES: Yeah. And I think the thing we saw in 2022, which does keep you a little hopeful, right, is that there was something similar. There was a huge expectation of the big red wave. It didn't pan out. And with the exception of Kari Lake, right, everyone accepted it. And then Kari Lake kind of like sort of accepted it, though she never really accepted it. Now she's running again. The problem is Donald Trump is a uniquely malevolent figure.