Following the guilty verdicts against former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin for murdering George Floyd, Fox News engaged in a pattern of lies and obfuscations to stoke a climate of fear. Network figures suggested that riots could still happen any second, engaged in false equivalency between Rep. Maxine Waters’ (D-CA) comments and Trump’s rhetoric that led to an actual insurrection, and lied about President Joe Biden’s remarks on the verdict.
Fox host fearmongered about potential riots even though Fox’s own reporting showed there were no signs of it
The network had previously engaged in rampant demagoguery against the Black Lives Matter movement throughout 2020, fearmongering about civil unrest and nonviolent protests across the country. At the time, Fox hosts supported both government crackdowns and blatant vigilantism against protesters.
After the verdict against Chauvin was read in court, The Five kicked off the immediate coverage, and the panel went to Fox News correspondent Mike Tobin, who was live on the scene in Minneapolis.
Tobin reported the crowd there was celebrating the verdict, indicated that people he spoke to were opposed to anybody rioting, and said there was little evidence that people come prepared with the sort of gear that rioters might have been expected to have.
“We see very little of what we've come to know with the antifa crowd — the black hoods, the backpacks — a little bit of the painter's respirators that are supposed to ward off the teargas,” Tobin said. “Some of the signs look like they could be used as those makeshift shields. For the most part, you have people who wanted to come out here, hear the verdict, and react.”
Such an observation would be even more crucial when one remembers that people would not have known what the verdict was going to be before they assembled.
But just minutes later, co-host Jesse Watters expressed his great concern that rioting might still occur: “I just hope that people in the sense of exhilaration on the streets, you know, when sometimes the championship wins — the team wins the championship, you still light things on fire, you still riot, let's not have that. Let's — I hope calm heads prevail throughout the country and we can turn this page in America.”
There were no riots, nor did they seem likely to occur, as Tobin had just explained from the ground — but Watters still fear-mongered about the prospect of them.
And on Wednesday night, Fox host Sean Hannity urgently reported on a riot in Portland, Oregon — 1,400 miles away from Minneapolis — and conflated it with a crowd of peaceful protesters in Minnesota that chanted a vulgar slogan to give the impression that “the left in this country” was “hell-bent on some kind of revenge.”
Fox figures create a false equivalency between comments by Rep. Maxine Waters and those by Trump that led to an insurrection
In recent days, conservatives attempted to single out comments made by Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) and compared them to former President Donald Trump’s speech to supporters on January 6, in the lead-up to the storming of the Capitol.
Waters had told a crowd during a visit to the Minneapolis area that if Chauvin were not convicted of murder, “We got to stay on the street, we’ve got to get more active, we’ve got to get more confrontational,” comments that she and her allies said were in the tradition of non-violent civil rights activism.
There is, however, an obvious difference between Waters’ and Trump’s examples: A riot actually did occur in Trump’s case — after he had not only summoned his supporters to Washington by promising a “wild” time, but then refused to call them off during the riot, and also failed to send in the National Guard immediately. While the storming of the Capitol building has justly received the most attention, there were additional incidents across the nation.
No similar set of circumstances applies to anything that Waters said. But early in the evening on Fox’s Special Report with Bret Baier, Fox News congressional correspondent Chad Pergram reported on the House’s party-line rejection of a censure motion Republicans had brought against Waters.
“Republicans contend Democrats only want to accuse the GOP of inciting the Capitol riot, but not call out their own,” Pergram said without noting the obvious point that a Capitol riot actually did occur, while no rioting can be traced to Waters’ comments in Minnesota.
That night, Sean Hannity and Fox News contributor Dan Bongino also engaged in more bad-faith commentary, with Hannity asking him: “What do you make of the impact of statements by the likes of Maxine Waters and the double standard? For example, the virtual silence of Democrats during the summer when the rioting was happening in almost every major city. But then, you know, on January 6, their favorite word becomes ‘insurrection.’” (In reality, Democratic leaders repeatedly condemned the violence.)
Bongino responded, in part: “Unlike Maxine Waters, I am not a totalitarian communist. I believe in free speech. Maxine Waters is free to say stupid things. I don't want Maxine Waters prosecuted. But I don't want imbeciles claiming Donald Trump tried to incite a riot, either, by asking people to march peacefully and patriotically.” (Bongino did not remark on Trump’s determined course of inaction at actual violence by his supporters.)
On Wednesday morning’s edition of Fox & Friends, frequent Fox guest and law professor Jonathan Turley also claimed that Waters’ speech could be used against her in another court proceeding, in which she has joined a group of House Democrats suing Trump for having incited the January 6 attack.
“She’s suing Donald Trump for essentially doing what she’s accused of doing in Minneapolis,” Turley claimed. “She has a lawsuit accusing him of violent speech and encouraging insurrection. Well, she’s now going to be his best witness. I mean, how is that judge going to rule? You’ve got a litigant who’s accused of the very same conduct who’s trying to get you to rule against the former president. It's very likely the court’s going to view both of these situations — certainly the president's speech — as protected speech.”
It’s unclear if Turley’s expert legal mind considered how a judge would weigh the competing facts that a riot actually did occur in one case — for which the political leader involved then stood by and watched it happen — compared to no such riot happening in the other case. However, Turley did not seem interested in making any serious points.
Fox’s “news”-side lies again
On Wednesday’s afternoon’s edition of Outnumbered, Fox News anchor Harris Faulkner kicked off a block with this comment: “President Biden praising the protesters who rallied after George Floyd’s death last May — but making no mention of all the rioting, and arson, looting, and even deaths that also resulted, with damage estimates topping $1 billion during all the unrest.”
Faulkner was lying. Biden actually said during that same speech Tuesday evening: “Peaceful expression of that legacy are inevitable and appropriate, but violent protest is not. And there are those who will seek to exploit the raw emotions of the moment — agitators and extremists who have no interest in social justice; who seek to carry out violence, destroy property, to fan the flames of hate and division; who will do everything in their power to stop this country’s march toward racial justice. We can’t let them succeed.”
Faulkner also played a clip of Walter “Hawk” Newsome, a fringe figure whom Fox has elevated before — incorrectly depicting him as a leader of the Black Lives Matter movement — in which Newsome claimed that “a mixture of violent and nonviolent protest that yielded this result.” Newsome actually has no affiliation with the national BLM, and the organization has denounced him for seeking to profit off its name.
Faulkner added: “That sounds like an echo chamber of Congresswoman Maxine Waters — just a little bit stronger wording.”
Fox News media contributor Leo Terrell also chimed in: “You know why they don't believe this verdict yesterday has any resolution to their cause? Because you cannot make a deal with the devil. Antifa, extremist, socialist — you cannot appease them, it does not work. They want to riot, they want to create chaos. That is in their M.O.”
Faulkner also asked Fox News contributor and former White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany: “Why didn’t [Biden] talk about what this nation went through last summer and the following months with all the rioting and looting?”
And all the while in the discussion, footage of old demonstrations from last year played in the background, with chyrons such as “Biden ignores rioting that marred protests” and “Biden fails to mention riots, looting, arson.”
These statements were clearly false in regards to Biden’s remarks from Tuesday, and even as a presidential candidate, Biden had repeatedly condemned the violent unrest that occurred in 2020.