On July 11, former President Donald Trump offered unhinged remarks and false accusations about the 2020 election, from complaints of a “rigged” election to decries of “late-night ballot stuffing” to baseless allegations of Georgia deleting “over 100,000 votes.”
In covering Trump’s appearance at the Conservative Political Action Conference the following day, Fox’s chief political anchor and “straight news” host Bret Baier only briefly mentioned Trump “firing up the crowd” and then quickly moved on with senior political analyst Brit Hume to discuss the impact of the convention’s presidential straw poll results.
Baier conveniently failed to report that Trump asserted that “we did so much better than they ever thought in their wildest imagination,” invoking the voting-machine companies Dominion and Smartmatic that have served as a scapegoat for the president and his conspiratorial supporters. The network ran a legal disclaimer during that portion of the speech when it aired, reading, “The voting system companies have denied the various allegations made by President Trump and his counsel regarding the 2020 election.”
Baier then played another clip from Trump’s CPAC speech in which he asserted that “the entire system was rigged against the American people and rigged against a fair, decent, and honest election.”
Baier offered no context or pushback to the quote, only asking Hume how Trump’s continued emphasis on a “stolen election” would impact the Republican Party.
Dominion and Smartmatic have both launched lawsuits against Fox News. The companies alleged that Fox News amplified inaccurate, conspiratorial assertions that the 2020 election was impacted by nefarious actors within the companies, ultimately contributing to a Joe Biden victory. The network has vowed to fight the lawsuits in court, releasing a statement saying it’s “proud of our election coverage.”
While Baier can ignore such details in his reporting, he cannot deny his network’s -- and his own -- complicity in spreading election lies, specifically around voting system conspiracy theories.
After Trump released a video in December described by The Associated Press as an “unspooling [of] one misstatement after another to back his baseless claim that he really won,” Baier ran a segment featuring then-correspondent Kristin Fisher noting the probable inaccuracy of the former president’s claims. Yet when Baier turned to a panel later in the show, the anchor ignored the inaccuracies of the speech, instead focusing on its length and political impacts and the fact that news outlets were not permitted to film it. Baier even framed the speech as Trump “still fighting to the end.”
Baier has defended his own role in reporting on Trump’s false election claims, claiming that Fox has said “numerous times” that the election was not stolen. A Media Matters study in November, however, found that in the two-week period after numerous media outlets, including Fox News, called the election for Joe Biden, the network questioned the results of the election or spread conspiracy theories about them at least 774 times, in programming spread across both “straight news” and opinion shows.