Fox News has gone all in on supporting state GOP voter suppression bills
270 Fox News segments -- 78% of its entire coverage -- were dedicated to spinning away Georgia’s attack on the right to vote, and the network is now doing the same for Texas and Florida
A Media Matters analysis shows that in the month and a half after Georgia’s voter suppression law was signed into effect on March 25, Fox News proceeded to defend or advocate for the newly codified restrictions on the right to vote in 270 segments. In fact, while a wide coalition of business leaders, democracy advocates, and local officials condemned the provisions of the Georgia law that were blatantly aimed at restricting the franchise in the wake of Republicans’ narrow 2020 losses in the state, Fox News aggressively took the opposite approach -- framing 78% of all its segments on the law with the aforementioned support.
Fox News' overwhelming push to justify the Georgia law stands in stark contrast to the analyses of independent experts and fact-checkers, who confirmed that crucial parts of the legislation were partisan power grabs and voter suppression, plain and simple. Dozens of companies have also come out publicly against voter suppression bills and restrictions on the right to vote across the country, including in Georgia. But some of these companies -- such as General Motors and Dell Technologies -- are heavy advertisers on Fox News. They should note that Fox is already well underway in its support of voter suppression efforts in Texas, Florida, and other states, just as it did with Georgia.
Previously known as Senate Bill 202, the Georgia law makes receiving and casting absentee votes more difficult, targets early voting in populous counties that tend to vote Democratic, increases the likelihood that legal provisional ballots will be discarded, bars additional funding for voter access from third parties, and shamelessly manipulates the composition of the state election board, as it empowers the Republican legislature to suspend local -- and Democratic -- election officials.
Despite the continued lies of former President Donald Trump and right-wing media, none of these changes can be justified on the grounds of preventing voter fraud, a problem that does not exist in significant numbers either nationally or in Georgia.
Nevertheless, Fox News went all in on defending Georgia’s voter suppression law, a programming strategy that was not confined to the network’s “opinion” shows. From March 25 to May 9, Fox News had 344 segments about Georgia’s law and 270 of those segments, 78%, advocated for or defended the legislation. Fox & Friends, which aired 38 segments that defended the voter suppression law, led the charge, and America’s Newsroom (24 segments), Hannity (22 segments), and America Reports (19 segments), followed closely behind.
The network also hosted Republican Gov. Brian Kemp at least 11 times during that period, and he at times used the platform to attack companies that had spoken out against the law. In one interview with prime-time host Tucker Carlson, Kemp called corporations that had penned a letter against the law “hypocritical,” while Carlson asked of Delta Air Lines and The Coca-Cola Company, “Why doesn’t someone say, make your little diabetes-causing soft drinks, fly your little airplanes, why don’t you stay out of democracy?”
In the course of defending the law, Fox figures lied that it would actually make voting easier, lied that Georgia’s voting laws are similar to Colorado’s (where Major League Baseball moved the All-Star game), aired misleading graphics, and misled viewers about the Republican power grab over the process of overseeing the election.
Fox News has also not been shy about pushing Trump’s lie that the 2020 presidential election results were supposedly fraudulent in Georgia and nationwide, a falsehood that has now been incorporated into the network’s defense of voter suppression on the spurious grounds of “election integrity.”
And it’s not just in Georgia that Fox News is defending restrictions on the right to vote. The network has started to defend the new voter suppression laws coming from other Republican-led states as well. On May 6, Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis even signed Florida’s law live on Fox & Friends. As of May 9, 5 out of 8 Fox News segments (63%) on Florida’s new voter restrictions have advocated for them, while 10 out of 12 segments (83%) on Texas’ proposed voter suppression legislation -- expected to be signed into law shortly -- have also been supportive. Republican leaders from these states have also made multiple appearances on the network to defend various voter suppression laws, including the ones in Florida and Texas. DeSantis has made 3 appearances on the subject while Texas' Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick have both made two appearances each.
If those companies who have recently proclaimed their commitment to the right to vote are genuine, they would do well to remember that Fox News obviously doesn’t share their principles. As shown by the network’s coverage of Georgia’s voter suppression, advertising on Fox News is only adding fuel to a fire that is threatening to burn our democracy down.
Media Matters searched transcripts in the SnapStream video database for all original programming on Fox News Channel for any variation of the term “vote” within close proximity of any of the terms “Texas,” “Florida,” or “Georgia” that were also within close proximity of any variations of any of the terms “suppress,” “restrict,” “mail,” “poll,” “count,” “fund,” “drop box,” “run off,” “24 hour,” or “suspend” or any of the terms “ballot,” “absentee,” “early,” “ID,” “identification,” “legislation,” “bill,” “law,” “registration,” “fraud,” “mobile,” “center,” “emergency,” “food,” “water,” “hours,” “electoral,” “election,” “precinct,” “machine,” “registrar,” “purge,” “drive through,” or “drive thru” from March 25 through May 9, 2021.
We included segments about Georgia, Texas, or Florida voter suppression legislative efforts, which we defined as instances when such laws from Georgia, Texas, or Florida were the stated topic of discussion or when we found “significant discussion” of any of such laws. We defined significant discussion as instances when two or more speakers in a multitopic segment discussed such laws with one another. We did not include passing mentions, which we defined as instances when a single speaker discussed such laws without another speaker engaging with the comment. We also did not include teasers, which we defined as instances when the anchor or host promoted a segment coming up later in the broadcast.
We then reviewed the identified segments for whether any speaker advocated for the voter suppression laws in Georgia, Texas, or Florida. We defined advocating as any statement that positively affirmed, defended, or supported any restrictive voting measure; suggested that any restrictive voting measure would expand access to the polls; suggested that any restrictive voting measure would not be burdensome or onerous; suggested that any restrictive voting measure would be agreeable to any reasonable voter; suggested that any restrictive voting measure would be common sense; or contrasted any restrictive voting measure to similar requirements in other industries.
We defined a statement as an uninterrupted block of speech from a single speaker. For host monologues, we defined a statement as an instance of uninterrupted speech between citations, which we defined as reading aloud a quote or playing a clip. We defined “restrictive voting measures” as any of the following: requiring voter identification; limiting drop-box locations, drop-box hours, polling hours, early voting hours, polling locations, drive-through voting, or access to absentee ballots; or eliminating preemptive mailing of unsolicited ballots to all eligible voters, mobile voting centers, or distribution of food or water to voters in line.
We split Fox programs into “news” and “opinion” sides. We defined “news” programs as those with anchors, such as Bret Baier or Shannon Bream, while we defined “opinion” programs as those with hosts, such as Tucker Carlson or Laura Ingraham, at the helm. We used the designations from each anchor or host’s author page on FoxNews.com. We also considered the format of the program; we defined those using a panel format, such as Outnumbered and The Five, as “opinion."