Fox is using the latest “Twitter Files” to downplay Trump’s incitement of violence during the January 6 insurrection
After the latest “Twitter Files” drop on December 12 showed Twitter executives discussing banning former President Donald Trump from the platform, Fox News jumped on the story, using it as a way to downplay Trump’s incitement of violence leading up to and during the events of January 6, 2021.
Over the past two weeks, Twitter CEO Elon Musk’s media allies such as journalists Matt Taibbi and Bari Weiss have been posting extensive Twitter threads, dubbed as the “Twitter Files,” alleging that the company and its executives were intentionally censoring and suppressing conservatives on the website. However, objective journalists and experts see these revelations coming from the “Twitter Files” as underwhelming. In a Washington Post interview, Jameel Jaffer, the director of the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University, stated that he was not “persuaded these are anything close to a bombshell.” Renée DiResta, research manager at the Stanford Internet Observatory, told NPR that Musk’s files are only “anecdotes” of how a global company dealt with American political crises.
The most recent “Twitter Files” batch published by Weiss showed conversations between Twitter employees about Trump’s January 6, 2021, tweets and whether they constituted a violation of the company’s policies for inciting violence. Weiss alleged that these conversations demonstrate, in line with the other “Twitter Files,” a widespread effort to crack down on conservatives and show how “a handful of people” used Twitter to “influence the public discourse and democracy.” Weiss also cited Twitter employees’ conversations to make the case that Trump did not incite violence nor did he violate company policy.
But Trump’s tweets before and during the insurrection are viewed by the House select committee investigating the January 6 attack as an important catalyst in the violence that occurred. Both federal prosecutors and congressional investigators demonstrated that Trump’s tweets leading up to the storming of the Capitol were interpreted as a “call to action” by extremists groups. According to NPR, “in several cases” of “more than 800 criminal cases stemming from the Capitol riot … the criminal proceedings have referenced how Trump's tweet motivated rioters to make plans to come to Washington, D.C., and, in some cases, to gather weapons and body armor ahead of the trip.”
On Fox News, hosts and contributors alike have been downplaying Trump’s role in the January 6 insurrection and the violence he incited, using the so-called “Twitter Files” as evidence that he did not violate company policy, or by framing his tweets in the weeks leading up to January 6 as stand-ins for conservative speech writ large.
- Fox & Friends co-host Will Cain undermined the impact of Trump’s January 6 tweets and stripped them of context by saying that “they’re fairly benign” and that “the language from inside Twitter [shows] they didn't amount to incitement.”
- Fox News contributor Jonathan Turley brushed off Trump’s role in the Capitol insurrection on America Reports by just stating that “many of us criticized Donald Trump for what occurred on January 6,” but he went on to criticize Twitter’s decision, saying Trump’s removal “reveals a type of hair-triggered environment of people just looking for any basis to ban Donald Trump.” He also condemned Twitter employees for being “people who are arguing that virtually any statement that he makes, including a fairly innocuous one, should be treated as a violation.”
- On Hannity, host Sean Hannity argued the communications confirmed “that Twitter staffers made censorship decisions not based on actual rules or policy, [but] based on politics, based on ideology.” He also claimed, “It's beyond just bias, it's an all-out effort to work as an arm of the Democratic Party as admitted by Elon Musk and to work in, of course, concert with corrupt actors and federal law enforcement including, sadly, our FBI.”
- Fox News contributor Tammy Bruce expressed concern on The Faulkner Focus that people view Trump’s “censorship” as “just some kind of small, unique, weird little thing in social media that means nothing in the larger scheme of things,” and she asserted that “this is a giant issue, it affects everything.” She later stated that “Congress should say: Enough is enough” and that “they have to take a stand or it will never end.”
- Also on The Faulkner Focus, anchor Harris Faulkner claimed that “the latest revelations expose executives having conversations about changing the platform to go after one single person: Donald J. Trump.”