When Chris Wallace abruptly announced that he was leaving Fox News after 18 years, it was the final nail in the coffin for “fact-based reporting” at the network. The purpose of Fox’s “straight news” division was ostensibly separate from the opinion side of the network – where Fox’s most popular content comes from commentators like Tucker Carlson, Laura Ingraham, and Sean Hannity.
The illusion of “straight news” at Fox disappeared as personalities like Bret Baier, Martha MacCallum, Harris Faulkner, and Bill Hemmer spent 2021 spreading conspiracy theories, promoting misinformation, and minimizing the seriousness of COVID-19 while undermining vaccines.
The network’s “straight news” coverage of the January 6 attack on the Capitol set a truly embarrassing precedent for the rest of the year. With b-roll footage of Trump flags waving in the background as rioters tried to enter the building, Baier suggested that there was no violence occurring on the Capitol grounds, merely citizens exercising their First Amendment rights – even as Fox News hosts were privately begging the Trump administration to stop the insurrection while publicly downplaying it.
Fox is a propaganda outlet that weaponizes disinformation and bigotry to win ratings from a right-wing audience and help Republican politicians. Anchors like Baier and MacCallum may be trotted out by Fox’s PR professionals and ad executives as evidence that the network operates like a normal news outlet. But in 2021, the network’s firewall between its “news” side and opinion shows has been blown apart.