Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) has spent the last decade functioning as Fox News’ man in Congress, a role that has helped him rise through the party ranks to his current position as the powerful chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. Now, he’s set his sights on becoming House speaker, a post that would give the right-wing propaganda network unprecedented influence over congressional affairs.
Jordan is a charter member of the “Fox News Caucus” of Republican politicians who boosted their careers through the network’s airtime. Fox has interviewed the Ohio Republican more times in recent years than any of his peers — including his rival for House speaker, Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-LA). Those appearances proved a major boon to Jordan’s rise during Donald Trump’s presidency; Trump, an avid Fox-watcher, would reportedly often phone Jordan because he had seen the congressman “on TV defending him.” This Fox-fueled relationship made Jordan “influential in shaping administration policies,” and eventually led to Trump awarding Jordan the Medal of Freedom.
But Jordan does not just sit for interviews with Fox — he operationalizes its content. The Ohio Republican turns Fox talking points into letters to government agencies, brings its smears into committee rooms, and folds its conspiracy theories into impeachment efforts.
For his efforts, the network’s hosts have showered him with praise, endorsed his bids to rise in the ranks, and risen to his defense — including when he became embroiled in scandal following allegations that he had ignored sexual abuse by the team doctor during his tenure as assistant wrestling coach at Ohio State University. And his play for the House’s top spot — which is only possible thanks to the efforts of another Fox Caucus member, Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), in ousting Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) — has the support of network stars like Sean Hannity and Mark Levin, as well as its most prominent viewer, Trump.
With years of evidence of how Jordan’s relationship with Fox plays out, we can expect more of the same if he wins his bid for speaker. He’ll try to turn the rantings of Fox hosts into congressional communications strategy and legislation, they’ll rise to his defense without question, and together, they will team up to message around Trump’s inevitable attempt to subvert the results of the 2024 presidential election if the former president is nominated but again falls short.
The Jordan-Fox feedback loop
Fox’s effective merger with the White House during the Trump administration is, at this point, well-known. Trump treated the network’s programming like presidential briefings and its stars as his closest advisers, regularly turning what he saw on his television screen into federal policy. Every aspect of governance, from pardons to personnel, could turn on the whims of Fox hosts and the president who avidly watched their shows.
A similar feedback loop exists between Republican members of Congress and their party’s foremost propaganda outlet. Those GOP members take note of the conspiracy theories the network’s hosts are concocting and use their legislative powers to help them along. They release documents, issue letters, launch investigations, and bellow at hearings to keep the Fox-friendly narratives going. And then they go on Fox to talk about what they’ve done, garnering plaudits from the hosts and building their own profiles.
Jordan is perhaps the most adept practitioner of this strategy. His career is a testament to his ability to climb the ladder of power by channeling Fox’s smears in high-profile investigation roles, including on the oversight and judiciary committees, the latter of which he now chairs. And he’s been rewarded with more access to the network’s valuable airtime than any of his peers.
The Ohio Republican has lifted up Fox’s falsehoods and conspiracy theories from inside the House, from grilling then-Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton from his seat on the House’s Benghazi select committee; to savaging special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election as a leader of his committees’ minority; to serving as a member of Trump’s legal team during his first impeachment over corrupt abuses of power with regard to Ukraine; to launching a series of Fox-fueled probes as chair of the House Judiciary Committee and a separate subcommittee on government “weaponization”; to co-chairing the network’s long-sought impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden.
Fox bailed Jordan out amid sexual abuse scandal
Jordan’s close relationship with Fox ensured that when he faced the prospect of a scandal derailing his career, the network came to his aid.
In July 2018, NBC News reported that Jordan was “being accused by former wrestlers he coached more than two decades ago at Ohio State University of failing to stop the team doctor from molesting them and other students.” Jordan, OSU’s assistant wrestling coach from 1986 to 1994, denied knowing about the allegations at that time.
NBC cited the accounts of three former wrestlers in its initial report, and two others subsequently came forward. All of them said the misconduct had been so well-known that it would have been impossible for Jordan to remain ignorant, and some said they had either told him about their own abuse directly or that he had been present when such abuses were discussed.
Jordan found refuge from the burgeoning firestorm from his House Republican colleagues, from Trump — and from right-wing outlets like Fox. Like other scandal-plagued members of his party, he defended himself and attacked his critics through multiple interviews on the right-wing network.
“Congressman Jordan, welcome to the club, if you support Donald Trump, you had to know, the lies, the smears against you are obviously a political attack,” Hannity told him during one such appearance. “I'm sorry you and your family have to go through that.”
A few months later, Jordan’s colleagues made him the ranking member of the powerful House oversight committee, providing him with more opportunities to concoct Fox-friendly smears.
The “rigged” 2020 election, the January 6 insurrection, and its aftermath
Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY), then the third-ranking member of the House GOP caucus, confronted Jordan during the January 6, 2021, evacuation of the House chamber, as members fled a violent mob of Trumpists bent on overturning the 2020 presidential election. “Get away from me. You fucking did this,” she later recounted telling him.
Trump’s election subversion plot had the support of a sizable majority of the House Republican caucus. But Jordan stood out even by that standard for his fervent, public backing of Trump’s false claims that the election had been rigged against him, as The Bulwark’s Joe Perticone noted:
In the months and weeks leading up to the 2020 election, Jordan regularly posted on social media and appeared on TV warning that Democrats would “rig” and “steal” the election. He spoke at the “Stop the Steal” rally in Pennsylvania two days after the election. In the weeks following the election, Jordan appeared many times on Fox and Newsmax, where he made outlandish false claims like “6,000 votes in Michigan went for Biden but they were actually supposed to go for President Trump.” He made similar claims about Georgia as well.
Prior to January 6, 2021, Jordan strategized with the Trump legal team on contesting the election.
Trump touted Jordan’s support at the time. “Incredibly stated Jim!” the then-president tweeted on November 6, 2020, while amplifying a clip of Jordan telling Hannity, “This is the first time in American history where you have a party systematically set out to win an election after the election, and that’s what they’re doing and it has to be stopped, it has to be stopped just like Mark Levin said.” Jordan was talking about the Democrats.
Jordan was just as committed to Trump’s plot off the air, to the very end. He texted the following to Mark Meadows, the White House chief of staff, the night before the votes were to be counted: “On January 6, 2021, Vice President Mike Pence, as President of the Senate, should call out all electoral votes that he believes are unconstitutional as no electoral votes at all – in accordance with guidance from founding father Alexander Hamilton and judicial precedence.”
In the immediate aftermath of the insurrection, Hannity privately tried to tamp down the effects of the president’s rage — including in a text with Jordan.
The Fox host wrote to Jordan and Meadows: “Guys, we have a clear path to land the plane in 9 days. He can’t mention the election again. Ever. I did not have a good call with him today. And worse, I’m not sure what is left to do or say, and I don’t like not knowing if it’s truly understood. Ideas?”
Any Jordan response is unknown. But his big idea in the wake of January 6 was the same as that of Hannity and his Fox colleagues — minimizing the violence the nation suffered that day and downplaying Trump’s responsibility for causing it.
Less than three years after their confrontation, Cheney, who helped lead the House select committee that investigated Trump’s coup attempt, has been bounced out of Republican politics. Jordan, who was barred from the committee because of his participation in the plot, is on the verge of seizing the party’s heights. And that means that if Republicans want to rig an election for Trump in 2024, they could have not only a compliant propaganda apparatus and majority in the House, but a hardcore coup supporter with close ties to Fox at its head.