On MSNBC, Angelo Carusone discusses Media Matters FEC filing against Fox News

Carusone: “We're still bleeding as a result of Fox's lies and deceit and machinations”

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Citation From the March 4, 2023, edition of MSNBC's American Voices with Alicia Menendez

ALICIA MENENDEZ (HOST): Some Democrats are calling for a total boycott of Fox News after a court filing revealed Fox gave former President Trump confidential information about the Biden campaign. According to Dominion Voting Systems, which is suing Fox for defamation, Fox gave the Trump campaign a preview – Biden's ads and debate strategy back in 2020. Politico reports Democrats, quote, spanning the ideological spectrum ready to stop ad spending on Fox. They also say the network should be banned from White House press briefings. Others on the left, however, warning that Fox is dangerous to ignore. Fox is still the only media outlet with access to 44,000 hours of Capitol security tapes. Next week, Tucker Carlson's show is to start airing clips of that video. Joining me to discuss, Angelo Carusone, president and CEO of Media Matters, and Jill Wine-Banks, MSNBC contributor and former Watergate prosecutor. She co-hosts the #SistersinLaw podcast. It's good to see you both.

Angelo, your org just filed a complaint against Fox with the FEC. Tell us what it is that you're flagging.

ANGELO CARUSONE (MEDIA MATTERS CEO AND PRESIDENT): I mean, the short of it is that when they gave – was specifically when Rupert Murdoch shared the information about Joe Biden's ad and some of the other information that was confidential, that wasn't public with the Trump campaign, that essentially counts as an in-kind contribution.

If you just look at the letter of what the law says, it's pretty black and white. So we filed a complaint with the FEC because it is an in-kind contribution. And I think part of what we have to start doing is not giving Fox News this pass – that somehow, you know, you know, that they're grandfathered in for all this bad behavior. This is extreme. What they're doing is outside of the law, at minimum, there should be some baseline accountability for it. So I feel like this is just one piece of a larger series of cascading consequences for Fox News as a result of what's been revealed in these Dominion filings.

MENENDEZ: Jill, your sense of what accountability looks like here specifically for disclosing confidential campaign information?

JILL WINE-BANKS (MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR): I agree with Angelo. There is no reason why they shouldn't be held accountable for everything that they're doing. Some of that accountability is going to be in the loss of revenue because they are going to lose followers. If they keep on lying, there will be more lawsuits. And so it's not just the 1.6 billion that they might have to pay in damages for the Dominion lawsuit. It's for all the other future lawsuits if they don't stop their knowing lies.

And I think accountability for giving away. I think that's a very good theory, that this is an in-kind contribution and it had to be reported and accounted for and it wasn't. So they should be held accountable. And I don't know what other things could be done. Yes, boycotting them is one way that Democrats could hold them accountable. Republicans are not going to stop advertising on Fox. And if there's any chance of reaching a Fox viewer for a Democrat, it is through Fox. So I'm not sure whether that is an acceptable consequence is to say, well, I'm just not going to even try to reach your audience.

MENENDEZ: I mean, Angelo, can the pillow guy just like keep them afloat.

CARUSONE I mean, in part, yeah, he can. I mean, he is responsible for the bulk of their advertising during prime time, actually. I mean, just to give an illustration of how much trouble Fox has sometimes buying ads, Fox is Fox News's fourth largest advertiser – paid advertiser. That is unusual. It's, you know, promos and promoting your own content. That's very normal. But to be your fourth largest paid advertiser is a little unusual, especially on your prime-time programming, which in theory would be your most marketable product. And that's because it's basically right now, MyPillow ads and powdered vegetables, those are the two other big things that fund their prime time. So yeah, the advertising is obviously a big part of it.

And I think what Jill said before, kind of it sort of illustrates at least a part of the challenge Fox is going to have because on the one hand they lose revenue if they continue to lie. On the other hand, they lose revenue and relevance if they don't continue to lie, because as we saw in these filings and as we can see, sort of playing out in real time, if they don't continue to give their audience what they want, which are these lies, their audience will not only backlash against them, they will leap. So they're really stuck between a rock and a hard place right now.

MENENDEZ: Jill, I want to talk to you about Dominion's lawsuit against Fox. It's heading to trial in just over a month. I wonder what you're watching for during discovery.

WINE-BANKS: We've seen very dramatic discovery that has definitely made a difference, I think, in the public perception. I'm hoping it's reaching the Fox audience through some source because we know that Fox is not reporting on this and their own channel.

So, in order for the Fox audience to know that they have been lied to, to know that this was not a stolen election, to know that there was no fraud, they're going to have to get that news somewhere else. And the problem is they aren't getting it.

What I'll watch for as we come closer to trial is whether there are settlement discussions, because this seems to me one of the clearest cases I've ever seen in defamation cases. You don't often have any kind of written documentation saying, I know we're lying. I know the people we're putting out are crazy. But that's what you have here. The discovery was unbelievably dramatic in proving that from Rupert Murdoch on down, the hosts, the anchors, and Rupert Murdoch, and the CEO, everyone knew that they were lying and that they were doing it. As Rupert said, it's not red or blue, It's green. That's all they cared about was the money. It's greed. And that could really lead to the end of Fox News. I flagged this early on as the end of Fox, not because of the 1.6, they can afford that strangely enough, they have the income. What they can't afford is to have three more of these lawsuits where it's another 1.6, another 1.6, and they can't afford, as Angelo just said, to lose their audience by starting to tell the truth. That audience will then migrate to another channel that will then be subject to lawsuits. And eventually, we may be able to get truth and facts to matter again. We may get back to the point where actual truth is what leads to the news.

MENENDEZ: Angelo I always love a bold prediction, so Jill has already made hers for the night. I'm going to ask you to make yours, which is you have top Dems in Congress asking for Fox hosts to, quote, stop spreading false election narratives, and admit on the air that they were wrong. So any predictions on how that goes?

CARUSONE: They will absolutely not do that. In fact, they're going to burn brighter and hotter in the near future. They're going to get worse. They're going to lie more and they're going to be more extreme in their lies. And that is where Fox is going right now. And they have no other choice. It's their only path. They've passed the point of no return, at least in their current iteration. And they're going to – they're just they're making a mad dash for the finish line right now, which is to try to convert as many of their current audience members over to their they're paid subscription service. And that's really what it's all about right now, is can they avoid accountability consequences, prolong it as much as possible so that they can convert as much of their audience over to this paid subscription? That's their plan. And so the only way to do that is to burn bright and hot.

MENENDEZ: Let me ask you, though, in like an alternate universe where they would go out there and say, we knew, we've always known. I mean, you cannot undo the damage that has been done, Angelo, to our democracy.

CARUSONE: No, it can't. I mean, Fox is a uniquely destructive force. And I think that you can make a pretty strong case that Fox is one of, if not the single most destructive entities in our civic society for quite a while. So it wouldn't undo the damage. It would it's basically the equivalent of stopping the bleeding after you really had a really, really deep gash. You still have to go to the hospital and get surgery and do rehabilitation like we have a lot of work to do, but right now we're actually still bleeding. Fox is still poisoning the well. And I would just point out that in just a couple of days, Tucker Carlson is going to be out there with an official rewrite of what happened on January 6th. And there's going to be a whole range of new consequences that follow out of that. we're still bleeding as a result of Fox's lies and deceit and machinations. And so, no, it wouldn't undo it.

MENENDEZ: An official rewrite is such a great way to set the stakes of what it is they're about to do. Angelo, Jill, as always, thank you both.