Ask not for whom the world’s tiniest violin plays — it plays for Fox News. Three months ago the network’s hosts enjoyed unprecedented political power and privileged access to President Donald Trump, the subject of their propaganda. Now its employees are reduced to whining about President Joe Biden not calling on their correspondent during Thursday’s press conference, as their lies on behalf of his predecessor’s effort to steal the election draw a $1.6 billion lawsuit.
Fox’s pity party launched roughly two minutes after the press conference concluded and remained a regular facet of the network’s coverage of the event into Friday morning. Eleven different programs have combined to mention how Biden did not call on Fox White House correspondent Peter Doocy at least 24 times as of 10 a.m. ET, according to a Media Matters review. (Only two programs didn't mention the supposed snub during this time frame.) If you tuned into Fox during the network’s 2 p.m., 3 p.m., 4 p.m., 5 p.m., 6 p.m., 7 p.m., 9 p.m., or 10 p.m. hours on Thursday, or the 5 a.m., 6 a.m., 8 a.m., or 9 a.m. hours on Friday, you heard about it.
While the complaint is featured on “news” and “opinion” programs alike, their arguments are contradictory.
The “news”-side staffers claim that Doocy had reasonable questions that deserved a public response.
Doocy himself paged through a binder which he said included important questions “nobody else asked about” during an on-air appearance shortly after the press conference ended.
Fox anchor Dana Perino commented that if she were still working at the White House, as she did as President George W. Bush’s press secretary, “I would have told the president to call on Peter Doocy,” who she said had “good questions.”
“Why make Peter Doocy a story, right? Just take his question and move on,” she added, as her network geared up to make him a story.
Anchor Martha MacCallum likewise highlighted Doocy’s “excellent questions, all ready to go,” and lamented that he “was not given an opportunity to ask them,” perhaps because other reporters had asked too many follow-ups.
Meanwhile, the network’s right-wing “opinion” commentators are saying that a Fox News question would have sandbagged Biden in a way the supposedly “liberal” press refuses to do.
Jesse Watters called Biden “chicken” for not calling on Doocy at the end of a rant about how the reporters who did ask questions are “activists” who want Biden to “nuke the filibuster so we can drive home socialism.”
Sean Hannity’s complaint that Doocy didn’t get to ask a question led to his observation that “none of the other reporters even dared to ask about the wind knocking Joe Biden down three times climbing up Air Force One” or “his struggles cognitively.”
Even Trump himself got into the act, contrasting Doocy’s plight with the “easy questions” Biden supposedly fielded from other reporters in an interview with Laura Ingraham.
“Mr. President, where was their Jim Acosta,” Ingraham asked, referring to CNN’s White House correspondent during the Trump years. “They would have Acosta in your face every day."
It goes without saying that normal news outlets do not do this.
Biden called on 10 reporters on Wednesday, meaning that many other journalists did not have the opportunity to ask him their questions. The president didn’t call on The New York Times’ correspondent either, and somehow today’s paper is not filled with complaints about it.
But of course, Fox isn’t a normal news outlet.
The network spent four years operating as an extension of the Trump White House, allowing its commentators to moonlight as presidential advisers while its “news side” provided disgusting propaganda in support of his administration’s most corrupt and authoritarian actions.
In the wake of Trump’s defeat, top network executive Lachlan Murdoch openly described Fox’s role as the “loyal opposition” to Biden’s presidency. The network has subsequently purged insufficiently ideological “news”-side employees and filled up airtime with additional hours of right-wing commentary.
It’s good that after years of hiding behind its “Fair and Balanced” tagline, Fox is now openly admitting that it operates as a right-wing propaganda network. But that makes the network’s complaints about not getting privileged access all the more pathetic.
Meanwhile, reality is catching up to Fox.
As Doocy’s daddy’s morning show Fox & Friends was featuring complaints about him not getting to ask a question, news broke that Dominion Voting Systems had filed a $1.6 billion lawsuit against Fox. Dominion argued that the network, in repeatedly airing inaccurate claims that the company’s voting machines had altered votes to rig the election for Biden, “sold a false story of election fraud in order to serve its own commercial purposes, severely injuring Dominion in the process.”
Fox’s Dominion lies were part of the network’s all-encompassing effort to support Trump’s attempt to steal the election with fabricated claims of voter fraud.
It’s too soon to say whether Dominion will prevail. Fox said in a statement it would “vigorously defend against this baseless lawsuit in court.”
But it isn’t the first time the network’s overzealous Trump support has landed it in hot water. After Fox personalities repeatedly promoted false conspiracy theories about the death of former Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich in a ghoulish attempt to defend Trump over Russian interference in the 2016 election, Rich’s family sued.
After first claiming that the network would be vindicated in court, Fox eventually settled for a reported seven-figure sum, coming to terms shortly before scheduled depositions of Fox executives and stars.
Now the bill for Fox’s lies and propaganda that helped spur an insurrection may have come due. And rather than face up to that reality, the network is busy complaining that the Biden administration is being very mean and unfair to Peter Doocy by not calling on him at a press conference.