What happened after Pete Buttigieg went on Fox News Sunday

Buttiegieg on Fox News Sunday

Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg went on Fox News Sunday over the weekend and gave a good answer to a question he was asked about pro-choice protests against Justice Brett Kavanaugh in the wake of the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade. Clips of the appearance quickly went viral on Twitter, with commentators cheering Buttigieg for bringing the fight to the right-wing network.

Buttigieg’s appearance, taken at face value, seems like a win for the Democratic operatives and liberal commentators who have argued that the party’s representatives should go on the network and try to reach its audience. But to truly assess that claim, it’s worth looking at what’s  happened on Fox after the social media conversation had moved on.

On Monday, Fox propagandists used Buttigieg’s statement to claim that he supports political violence and alleged that he supports “domestic terrorism” and is in league with “the mob.” Those commentators have much more credibility with the audience than any Democrat, and they were speaking in some cases on programs with much higher ratings than the one on which Buttigieg appeared. Their framing, and not the Buttigieg clip — which in some cases they did not even air — is likely to leave more of an impression on viewers.

Buttigieg stressed during his Fox News Sunday interview that “any public figure should always, always be free from violence, intimidation, and harassment.” The takeaway Fox prime-time host Laura Ingraham served up to her viewers on Monday, however, was: “Mayor Pete: Political Violence Is Actually Good.”

Ingraham concluded that Democrats like Buttigieg are part of a “real church of hate”; want to dismantle U.S. history, institutions, and democracy; and support “an agenda that relentlessly pushes pot, porn, trans rights, and abortions,” which she termed a “new pagan order.” She later added that Buttigieg is “a radical” who is “encouraging the threats against Supreme Court justices” and “wants to change the face of this country, and for the worse.”

Fox host Sean Hannity, meanwhile, falsely suggested on Monday that Buttigieg had said that Kavanaugh “should expect” assassination attempts, while Fox contributor Lara Trump suggested he supports “domestic terrorism.” Notably, Hannity did not air Buttigieg’s comments at all — he simply provided a dishonest gloss on them for his viewers.

And earlier that day on America Reports, Fox News contributor Jonathan Turley claimed that “there's no middle ground here, you either have to stand with or against the mob,” and he suggested that Buttigieg had failed a “test of leadership” because his Fox News Sunday comments showed he was doing the former.

This pattern repeats itself with nearly every appearance a high-profile Democrat makes on Fox. They can make good points in the moment. But Fox is a GOP propaganda network, and it will immediately go to work washing away any impact that segment might make.

The reality is that Fox executives want Buttigieg on their airwaves because those interviews help the network. Fox uses appearances from such Democrats to sanitize the brand and make the network more attractive to advertisers. If Buttigieg was actually doing something that hurt the GOP, he wouldn’t be invited back.