Angelo Carusone: As a trial looms, Fox is shifting its strategy in the Dominion case to “pressure other news media into shifting the way that they've been covering their story”

Carusone: Fox wants to “work the refs, shift the media coverage”

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Citation From the March 25, 2023, edition of MSNBC's American Voices

ALICIA MENENDEZ (HOST): Angelo, as someone who tracks this stuff, your sense of how the far right, how the ecosystem is responding to these threats from Trump.

ANGELO CARUSONE (MEDIA MATTERS PRESIDENT AND CEO): So the thing to keep in mind is right now the right-wing media that echo chamber is in its first major transformative state in like twenty-five years, a quarter century. And that – so the response to what Trump's comments are are in many ways a reflection of the larger set of turmoil and dynamics that are playing out, which is that on the one hand, they're more bloodthirsty than ever, but on the other hand, there's a lot of disorder. There is no Rush Limbaugh. There's no center of gravity. Fox News is in this weird position. There's nothing to orient organized around. There's nothing that says, this is the thing we're going to echo.

So what you have is a lot of different factions. And so when you look at what the response is, basically there's – the bloodlust is there, and there's a clear acknowledgment and recognition and excitement that Trump is validating the desire for more – he is willing to say that violence might be necessary and actually is necessary now. They love the idea that he attacked Democrats as being more violent and disgusting and that they deserve it. I mean, that idea that Democrats deserve violence really was well received.

But on the other hand, incredible skepticism. They're mad at him for not doing enough to protect January 6 protesters and insurrectionists and all those people that were sort of prosecuted. They're mad at him for not being more specific. So a lot of pockets of right-wing media, including Alex Jones, were saying, you can't just go out there saying these general things like that. You have to name a target, You have to name – you have to name a target. Otherwise, you're just not only is it irresponsible to say these things, but it's also stupid. And so if Trump really believed this, he should be naming where should people go, who should they target.

So there is that frustration that in a way that because Trump actually hasn't been more explicit in what people should do when he's issuing these sort of generic appeals for violence, that in many ways they're it's only validating or reinforcing their skepticism. So essentially, that cauldron, what he's basically done is ratchet up that temperature. But I worry in many respects that there's no control of it right now, and you don't really have a mechanism to tamp it down.


MENENDEZ: Only got ninety seconds left. Which means we can't totally get to what is going on with Dominion. Bill Barr defending the network's right to repeat the big lie. This other lawsuit coming from a former producer. I guess my question for you is like, what are they – how are they handling it? What are they saying publicly about all of this? And what does that tell you?

CARUSONE: So I think what they're doing right now is actually trying to pressure other news media into shifting the way that they've been covering their story. And that is the focus to very much in what Bill Barr said, which is that people shouldn't be cheering this on because the second that Fox News loses this, if they were to, they're going to come back around and do it multiple fold to liberals and left-leaning and other news outlets that that the right-wing sees as left-leaning.

Essentially what they said is that if Fox loses this, there's going to be revenge. And that basically tells you everything about how they're handling it, which is that they recognize that they're in a precarious position. The evidence is overwhelming against them. I mean, it's sort of been pouring out there, but they're now sort of shifting it to a PR battle and hoping that they can sort of do what they do in a whole bunch of other scenarios, which is they work the refs, shift the media coverage so that that tamps down the pressure and the temperature a little bit and then simultaneously hope that they have some space to make the case that they were just sort of reporting this controversial and incredible story, that they didn't do anything about it. But the truth is, Rupert Murdoch actually said it in his deposition. He acknowledged that his hosts weren't just doing neutral reporting. He explicitly said that many of his hosts were endorsing and actively promoting these claims.