In its coverage of Fox News’ historic $787.5 million defamation settlement for spreading lies about Dominion Voting Systems, CNN made the odd choice of booking Vivek Ramaswamy, a wealthy biotech investor and Fox-produced presidential candidate. Ramaswamy has become a right-wing media darling, but his refusal to engage with basic questioning and his continued obfuscation about his cable news benefactor’s role in spreading lies about the 2020 presidential election reveal how little he has to offer outside of friendly interviews in the conservative bubble.
Moreover, Ramaswamy’s campaign is just a repetition of Fox’s previous recruiting and promoting candidates in order to control the political discourse. According to Media Matters' internal database, Ramaswamy has been a guest on weekday Fox News programming at least 20 times in 2023. There is simply no good reason for a mainstream news operation to save Fox some operational costs, by extending free airtime to one of its fake candidates.
As anyone could have predicted, the April 19 interview on CNN This Morning yielded nothing of news value. Ramaswamy’s campaign is almost entirely self-funded, having raised less than $1 million from people other than himself. Ramaswamy thus does not actually represent anyone, and all he did in this interview was serve as a Fox crony to try muddying the waters, along with amplifying further right-wing gotcha arguments that ignore both history and recent events.
Things got off to a bad start when Ramaswamy simply claimed that Fox’s massive legal settlement “strikes me as a cost of doing business.” This would be a remarkably cavalier statement about corporate wrongdoing in general, but it was even worse considering that this case struck at core issues of the right-wing ecosystem attempting to subvert a national election result.
Ramaswamy continued: “If you’re going to be a news network — I think it’s happened to CNN, I think it’s happened to a lot of news networks — ”
Co-anchors Don Lemon and Poppy Harlow simultaneously interrupted, “That has not happened to CNN.”
“You’ve never been sued for defamation?” Ramaswamy countered. “Never been actually settled?”
“Not this,” Lemon said. “This is the largest in history.”
“It’s definitely large, and Fox appears to have the largest viewership and the market capitalization,” Ramaswamy said. “So I’m not familiar with the details of this case. I’m actually more interested in issues relating to this country than disputes with media companies.”
As the conversation went on, a key moment gave away the true depths of the problem society faces here — and it was a slip-up from Lemon, not his equivocating guest who pushed a false comparison about truth and lies as simply being two options in the “marketplace of ideas.”
“What I worry more about, Don, is the trend that we see in this country to controlling what different parties are actually able to say. The American way to bad speech, is more speech,” Ramaswamy added. “And so, I think we need to actually embrace that culture and a more diverse marketplace of ideas.”
“I’m asking you to be honest about what happened on Fox News, about the lies that were told, and them having to admit the lies and paying the largest defamation settlement to a media company in history,” Lemon said, after further crosstalk. “And you are frequent guests on that network. Are you concerned about the credibility? Are you going to continue to go on that network? Even with those credibility issues?”
Ramaswamy shot back, “I have far more concerns with the credibility of what we will call the mainstream media than I do with the credibility of Fox News.”
Fox is only “mainstream” in the sense that it has a large viewership and influence in American society. But the Dominion suit laid bare the internal evidence showing that Fox is simply not a news organization at all, but is instead a propaganda operation for profit where staff actually get reprimanded for reporting facts that go against the company line. With that level of knowledge, it’s high time that actual mainstream media stop treating Fox News like a news outlet, nor should they regard its frequent guests as serious commentators with something to offer in any kind of rational and good-faith discussion.