In the two years since the January 6 attack on the Capitol, Fox News has persisted in pushing conspiracy theories about both the 2020 and 2022 midterm elections and downplaying, excusing, and outright justifying the actions of former President Donald Trump and his supporters.
After the 2020 election cycle, right-wing figures frequently targeted Dominion Voting Systems -- which supplied voting equipment to 28 states -- with conspiracy theories, claiming that the company’s machines had switched or otherwise tampered with votes to sway the election. Many of those theories were central to Fox’s post-election commentary, which amplified the narrative that the election was stolen from Trump, even though reporting suggests that the network’s prominent figures knew that was not true. Dominion filed a $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit against Fox News in March 2021.
Recent reporting on the lawsuit shows that testimony obtained from Sean Hannity last month contains the Fox host’s admission that he “did not believe it for one second” that the 2020 election was stolen from Trump by Dominion. However, as Media Matters’ Matt Gertz has detailed, “Hannity discussed Dominion in eight Fox broadcasts between Election Day 2020 and the end of that year. Each time, he tried to inculcate doubt in his audience regarding the credibility of the company’s voting machines.”
Additionally, evidence and testimony received by the House select committee investigating the January 6 attack have undermined several of Fox’s on-air falsehoods. A series of text messages released by the committee between Fox News’ Ingraham Angle host Laura Ingraham and former chief of staff Mark Meadows showed that Ingraham pleaded with Meadows to get Trump to tell the crowd to disperse. On her show, however, Ingraham consistently claimed that Trump and his supporters did no wrong. Hannity also exchanged similar texts with Meadows. Even Hannity’s oft-repeated lie that Trump had ordered thousands of National Guard troops to the Capitol was dispelled by testimony given by then-acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller.
As official inquiries into the attack made headway, many Fox figures bent over backward to malign the House select committee, often relying on the same dismissive and whitewashed approach to the violence and hatred displayed on January 6. Here are some of the major lies and distortions that Fox pushed during the committee hearings:
- Tucker Carlson released a multipart propaganda reel painting the attack as a false flag operation to purge patriots.
- Ingraham Angle host Laura Ingraham maligned the House select committee as “bad programming.”
- Mark Levin, speaking on his radio show, threatened staffers for the House select committee after claiming that Trump’s potential witness tampering could not be a crime.
- Network hosts downplayed testimony from key witnesses and those close to Trump and his inner circle.
- Major Fox figures repeatedly validated the rioters as patriotic and nonviolent protestors comparable to those from the civil rights movement.
Fox News has also continued to peddle election conspiracy theories -- this time around the November midterms -- and attacks on Dominion during the last year:
- In November 2022, Carlson implied that the use of electronic voting machines is a “threat to democracy” as the machines “didn’t allow people to vote apparently” and shook their “faith in the system.”
- As early voting began in Georgia’s midterm elections, Fox hosts repeatedly claimed that there was no voter suppression did not exist, while simultaneously ignoring armed voter intimidation in Arizona.
- Carlson, along with Mark Levin, primed their Fox viewers in October to doubt the validity of the following month's Pennsylvania Senate election over debunked claims of voter fraud.
- Fox News also jumped on the bandwagon of spreading suspicion about the 2022 Arizona gubernatorial election results:
- Fox host Pete Hegseth cast doubt on why ballots were still being counted, mentioned that then-Secretary of State Katie Hobbs “is in charge of the elections there,” and said, “We don’t know whether people are cheating or not.” Hegseth lamented the rate of ballot counting in Arizona, stating, “You want to see a threat to democracy? It’s what we’re watching in Arizona right now.”
- Carlson hosted Republican candidate Kari Lake to sow doubt about why the race had not been called yet, and set her up to join him in validating online insinuations that Hobbs “knew she could sit back, hide in the basement, do nothing and win due to cheating.”
- Fox anchor Maria Bartiromo hosted Lake to discuss election machine tabulation issues and repeatedly asked Lake why Hobbs had not recused herself, suggesting it was inappropriate for her to oversee an election she was running in.
- Carlson insinuated nefarious motives behind the machine issues and suggested Democrats could be intentionally cheating, asking, “Is this fraud? We're not sure. And on some level it doesn't matter what it is. What we know is that the mechanics of our elections are not working, almost exclusively in states and cities run by Democrats. Are they cheating?”
- Hannity claimed that votes “magically appeared” while ballots were being counted in Arizona, saying, “What, they just magically appeared? How do we keep adding hundreds of thousands of votes to the vote count that were not counted?”