Fox News is ignoring the biggest political story of the day after newly released audio revealed House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) said he was planning to push for then-President Donald Trump’s resignation shortly after Trump’s failed coup attempt on January 6, 2021.
The New York Times reported Thursday that in the days following the attack on the Capitol, both McCarthy and Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell had privately examined ways for congressional Republicans to join with Democrats in pushing Trump out of politics. McCarthy reportedly told a group of Republican leaders, “I’ve had it with this guy,” and said that he would tell Trump to resign from office rather than be impeached, which he believed had a high likelihood of succeeding. But those same Republican leaders sang a completely different tune in public, opposing the effort to impeach Trump and successfully blocking an indictment in the Senate that would have disqualified him from holding public office ever again. (They have also opposed all efforts to conduct a comprehensive investigation of the coup attempt.)
McCarthy’s lie gets unmasked
McCarthy posted a statement Thursday on Twitter, calling the Times’ report “totally false and wrong.” The problem here is that there’s an audio recording from January 10, 2021, showing that McCarthy just lied. He did voice support for Trump’s removal from office, clearly stating his plan to encourage the president to resign rather than being forced out. You can listen to the audio yourself.
Times correspondents Jonathan Martin and Alexander Burns appeared on Thursday night’s edition of MSNBC’s The Rachel Maddow Show, during which the host played the audio recording of McCarthy saying, “The only discussion I would have with [Trump] is that, I think this [impeachment] will pass, and it will be my recommendation you should resign. I mean, that would be my take, but I don’t think he would take it, but I don’t know.”
“Mr. McCarthy flat-out and categorically denied that today,” Maddow said. “He denied that he said he would tell Trump to resign. He in fact said exactly that.
Martin contrasted McCarthy’s plan with his later realization that House Republican members were, by and large, not angry with Trump over the events of the insurrection, saying, “McCarthy is down at Mar-a-Lago before the month is out and patching up his relationship with President Trump.”
Burns said, “If past performance is any indicator of future results, what you heard on that tape and then what Kevin McCarthy did subsequently to hold Donald Trump to account — which was nothing — is a pretty ominous story about the future.”
Fox News’ cover-up of the biggest scandal of the day
Fox News has not covered the tape on the air, and late Friday morning its website published a strange article with the headline “McCarthy rebuts reporting on leaked recordings recommending Trump resign as Cheney, Scalise deny involvement.” The article only contained references to events from earlier on Thursday — including McCarthy’s denial — before the tapes actually became public later that night. A person who read only this article would not even know that the audio recording is now in the public record and that McCarthy’s public denial was revealed as a complete lie.
The story about the audio confirming the Times’ reporting has been carried by multiple other news outlets, including The Associated Press, Politico and The Washington Post. On CNN’s New Day, co-anchor Brianna Keilar bluntly declared, “Here he is caught, pretty much, in a lie.”
Even the far-right website The Gateway Pundit picked up the story — to express outrage at McCarthy’s betrayal of Trump. But anyone who gets their news by watching Fox would still not have heard of it.
Fox News has consistently downplayed stories about Trump’s threat to American democracy — something in which the network has played its own part. This latest situation is also eerily similar to Fox’s selective silence five months ago, when the network did not cover an audio recording in which Trump openly defended rioters who had chanted “Hang Mike Pence,” following his failed efforts to cajole his then-vice president into unconstitutionally refusing to certify President Joe Biden’s election victory. (Another shared attribute between two stories: Both have involved mainstream reporters obtaining this information, but then refusing to report it to the public for months — instead saving it for a book launch.)
Update (4/22/22): On Friday afternoon’s edition of The Story with Martha MacCallum, Fox ran a brief headline news update on this story, leading with McCarthy’s earlier denial plus a chyron, “McCarthy: Didn’t Say Trump Should Quit After Riot.” (Guest anchor Trace Gallagher also described the story as “breaking now,” even though it was already a day old.)
Gallagher added that the Times had “released what it says is audio of the conversation among House GOP leaders four days after the riot.” The segment never played the audio clip itself, so Fox viewers still did not hear McCarthy’s own voice saying that Trump should resign.