The House select committee on the January 6 insurrection is set to hold its first hearing Tuesday, to examine the riot at the U.S. Capitol by former President Donald Trump’s supporters. But a big question remains: Can the committee’s work break through not only mainstream media coverage that has whitewashed and enabled Republican sabotage of the investigation, but also the comprehensive campaign by right-wing media to minimize and rewrite the events of what happened that day?
One major issue in right-wing media coverage has been the simple fact that Republican members in both the House and Senate who voted for the rioters’ fundamental goal — to block President Joe Biden’s election from being certified — have been given a key role in shaping the subsequent narratives.
An analysis by Media Matters found that at least 59 of the 147 Republican members of Congress who voted against certifying the election have since appeared on Fox News, for a combined total of at least 587 weekday appearances.
Furthermore, the top eight of those GOP officials — Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA), Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), Rep. Byron Donalds (R-FL), House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA), Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), and Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) — made up 321 of those weekday appearances.
Election liars Jordan and Banks found support on Fox News — before and after getting kicked off the January 6 committee
In the last week leading up to the first committee hearing, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) on Wednesday rejected the appointment of two Republican members, Reps. Jim Jordan (R-OH) and Jim Banks (R-IN), who have both avidly spread misinformation about the election and politically attacked the committee investigation. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy then sought to have his caucus boycott the proceedings entirely, but the committee will now proceed with two Republican members appointed by Pelosi, Reps. Liz Cheney (R-WY) and Adam Kinzinger (R-IL).
Although they will not have the January 6 committee hearing as a platform, Jordan and Banks have instead found support for their lies on Fox News. Of those Republican members of Congress who voted to reject the election results, in fact, Jordan has been the most prolific Fox guest — with at least 53 weekday appearances to his name, just under one-tenth of the total for all those GOP members. He was also one of several House Republicans who met with Trump in late December to confer on strategy to reject the certification of the election results. (But during a House committee hearing on January 12, he insisted: “I've never said that this election was stolen.”)
On the Tuesday night before Pelosi made her announcement, Jordan appeared with Fox host Laura Ingraham, who had previously urged Republicans against supporting any bipartisan commission into the events of January 6, on the grounds that it would be a “taxpayer-funded investigation to prop up a hoax.” Ingraham had also claimed that Democrats and Cheney would “do anything … to keep that narrative alive of January 6,” and that the continued security at the Capitol meant that Democrats were “conducting themselves … more like occupiers than elected representatives.”
Now, Ingraham played a montage of critics saying that Jordan’s presence on the committee would lead to a “food fight,” that he would “hijack” the hearing, and was personally a “walking clown show.” Jordan proudly responded: “I tell my colleagues all the time, if the mainstream press and the liberal Democrats aren't saying something bad about you, you're probably not doing anything any good.” He then indicated that he would resurrect a long-debunked right-wing talking point about the January 6 insurrection, claiming that Pelosi was the person most responsible for Capitol security. (Banks also appeared on this weekend’s edition of Fox News Sunday, during which Fox anchor and guest host Martha MacCallum did not challenge his false claims that Pelosi had been in control of the Capitol’s security.)
Following Pelosi’s rejection of Jordan and Banks’ membership on the committee, Jordan then appeared on Wednesday night with Fox host Tucker Carlson — who just a week before had threatened another insurrection over easily disproved claims about the 2020 election being stolen — to largely repeat the same talking points against Pelosi on yet another Fox program.
Indeed, Carlson’s commentaries on January 6 have arguably been even worse than Ingraham’s. Carlson has claimed there was no insurrection, defended the rioters as people who “talked about the Constitution and something called their rights,” called the jailed insurrectionists “political prisoners,” and promoted an elaborate conspiracy theory in which the attack was really the work of the FBI. So his program was a natural fit for GOP representatives to further their own lies about what happened on January 6.
How Fox News built up the Republican Congress members trying to nullify the election
Previously, Fox News played a major role in the Trump campaign’s efforts to subvert the 2020 election, and the network then promoted the looming effort by members of Congress to refuse to certify the results ahead of January 6.
Fox host Mark Levin claimed on January 4 that Republican members who did not go along with the scheme would be “shredding the Constitution” by accepting the election results, while the morning hosts on Fox & Friends justified the maneuver by declaring that Republican voters “feel like” the election was rigged. (Of course, that feeling might have had something to do with all of Fox’s coverage to build up such an idea in viewers’ minds — but not with any of the facts.)
Fox’s purported “straight news” side also got in on the discussion, with anchor Harris Faulkner claiming on January 5 that the pending challenge to the election results “benefits everybody” by taking “a look at those areas that are broken” in the election system.
Then, while Congress was still certifying Biden’s election victory in the immediate aftermath of the January 6 riot, the network had already gotten to work on salvaging an agenda to enact new voter suppression laws. For example, Fox anchor Shannon Bream spoke that night with Banks after Congress had reconvened — and after he had already voted to reject the Electoral College votes of Arizona.
Banks announced that he would introduce legislation against mail-in voting, as part of an effort to “restore the trust and integrity in our elections.” Bream responded approvingly, saying that Trump supporters had “a great deal of frustration” about the 2020 election and that people “across the political spectrum” would want there to be more confidence in elections.
Fox News has turned to more of the same election deniers for comment on GOP infighting over the insurrection
The network has since given a significant role to Republican members who had voted against accepting the election results, on matters that directly pertained to that issue. A perfect example of this occurred back in May, when Republicans were in the process of removing Cheney from her House leadership position over her continued public opposition to Trump’s lies about the 2020 election.
Fox anchor John Roberts spoke with Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA), who said that Cheney was not entitled to her own “agenda” when it comes to “defeating socialism.” Roberts did not note in the interview that Trump’s statements about the election were lies, nor that Kennedy had voted to support those lies and to reject the election results.
In addition, Fox Business anchor and prolific conspiracy theorist Maria Bartiromo spoke with House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA), who criticized Cheney for “talking about things that happened in the past” and “talking about the last election.” Bartiromo then blasted Cheney for not supporting Trump’s election claims: “She keeps talking and pushing back on President Trump, who says the election was stolen. She has not acknowledged the issue around mail-in ballots.”
On her May 11 show, Ingraham spoke with Jordan, who accused Cheney of “reciting Democrat talking points” with her condemnation of Trump’s election lies, and touted his own effort months earlier to have Cheney removed. Ingraham announced: “We tried to warn them, and they didn’t listen.”