Laura Ingraham’s reaction to her friend Pat Cipollone’s testimony shows how Fox was complicit in Trump's coup

Laura Ingraham and Pat Cipollone

Citation Andrea Austria / Media Matters

When the House select committee investigating the January 6 insurrection subpoenaed Pat Cipollone, Donald Trump’s White House counsel, in late June, Fox News host Laura Ingraham scoffed. In trying to force the testimony of her “close friend,” Ingraham told her viewers, the “desperate” committee was attempting a “Hail Mary” that would ultimately produce nothing of interest. 

It didn’t turn out that way. The committee produced clips from Cipollone’s eight-hour deposition during Tuesday’s meeting in which he described an Oval Office meeting where Trump contemplated a plan to have the Defense Department seize voting machines to substantiate his false claims that the 2020 presidential election had been stolen from him — revelations that one Fox legal commentator described as “breathtaking” and “very disturbing.” 

But responding on her show that night, Ingraham mentioned Cipollone only to quip about a committee member mispronouncing his name. The Fox host presented the hearing as a “snoozefest” during which “we learned … basically nothing substantial that we didn't know 18 months ago.” She offered a series of snide comments about the committee’s members and witnesses while carefully hiding any of the hearing’s insights from her viewers.

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Citation From the July 12, 2022, edition of Fox News' The Ingraham Angle.

Ingraham’s yawning rebuttal is in line with her right-wing network’s broader handling of Tuesday’s hearing. Fox hosts have previously tried to counterprogram the committee’s doings, poke holes in its witnesses, defend its targets, and complain about its processes. On Tuesday night, the network largely responded with silence — Jesse Watters Primetime, Tucker Carlson Tonight, and Hannity all completely ignored the hearing. On Wednesday morning, Fox & Friends’ coverage was limited to a single news brief.

Fox, by shielding its viewers from the information the committee details, is continuing its complicity in Trump’s effort to subvert the election and the resulting mob attack on the U.S. Capitol.

The December 18, 2020, White House meeting discussed during Tuesday’s hearing appears to be a key pivot point for Trump that opened the door for the violence of January 6. During the meeting — held four days after the Electoral College voted to officially make Joe Biden the president-elect — Trump contemplated having the Defense Department seize voting machines and examine them for evidence of fraud and appointing the pro-Trump conspiracy theorist Sidney Powell as a special counsel to investigate purported election crimes. 

Over six hours of debate before the president, marked by screaming and participants nearly coming to blows, Trump outside advisers Powell, Michael Flynn, and Patrick Byrne faced off with Cipollone and two other White House aides.

Cipollone, in clips from his testimony the committee played on Tuesday, said he was alarmed that Powell and her allies kept saying that there was evidence of widespread voter fraud that they would not produce, and described the Defense Department plan as “a terrible idea for the country” for which Trump lacked legal authority.

Trump ultimately decided against going forward with the plan. But shortly after the meeting concluded, he sent a tweet summoning his supporters to Washington, D.C. for a protest on January 6, when Congress would convene at the U.S. Capitol to approve the Electoral College vote.

While news outlets had previously reported on the meeting, the hearing provided new details produced by witnesses who served in Trump’s own White House who were testifying under oath.

The hearing provided a plethora of other revelations as well, including:

  • Key pro-Trump influencers and extremist elements recognized Trump’s tweet as a call to action and began planning for January 6 protests.
  • Two days after Trump sent the tweet, 10 Republican members of Congress met with Trump to discuss Trump lawyer John Eastman’s plot to have Vice President Mike Pence overturn the election results during the January 6 joint session of Congress.
  • Documents produced by the committee show Trump had planned to encourage supporters rallying on January 6 to march on the U.S. Capitol, and that insurrectionist leaders were aware of that plan beforehand.
  • Trump spoke to his former White House adviser Steve Bannon twice on January 5. Minutes after the first call, Bannon told his podcast listeners, “All hell is going to break loose tomorrow,” adding: “It’s all converging. And now we’re on, as they say, the point of attack. Right. The point of attack tomorrow.”
  • After Trump spoke with Pence on January 6 and Pence told him he would not aid the plot to overturn the election, Trump ordered his speechwriters to reinsert lines attacking his own vice president in the speech he planned to give to protestors later that day.

Maybe Ingraham, as a close friend of Cipollone and the person who reportedly introduced him to Trump in the first place, actually has known all of this for 18 months. But it’s certainly not information Fox regularly provides to its viewers. And that’s par for the course for Ingraham and her colleagues.

While Cipollone says he was confronting Trump’s conspiracy theorists about their lack of evidence of widespread voter fraud, Ingraham and her fellow Fox hosts were promoting Trump’s stolen election lies. When rioters stormed the U.S. Capitol on January 6, Ingraham texted White House chief of staff Mark Meadows and urged him to get Trump to make them stop — but on her Fox show, she suggested antifa was behind the violence. And now she and her fellow Fox hosts are alternately ignoring and attacking the committee’s findings.

It’s difficult to escape the conclusion that Fox is covering up revelations of Trump’s coup attempt because they regret that it failed and want to ensure future such efforts succeed.