Tucker Carlson hosts Tucker Carlson Tonight on Fox News

Fox News' coverage of police brutality protests is a conspiratorial, fact-averse mess

At best, Fox’s coverage of the protests are a stain on journalism and media; at worst, it’s helping endanger the lives of protesters.

In the wake of the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis on May 25, protests over police brutality against people of color have swept the nation. These protests have been rightly and inevitably accompanied by discussions of systemic racism experienced by communities of color throughout the United States. 

Fox News’ coverage of the national protests has taken on a conspiratorial, propagandistic, and outright dishonest tone, ranging from an insistence that systemic racism isn’t real, to uncritical parroting of the Trump campaign’s attempt to induce panic over antifascist activists, to an embrace of Infowars’ conspiracy theories related to the death of George Floyd. 

At best, Fox’s coverage of the protests is a stain on journalism and media; at worst, it’s helping endanger the lives of protesters.

  • Fox move: Claiming systemic racism doesn’t exist

    While evidence shows Black and Hispanic people are more likely than white people to be stopped and threatened or subjected to physical force by police, Fox has repeatedly insisted that police brutality and systemic racism against communities of color are not real.

    Guests including writer Heather MacDonald, The Daily Wire’s Ben Shapiro, Fox contributor Andy McCarthy, former Education Secretary Bill Bennett, the Hoover Institution’s Shelby Steele, pastor Darrell Scott, former New York Police Commissioner Bernie Kerik, and Georgia Republican congressional candidate Angela Stanton-King have appeared on Fox and argued that racial tensions and systemic racism in American society are not real or not significant enough to merit protest. 

    Fox’s own hosts have also doubled down on this narrative. The Five’s Jesse Watters claimed it was “jarring” to hear “the Black president talk about how racist the country is that elected him twice.” Tucker Carlson has repeatedly argued against acknowledging systemic racism, while at the same time demonstrating a complete lack of understanding of what the term actually means.   

    In a moment emblematic of the culture and attitude at Fox, The Five’s Greg Gutfeld shouted down co-host Juan Williams as he attempted to explain issues of systemic racism experienced by the Black community.

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    Citation From the June 1, 2020, edition of Fox News' The Five 

    JUAN WILLIAMS (CO-HOST): Well, it's damaging to human beings who don't want to be treated as if they are criminals simply on the basis of their skin color. And yet you see the national security advisor --

    GREG GUTFELD (CO-HOST): But Juan, but Juan, nobody is disagreeing with you.


    WILLIAMS: Hang on, let me finish, let me finish.

    GUTFELD: Nobody is disagreeing with you Juan. No, you've been talking for a while. I know you've been off. But we all agree --

    WILLIAMS: No I want to make a quick point, Greg.

  • Fox move: Claiming armed black men and protesters are coming to your neighborhood so prepare for war

    Fox News has also crossed over into the realm of pure fantasy, conjuring images of diabolical and violent young men, presumably men of color or members of the right’s boogeyman conception of antifascist groups. 

    Carlson and his guest, former CIA operations officer Bryan Dean Wright, agreed that the time for armed vigilante justice to fight an insurrection might be near. Carlson also stated that the protests were an “ancient battle” between “thugs” and “normal people.” Sean Hannity warned that Black Lives Matter would “patrol the streets with armed militias.”

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    Citation From the June 4, 2020, edition of Fox News' Tucker Carlson Tonight:

    BRYAN DEAN WRIGHT: This country is on fire. We are facing an insurrection by people that we don't quite understand who they are, but by all indications, they are violent leftist thugs. And what Secretary Esper doesn't quite seem to get either is that the nation is panicking. 71 percent of us want the National Guard in our cities tonight. 58 percent of us want the military in our cities tonight. Alright, the people are panicking. The country is on fire.

    Now, who is attacking us? Mr. Esper should know this. It's antifa. Department of Justice, NYPD, others are saying this very clearly. These are people, by the way, that we faced back in 1960's, 70's, and early 80's. These were people who were far leftists, Marx, Lenin, folks who embraced that ideology. They've allied with Black Panther movement and it took many years to finally put it down. Very dangerous. And now this same group who is allied, by the way, with the democratic socialists -- we're talking Bernie Bros and Ms. Ocasio-Cortez, they are back. 

    They are back with firebombs, they are back with bricks in our suburbs, in our downtowns. That's something that Mr. Esper clearly doesn't understand.


    What does that leave, Tucker? Let me tell you what it leaves. Vigilante justice.

    TUCKER CARLSON (HOST): That's exactly right.

    WRIGHT: It's you and me and everybody watching this program arming ourselves. Is that how we run a republic? No sir, it is not, and you do not want a country that goes there. And that is precisely where the nation is headed and we need for all of our leadership to understand this.

    And if Secretary Esper doesn't get it, doesn't understand that the oath is to protect ourselves from threats both foreign and domestic, by God, get the hell out of the Pentagon and let somebody lead who gets it. Because that is the oath that he took, that I took, and the people of this country demanded of our leadership in this moment because we are on fire. Someone do something about it.

    CARLSON: I couldn't agree more. 

  • Fox move: Ignoring white supremacist groups

    Fox’s coverage of the protest often bleeds from the ignorant to the downright irresponsible. The network’s breathless conspiratorial fantasizing about antifascist terrorism is one such case. Despite multiple, extensive findings indicating that antifascists are not inciting coordinated destruction and violence at protests -- and mounting evidence that far-right and white nationalist groups like the accelerationist Boogaloo boys and Identity Evropa (also known as the American Identity Movement) are -- Fox is plowing ahead with claims of a grand antifa conspiracy to terrorize the country. When “straight news” anchor Martha McCallum directly questioned acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf about what specific groups besides antifa were inciting violence at protests, McCallum did not press Wolf on his vague answer blaming “anarchists” and “violent opportunists.”

    Host Laura Ingraham has engaged in particularly histrionic coverage, claiming that former President Barack Obama and former Attorney General Eric Holder’s activist group is helping fund antifa and that antifa is running a coordinated plot to overthrow the government. Fox anchor Bret Baier baselessly accused antifascists of stashing bricks and flammable materials around cities. On Tucker Carlson Tonight, Kerik accused New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio of being an antifa sympathizer. On The Five, Gutfeld raved about a coordinated antifa insurrection. 

    The network's supposed expert on extremism, meanwhile, has fallen for at least three obvious online hoaxes related to antifa.

    The network has also repeatedly aired unfounded claims -- founded in anti-Semitic conspiracy theories -- that philanthropist George Soros is funding antifa. Kerik floated the claim, and political analyst Gianno Caldwell suggested that Soros could face charges for funding a terrorist group. Congress for Racial Equality Chairman Niger Innis argued Soros “is the destruction to our civilization and a clear and present danger to our country.”

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    Citation From the June 3, 2020, edition of Fox News' The Story with Martha MacCallum 

  • Fox move: Ignoring and excusing police brutality toward protesters

    Fox has repeatedly made excuses for and even outright ignored documented instances of police brutality against peaceful protesters. The network’s reporting on the many well-documented instances of police using excessive and unprovoked force against protesters has been virtually nonexistent. 

    When an instance of police brutality aired live on its own channel -- the moment the Trump administration tear-gassed and brutalized peaceful protesters in Lafayette Square to make way for a presidential photo-op in Washington, D.C. -- Fox responded by glorifying and cheering on the president. While other networks responded with horror at the televised stunt, Fox downplayed it and attempted to blame the protesters for the undue violence used against them. Washington Post columnist Marc Thiessen opined on-air that “if they were peaceful protesters, there would be no need to use tear gas. It means they resisted.”

    Multiple guests and hosts, including Ingraham, went so far as to parrot the Trump campaign’s blatant lie that tear gas was not used to disperse the crowd, despite a plethora of evidence and firsthand testimonials that tear gas was deployed by law enforcement. 

    When Fox does choose to cover instances of police brutality, it can take on an apologetic, even exculpatory tone on behalf of law enforcement. On June 5, The Story with Martha MacCallum hosted Kerik, who defended the actions of Buffalo, New York, police who shoved a 75-year-old man to the ground and ignored him as he lay bleeding and unconscious.

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    Citation From the June 5, 2020, edition of Fox News' The Story with Martha MacCallum 

    MARTHA MACCALLUM: Let's look at another piece of video which is the pushing down of this man in Buffalo. And so tonight as I mentioned, the two officers involved in that were suspended. And now tonight the entire unit has resigned in protest. What do you know about that, and do you think we're going to see more of that? 

    BERNIE KERIK: Here is what I know. When you watch these videos, listen, when a police officer tells you to move when there is a curfew, you move. When a police officer told you to back up, you back up. You're not supposed to stick your finger in his face. You're not supposed to touch him or throw something on it. They've been bombarded with bricks, rocks, molotov cocktails, sticks, you name it and you know what at some point in time, you're going to push the wrong cop and he's going to push back. In this case, that is what happened.

    MACCALLUM: We'll see where it goes.

  • Fox move: Bolstering conspiracy theories about the relationship between George Floyd and Derek Chauvin, the officer who killed him

    Fox host Jesse Watters floated a conspiracy theory popularized by Infowars host Alex Jones that officer Derek Chauvin killed George Floyd because they were involved in an amorphous criminal enterprise. 

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    Citation From the June 3, 2020, edition of Fox News' The Five 

    JESSE WATTERS: Keith Ellison knows a lot more than we do, Dana, and he's got investigators looking into the relationship between the officer and Floyd. Because if you think about it, I'm only speculating, you don't just jam your knee under the neck of a guy that you don't know for no reason. Yes, maybe he's some insane racist that just wanted to kill a black man. It's possible. It's just not likely in my opinion. From what we know, they worked at the same club together a nightclub which had a lot of suspicious activity. People should be looking into the nightclub. Was it a front for something? Was there any sort of trafficking going on? They worked closely on a regular basis. Also, Floyd rumored to have moonlit in another industry which is kind of provocative.

    There could be a lot of reasons that their relationship became controversial, let's just put it that way. And maybe Floyd knew something he wasn't supposed to know. Maybe there was an operation that we're not aware of that soon was going to be investigated. Because if you have a guy kneeing a guy in the neck like that over a counterfeit 20 and you have the rest of the crew standing around and watching, it looks like a premeditated hit. And then when you have the first report to say oh, no, he didn't die that way. He had a bad ticker he was on methamphetamine, all sorts of narcotics in his system. That's highly suspicious because then other reports came out afterward contradicting that. So there's a lot of things at play. You can find at the end of the day, this is not racially motivated at all. This was some sort of criminal thing that went haywire and this was a hit that was executed extremely poorly. And they thought that they were going to get away with it.

  • Fox move: Calling to send in the troops

    Fox has cheered the possibility of Trump invoking the Insurrection Act and deploying military force against American citizens. Host Sean Hannity called for the president to invoke the act and urged the use of “overwhelming nonlethal force” against protesters. On Fox News @ Night, Kerik suggested Trump send “an enormous amount of manpower” into American cities to put down protests.

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    Citation From the June 1, 2020, edition of Fox News' Hannity

    SEAN HANNITY (HOST):  The carnage does not honor the memory of George Floyd. Now, these riots will not improve any system or help anybody. Frankly, they are being carried out by criminals. They don't give a damn about justice and it's long past time for governors and mayors to use overwhelming nonlethal force to stop the violence. They have state troopers, they have local police departments. They can bring accompanying local municipality police department and they have access to the National Guard and they have the ability to, and the State Guard, and they have the ability to ask the President for all the help that he can provide and said he will and has been saying for days.