NBC News is hiring neoconservative pundit Stephen F. Hayes as a “political analyst” ahead of this year’s midterm elections. The choice to hire the discredited former Fox News commentator threatens NBC's commitment to fact-based reporting while amplifying an anti-Trump conservative voice from the fringe of the current Republican Party.
According to a statement released late Friday morning by NBC News, Hayes “will appear regularly across all NBC News platforms … and contribute to the network’s special political and election coverage.” Beyond being a prominent conservative voice of opposition to Donald Trump, it is unclear what unique expertise or perspective Hayes can bring to a mainstream news audience.
Hayes was in the news recently when he and colleague Jonah Goldberg publicly resigned from their commentary positions with Fox News in protest of prime-time host Tucker Carlson's “irresponsible" Patriot Purge program, which my Media Matters colleague Madeline Peltz described as a “pro-insurrection propaganda reel.” Since leaving Fox News, Hayes has admitted that the network’s coverage “contributed to the environment on January 6," which resulted in a violent attack on the United States Capitol.
In 2019, when Hayes and Goldberg launched their independent conservative media venture, The Dispatch, they described themselves as “Trump skeptics.” To his credit, Hayes does not seem to support Trump’s brand of fascism but, because of that, he has been on the outside looking in since Trump’s conquest of the Republican Party in 2016.
So, what has NBC News gotten itself into by bringing Hayes onto its political roster?
Hayes rose to prominence in conservative circles after publishing his thoroughly debunked 2004 book The Connection, which promoted the conspiracy theory manufactured by the Bush administration that late Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein was involved with Al Qaeda in the lead-up to the 9/11 terror attacks. That lie formed the basis for the United States’ disastrous invasion and occupation of Iraq, which led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people.
Hayes’ cheerleading for the Iraq War helped make him a mainstay of Fox News’ right-wing propaganda apparatus. Despite his lack of credentials or expertise, Hayes spent years reliably promoting the neoconservative party line on foreign affairs. He defended the use of torture on multiple occasions. He also learned no lessons from the calamitous war in Iraq and pushed for more American military interventions in Iran, Syria, and Ukraine. He mocked President Barack Obama’s signature nuclear agreement with Iran and complained about gender inclusivity in the military. Hayes was one of many right-wing media personalities who built the attack on an American diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, into a career-defining scandal for former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. (When a Republican-led House intelligence committee report cleared Clinton of wrongdoing in Benghazi, Hayes lashed out at the authors.) More recently, of course, he joined the predictable chorus of criticism in the wake of President Joe Biden’s decision to finally withdraw American combat forces from Afghanistan.
On the domestic policy front, Hayes could just as easily be any other replacement-level Republican apparatchik. During the Obama administration, Hayes argued that taxation was akin to theft, lamented anti-poverty relief programs, called for cutting unemployment benefits, smeared investments in renewable energy, promoted the “death panels” conspiracy theory, and peddled conspiracy theories about “rampant” voter fraud. He even once blamed Obama for the prevalence of the racist lie that he was secretly Muslim.
Hayes has also promoted so-called “skepticism” of climate change, perpetuated the myth that there was once a scientific “consensus” of global cooling in the 1970s, and once took to Twitter demanding that his now-colleague Chuck Todd “look into” the controversy “surrounding those emails out of [the University of East Anglia] about climate change.” (The supposed “Climategate” controversy to which Hayes was referring was made up by climate deniers who refuse to accept the basic science of climate change.)
Perhaps, NBC News hopes Hayes' inclusion on its political team will provide another viewpoint to coverage of looming domestic and foreign policy challenges the country faces in the years ahead. But by elevating someone who has built his entire career pushing misinformation inside the conservative media echo chamber, NBC is clearly revealing it values Hayes’ ideology more than reporting the facts.