After a violent mob sought to overthrow by force a national election victory of the Democratic Party, Fox News is busy working to salvage its own long-running propaganda campaign — and push for changes in voting laws to restrict Americans’ access to the ballot box.
President Donald Trump’s supporters stormed the Capitol in an attempt to physically prevent Congress from counting the Electoral College votes for President-elect Joe Biden, after they had attended a rally at which Trump spoke and told them: “You’ll never take back our country with weakness. You have to show strength, and you have to be strong. We have come to demand that Congress do the right thing and only count the electors who have been lawfully slated.”
Fox News played a major role both before and immediately after the 2020 election in promoting President Donald Trump’s disproven conspiracy theories about mass voter fraud, which became the ideological basis for the attempted insurrection by a pro-Trump mob in the U.S. Capitol. And the network’s hosts are still keeping up the cause.
Fox’s prime-time hosts stand by the voter-suppression agenda: “The urgent push for election integrity will continue.”
Kicking off Fox’s prime-time coverage on the evening of January 6, Tucker Carlson validated the paranoid accusations from the Capitol insurrectionists.
“Millions of Americans sincerely believe the last election was fake. You can dismiss them as crazy. You can call them conspiracy theorists. You can kick them off Twitter. But that won't change their minds,” Carlson said. “Rather than trying to change their minds, to convince them and reassure them that the system is real, that the democracy works, as you would do if you cared about the country or the people who live here, our new leaders will try to silence them.”
Sean Hannity delivered a 10-minute diatribe in which he claimed both that the overwhelming majority — “the 99%, as we say” — of people at the event were peaceful protesters motivated by concerns about voter fraud in the 2020 election.
“And let me state the obvious, for the safety of those people that worked there and law enforcement, our elected officials — the people who acted violently today, they don't represent the millions of law-abiding, hard-working, tax-paying citizens, responsible American patriots that are worried about election integrity,” Hannity said, adding: “Now, does anybody in the media, anybody on the left, do they want to understand how hundreds of thousands of Americans, what motivated them to leave their homes and their towns and their cities and often fly or come long distances to be at the massive rally today?”
At the end of listing a long series of debunked accusations about the election, Hannity concluded: “People have a right to be angry but protest peacefully. And the urgent push for election integrity will continue.”
Later, Hannity had a discussion with Trump’s former Acting Director of National Intelligence Ric Grenell and Fox News contributor Jason Chaffetz. Grenell, who was heavily involved in the Trump campaign’s unsuccessful efforts to overturn Biden’s win in Nevada, repeated a number of falsehoods about the election and then called for “transparency” in order to assuage people’s suspicions on “whether or not the vote was real.”
Chaffetz, a former member of Congress from Utah, also called for people to get involved in affecting the election laws in their home states.
“You’ve got to work on your state legislators and go back to your statehouses,” said Chaffetz. “Those are the places where you have to hold people accountable. That's what the Constitution says. That's where we execute these elections, and that's where we need to focus to really institute change.”
At the end of the show, American Conservative Union Chairman Matt Schlapp claimed that voters had been “disenfranchised due to this corruption in our election process.” (Schlapp had also been involved with Grenell in Nevada and had attempted to incite riots aimed at stopping the ongoing vote counts the day after the election.)
“Nothing justifies the violence and the disrespect to the cops today. But we're at a bad moment as a country,” Schlapp said. “We're going to have to figure out how we heal from here — and it starts with telling the truth about the election.”
“We need to get to the bottom-line issues here,” Hannity answered. “Every American needs faith, confidence, and integrity in our elections. That's just a fact.”
Fox News host Laura Ingraham then kicked off her broadcast by claiming that “antifa sympathizers” had been involved at the violence in the Capitol — and that this event threatened to harm the real objective of changing the voting laws.
Ingraham later had a lengthy discussion with Reps. Mark Green (R-TN), Darrell Issa (R-CA), and Lee Zeldin (R-NY), in which Ingraham asked about Republicans who were “deciding that election reform is not worth pursuing tonight after what happened today.” After the three congressmen spouted a variety of debunked accusations about the election returns, Ingraham concluded the topic by saying, “And those questions have never been resolved. They've never been resolved. They’ve just been kind of dismissed as conspiracy theories.”
Fox’s “news side” also focused on the “real issues” of manipulating the election laws
On the early evening news show The Story, anchor Martha MacCallum interviewed Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), who strongly opposed the Trump supporters’ effort to reject the electoral votes and claimed such efforts need to take place at the state level: “I have a lot of the same complaints. I want the elections to be better. But I’ll spend the next two years lobbying state legislatures to try to fix the election laws so this doesn’t happen again.” (In December, Paul had declared: “the fraud happened. The election in many ways was stolen and the only way it'll be fixed is by, in the future, reinforcing the laws.”)
MacCallum voiced her agreement with Paul’s stance, saying, “There are real issues that people have been fired up about, and I think rightfully so.”
Toward the end of the discussion, MacCallum asked Paul: “So you think even though Republicans will not have a majority in the Senate, that these things — that these vote fixes can be pushed through Republican state legislatures and will make a difference by the time the 2022 elections roll around?”
Fox News @ Night anchor Shannon Bream spoke about the day’s events with Rep. Jim Banks (R-IN), a lawmaker who had just voted to object to the electoral votes from Arizona, a state Biden won. When Banks said that he was planning to propose legislation to roll back voting access — such as banning all mail-in ballots — Bream responded approvingly, saying that Trump supporters had “a great deal of frustration” about the election.
“And I think that's something that people across the political spectrum wants for Americans to have confidence in their elections,” she concluded.
And it continued into Thursday
On Thursday morning’s edition of Fox & Friends, co-host Ainsley Earhardt compared Wednesday’s events to last summer’s wave of civil unrest over issues of police violence and racial justice. In each case, she said, society should learn something from the grievances at hand.
“What can we learn from this? They want election reform,” Earhardt said. “We need to find a way to fix the election system so that every single American has faith in the election and trust and that there is integrity.”
Co-host Steve Doocy also told Earhardt: “But here's the thing, those people were so frustrated because they had been told by the president of the United States that the election was stolen from him and that the system was rigged against him.”
Just to be clear, Fox has long championed voter restriction laws that disproportionately harm minority voters, and it continued to do so through this past election cycle. Fox has also been a main vendor of the circular logic in which Fox figures cite widespread suspicion among Trump supporters about the election result, while also being the ones pushing the propaganda campaign against the election result.
Fox & Friends Weekend co-host Pete Hegseth also defended the rioters as people who “love freedom,” and also listed the expanded mail-in voting in 2020 as a legitimate grievance they supposedly had.
“We're always told — and this is legitimate, this is the way republics are supposed to work — you get them at the ballot box. You come back two years later, and you get them at the ballot box,” Hegseth said. “Well, and then what happens when you don't have that recourse? What happens when they use COVID as a guise to change all the guidelines constitutionally? We could've voted in person. I can go to Walmart. I can go to a store. I can go to a restaurant. I can go to sports games in some places. You tell me we couldn't have voted? I just don't buy it.”
Schlapp appeared again with Fox Business host Stuart Varney — who once proclaimed that he did not think Trump has ever lied. During the discussion, Varney declared that the lame-duck president was “done politically” after yesterday’s event. The two went on to argue over the fact that Trump was now still falsely telling his supporters that he had really won the election, as Varney pointed out but Schlapp continued to dispute.
At the end, though, they did agree that voting laws need to be changed:
On Outnumbered that afternoon, Fox Nation host Tomi Lahren vowed that “what was done yesterday by storming the Capitol and being destructive, and being really disorderly and disgusting, that behavior really overshadowed the movement. And I ask those fellow Trump supporters of mine, that’s not the answer, that did nothing, that set us back.”
“We do need to listen to the frustrations of Trump supporters, though, because we really have to make sure that moving forward we do have integrity in our elections,” Lahren said. “I will continue to beat that drum. What happened yesterday does not take away from that fight that’s left ahead of us. We’re just going to do it the right way.”
Fox News host Mark Levin had previously asserted on his radio show that there was a “desperate effort to tie Donald Trump to the breaching of the Capitol building.” On his radio show Thursday night, he spoke with a caller who urged “all the other Trump supporters out there” to contact their state legislatures to change the voting laws, “so that we can restore integrity in our elections.”
“Well, I agree with you,” Levin said. “And we're going to have figure out, once those laws are changed, how to defend them, because they're going to go right back to the same courts and the same governors and secretaries of state that changed them.”
“And so I would encourage you, yes, contact your state representative and your state senator,” Levin added, “You may not even know who it is — go ahead and Google and find out — and insist you want voter-ID, you want in-person voting, you only want absentee voting under certain, limited conditions, you want to eliminate these drop boxes, and eliminate mail-in voting.”
Having done its part to sow distrust in the institutions and processes of democracy, the network is now making distinctions between the “right” and “wrong” ways to destroy the electoral processes and undermine the will of the people.