The Fox News-Trump feedback loop has been helping to cheer on President Donald Trump’s efforts to defy the results of the 2020 election, won by President-elect Joe Biden, by pushing misinformation and conspiracy theories to undermine confidence in the entire process. But it hasn’t just been a matter of the network’s avowed opinion hosts making this problem worse — the purported “news side” of Fox programming has been on board, too.
The most prominent voice from the network has been Fox Business anchor Maria Bartiromo, who has used her position to air conspiracy theories from Trump-connected lawyers about computer systems being used to alter the vote totals outright. For the opening block of her program Mornings with Maria Bartiromo this past Monday, she boldly repeated the Trump campaign’s message: “The 2020 election will be overturned.”
This refusal to recognize the election’s outcome has real-world consequences: Trump is now blocking the government from proceeding with the normal transition procedures for a new administration, which Biden argues could cause more deaths from the worsening coronavirus pandemic due to a lack of coordination and planning.
Here’s how other Fox “news side” anchors are promoting Trump’s efforts to invalidate the 2020 election results.
Bill Hemmer: It’s “not true” that Trump’s refusal to allow the transition process is unprecedented. (Yes, it is.)
On the November 16 edition of Fox News’ Bill Hemmer Reports, the eponymous anchor referred to “President-elect Joe Biden — if all these legal challenges fail” and chided a reporter at Biden’s press conference that afternoon for referring to Trump blocking the transition procedures as “unprecedented.” “Not true,” Hemmer said.
Just to be clear, it really is unprecedented in multiple ways.
In a later segment, Hemmer claimed that the baseless conspiracy theories being spread on Bartiromo’s shows by Trump-connected lawyer Sidney Powell about vote-counting software being used nefariously to alter the vote totals had “sounded convincing.” In reality, the U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency and various election security agencies have declared that “there is no evidence that any voting system deleted or lost votes, changed votes, or was in any way compromised” and that paper ballot systems guarantee the ability to examine and correct any mistakes. (Trump announced Tuesday night on Twitter that he was firing Chris Krebs, the head of the CISA, for his “highly inaccurate” statement that the election was secure.)
Meanwhile, the Trump campaign continues to lose its various legal challenges in key states with close election results such as Arizona, Michigan, and Pennsylvania.
Martha MacCallum: “Everyone accepts skepticism” about the election (Well, Republicans say so)
The March 12 edition of The Story with Martha MacCallum gave a friendly interview to White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany, who was appearing in her separate capacity as a spokesperson for the Trump campaign. Fox anchor Martha MacCallum clearly approved of McEnany and the Trump campaign’s continued challenges, citing poll numbers that show a majority of Republican voters do not accept that the election was “free and fair” as a reason to continue to examine the results — rather than as the fault of the Trump campaign for fomenting the doubts themselves.
MacCallum concluded the interview by declaring, “You know, we agree with every element of not wanting people to be able to have to cast a vote that is not legal,” adding, “So I think pursuing this is good for transparency and it's good for the election system overall.”
MacCallum also opened the November 17 edition of her show with another round of suspicions being cast against the accuracy of the voting system: “And while the states by and large want you to believe that it went better than ever, in this highly sophisticated country that we live in, if you phone knows who you are, shouldn't your ballot be just as smart? Clearly there is room for improvement on the next round here.”
Shannon Bream: “Ensure that this was a free and fair election” (By throwing it out)
Late night news anchor Shannon Bream has also gotten in on the act of using her Fox “news side” program to cast doubt on the 2020 election outcome. Bream opened the November 11 edition of Fox News @ Night promoting a lawsuit seeking to stop the election certification in Wayne County, Michigan, along with a variety of other allegations made by the Trump campaign of malfeasance across a number of close states. (And just this past Tuesday, the Republican members of the Wayne County canvassing board attempted to block the certification of votes from Detroit before reversing themselves after a wave of public pressure.)
Bream described the Michigan suit as “just one of several efforts going on around the country intended to ensure that this was a free and fair election,” though she also then acknowledged, “So far, no indications with the claims that we've seen that the overall result will be affected by these legal fights, but they continue.”
This was followed in a later segment by a friendly interview with the lawyer in the case, who alleged that a local election worker had come forward with allegations of improper conduct “at great risk to herself.” At no point in the interview did Bream ask the attorney about the fact that his lawsuit was actually seeking to void the election as a maximum remedy, speaking instead of its request for an independent audit in addition to the official audit that is done in the first place. (Two days after this interview, the judge in the case ruled against the lawsuit.)
On the November 13 edition of her show, Bream interviewed Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick (R) about his publicity stunt of announcing a $1 million reward for information on voter fraud. Patrick went on to sketch out a scenario in which the narrow margins for Biden in Arizona and Georgia might be overcome somehow followed by the Supreme Court getting involved in Pennsylvania, which Patrick assumed would switch the election over to Trump.
Rather than challenge him on any of these unexplained assumptions, Bream concluded the interview by saying she and Fox News would continue to examine affidavits alleging voter fraud, such as those gathered by Patrick and other Republicans.
Bream also followed up on the latest developments Tuesday night in Michigan, hosting Trump campaign attorney Jenna Ellis to decry the public response against the Republican canvassing board members who had tried to block the certification of votes from Detroit.
“And the state legislature should get involved,” Ellis concluded in the interview — a reference to a fringe Republican strategy to cancel out the election results in the swing states and have Republican-led state legislatures simply appoint Electoral College slates for Trump. “And we are really proud of President Trump for making sure to protect election integrity for all of America.”
“All right,” Bream replied. “We want transparency — across the board.”
More Fox “news side” anchors: OK, the cause is lost — but “would it be so bad” for Trump to keep suing, anyway?
Even when Fox anchors and their guests acknowledge that Trump’s efforts to contest the election are for naught, there remains a continued effort to justify the proceedings anyway.
On Friday’s edition of Bill Hemmer Reports, guest anchor and Fox News chief White House correspondent John Roberts interviewed Fox News contributor Jonathan Turley, a law professor who had previously defended Trump as a witness during last year’s impeachment hearings and said in the immediate days after this election that counting every mail-in vote “could prove utter madness.”
By this point, however, Turley was explaining that Trump would in all likelihood be unable to stop the certification of the election — and Biden’s victory with it — because he had not produced sufficient evidence to show the types of irregularities and the extent that would reverse the results. But at the same time, Turley continued to justify efforts to dispute the election on the curious grounds that this would improve the confidence in the result for Trump’s supporters.
And on Monday’s edition of America’s Newsroom, co-anchor Trace Gallagher interviewed attorney Tom Dupree, a former Justice Department official during the George W. Bush administration and member of the Federalist Society. Dupree also affirmed that Trump did not have “a viable path to victory through the courts” to overturn the election result and said that the president’s legal team had not produced evidence of fraud as they had promised: “I mean, I’m looking for it, but they just haven’t put it into the court filings.”
However, Gallagher then set up a rationale for Trump to both allow the transition process to go forward — and still keep the legal challenges going.