“A Thursday night news brief on Fox News contained a remarkable claim — that the network doesn’t have enough information to determine what motivated a man spouting right-wing conspiracy theories to shut down a significant portion of Washington, DC, around the Library of Congress by claiming to have a bomb earlier in the day.
“So far, no word on a possible motive,” said anchor Jackie Ibanez at the conclusion of a 15-second brief that amounted to the entirety of Fox News’s Thursday night coverage of the incident.
The brevity could conceivably be excused: No one was injured, and US Capitol Police announced Thursday evening they had cleared the suspect’s black pickup truck. And Fox News covered the incident as it was ongoing earlier in the day. But Ibanez’s claim about motive bears more scrutiny.
It’s true that after the bomb threat suspect — later identified as 49-year-old Floyd Ray Roseberry, of Grover, North Carolina — surrendered to law enforcement, police said “we don’t know what his motives are at this time.” (Fox News didn’t immediately respond to an inquiry from Vox asking the network to explain Ibanez’s “no word on a possible motive” report.)
But Ibanez’s comment may have been intended to obscure an uncomfortable truth for America’s most-watched cable news network. In videos streamed to Facebook before and during the bomb threat while he sat in a truck,Roseberry made clear he’s immersed in right-wing conspiracy theories and grievances that receive heavy play on Fox.
“Once this dickhead Biden’s out of office and the Democrats sitting down there in the f**kin’ jailhouse, our president’s gonna be Donald Trump, and this is no limit on his pardons,” claimed Roseberry in a video posted early Tuesday morning, alluding to a lie propagated by former President Donald Trump on Fox News as recently as Wednesday about the 2020 election being stolen from him.
“I just got chose for the job. Unlike you,” Roseberry added. “This ain’t about politics. I don’t care if Donald Trump ever becomes president again. I think y’all Democrats need to step down. Y’all need to understand people don’t want you there.””
“Facebook eventually removed Roseberry’s profile, but not before his videos were widely watched and summarized in media reports. Yet if you’d watched Fox News Thursday night, you’d have no idea those videos existed.”
“This isn’t the first time in recent years a violent right-wing extremist has been motivated by the same sort of incendiary rhetoric that the network traffics in.
In October 2018, social media posts from the lone suspect in a shooting that killed 11 people at a synagogue in Pittsburgh indicated he was motivated by conspiracy theories about migrant caravans to the southern border representing an “invasion” of the country, conspiracy theories that continued to receive play on the network even in the days immediately following the shooting.
That same month, Fox News strained to avoid acknowledging the right-wing fanaticism that inspired a man to send explosive devices to CNN and other perceived enemies of then-President Trump
Hammering people with lies about Democrats stealing elections and overseeing an immigrant invasion of the country can have deadly consequences. It’s notable but not surprising that Fox News is unwilling to reckon with those consequences — especially in comparison to the wall-to-wall coverage that would likely ensue if an adherent of antifa or Black Lives Matter shut down the Capitol area with a bomb threat.”