“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.”
“Carlson had been communicating with intermediaries to try and arrange for an interview with Russian President Vladimir Putin. It is therefore extremely likely that at least one or more of the people Carlson communicated with (some of whom Axios reports had direct ties to the Kremlin) were legitimate targets of NSA surveillance. And therefore, the NSA did, in fact, probably get access to whatever emails were part of this discussion.
This means that the insistence by the NSA that it didn’t “target” Carlson is accurate, but it also means that Carlson’s claim that the NSA had read his emails may be accurate, at least to the extent that they were emails to the actual surveillance target.”
“Fox News fancies itself, at least outside of its Hannity-style programming, as a journalistic outlet. But its recent string of hires tells a different story.
Despite the Trump administration’s legacy of unrelenting dishonesty and Trump’s recent turn against Fox, the network has hired several former Trump officials of late, basically becoming a jobs program for any former Trump aide who desires gainful employment — and ensuring that Trump’s brand of politics will have a regular, prominent place on national television.”
“While there’s ample precedent for former White House officials making the leap into news media when their tenure in government is through — George Stephanopoulos went from the Clinton White House to ABC News, for example, and Dana Perino went from the George W. Bush White House to Fox News — the volume of former Trump officials Fox News has hired is notable, particularly because Fox News staffing itself with Trump family members and former staffers will keep Trumpism relevant.”
“Donald Trump, meanwhile, can self-promote by calling in to friendly hosts who will let him opine about Biden’s purported failures on national TV, even if he can no longer post tweets.
It won’t be good journalism, but that’s rarely the point with Fox. What it will do is help Trump maintain control over the Republican Party heading into the 2022 midterms — and beyond.”
“Former President Donald Trump did not succeed in overturning his election loss to Joe Biden. But he did succeed during his lame-duck period in knocking Fox News down a peg.
Over the past few months, Trump repeatedly derided Fox News while promoting upstart rivals like Newsmax and One America News Network (OAN), both of which more reliably pushed his conspiracy theories about the election being stolen. Fox News responded to this very public post-Election Day rift with Trump — and the sagging ratings that came with it — by purging its newsroom and doubling down on grievance-soaked punditry.”
” Though it’s obviously silly to get mad at a cable news channel for accurately calling an election result, that’s exactly what Trump did. In the weeks following his defeat, he routinely blasted the network for its sagging ratings, describing its daytime quasi-news programming as “not watchable” as he promoted further-right alternatives like Newsmax and OAN.”
“Earlier this month, two executives involved in the Arizona call — Bill Sammon, senior vice president and managing editor at Fox’s Washington bureau, and politics editor Chris Stirewalt — were forced out. Diana Falzone and Lachlan Cartwright reported for the Daily Beast that those moves were part of a broader “purge” to “get rid of real journalists.””
“If the goal of these moves is to win back viewers who are now opting for Newsmax and OAN instead of Fox News, they haven’t so far worked. Twice since the election, including once earlier this month, Newsmax has bested Fox News in a key demographic during an hour of programming.
Newsmax and OAN have carved out niches as networks especially willing to spread right-wing conspiracy theories and misinformation. In the weeks leading up to the January 6 Capitol riot, for instance, former Trump national security adviser and key QAnon figure Michael Flynn went on Newsmax and floated the idea of Trump declaring martial law to overturn his election loss and didn’t receive any pushback at all.”
“Nonetheless, Fox News seems willing to give its audience more conspiracy-theory-based programming. On Tuesday night, the top-rated anchor on Fox News, Tucker Carlson, platformed another Trumpist figure facing a defamation lawsuit for spreading fake news about the election — MyPillow founder Mike Lindell — and allowed him to push more conspiracies about voting machines.”
“Fox News spent most of the Trump years enjoying a symbiotic relationship with the president. Its hosts ran interference for him and gave his family members and administration officials unlimited access to softball interviews before a national audience, and in return Trump promoted the network with live tweets, praise, and scorn for the competition.
But with Trump out of power, Fox News quickly shifted from “all Trump, all the time” to becoming a gadfly, devoting multiple segments of programming each day to pointing out alleged liberal hypocrisy and using culture war issues to stoke grievances.”
“All three of the shows making up the network’s top-rated primetime lineup — Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity, and Laura Ingraham — featured segments about the coronavirus that ran with misinformation President Trump has embraced, from advocating that people start thinking about heading back to work even if it could leave more people dead to promoting unproven and potentially dangerous drugs as coronavirus cures.
Trump and his high-profile backers are struggling to come to grips with the reality that there are no shortcuts back to normalcy. And now shows watched by millions could put a lot of people’s health and lives in danger.”
“Fox News’s article about how Vaughn supposedly “faces liberal outrage after he was seen with Trump during national championship game” prominently features a tweet from Washington Examiner staffer Siraj Hashmi, who is hardly a liberal, sarcastically quipping that “Ladies & gentlemen, I regret to inform you Vince Vaughn is CANCELED” — but the tweet is presented in David Aaro’s article as though Hashmi is a liberal who meant it earnestly.
Hashmi later noted on Twitter that the Fox News article caused right-wing trolls to flood his Instagram page with abusive comments. And the few other examples of “liberal outrage” in the piece were gleaned from the far fringes of Twitter. (Fox News still hasn’t figured out that Hashmi isn’t actually liberal as of Tuesday afternoon — his tweet was falsely cited as an example of “liberal cancel culture” on Outnumbered.)”
“a few left-wing accounts did react to Burke’s clip with comments like, “Sad. Vince Vaughn is one of my favorites. I always knew he was Republican but this, so gross … I don’t need a Wedding Crashers sequel anymore.” But the idea that there was some sort of concerted liberal backlash to the clip is make-believe aimed at ginning up outrage.”