“On air, Fox News personalities have been endlessly attacking so-called “woke corporations.” But now, Fox News finds itself in the right’s cultural crosshairs — with conservatives accusing it of promoting “trans ideology” in its own workplace.
The inciting incident is a Monday morning story in the Daily Signal, the media arm of the conservative Heritage Foundation think tank. In the story, reporter Mary Margaret Olohan writes that Fox’s employee handbook allows employees to use “bathrooms that align with their gender identity, rather than their biological sex,” permits them to “dress in alignment with their preferred gender,” and requires that their coworkers use “their preferred name and pronouns in the workplace.”
Many of Fox’s rules in this area appear to be in line with state law: The company’s headquarters are in New York, where state law explicitly prohibits discrimination on the basis of gender identity (something Olohan notes in passing but doesn’t dwell on). Fox told me in a written statement, “FOX News Media is compliant with all Human Rights laws mandated by the cities and states in which we operate, including New York and California.”
That there’s less to the Daily Signal’s exclusive than meets the eye didn’t stop many on the culture war right from blasting Fox as a sellout.”
“The embarrassment angle is the easiest to dismiss: Remember all those headlines, generated by damning admissions and documents from the likes of Tucker Carlson and Rupert Murdoch, that showed how Fox’s on-air talent and their managers knew they were peddling untruths to their audience about the supposed 2020 election fraud? You probably read those because you consume Actual News. (And, let’s be clear: If you’d thought about this at all, you weren’t surprised to see the deep cynicism that powers Fox spelled out in writing.)
But on Fox, the lawsuit was barely covered at all, and Fox’s media correspondent even said he was prevented from reporting on it. That’s not surprising, given the channel’s consistent commitment to presenting alternative facts, a practice which long predated the Trump era.
You may recall that in an effort to stave off lawsuits like the one Dominion filed, Fox grudgingly offered some non-apology clarifications in late 2020, then went right back to making things up. A few months later, they were providing cover for the January 6 rioters.”
“Yes, the $787.5 million settlement is much less than the $1.6 billion the company initially asked for in damages. But it is a giant windfall for the small company and its private equity owners. It would be crazy not to take a deal like that, and let media critics worry about what happens to Fox.
And yes, $787.5 million is a lot of money, even for a big company like Fox: It represents about 20 percent of Fox’s $4 billion in cash, which means it could impact Fox’s ability to buy things or pay out dividends to its shareholders. On the other hand, Fox posted profits of $321 million in the last three months of 2022, which means it can build back up its cash pile pretty quickly.
That seems to be Wall Street’s take: 21st Century Fox stock opened down a few points the day after the settlement was announced, but as of this writing it has almost completely rebounded; the company remains worth about $17.5 billion.
In other words: Even after Fox agreed to pay nearly $788 million in a settlement (on top of the legal fees it has already spent), investors have decided the payout will have no impact on Fox’s operations.”
“The most plausible threat to Fox News is the same threat facing every TV network in 2023: that its viewership erodes as TV viewers migrate to the internet. But Fox’s viewers, like other cable TV news operations, skew old, and that means they’re the ones least likely to give up their cable boxes. They’re also incredibly loyal, which is why Fox can charge cable TV operators — who pass the fees on to you, if you’re paying for cable TV — more money than anyone else in TV, with the exception of sports.
So until that audience, along with the revenue and clout it generates for its owner, dwindles, don’t expect Fox to budge at all.”
“Even as Fox acknowledges a judge’s determination that it repeatedly aired “false” allegations about Dominion, it claims to be upholding “the highest journalistic standards.” Surely that means it will set the record straight. Not according to The Hill’s Dominick Mastrangelo, who reports that a “source with knowledge of the Fox/Dominion settlement says the network will not be required to issue any on-air retractions or apologies as part of the deal.””
““We are very, very close to being able to ignore Trump most nights. I truly can’t wait.”
“I hate him passionately.”
“We’re all pretending we’ve got a lot to show for it, because admitting what a disaster it’s been is too tough to digest. But come on. There isn’t really an upside to Trump.”
Tucker Carlson sent all those texts — newly revealed as exhibits in the lawsuit brought by Dominion Voting Systems against Fox — on January 4, 2021. (Through the discovery process, many Fox internal emails and documents were provided to Dominion, and the company’s attorneys have made them public by citing them in legal filings.)
Yet Carlson devoted his shows this week to a revisionist history of the attacks on the Capitol two days afterward, omitting Trump’s then-ongoing attempt to steal the election, portraying concerns about a stolen election as reasonable and even vindicated, and minimizing the violence that took place.
But to understand what’s going on here, it’s worth taking a closer look at the bigger narrative Carlson was trying to push this week.
The story of January 6, in Carlson’s extremely selective and misleading telling to his viewers, isn’t about how a mob whipped up by the president of the United States tried to prevent the transfer of power, or how that president tried to steal the election. It’s about how Democrats and the media were mean to Trump supporters.
The story is also about how he, Tucker Carlson, would never do something like that. He loves you, Trump supporters. He respects you. Pay no attention to those texts behind the curtain about how he disdains and disbelieves Donald Trump. He is your loyal champion against your enemies. So please — don’t change the channel.”
“On Jan. 4, 2021, Fox News host Tucker Carlson was done with Donald Trump.
“We are very, very close to being able to ignore Trump most nights. I truly can’t wait,” he texted an unidentified person.
“I hate him passionately. … I can’t handle much more of this,” he added.
By this time, Fox News was in crisis mode. It had angered its audience when it correctly said Joe Biden had won Arizona in the presidential election. Executives and hosts were worried about losing viewers to upstart rivals, most notably Newsmax.
The private comments were a far cry from what Carlson’s viewers were used to hearing from the stalwart conservative host on his prime-time show every night.
“We’re all pretending we’ve got a lot to show for it, because admitting what a disaster it’s been is too tough to digest,” he wrote in another text message, referring to the “last four years.” “But come on. There isn’t really an upside to Trump.””
“In a group text chain from mid-November, Hannity, Ingraham and Carlson complained about their news colleagues and the network’s decision to call Arizona in favor of Biden. Fox News was the first network to do so, and the call was accurate.
“Why would anyone defend that call,” Hannity asked.
“My anger at the news channel is pronounced,” Ingraham said later in the exchange.
Carlson piped in, saying: “It should be. We devote our lives to building an audience and they let Chris Wallace and Leland [expletive] Vittert wreck it. Too much.”
Wallace and Vittert were Fox News hosts and anchors at the time.”
“In a conversation with Fox News journalist Chris Stirewalt on Dec. 2, 2020, about a month after the election, Bill Sammon, who was then the network’s managing editor, lamented the state of the place they worked.
“More than 20 minutes into our flagship evening news broadcast and we’re still focused solely on supposed election fraud — a month after the election. It’s remarkable how weak ratings make good journalists do bad things,” Sammon said.
Stirewalt added: “It’s a real mess. But sadly no surprise based on the man I saw revealed on election night.”
Sammon replied, “In my 22 years affiliated with Fox, this is the closest thing I’ve seen to an existential crisis — at least journalistically.””