Fox News Texts Show Long History of Ideological MediaHistorians in the News
tags: Fox News, media, Donald Trump, 2020 Election, Tucker Carlson, Rupert Murdoch
Not long after Fox News correctly called the 2020 presidential election for Joe Biden, a senior Fox Corp. executive privately lamented that the network’s brand was “under heavy fire from our customer base.” The executive suggested Fox viewers might “feel like they have been somehow betrayed.”
This fear — that viewers might see telling the truth about Donald Trump’s loss as betrayal — was widespread inside the network, according to newly released texts among Fox News figures. In the texts, they fumed that candor about 2020 was driving the audience away, prompting viewers to defect to competitors who offered a more comforting cocoon. On the air, some of those personalities kept doling out what they privately admitted were lies.
This is one of the most extraordinary scandals to ever buffet a major American network. But it also points to an even bigger story: The right wing media’s long war on the truth. For decades, conservative media outlets have expressly sought to build and capture an audience that would accept only their version of events, and would be cordoned off to place them beyond the reach of mainstream news sources entirely.
“Right wing media have been engaged in a 70-year project to ensure that their audiences only trust conservative news outlets,” Nicole Hemmer, who tells this story in “Messengers of the Right,” her excellent history of conservative media, told me. “They’ve worked to discredit other sources of more-objective information, so that their audiences are unwilling to trust outlets more rooted in reality.”
The success of this project is illustrated by the texts, which were released as part of Dominion Voting Systems’ defamation suit against Fox News. For instance, the network’s accurate call of Arizona for Biden came in for special fury among hosts Tucker Carlson, Laura Ingraham and Sean Hannity, as The Post reports:
“We are all officially working for an organization that hates us,” Ingraham wrote in one text thread with Carlson and Hannity.
In another, in mid-November 2020, as they watched Fox viewers flip to more conservative upstart channels, Ingraham wrote to the group, “My anger at the news channel is pronounced.”
In short, the hosts saw the truth as a threat to their hold on their viewers.