Jan. 6 hearing dominates top TV networks — except one

Major U.S. television networks on Thursday shifted prime time to a moving account of former President Donald Trump’s actions during the January 6, 2021 riot at the U.S. Capitol — with one prominent exception.

The top-rated news network, Fox News Channel, maintained its own line of commentators. Sean Hannity denounced the “show trial” elsewhere on TV, as he was featured in it, with the Jan. 6 House committee scrutinizing his tweets to Trump administration figures.

Hannity broadcast a muted snippet of committee members entering the courtroom as part of a lengthy monologue condemning the proceedings.

That’s all Fox News viewers saw in the audience.

“It’s really just a cheap, selectively edited political ad,” Hannity told her viewers.

Meanwhile, ABC, CBS, NBC, PBS, CNN and MSNBC aired the second primetime hearing, focusing on Trump’s real-time response to the riot. The committee said it was the last hearing until September.

“That sounded very much like a closing argument, certainly from this chapter of their investigation, and it was profound,” said ABC News anchor David Muir.

About 20 million people watched the first prime-time hearing on June 9, the Nielsen Company said. Generally, reaching such a large audience in mid-July would be a long shot, as it is the least watched television month of the year.

However, the seven daytime hearings proved to be an oddity. Driven by strong word-of-mouth, audiences grew in ratings as they went along. CNN, for example, reached 1.5 million people in its second daytime viewing on June 16 and 2.6 million in its last one on June 12, Nielsen said.

Fox’s New York broadcast station, which did not broadcast the prime-time audience last month, showed the Thursday night session.

There is little interest in the Fox News Channel, which has broadcast daytime ratings, albeit only up to the demarcation line of the popular network show “The Five”. Evaluations show that about half of the network’s audience runs away when audiences start and comes back when they finish.

That would be a much more serious problem in prime time, where Fox’s ratings are more than double what they are during the day. Fox News Channel’s decision not to broadcast prime-time ratings is almost certainly a function of the demands of its audience and prime-time presenters, said Nicole Hemmer, an expert on conservative media and author of the forthcoming book “Partisans: The Conservative Revolutionaries.” Who remade American politics in the 1990s.”

“It creates an awkward situation when a presenter like Tucker Carlson tells his audience that the ratings are a disaster not worth their time, and then the network anticipates his show to air them,” Hemmer said.

Carlson found plenty to talk about beyond the hearing on Thursday, including President Joe Biden’s COVID-19 diagnosis, a “breakdown” by liberals over the U.S. Supreme Court’s abortion decision, the failure of drug legalization, “climate freaks” and “trans-affirming” in Los Angeles schools.

Hannity’s main story was the “grand finale” of the January 6th committee, though he didn’t show it – at least with the sound on.

He brought in guests like Republican Representative Jim Banks of Indiana, who said that if the hearings did anything, “they exonerated President Trump and the people who supported him.”

Talk show host Mark Levin told Hannity that the US Department of Justice is corrupt because “Colbert 9 is free roaming.” This is a reference to federal prosecutors’ decision not to file charges against nine people associated with CBS’s “Late Show with Stephen Colbert” who were arrested in a building in the US Capitol complex last month.

While Hannity was on the air, the Jan. 6 committee showed tweets that Hannity and other Fox News personalities sent to Trump administration officials, warning that the riot on Capitol Hill was making the president sick.

In a closing statement, Representative Liz Cheney, the committee’s vice chair, noted that most of her case against Trump was made by Republicans. She derided the notion that the committee’s conclusions would be very different if other Republicans besides her and Representative Adam Kinzinger were members.

“Do you really think Bill Barr is such a delicate flower he would wither under interrogation?” she said.

Republicans who watched Fox News on Thursday night didn’t hear it.

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Follow AP’s coverage of the January 6 committee hearings at https://apnews.com/hub/capitol-siege.

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