See how Fox and Newsmax tried to make the first primetime hearing of the January 6 committee

This column is about the media, and this moment exemplifies the two parallel paths of media in the United States. So if you watched the Thursday night hearing of the 1/6th House committee, broadcast live on most major TV networks in the United States, let me tell you what I watched on right-wing TV at the same time.

When Representative Bennie Thompson ordered the hearing, Fox’s Tucker Carlson ignored him. Carlson declared that the “ruling class” was giving “another January 6th lecture.” He called the audience “propaganda” and was amused by Fox’s decision not to air it. He said “they are lying and we are not going to help them do that”.

Carlson then lied: he said that “if anything noteworthy happens” at the hearing, “obviously we’ll bring it to you right away”. But his show didn’t do that.

When Thompson said January 6 was “the culmination of an attempted coup”, Carlson asked why the media cared. He barely mentioned Donald Trump, but asked why other networks were “collusion” with the House by televising the hearing. His guest Jason Whitlock said, “Because the Democrats and the left are desperate.”

When Rep. Liz Cheney revealed many of the committee’s findings for the first time, Carlson said everyone knows the United States “may face some real problems soon”; she implied that Congress shouldn’t waste time on the 1/6th investigation; and called Thompson and Cheney “lunatics”.

Carlson looked like an amateur magician trying to distract kids when a performance collapses: “Look this way, not that way.” He said: “Gasoline is over five dollars. Inflation is higher than it has been in the lifetimes of most Americans. Violent crime is making cities unlivable, and more than 100,000 Americans have overdosed on drugs in last year. Why isn’t there? Is there a prime time hearing about this?”

Fox ignored his own role

When Cheney read a text exchange between Fox stars Sean Hannity and Kayleigh McEnany from January 7, 2021, with Hannity asking for “no more freaks” and “no more talk of stolen elections”, Carlson showed the live coverage. on other networks and made fun of those networks. He didn’t mention anything about the texts.

Newsmax, Fox’s right-wing rival, actually showed most of Cheney’s comments, but cut to pro-Trump commentators’ scrutiny. The network’s banners also promoted Trump’s talking points and, at times, the Newsmax app itself.

Back at Fox, when the committee showed a never-before-seen video of the Capitol being attacked, with terrifying footage from surveillance cameras and other sources, Carlson’s producers showed sterile live footage of the courtroom, but not the video. One of his banners read “TODAY’S AUDIENCE IS POLITICAL THEATER”.

When the video was completed, Rob Schmitt of Newsmax said, “We saw a lot worse in the summer of 2020, spurred on by comments from across the hall, which set the major cities of this country on fire. Where is the audience on this? Well they don’t. have this hearing, because they don’t care about your life, where you live.”

Sean Hannity took over Fox, but nothing has changed. Hannity said the hearing – still in progress – was “the most monotonous, the most boring” Democratic “fundraiser”. He didn’t touch a word Cheney said. He focused on security lapses and placed the blame squarely at the feet of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

When the committee swore in its witnesses, Fox banners called the hearing “FAIL” and “ANTI-TRUMP SHOW TRIAL.”

When injured police officer Caroline Edwards described how she was tear gassed outside the Capitol, The Federalist editor-in-chief MZ Hemingway tweeted“Is the Soviet-style show trial still ongoing?”
When Edwards described “carnage” and said she was “slipping on people’s blood” outside the Capitol, Hannity said the hearing was a failure: “They over-promised, under-delivered.” Somehow, he claimed to know this, even though he was on live TV during the second part of the hearing. And no, he never acknowledged his own writings or his own role as an adviser to Trump.

By the time the hearing was over, and analysts at the other networks had absorbed the enormity of what was presented, the pro-Trump media narrative was already baked. In Newsmax, Schmitt dismissed it as a “completely one-sided hearing about something that happened a year and a half ago.” On Fox, the banner for Laura Ingraham’s 10pm show read: “January 6 FLOPS IN PRIMETIME.”

“Do not misunderstand me…”

Why does right-wing media opposition matter? Because it ensures that the country remains on two totally different information paths.

“Don’t get me wrong: these audiences are crucial and every American should watch them,” said The Atlantic’s contributing writer Tom Nichols. he wrote Thursday. “But the alternate reality that about forty percent of us live in will never be violated by real facts.” Dispatch Senior Editor David French estimated that “tens of millions” of people still don’t understand “the reality of January 6 in large part because the media and personalities they trust are deliberately lying and/or hiding the truth about Trump and that terrible day.”
Sure, Fox News said days in advance that it wouldn’t show the prime-time audience on its main network, but it was still extraordinary to see the network follow through on its plan to ignore the news. Mediaite editor-in-chief Aidan McLaughlin didn’t hold back: “The footage of horrific violence being broadcast right now is the reason this audience isn’t airing on Fox News. So they can lie about it,” he said. . tweeted.
Fox’s actual audience coverage has been relegated to Fox Business Network, which has a tiny fraction of the main channel’s audience. The coverage was also broadcast on Fox Nation and was available to Fox broadcast stations. Notably, however, Carlson and Hannity’s shows did not point to these outlets or promote these options. They didn’t put a box in the corner of the screen pushing for the news. Instead, Bret Baier tweeted a reminder that he was at Fox Business and critical responses stacked.
>> John Harwood of CNN called the presentation a “devastating indictment not only of Trump but also of GOP politicians and conservative media figures who continue to try to mislead Americans by covering up what they know to be true…”
>> Will any conservative media outlets be honest and thorough about what Cheney called Trump’s “seven-part plan” to overthrow the 2020 election?

Made for television?


We’ve all heard that this would be a made-for-TV audience, a performance designed to capture the audience’s attention in a way that normal Capitol Hill events simply cannot. Specifically, we heard that the 1/6 committee was consulting with James Goldston to help with production. The NYT joked that Goldston had been hired “to produce the ratings as if they were a docudrama or a must-have miniseries.”

But in reality, the audience didn’t feel like a “docudrama” or “must see miniseries.” Not even close. Instead, he mostly employed the style of an ordinary audience on Capitol Hill. Yes, there was also a haunting video pack showing the raw violence of that day. But that video, the only real departure from the typical hearing format, contained only part of the two-hour case.

The audience “wasn’t the shock and awe it needed to be,” Deadline’s senior editor Dominic Patten wrote shortly afterwards. “Despite the rave reviews from TV talking heads, this was NPR when it should have been UFC…”

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