Liz Cheney speaking at a press event
Liz Cheney speaking at a press event (Official photo)

One of Con­gress’ most steely con­ser­v­a­tives, Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Liz Cheney, R‑Wyoming, defined the acid, final test that needs to be met by the House com­mit­tee prob­ing the Jan­u­ary 6th attack on the Unit­ed States Capitol.

It has an explo­sive ques­tion to answer.

“Did Don­ald Trump, through action or inac­tion, cor­rupt­ly seek to impede Con­gress’ offi­cial pro­ceed­ing to count elec­toral votes?” asked Cheney.

She used emails giv­en the pan­el by Trump’s ex-chief of staff Mark Mead­ows to focus on the one hun­dred and eighty-sev­en min­utes in which Trump, hav­ing sent off the demon­stra­tors, did noth­ing to stop the trash­ing. “Mark, the Pres­i­dent needs to tell peo­ple in the Capi­tol to go home: This is hurt­ing all of us, he’s destroy­ing his lega­cy,” emailed sar­cas­tic Fox News host Lau­ra Ingraham.

As well, Cheney quot­ed incrim­i­nat­ing com­mu­ni­ca­tions from her House col­leagues – ini­tial­ly with­out nam­ing them – to show efforts to over­turn the ver­dict of America’s voters.

“I think we’re try­ing to under­stand those one hun­dred and eighty sev­en min­utes that he (Trump) didn’t say any­thing – what it means,” Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Pete Aguilar, D‑California, a pan­el mem­ber, said after the com­mit­tee hearing.

What it means is that the 45th Pres­i­dent of the Unit­ed States may well have com­mit­ted a crime two weeks before leav­ing office.

It would be a crime aid­ed and abet­ted by aides, bad lawyers, and mem­bers of Con­gress. A like­ly sus­pect, Rep. Jim Jor­dan, R‑Ohio, is slat­ed to chair the House Judi­cia­ry Com­mit­tee if Repub­li­cans regain con­trol of the House in 2022.

A lit­ter of kit­tens was let out of the bag.

The House vot­ed 222–208, with only Cheney and Adam Kinzinger vot­ing Yea, to refer Mead­ows to the Depart­ment of Jus­tice for crim­i­nal con­tempt of Con­gress. Hav­ing sent over vast­ly reveal­ing emails, he has refused – alleged­ly on Trump’s orders – to sub­mit to a deposition.

The Cheney ques­tion has set off a wingding in right wing media.

The Fox hosts she quot­ed have set out to brand her a liar and traitor.

In turn, the network’s remain­ing hon­est jour­nal­ists – and a cou­ple hon­est con­ser­v­a­tives — are bail­ing. The net­work is increas­ing­ly exud­ing the stench of fas­cism over the airwaves.

The ini­tial impe­tus to depart Fox was sup­plied by a Tuck­er Car­son “doc­u­men­tary” for Fox Nation called Patri­ot Purge, which seeks to exon­er­ate the Jan­u­ary 6th insur­rec­tion­ists. Long­time Fox per­son­al­i­ty Ger­al­do Rivera has con­demned its “inflam­ma­to­ry and out­ra­geous nature.”

Con­ser­v­a­tive pun­dit Jon­ah Gold­berg and fried Steve Hayes went fur­ther: They quit. “It (Patri­ot Purge) is a per­fect exam­ple of pro­pa­gan­da that weaves half truths into a whole lie,” Gold­berg wrote in the Los Ange­les Times. “It insin­u­ates that the Jan­u­ary 6th riot at the Capi­tol might have been a ‘false flag oper­a­tion’ orches­trat­ed by the FBI or the Deep State. Worst, it sug­gests the Biden admin­is­tra­tion is com­ing for the real patri­ots – i.e. Trump voters.”

The nur­tur­ing of fear, to a gullible audi­ence, is a prime tac­tic of total­i­tar­i­an pro­pa­gan­da. Untruths get repeat­ed over and over again to an insu­lar audi­ence that hears noth­ing else.

In his famous mem­oir Berlin Diary, CBS news­man William L. Shir­er wrote of vaca­tion­ing in Switzer­land dur­ing the sum­mer of 1939 and read­ing sto­ries in the world press of Ger­many mass­ing troops for an inva­sion of Poland. Return­ing to Berlin, Nazi media was filled with arti­cles about Poland threat­en­ing Ger­many, e.g. the head­line: “Ger­man farm hous­es in the (Pol­ish) Cor­ri­dor in flames.”

Liz Cheney is a fierce par­ti­san: Unlike her Repub­li­can House col­leagues, how­ev­er, she has no truck or trade with pub­lic fab­ri­ca­tion of falsehoods.

Going on Fox News Sun­day, she told host Chris Wal­lace: “It’s the same kind of thing you hear from peo­ple who say Sep­tem­ber 11th was an inside job. It’s un-Amer­i­can to be spread­ing those kinds of lies, and they are lies.”

Chris Wal­lace quit FNC after last Sunday’s broad­cast, telling the audi­ence he was bound for new work at CNN’s stream­ing service.

It’s a mea­sure of the pow­er of Cheney’s ques­tion that Fox isn’t black­ing her out and treat­ing her as an un-per­son. Instead, it is dis­cred­it­ing her.

Han­ni­ty has even sought to depict him­self as the aggriev­ed par­ty after Cheney read his email. (A slav­ish Trump lick­spit­tle, Han­ni­ty emailed Mead­ows: “Can he make a state­ment? Ask peo­ple to leave the Capitol.”)

“Where is the out­rage in the media over my pri­vate text mes­sages being released again pub­licly? Do we believe in pri­va­cy in this coun­try? Appar­ent­ly not,” Han­ni­ty thun­dered, before wel­com­ing Mark Mead­ows as a guest to give the par­ty line on why he’s not being deposed.

The most vicious pun­dit­ry has come from Tuck­er Carl­son, call­ing Cheney “a liar”, post­ing an unflat­ter­ing pic­ture of her – unflat­ter­ing pic­tures of pro­gres­sive women are a Fox sta­ple – and play­ing the fear card: “The Jan­u­ary 6th com­mit­tee has become the Amer­i­can ver­sion of a Sovi­et show tri­al… Liz Cheney can har­ness the awe­some pow­ers of the nation­al secu­ri­ty state to seize your text mes­sages and read them in the Con­gres­sion­al Record.”

The Anti-Defama­tion League, America’s most ven­er­a­ble voice against big­otry, has tried to flag FNC on its extremism.

In a let­ter to Fox Cor­po­ra­tion CEO Lach­lan Mur­doch, Jonathan Green­blatt wrote: “Let’s call this (Patri­ot Purge) for what it is, an abject, indis­putable lie and a bla­tant attempt to rewrite his­to­ry. As an orga­ni­za­tion com­mit­ted to fight­ing anti-Semi­tism and all forms of hate, we remain deeply con­cerned that the false nar­ra­tive and wild con­spir­a­cy the­o­ries pre­sent­ed by Carl­son will sow fur­ther divi­sion and has the poten­tial to ani­mate violence.”

“Where is the line for you and Fox?” Green­blatt asked the Mur­doch dauphin.

Green­blatt received no answer. Carl­son dou­bled down dur­ing his anti-Cheney screed Tues­day night, lion­iz­ing the Jan­u­ary 6th insur­rec­tion­ists: “Thou­sands of ordi­nary Amer­i­can cit­i­zens, vot­ers, peo­ple who believe in our democ­ra­cy far more fer­vent­ly than Liz Cheney ever has, came to Wash­ing­ton because they fer­vent­ly believed democ­ra­cy had been thwarted.”

By a sev­en-mil­lion-vote Biden vic­to­ry. The ADL was heard from again this week. Fox ran a car­toon of Jew­ish phil­an­thropist (and Holo­caust sur­vivor) George Soros as a pup­pet mas­ter, with a Demo­c­ra­t­ic dis­trict attor­ney on one swing hold­ing a “defund the police” sign and a Demo­c­ra­t­ic attor­ney gen­er­al with a “No bail” sign. Phys­i­cal fea­tures of the Soros fig­ure could have come from a copy of Der Sturmer picked up from a Nurem­burg kiosk in the 1930s.

The ADL protest­ed that the car­toon “con­jures up long­stand­ing anti-Semit­ic tropes” and “con­tributes to the nor­mal­iza­tion of anti-Semitism.”

Fox took down the car­toon from its Face­book page and Insta­gram, while on-air Fox con­trib­u­tor Leo Ter­rell was dri­ving home its mes­sage, claim­ing that America’s crime wave is part of a con­spir­a­cy by “left-lean­ing George Soros Demo­c­ra­t­ic pros­e­cu­tors” to entrap police.

Stoke fear. Erect objects of hate. Alas, the vast major­i­ty of Liz Cheney’s Repub­li­can col­leagues are buy­ing into this strat­e­gy, or are main­tain­ing a fear­ful, reveal­ing silence. Their knees are shak­ing at the pow­er of right-wing media… the pow­er to put their pri­ma­ry chal­lengers on the air.

In a dis­tant mir­ror, I read the words of Repub­li­can Sen­a­tor Mar­garet Chase Smith of Maine, who deliv­ered a “Dec­la­ra­tion of Con­science” against red-bait­ing Repub­li­can col­league Joe McCarthy.

“I do not want to see the Repub­li­can Par­ty ride to polit­i­cal vic­to­ry on the Four Hors­es of Calum­ny: fear, igno­rance, big­otry and smear,” Smith said.

Smith found a lot more sup­port in her par­ty sev­en­ty years ago than Liz Cheney does now.

About the author

Joel Connelly is a Northwest Progressive Institute contributor who has reported on multiple presidential campaigns and from many national political conventions. During his career at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, he interviewed Presidents Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, George W. Bush, and George H.W. Bush. He has covered Canada from Trudeau to Trudeau, written about the fiscal meltdown of the nuclear energy obsessed WPPSS consortium (pronounced "Whoops") and public lands battles dating back to the Alpine Lakes Wilderness.

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