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.