NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate provides the Northwest Progressive Institute's uplifting perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Thursday, March 9th, 2023

Two-faced Tucker Carlson and the ugly underbelly of Rupert Murdoch’s FNC

The $1.6 bil­lion defama­tion suit filed by Domin­ion Vot­ing Sys­tems against Rupert Mur­doch’s FNC has pro­duced a doc­u­ment dump of rev­e­la­tions into uneth­i­cal con­duct not seen since the Nixon White House tapes revealed the office talk of our thir­ty-sev­enth pres­i­dent in the 1970s, a long-bygone decade.

The high/low point came Tues­day night. Using footage sup­plied by House Speak­er Kevin McCarthy, FNC host Tuck­er Carl­son sought to depict the Jan­u­ary 6th, 2021, U.S. Capi­tol insur­rec­tion­ists as peace­ful tourists, escort­ed through hal­lowed cor­ri­dors by Capi­tol police. Kudos from Don­ald Trump: “Con­grat­u­la­tions to Tuck­er Carl­son on one of the biggest ‘scoops’ as a reporter in U.S. history.”

On the same day, Domin­ion dropped its lat­est depo­si­tions, reveal­ing what Carl­son real­ly thought of our forty-fifth pres­i­dent. “I hate him pas­sion­ate­ly,” Tuck­er said in an email two days before the Jan­u­ary 6th insur­rec­tion, adding that “we are very very close to being able to ignore Trump most nights. I tru­ly can’t wait.”

The net­work had lion­ized Trump for four years, but of his pres­i­den­cy Carl­son said: “We’re all pre­tend­ing we’ve got a lot to show for it, because admit­ting what a dis­as­ter it’s been is too hard to digest. But come on, there real­ly isn’t an upside to Trump.”

In the pri­vate sec­tor, Carl­son said of Trump, Trump was a failure.

“What he’s good at is destroy­ing things. He’s the undis­put­ed world cham­pi­on of that,” and was to add: “He’s a demon­ic force, a destroy­er. But he’s not going to destroy us. I’ve been think­ing about this every day for four years.”

The words came from one who had gushed that Trump “the great­est pres­i­dent that every will be” in con­ver­sa­tion with fel­low Fox host Greg Gut­feld,” and lat­er a “gen­uine­ly great president.”

The “upside” to Trump, of course, was that Fox News reaped access, rat­ings and income dur­ing Donald’s four years in office.

Trump true believ­ers sought sus­te­nance from the net­work. Sean Han­ni­ty was trans­formed from a pub­lic bore into a pun­dit with reg­u­lar access and an advis­er to the pres­i­dent. Carl­son car­ried on the president’s cul­ture wars for white people.

In the wake of the 2020 elec­tion, how­ev­er, Carl­son and oth­er Fox hosts saw the destroy­er side of Trump. The net­work of pro­pa­gan­dists had field­ed an hon­est vote tab­u­la­tion effort. Late on elec­tion night, Fox pre­dict­ed that Joe Biden would car­ry Ari­zona, the first Demo­c­ra­t­ic pres­i­den­tial can­di­date since Bill Clin­ton in 1996.

Trump was infu­ri­at­ed, seek­ing to con­tact net­work own­er Rupert Mur­doch. Fox view­ers began to decamp to news orga­ni­za­tions fur­ther on the right.

Trump cried fraud and field­ed a bizarre team of advo­cates, who man­aged to lose more than six­ty caus­es in court and were rebuffed, in many cas­es by Trump-appoint­ed judges, and gave Amer­i­cans the unfor­get­table image of hair dye run­ning down Rudy Giuliani’s cheeks plus Four Sea­sons Land­scap­ing jokes.

With rat­ings imper­iled, Fox brass found a new tar­get, the hon­est jour­nal­ists who accu­rate­ly mapped Biden’s path to victory.

Writ­ing to for­mer New York Post edi­tor Col Allen, Rupert Mur­doch railed: “I hate our Deci­sion Desk peo­ple! And poll­sters! Some of the same peo­ple, I think. Just for the hell of it still pray­ing for Az to prove them wrong.”

Han­ni­ty and Steve Doocy piled on the “straight news” side of the network.

“News’ destroyed us,” said Han­ni­ty. “Every day,” Doocy replied., to which Han­ni­ty added: “You don’t piss off the base.” The prob­lem on the news side, Han­ni­ty argued, a refusal to pan­der: “They don’t care. They are jour­nal­ists.”

The result, to hold view­ers – Carl­son reg­u­lar­ly tops three mil­lion – was that Fox fanned con­spir­a­cy the­o­ries, put Trump advo­cates onto the air, while pri­vate­ly dis­play­ing con­tempt for Trump’s elec­tion chal­lenge. One exec­u­tive, Wash­ing­ton, D.C., man­ag­ing edi­tor Bill Sam­mon, did warn pri­vate­ly of consequences.

“It’s remark­able how weak rat­ings make good jour­nal­ists do bad things,” he wrote to polit­i­cal edi­tor Chris Stire­wait, who answered: “It’s a real mess.”

Rupert Mur­doch pri­vate­ly mocked Trump-gen­er­at­ed conspiracies.

The CEO’s depo­si­tion makes for dev­as­tat­ing reading.

“You’ve nev­er believed that Domin­ion was involved in an effort to dele­git­imize and destroy votes for Don­ald Trump, cor­rect?” he was asked.

Replied Mur­doch, “I’m open to per­sua­sion, but, no, I’ve nev­er seen it.”

Top rat­ed Fox News hosts began ques­tion­ing the election.

The network’s rat­ings were restored. Mur­doch did not believe a word of it, but took no action to curb the air­ing of con­spir­a­cy the­o­ries. He would con­cede in his depo­si­tion, “Maybe Sean (Han­ni­ty) and Lau­ra (Ingra­ham) went too far.”

Pri­vate­ly, Carl­son and Ingra­ham mocked high-pro­file elec­tion fraud lawyer Sid­ney Pow­ell, along with Giu­lianai the most promi­nent of Trump’s pub­lic advocates.

“I had to try to make the WH (White House) dis­avow her, which they obvi­ous­ly should have done long before,” he texted Ingra­ham. Ingra­ham, while fan­ning rumors, replied, “No seri­ous lawyer could believe what they were saying.”

The back­stage rev­e­la­tions from Fox have caused a firestorm on main­stream media, and copi­ous cov­er­age on rival net­works CNN and MSNBC. The air­brush­ing by Carl­son of the U.S. Capi­tol insur­rec­tion has brought down con­fir­ma­tion from Repub­li­cans in the Sen­ate, although not House Speak­er McCarthy.

“It was a mis­take, in my view, for Fox News to depict this in a way that’s com­plete­ly at vari­ance with what our chief law enforce­ment here at the Capi­tol thinks,” said top Sen­ate Repub­li­can Mitch McConnell.

As for Carlson’s claim that 01/06/2021 was “peace­ful chaos,” Sen­a­tor Thom Tillis, R‑North Car­oli­na, said: “I think it’s (exple­tive).”

Sen. Mitt Rom­ney, R‑Utah, was even more blunt, say­ing he’s “real­ly sad to see Tuck­er Carl­son go off the rails like that,” and “join­ing a range of shock jocks that are dis­ap­point­ing Amer­i­ca and feed­ing false­hoods. The Amer­i­can peo­ple saw what hap­pened on Jan­u­ary 6th. They’ve seen the peo­ple that got injured. You can’t hide the truth by selec­tive­ly pick­ing a few min­utes out of tapes and say­ing this is what went on. It’s so absurd. It’s nonsense.”

But hid­ing the truth is exact­ly what Carl­son is up to. Fox view­ers are see­ing or hear­ing almost noth­ing about back­stage con­ver­sa­tions, or the con­tro­ver­sy set off by Carlson’s effort to recast the insur­rec­tion. Right wing media has large­ly cut off cov­er­age of duplic­i­ty and dis­hon­esty by top propagandists.

I’m remind­ed of jour­nal­ist William L. Shirer’s “Berlin Diary” account of the lead­off to World War II. As CBS’ man in Berlin, Shir­er ducked off to Switzer­land for a fam­i­ly vaca­tion in the sum­mer of 1939. He saw the world’s press report­ing on Germany’s immi­nent inva­sion of Poland. Return­ing to the Third Reich, how­ev­er, he found news­pa­per kiosks filled with Nazi news­pa­pers breath­less­ly report­ing that Poland was about to mount an attack on Germany.

The com­par­i­son is apt.

The right wing’s fab­ri­cat­ing suc­ceeds if no com­pet­ing infor­ma­tion is let in. Sad­ly, in Amer­i­ca, right-wing media is will­ful­ly manip­u­lat­ing true believ­ers. Tuck­er Carl­son is ply­ing his view­ers with mis­in­for­ma­tion and tak­ing them for a ride.

How long can it work? Fox is now try­ing to slide away from Trump and anoint Flori­da Gov­er­nor Ron DeSan­tis as America’s next pres­i­dent. The Trump cult won’t have it. A blunt threat, at last weekend’s CPAC con­fer­ence, from for­mer Trump “chief strate­gist” Steve Ban­non: “You’ve deemed Trump’s not going to be pres­i­dent. Well, we’ve deemed you’re not going to have a network.”

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