Reprinted with permission from MediaMatters.
After spending years pursuing baseless congressional investigations that fed Fox News’ insatiable demand for stories on Democratic malfeasance, former Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) has now signed on with the network as a contributor.
In a Wednesday press release, Fox announced that Gowdy had been hired to “offer political and legal analysis.” The network added Gowdy to a stable of former Republican officials that also includes his predecessor as chairman of the House oversight committee, former Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), who left Congress in 2017 to grab a hefty Fox paycheck.
This is no coincidence — much of Fox’s news coverage is devoted to credulous reporting on Republican congressional investigations, making it useful for the network to have people on the payroll who can authoritatively support those inquiries’ claims.
For years, much of Fox’s reporting revolved around the 2012 terrorist attacks on U.S. diplomatic facilities in Benghazi, Libya, which killed four Americans, as the network aimed first to prevent President Barack Obama’s re-election and then to scuttle Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s presidential aspiration.
In the first 20 months following the attacks, the network’s evening lineup alone ran nearly 1,100 segments on the story. Much of the coverage was conspiratorial and false, devoted to proving that the Obama administration was to blame for the deaths and that Obama, Clinton, and others had deliberately deceived the public through a sinister cover-up. A rotating set of Republican congressmen rolled through Fox’s studios to give its segments weight and bolster their own political stars, even as a series of investigations debunked these myths.
Gowdy was one of the Republican members who benefited the most from Fox’s spotlight. A former South Carolina prosecutor who used his courtroom skills to good, if sometimes deceitful, effect during congressional hearings, Gowdy made dozens of appearances on the network, often using the Fox platform to push long-debunked myths about the Benghazi attacks. When then-House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) gave in to a Fox campaign demanding the formation of a special committee to re-investigate the attacks, he naturally turned to Gowdy to lead the effort.
The Benghazi select committee was a politically motivated crock, spending $7 million over more than two years to uncover little new of note about the 2012 attacks, with its highest-profile moment a dramatic hearing in which Republican representatives tried and failed to lay a glove on Clinton. It nonetheless achieved its aim: As then-House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) boasted during a September 2015 appearance on Sean Hannity’s Fox show, the committee’s attacks damaged Clinton’s approval ratings as she sought the presidency.
The select committee also kept Gowdy in the spotlight. He made dozens more Fox appearances, using that platform to give Fox access to the latest revelations on Benghazi. After the 2016 presidential election ended with Clinton’s defeat, Gowdy quietly shuttered the committee, then moved on to chair the oversight committee after Chaffetz abandoned Congress for his Fox gig.
With President Donald Trump in the White House, there were plenty of opportunities for an aggressive investigator who truly cared about public corruption to dig in. But Gowdy spent his two years as head of the oversight committee doing everything he could to ignore rampant criminality and malfeasance in Trump’s campaign, company, and administration. Instead, he made headlines for his efforts to protect Trump from the purported “deep state” conspiracy that the president and his Fox News allies claim is targeting him. Among his final acts as chair was bringing in former Attorney General Loretta Lynch for a nearly seven-hour hearing about how the Justice Department and FBI handled its probe regarding Clinton’s use of a private email server.
That’s the Trey Gowdy you can expect to see on Fox — someone willing to go to the mat to attack Democrats while doing his best to protect Republicans.
Header image by Melissa Joskow / Media Matters