Her Fox Producer Called Jeanine Pirro 'A Reckless Maniac'
For a glimpse of Fox News’ utter corruption and duplicity, it's worth reviewing the sequence of events involving the network’s handling of host Jeanine Pirro’s program following the 2020 election, as revealed by filings in Dominion Voting Systems’ $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit against Fox.
Pirro is a longtime Fox backbencher and notorious font of misinformation and bigotry who hosted a pre-taped show airing on Saturday nights. She leveraged her personal friendship with Donald Trump and the fact that he regularly watched her program to gain prominence at the network during his presidency.
In the post-election period, Fox executives took Pirro off the air because they feared she’d promote election fraud lies — then brought her back and let her air two monologues that they knew were filled with falsehoods, all while her own executive producer denigrated her privately as a “reckless maniac” who “should never be on live television.” To cap it all off, they promoted her to co-host a show that airs live and now has the highest ratings in cable news.
Here’s how it all played out.
- November 6, 2020: Fox cancels Pirro’s November 7 broadcast as executive says she won’t report responsibly on election fraud. Fox executive David Clark, who directly oversaw her show, expressed his concern at the time that he didn’t “trust her to be responsible” and that if her show aired, “her guests are all going to say the election is being stolen and if she pushes back at all it will just be a token.”
- November 7-12, 2020: Fox calls the presidential election for Joe Biden and, amid a furious viewer backlash, begins attacking Dominion. The internal documents show that Fox feared losing market share to right-wing competitors like Newsmax as viewers turned on the network for being insufficiently supportive of Trump’s fraud lies. Fox executives agreed that they needed to ensure that “viewers know we hear them and respect them,” and punished “news side” staff who aggressively fact-checked lies. Meanwhile, the network proceeded to air Dominion conspiracy theories from discredited sources like Trumpist lawyer Sidney Powell.
- November 13, 2020: Pirro is informed about Dominion’s debunking of falsehoods about the company. Pirro’s executive producer, Jerry Andrews, forwarded Dominion’s “Setting the Record Straight: Facts & Rumors” email to Fox debunking various false claims that had been made about the company, including that it had been involved in the “deletion” or “flipping” of Trump votes. Pirro’s response to Andrews was redacted by the court, but Andrews forwarded it to Clark commenting that she is a “reckless maniac.”
- November 14, 2020, afternoon: Clark and Andrews reiterate to Pirro in emails that Dominion denies the allegations. Andrews told Pirro, “you should be VERY careful w[ith] this. There are things we know now that were not out there on Thursday night when these allegations [about Dominion] first surfaced.”
- November 14, 2020, evening: Pirro makes false claims about Dominion, hosts Powell who spreads more falsehoods with little pushback. Pirro’s show was pre-taped and aired in its normal timeslot. In her opening monologue, Pirro claimed that Dominion’s system “has been tagged as one allegedly capable of flipping votes,” echoing a falsehood debunked by the Dominion fact-checking memo that Andrews had forwarded to her. She also hosted Powell, who, unchecked by Pirro, offered a series of lies about Dominion.
- November 20, 2020: Pirro’s executive producer tells Fox executives her planned monologue is “rife w[ith] conspiracy theories” and shows she “should never be on live television.” Andrews forwarded a draft of Pirro’s intended monologue for the following night to Clark and fellow Fox executive Meade Cooper, writing that Fox’s internal research department “is going through this now” and describing it as “rife w[ith] conspiracy theories and bs and is yet another example why this woman should never be on live television.” In a separate email to Clark, he described the monologue as “completely crazy.”
- November 20, 2020: Fox’s internal “Brain Room” review identifies Dominion falsehoods in Pirro’s draft monologue. The “Brain Room” script check identifies at least two areas that require “additional context / fact-checking” in Pirro’s draft monologue, her claim that Dominion “started in Venezuela with Cuban money” and “are capable through a back door of flipping votes through software,” and her suggestion there was “an overnight popping of vote tabulation that cannot be explained” during the 2020 vote count.
- November 21, 2021, afternoon: Andrews says Pirro is “refusing to drastically change the open despite the fact check.” Clark responds, “Understood.”
- November 21, 2020, evening: Fox airs Pirro’s pre-taped monologue with the identified falsehoods intact.
JEANINE PIRRO (HOST): For four years we listened to unsupported allegations of a conspiracy by a foreign government to interfere with our presidential election, that Russia stole the election of 2016, implanting their Russian asset, Donald Trump, as president of the United States. For four years we were told Trump was a Putin puppet, a Russian asset, that we must do everything we can to get rid of him and save America. Almost on a daily basis, the Democrat medieval minstrels in Congress put on their conspiracy show as congressmen like Adam Schiff pontificated about real evidence, evidence that he had seen with his own eyes, evidence that required that Donald Trump be gone because America and democracy were at stake.
Never, ever, not once did we see a scintilla of evidence. Never. Were we supposed to take it all on faith? They put the president and the country through hell as the work of Congress was halted and as the media everyday reminded us we were getting closer and closer to the big Russian reveal of Russia collusion that fizzled much like Rob Mueller did when he showed up and testified. And then the medieval minstrels took another show down to the subbasement of the Capitol, where they regaled each other with fantasies of foreign interference in their medieval star chamber. In fact, they never stopped. And now, just over two weeks, the president's lawyers come forward alleging an organized criminal enterprise, a conspiracy by Democrats, especially in cities controlled and corrupted by Democrats.
The president's lawyers alleging a company called Dominion, which they say started in Venezuela with Cuban money and with the assistance of Smartmatic software, a backdoor is capable of flipping votes. And the president's lawyers alleging that American votes in a presidential election are actually counted in a foreign country. These are serious allegations, but the media has no interest in any of this. But you and I do, as we should, because 73 million Americans voted for Donald Trump. Republicans took seats in the House they said would be won in a Democrat blue wave that never came, and so far we've held the Senate. They say the risk of our giving false hope should be enough to stop us two weeks later. I say the risk of not looking at what is staring us in the face is too great to not stop us.
- November 22, 2020: In email to Clark, Andrews describes Pirro as “just as nuts” as Powell.
- March 26, 2021: Dominion files $1.6 billion lawsuit against Fox.
- December 16, 2021: Fox loses bid to dismiss Dominion lawsuit, which includes Pirro’s November 14 and 21 shows as evidence of “false and defamatory” statements.
- January 12, 2022: Fox announces Pirro has been promoted, will co-host its live afternoon panel show The Five.
Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.
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