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The Only Fox Host Who Mentioned Eastman Coup Helped Conceive It

Fox News is burying Thursday’s revelations about the plot by then-President Donald Trump and Trump lawyer John Eastman to pressure then-Vice President Mike Pence to illegally reject electors from key states that supported Joe Biden and thus subvert the election to keep Trump in office, detailed during Thursday’s hearing of the House Select Committee investigating the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021.

The only mentions of that conspiracy during Fox’s prime-time block Thursday night came from Fox host Mark Levin – who apparently worked with Eastman to develop the plot and spoke out on Thursday in support of it.

Former Pence legal counsel Greg Jacob described at Thursday’s hearing Eastman’s scheme for Pence, during the January 6, 2021, joint session of Congress to count Electoral College votes, to either reject the votes from some states outright or send them back to their state legislatures for review. According to Jacob, during one meeting in which Eastman sought to pressure Pence to participate, the Trump lawyer acknowledged that the plot was illegal. The committee also aired video testimonies of other Trump aides saying that they had told Trump the plan was illegal, and produced an email from after the riot in which Eastman sought a presidential pardon.

J. Michael Luttig, a retired federal appeals judge and conservative icon who advised Pence with regard to the scheme, warned at the hearing’s conclusion that “Donald Trump and his allies and supporters are a clear and present danger to American democracy.”


“That’s not because of what happened on Jan. 6,” he added. “It’s because to this very day the former president, his allies and supporters pledge that in the presidential election of 2024 — if the former president or his anointed successor as the Republican Party presidential candidate were to lose that election — that they would attempt to overturn that 2024 election in the same way that they attempted to overturn the 2020 election. But succeed.”

Fox “news side” programs Your World and Special Report each ran news packages on the story that day, sandwiched around the “opinion side” panel show The Five, where discussion of January 6 was limited to sympathy for the perpetrators. Then at 7 p.m. ET, the real Fox came on, and the coverage of the hearing essentially vanished.

Eastman’s name was mentioned only once after that – by Levin, who in an appearance on Hannity criticized the select committee for not producing “professors on the left who actually agreed with John Eastman’s position before it was John Eastman’s position.” The Fox host, who has long publicly supported Eastman’s legal theory, went on to allege that “it is not clear under the 12th Amendment what the responsibilities of the vice president of the United States are and how they are limited.”

Neither Levin nor Sean Hannity noted that Levin was not just a commentator who supported Eastman’s plot, but apparently an active participant in its development.

In May, Eastman sought to prevent the release to the January 6 committee of a dozen emails he exchanged with a person matching Levin’s description. According to the filing, Eastman was communicating with Levin in order to collaborate with him on the litigation in Levin’s role as an attorney, and thus the emails should be protected by lawyer-client privilege. Notably, Eastman reportedly first caught Trump’s attention by expounding on a nearly limitless view of Trump’s legal authority during a 2019 appearance on Levin’s Fox program.

Levin’s comments on Hannity were the only meaningful discussion of the coup attempt on Fox’s evening “opinion” block. Jesse Watters, Tucker Carlson, and Laura Ingraham all ignored the substance of Thursday’s hearing on their programs (Ingraham did, however, host Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene [R-GA] to defend the rioters).

On Friday morning, the story was all but absent from Fox & Friends.


It’s not hard to figure out why Fox hosts aren’t covering Trump’s coup attempt – they regret that it didn’t succeed. And when Republicans attempt a similar scheme in the future, as Luttig suggested they would, the network’s propagandists will be actively supporting it.

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.

Fox News Drops Durham Smear After Clinton Hints At 'Actual Malice'

In the days after special counsel John Durham, tasked with investigating the FBI probe into alleged Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, filed a pretrial motion on February 11, Fox News provided an astounding amount of coverage at a breakneck pace, falsely claiming it proved 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton spied on the Trump campaign. However, coverage of the story slowed dramatically after Clinton accused the network of “getting awfully close to actual malice” in its reporting.

A Media Matters review of Fox News transcripts found that from February 11 through February 24, 2022, Fox's total coverage of the Durham filing was more than 11 hours over 149 segments. Eighty-five percent of that was before Clinton alleged Fox of “malice”; just 15 percent was after.

Contrary to framing from right-wing media, which generally ran hog wild with the story, Durham’s filing alleges that a lawyer linked to the Clinton campaign shared internet traffic data from networks near the White House and Trump Tower with the CIA. The filing does not allege that the data were obtained illegally or that the Clinton campaign directed the effort, nor does it provide evidence that the data were collected after former President Donald Trump was sworn into office.

From February 13, when Fox first mentioned the story, through the 3 p.m. EST hour on February 17, when Clinton commented about the network's coverage approaching “malice,” Fox covered the story for 9 hours and 23 minutes total. From then onward through February 20, Fox spent 1 hour and 40 minutes on the story: The network covered it for 5 minutes on February 18, 17 minutes on February 19, and 56 minutes on February 20.

  • Fox News coverage of Durham investigation "bombshell" falsely alleging Clinton spied on Trump

A significant portion of Fox’s coverage after Clinton’s “malice” comment was on the February 20 edition of Life, Liberty & Levin, where host Mark Levin spent 35 minutes on the Durham investigation and false allegations from Trump that the Obama administration or the Clinton campaign spied on his own. Levin has been making these unsubstantiated accusations for years. Since then, Fox appears to have dropped the subject entirely; there was only a single mention of the story which Trump made during an interview on February 23’s The Ingraham Angle.

In between accusing mainstream media of ignoring the story, Fox and other right-wing media’s coverage falsely framed the Durham filing as a “bombshell” proving Clinton is a “certified political criminal,” and “the real insurrectionist” who “tried to steal the election by spreading misinformation.” Meanwhile, Durham attempted to distance himself from right-wing coverage of his filing.

Such pontificating was not relegated to the network’s opinion programming; Fox’s straight-“news” shows were just as culpable in pushing the false narratives of the Durham filing. Nearly 4 hours of coverage was on so-called “news” shows like The Story with Martha MacCallum (44 minutes), America Reports with John Roberts and Sandra Smith (37), Special Report with Bret Baier (33), and America’s Newsroom with Bill Hemmer and Dana Perino (32).

But Fox’s opinion shows provided the most coverage with more than 7 hours in total. Leading the pack was the network’s premiere weekday morning talk show Fox & Friends with 1 hour and 3 minutes. Following closely behind was Hannity (58 minutes), Fox & Friends First (50), and Fox & Friends Weekend (43).


  • Fox News coverage of Durham investigation "bombshell" falsely alleging Clinton spied on Trump

Clinton’s accusation of “actual malice” holds real legal meaning: The 1964 decision in The New York Times v. Sullivan established “actual malice” as the legal threshold to prove defamation of a public figure; 2008 Republican vice-presidential nominee Sarah Palin’s defamation lawsuit against The New York Times hinges on the same legal standard. This wouldn’t be the first time Fox found itself in legal hot water for its reporting: Dominion Voting Systems Corp. and Smartmatic are suing the network for knowingly pushing false information about election fraud.

Methodology

Media Matters searched transcripts in the SnapStream video database for all original programming on Fox News Channel for any of the terms “Durham” (including misspellings), “Special Counsel,” or “Clinton” not within close proximity to “Bill” each within close proximity to any of the terms “Trump,” “Russia,” “Sussmann,” “White House,” or “server” from February 11, 2022, through February 24, 2022.

We included segments, which we defined as instances when Durham’s investigation was the stated topic of discussion or when we found significant discussion of the investigation. We defined significant discussion as instances when two or more speakers in a multitopic segment discussed the investigation with one another. We also included mentions, which we defined as instances when a single speaker discussed the investigation without another speaker engaging with the comment, and teasers, which we defined as instances when the anchor or host promoted a segment about the investigation scheduled to air later in the broadcast. We rounded all times to the nearest minute.

We split Fox programs into “news” and “opinion” sides. We defined “news” programs as those with anchors, such as Bret Baier or Shannon Bream, while we defined “opinion” programs as those with hosts, such as Tucker Carlson or Laura Ingraham, at the helm. We used the designations from each anchor’s or host’s FoxNews.com author page. We also considered the format of the program; we defined those using a panel format, such as Outnumbered and The Five, as “opinion.

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters


How Right-Wing Media Greased Path For Trump’s Coup Attempt

Reprinted with permission from MediaMatters

The Atlantic staff writer Adam Serwer has a must-read new piece, "Trump's Plans for a Coup Are Now Public," really examining the scope of former President Donald Trump's multiple attempts to overthrow the results of the 2020 election.

Putting these pieces together becomes especially important in light of the newly revealed memo by Trump attorney John Eastman, who proposed that Vice President Mike Pence should have unilaterally refused to count Joe Biden's Electoral College votes — or even have just declared Trump the winner — at the joint session of Congress on January 6.

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Republican Civil War Erupts Over Infrastructure Vote

Reprinted with permission American Independent

Conservative Republican members of Congress appeared on Fox News and Newsmax on Tuesday night to lament the fact that 19 Republican senators voted for the bipartisan infrastructure package, along with every Democratic senator.

The $1.2 trillion package provides funds to repair and construct roads, bridges, and railroad systems across the country, among other projects.

Despite polling repeatedly showing widespread support for the infrastructure plan — across party lines — conservative outlets have frequently attacked it.

On Newsmax TV's Rob Schmitt Tonight, Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) described the legislation as part of an agenda of "crazy ideas" offered up by Democrats.

He said the infrastructure bill was part of a package of "four stupid ideas" and said, "This is ridiculous, and the American people know it. Why senators, Republican senators, voted for it, I'll never know."

Appearing on Fox News' Hannity, Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA) sounded a similar note.

Kennedy said that Democrats wanted the bill's passage "like Ben [Affleck] wants J-Lo [Jennifer Lopez" and said Republicans "just got out-maneuvered, intelligence was chasing us and we got beat."

Conservative host Sean Hannity said Republicans "beat themselves" by voting for the bill and Kennedy agreed, replying, "that's what I'm saying." He went on to describe the bill as a "dumpster fire."

Fox News host Mark Levin on Tuesday called for a primary challenge to the Republicans who voted for the legislation, while the network has repeatedly attempted to claim that the infrastructure spending in the bill is not really infrastructure.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

Why Republicans Must Confess Complicity In Trump’s Big Lie

If you missed the retraction from the right-wing online magazine The American Thinker, it's one for the ages. Noting that they had received a warning from lawyers for Dominion Voting Systems, the editors admitted that they had published pieces that "relied on discredited sources who have peddled debunked theories ... These statements are completely false and have no basis in fact. ... We apologize to Dominion for all of the harm this caused them and their employees. We also apologize to our readers for abandoning 9 journalistic principles and misrepresenting Dominion's track record and its limited role in tabulating votes for the November 2020 election. We regret this grave error."

Fox News has issued similar retractions. This is the beginning, not the end, of the story. Dominion has sent letters to 20 other entities and individuals, including One American News Network, Newsmax, Lin Wood, White House Counsel Pat Cippolone and Rudy Giuliani. Sidney Powell, the "Kraken" lawyer in Donald Trump's orbit, got more than a warning. She was slapped with a $1.3 billion defamation lawsuit for her outrageous and outlandish claims including that Dominion's voting machines were designed by Hugo Chavez to help him rig elections; that the machines contained secret algorithms to change Donald Trump votes into Joe Biden votes; that Dominion had bribed Georgia officials to obtain its contract with the state; and that she had a video showing the company's founder bragging that his system "could easily change a million votes, no problem."

Powell has yet to grovel as The American Thinker did, but she would be wise to start. Dominion is not backing down. CEO John Poulos told The Washington Post that he would prefer to take these cases to court rather than settle, because "We feel that it's important for the entire electoral process." The company did not rule out suing Trump.


It seems that the only means we still possess as a society for holding people to account for vicious and democracy-endangering lies is the tort law system. The only acknowledgment of wrongdoing in the most destabilizing crisis of the past 160 years was that extracted from an obscure website by a private company whose reputation and income took a severe hit. I wish Dominion every success against the other defendants, but what of the country that has taken a severe hit? Can Dominion also sue Ted Cruz, Josh Hawley, Mark Levin, Rush Limbaugh, Laura Ingraham, The Federalist, the 17 state attorneys general who joined the ludicrous Ken Paxton lawsuit challenging the election results in four states, Kevin McCarthy, the 121 House Republicans and six Senate Republicans who voted to reject the Electoral College ballots of Arizona? Because until we hear confessions and corrections from conservative media, we will continue to inhabit a dark cave as a country.

The 20,000-plus National Guard presence in Washington, D.C., along with smaller forces arrayed in state capitals may, God willing, get us through the inauguration without any further spasms of violence. But unless the propagandists of right-wing media confess and correct the record — unless they forthrightly admit that they spread lies about the election being rigged — the fury they've incited among a huge swath of Americans will continue to endanger the lives of public officials and crack the foundations of this republic.


The lie they propagated is what propelled those deluded people to storm the Capitol. Of course, the perpetrators of the violence are fully responsible for their decisions, and some of them were clearly mentally unbalanced or extremists or criminals of various stripes. But there were also thousands of otherwise normal people who were deceived into believing that their democracy had been fatally compromised, and millions who now harbor doubts about our system's legitimacy.

Nearly 75 percent of Republicans believe that Trump was the legitimate victor of the election. They couldn't have gotten this idea entirely from Facebook posts or YouTube videos (though those platforms bear responsibility, too). No, without the imprimatur of prestige conservative media like Fox and Limbaugh, and the support from official Republican Party organs, and the complicity of actual Republican office holders like Ken Paxton, Kevin McCarthy, Steve Scalise, Josh Hawley and Ted Cruz, it's doubtful that Trump's big lie could have led where it did. The guilt is corporate.

The goons who defiled the Capitol and smashed poles into the heads of police thought what they were doing was righteous. They think of themselves as patriots. The cynical liars like Hawley and Levin and the rest, who took advantage of their ignorance for their own purposes, drape themselves in the flag, too. How dare they? Their little game, which began by indulging the base's attraction to stories like the birther conspiracy, has matured into stoking insurrection. Is there no point at which they question their complicity? Is there no point at which they say to themselves, "For the good of the country, I need to correct this"?

Dominion Voting Systems may get its reputation restored through the courts. The damage to the nation must be repaired by a chastened Republican Party.

Mona Charen is policy editor of The Bulwark and host of the "Beg to Differ" podcast. Her most recent book is Sex Matters: How Modern Feminism Lost Touch with Science, Love, and Common Sense. To read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.

Major Radio Network Shuts Down Conspiracy Propaganda By Talk Jocks

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

In AM talk radio, a long list of far-right pundits have been promoting the debunked conspiracy theory that President Donald Trump was the victim of widespread voter fraud in the 2020 presidential election. But following the storming of the U.S. Capitol Building on January 6 by a mob of violent extremists, domestic terrorists and white nationalists, Atlanta-based Cumulus Media has ordered its employees to quit promoting voter fraud conspiracy theories.

The Washington Post's Paul Farhi reports that in an internal memo — which was first reported by Inside Music Media — Brian Philips, executive vice president of content for Cumulus, wrote, "We need to help induce national calm NOW." Phillips went on to say that Cumulus and Westwood One, which syndicates Cumulus programming, "will not tolerate any suggestion that the election has not ended. The election has been resolved, and there are no alternate acceptable 'paths.'"

Phillips warned Cumulus employees, "If you transgress this policy, you can expect to separate from the company immediately."

Farhi explains, "The new policy is a stunning corporate clampdown on the kind of provocative and even inflammatory talk that has long driven the business model for Cumulus and other talk show broadcasters. And it came as Apple, Google and Amazon cut off essential business services to Parler, the pro-Trump social media network where users have promoted falsehoods about election fraud and praised the mob that assaulted the Capitol. Apple and Google removed the Parler app from the offerings for its smartphones, while Amazon suspended it from its Web-hosting services."

Mark Levin, Ben Shapiro and Dan Bongino are among the many far-right radio hosts who are employed by Cumulus and, as Farhi notes, "have amplified Trump's lies that the vote was 'rigged' or in some way fraudulent." Levin, in fact, encouraged Republicans in Congress not to honor the Electoral College results, which showed that President-elect Joe Biden won 306 electoral votes. In the popular vote, Biden defeated Trump by more than 7 million.

The mob that stormed the Capitol Building on January 6 was hoping to prevent Congress from ratifying Biden's Electoral College victory but only succeeded in delaying it. Hours after the attack, Congress resumed its joint session and ratified Biden's win.

One radio host who won't be directly affected by Cumulus' directive is Rush Limbaugh, whose program is broadcast on many Cumulus-owned stations but is syndicated by Premiere Networks. Cumulus owns and operates Westwood One.

Michael Harrison, publisher of Talkers magazine, told the Post that Cumulus and other media companies "recognize they're in the hot seat right now because the national eye is on them" and that talk radio hosts "never expected" their comments on the 2020 election to "get out of hand" in the way they did on January 6.

"I would hope they put their personal feelings aside and come clean with their listeners," Harrison told the Post. "I encourage them to pursue the truth and to tell their audience something that Trump may not like."

Republicans Erupt In Civil War Over Election — Against Each Other

In recent days, Ohio's Gov. Mike DeWine and other prominent GOP figures have come under fire by fellow Republicans for refusing to participate in Donald Trump's attempted coup.

Last week, Fox News aired clips from a CNN interview in which DeWine told host Jake Tapper that Biden had won fair and square.

"We need to consider the former Vice President as the president-elect," DeWine told the outlet. "Joe Biden is the president-elect."

Trump, outraged, took to Twitter.

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