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Fox Primes Viewers For ‘Election Fraud’ Chaos In Pennsylvania

Fox News prime-time host Sean Hannity is priming his audience to see election fraud in any defeat for Dr. Mehmet Oz, his favored candidate who currently leads the GOP primary for U.S. Senate in Pennsylvania with two percent of votes outstanding. If the fast-closing hedge funder Dave McCormick takes the lead and the Oz camp claims the election has been stolen, it could set up a potentially explosive proxy war with Hannity’s colleague Laura Ingraham, whose Fox program favors McCormick and has suggested he is likely to prevail when all the votes are counted.

The GOP primary was a chaotic slugfest that split Fox’s slate of pro-GOP hosts in an unusually public way. Hannity was Oz’s most prominent supporter, reportedly securing the support of former President Donald Trump and using his program to endorse the TV personality, give him a regular platform, and target the challenge from right-wing commentator and Fox & Friends regular Kathy Barnette. Ingraham, meanwhile, used her Fox program (which airs in the hour following Hannity’s) to promote McCormick, criticize Oz, and defend Barnette.

Tuesday’s election is currently too close to call, with Oz holding a roughly 1,200-vote lead over McCormick, 31. percent to 31.1 percent, according to the Associated Press. McCormick has gained ground as officials continue counting ballots, and the election appears headed to a recount.

Trump, Hannity, and the bulk of Hannity’s Fox and right-wing media colleagues dishonestly sought to delegitimize the 2020 election results when mail-in ballots helped President Joe Biden win key states. Their cynical attempt to subvert the vote and terminate the American republic led inexorably to January 6, 2021, when a riotous mob of Trump supporters sacked the U.S. Capitol as they sought to thwart the peaceful transition of power.

Hannity and Trump are now deploying the same playbook in Pennsylvania.

“Dr. Oz should declare victory,” Trump suggested on his social media site Wednesday morning. “It makes it much harder for them to cheat with the ballots that they ‘just happened to find.’”

A few hours later, Hannity similarly baselessly raised the prospect of election fraud on his nationally syndicated radio show.



Hannity similarly portrayed the election as a done deal on his Fox show that night.

“I've been crunching numbers all day. I've been talking to people all day. I've been checking county websites all day. And I have my belief that, worst case scenario, this comes out in Oz's favor,” Hannity told his guest, the pollster Matt Towery.

Towery agreed with Hannity’s analysis, saying, “There aren't enough votes here to make this a reversal in who's leading. It could take it down more, maybe even to 600, but I don't think it can change the lead."

And Oz himself appeared and took Trump’s advice, telling Hannity’s audience, “This election is ours.”

Hannity viewers who kept watching after the program ended received a very different message from Ingraham’s show.

The analyst Ingraham hosted to discuss the race, Washington Examiner’s Salena Zito, said that based on the outstanding ballots, “If you ask me tonight whose campaign I would want to be in, it would probably be McCormick’s.”

And then McCormick himself came on and, at Ingraham’s urging, disputed Oz’s claim that he had won.


As the midterm elections approach, Trump and Hannity have learned to expect no negative consequences for convincing their fans to believe outlandish lies about rigged elections. Trump remains the head of the Republican Party, while Hannity retains his dual role at Fox and as a GOP operative. Their impulse to treat any electoral defeat as fraudulent now risks chaos for the GOP in Pennsylvania and on Fox’s airwaves – and sets the stage for a similar, dangerous play for the White House in 2024.

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.

Fox Hate Propaganda Leaves Advertisers Without ‘Plausible Deniability’

Fox News is rubbing its bigotry and volatility in the faces of would-be and current advertisers, leaving them without a shred of plausible deniability as they consider a business relationship with a network that prioritizes the promotion of white supremacist conspiracy theories.

On Monday, Fox held its upfronts presentation, an industry tradition in which networks bring in advertisers and media buyers and pitch them on buying ads for the next year. It was the first time Fox has held the event in person since 2019. In the intervening years, the network has cemented its control over the Republican Party, helped to bring about and then justify the January 6, 2021, Trumpist attack on the U.S. Capitol, run a remarkably effective campaign to dissuade people from taking COVID-19 vaccines; and demolished its “news side” in favor of more propaganda.

Fox’s crucial event came at a particularly inopportune moment for the network. On Saturday, a white supremacist gunman killed 10 people at a supermarket in a predominantly Black neighborhood in Buffalo. The manifesto he allegedly posted online invokes the “great replacement” theory as his motivation, which posits that shadowy forces are masterminding nonwhite immigration in order to “replace” the white population. This blood-soaked conspiracy theory, once largely confined to Internet fever swamps and the political fringe, has in recent years been mainstreamed by Fox News hosts. The network – and in particular its biggest star and the theory’s most prominent supporter, Tucker Carlson – have received abominable press over the last few days, as the overlap between their commentary and that of the shooter have drawn scrutiny everywhere from the front pages of newspapers to the floor of the U.S. Senate.


While Carlson and his primetime colleagues went all but unmentioned during Fox’s pre-recorded presentation, their style of bigotry and mendacity was represented in the room by Pete Hegseth, a Fox & Friends weekend host who pitched advertisers on the network’s streaming service. Hegseth has repeatedly pushed the same “replacement” narrative on Fox, warning viewers of a “full-scale invasion” of Haitian immigrants “coming to your backyard” and arguing that Democrats are deliberately allowing unchecked immigration for political gain. He is one of the network’s staunchest supporters of the insurrectionists who sacked the U.S. Capitol, validating them the very next day as people who simply “love freedom” and want to “defend our republic.” A member of former President Donald Trump’s Fox cabinet of network advisers, Hegseth has refused to admit Trump lost the 2020 election.

Fox’s on-air programming had largely avoided talking about the Buffalo shooter’s “great replacement” motivation. But as prospective advertisers mingled with the Fox brass and presenters at the afterparty following the network’s pitch, Fox’s stars were on-air making clear that they not only have no intention of apologizing for promoting white supremacist conspiracy theories – but that they consider themselves among the victims of the massacre.

On his 7 PM. broadcast, Jesse Watters, who has accused Democrats of “breaking the border on purpose” to “overwhelm the system in order to achieve more political power,” described criticism linking the shooter’s manifesto to right-wing invocations of “replacement theory” as an attempt to “further divide this country by race and profit from that division politically” and as a “psy ops game.”

Carlson has accused President Joe Biden and the Jewish financier and philanthropist George Soros of trying to alter the “racial mix” of the U.S. through "’the great replacement,’" “the replacement of legacy Americans with more obedient people from far-away countries,” because they want to “destroy” the country, and even urged his viewers to take action in response.

On Monday night, he lashed out at his critics, arguing that they were using “race politics” in a manner that “always leads to violence and death,” and invoking the Rwandan genocide.

Sean Hannity, who has accused Democrats of engineering “a quid pro quo: We'll give you citizenship for free, we hope you vote Democrat,” said the following hour that “many on the left” were “exploiting” the shooting by “blaming Republicans and conservatives and talk show hosts and Fox News.”

And in the 10 p.m. hour, Laura Ingraham, who has told her viewers that Democrats “want to replace you, the American voters, with newly amnestied citizens and an ever-increasing number of chain migrants,” said that while some critics say that the shooter’s “accomplices” are Republican politicians parroting the same talking points, “the real accomplices are in the media” for trying to “censor opposing views.”

Fox is denying its advertisers any wiggle room whatsoever. Its biggest stars are clearly signaling that they will continue to use the same rhetoric that motivated the Buffalo shooter and an array of terrorists before him. The Fox brass, from the Murdochs on down, have no apparent qualms about what they are doing and no intention of getting them to stop. The only question for Fox’s advertisers is whether they are willing to continue their own complicit participation.

Fox News CEO Suzanne Scott closed the network’s presentation on Monday by highlighting its “loyal audience.” Advertisers should worry about whether Fox’s programming might be driving that audience to do something other than buy their products.

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.

Bitter GOP Split Over Pennsylvania Senate Primary Erupts On Fox

Fox News’ role as an appendage of the Republican Party has made the network a battlefield for the U.S. Senate primary in Pennsylvania as two of its prime-time hosts rally behind different candidates.

Sean Hannity is supporting Dr. Mehmet Oz, a heart surgeon and TV personality notorious for promoting pseudoscience and medical misinformation. Hannity has hosted 19 of the 25 Fox weekday interviews Oz has done since declaring his candidacy, and he regularly invites him on his nationally syndicated radio show. He has vouched for Oz’s political bona fides, publicly endorsed him on his TV and radio shows, and used his influence with Donald Trump to secure the former president’s coveted support.

Laura Ingraham, meanwhile, appears to favor Dave McCormick, a former hedge fund CEO and Bush administration official. She has given McCormick 3 of his 9 total Fox weekday interviews during the primary and criticized Trump and Hannity for backing Oz.

Hannity and Ingraham are both GOP kingmakers, and their shows are among the party’s most influential platforms. Their colleague Tucker Carlson, meanwhile, has ignored the Pennsylvania race altogether as he focused on helping J.D. Vance to victory in the Ohio Senate primary.

Oz, who entered the public consciousness through broadcast TV as a guest on The Oprah Winfrey Show and on his own eponymous program, used regular appearances on Fox to rebrand as a right-wing commentator, much as Trump himself did a decade ago. Oz has appeared on Fox weekday programs at least 130 times since September 2017, according to the Media Matters guest database, including 75 interviews on Fox & Friends and 38 on Hannity.

Oz became a fixture on the network during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, which helped him cement his relationships with Hannity and Trump. The Fox host regularly hosted Oz for interviews on his TV and radio shows and repeatedly stressed that the two stay up talking until 2 o’clock or “3 in the morning now, late at night.” Oz’s Fox appearances attracted the Fox-obsessed president’s attention, particularly his constant support for the use of the anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine as treatment (studies show this drug is not effective). In response, Trump urged his administration officials to consult with Oz on their handling of COVID-19.

Those relationships proved crucial to Oz’s Senate run. As a first-time candidate with a long history of statements unpopular with his party’s base, Oz has benefited from the public approval of Hannity and Trump. “The best thing he has going for him is his relationship with Hannity,” a conservative operative told New York magazine’s Olivia Nuzzi for a December profile of Oz.

Hours after Oz announced his candidacy, Hannity gave him the opportunity to pitch himself to the Fox audience. Introducing Oz for that November 30 interview, Hannity stressed that Oz had “a lot of similarities” to Trump, and he highlighted their personal friendship and their “many conversations, too numerous to count, late into the night” at the start of the pandemic.

During the interview Hannity asked Oz some softball questions about why he was running and how he would respond to the criticism that he is new to the state. He then offered him a chance to assuage the concerns of conservatives who might doubt that he is one of them.

“I say I'm a conservative. I used to say I'm a Reagan conservative. I would say I'm an America First, Make America Great Again conservative,” Hannity said. “How would you describe, in just a sentence, your political ideology, philosophy? You are running as -- in a Republican primary. How would you sum it up?”

Oz replied, “I match yours.”

Oz used subsequent appearances on Hannity’s Fox show to push back against criticisms that he is insufficiently conservatives, lash out at right-wing targets like Dr. Anthony Fauci, and denounce President Joe Biden for firing him from the presidential fitness council.

Hannity has formally endorsed Oz’s campaign. While introducing him for a March 3 interview on his radio show, Hannity said: “I'm supporting his nomination to be the Republican candidate. I've known him for many, many years. Some people said, ‘How do I know he's a conservative, Hannity?’ I got the same questions about Donald Trump, and I think I was proven right.” On Fox, Hannity likewise said on March 23 that Oz will “make a great senator. I've known him for years. He is a solid America First, Make America Great Again conservative. That's why I'm supporting him, and a friend.”

Oz prominently displays Hannity’s support on his campaign website’s endorsements page.

Hannity’s role at Fox ensures Oz’s access to a large audience of Republican base voters — but his sidegig as a GOP political operative may have been even more valuable to Oz’s campaign. He spent the Trump administration moonlighting as one of the president’s most trusted advisers and reportedly used that influence on Oz’s behalf. Other key Trump allies denounced Oz as a latecomer to the movement and many conservative luminaries backed McCormick. But Hannity reportedly “actively lobbied for Trump to endorse the celebrity doctor” and his recommendation “played an outsized role in influencing Trump’s decision” to do so in an April 9 statement.

Two nights later on Fox, Hannity sought to lessen the blowback from Trump’s endorsement. “Dr. Oz is the America First candidate and running in Pennsylvania, which is why I have endorsed him,” Hannity said while introducing the candidate for yet another interview. “He's fully behind the America First, Make America Great Again agenda, strong on the border, strong on energy independence, tough on crime, believes in law and order, supports the right to life, he follows the science on COVID, wants to fire Fauci.”

But the next night on her own Fox show, Ingraham joined the critics of Trump’s endorsement — and highlighted Hannity’s influence on the decision.

After playing a video of Oz making comments about climate change, guns, and abortion that are anathema to conservatives, Ingraham asked her guest, former Trump White House official Kellyanne Conway, whether Trump had erred. When Conway refused to give a straight answer, Ingraham said, “Hannity, I think, I believe, endorsed Oz and … that’s probably not inconsequential for President Trump” before adding, “I think it was a mistake to endorse Oz. I'll say it. I'm not afraid to say it. It was a mistake to endorse Oz.”

While Ingraham has not formally endorsed Oz’s primary opponent McCormick, she has repeatedly offered him a platform and praised his background.

“All eyes are on the top two candidates, one of them served in the Turkish military, Dr. Oz, everyone knows him from TV,” she said while introducing McCormick for a February 22 interview. “And the other went to West Point and served as an Army Ranger in the Gulf War.”

McCormick received an opportunity to pitch his candidacy to Ingraham’s viewers and respond to criticism that he won’t be “tough on China” like Trump. His answers apparently satisfied her concerns. “You clarified a lot, Dave, tonight, and we really appreciate your joining us,” she said at the end of the interview.

Ingraham used subsequent interviews with McCormick to give him a chance to push back against Oz’s attacks on his position on tariffs with China and to levy his own salvos at Oz’s past statements on abortion.

She isn’t the only one at Fox who seems to prefer McCormick. Host Mark Levin told him he would make “an excellent senator” during an interview, while contributors Mike Huckabee and Mike Pompeo have endorsed and campaigned for him.

Fox will win the primary no matter which Republican emerges from the May 17 election, but it remains to be seen which Fox host has more sway with GOP voters in Pennsylvania.

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.

Newly Released Text Messages Show Fox Anchors Plotting Trump's Coup

On Friday, CNN reported on a newly unearthed set of text messages between former Trump White House chief of staff Mark Meadows and multiple Fox News hosts, exchanged during the two-and-a-half months between Election Day 2020 and President Joe Biden’s inauguration in January 2021. The texts further reveal the extent to which Fox was integral to Trump’s plot to illegally hold onto power after losing the election. The texts also prove yet again that Fox operates day-to-day as a propaganda arm for the Republican Party, not as a news organization.

Maria Bartiromo Gave Trump Questions And Guidance In Advance Of Interview

CNN reported that Fox Business anchor Maria Bartiromo gave Meadows the questions in advance of her interview with President Donald Trump on the November 29, 2020, edition of her weekend show on Fox News, Sunday Morning Futures. The texts reveal that Bartiromo also provided Trump with explicit messaging guidance and instructions on how to respond to her softball questions, which she intended to help him better make his case that the election outcome was illegitimate. The segment was Trump’s first TV interview since the election, and it aired roughly three weeks after all the major media outlets, including Fox News, had projected Biden as the winner.

Bartiromo texted Meadows that morning, hours before the interview with Trump, to claim that “the public wants to know he will fight this,” and that people “want to hear a path to victory” and that “he's in control.” (The entire premise of Bartiromo’s line of questioning was false, because a majority of “the public” had just voted for Biden.)

She then laid out the first question she would ask: “1Q You've said MANY TIMES THIS ELECTION IS RIGGED... And the facts are on your side. Let's start there. What are the facts? Characterize what took place here. Then I will drill down on the fraud including the statistical impossibilities of Biden magic (federalist).” (Based on Bartiromo’s word choice, it is possible that she was referring to a piece from a week earlier in the right-wing site The Federalist, titled “5 More Ways Joe Biden Magically Outperformed Election Norms.”)

Surely enough, the interview began exactly with that question: “Mr. President, you have said many times that this election was rigged, that there was much fraud, and the facts are on your side. Let's start there. Please go through the facts, characterize what took place.”

Throughout the rest of the interview, Bartiromo provided Trump with a platform to air a litany of lies about the election results, going on for 45 minutes, including his outlandish claims about voting machines being used to change the results. Dominion Voting Systems is currently suing Fox News for $1.6 billion for the network’s role in Trump’s defamation campaign against the voting machine company. Another voting technology firm, Smartmatic, is suing Fox News for $2.7 billion and has also named Bartiromo as a defendant for her role in promoting conspiracy theories that the company played a role in altering the election result.

Separately, ABC News’ chief Washington correspondent, Jonathan Karl, reported last year that Bartiromo had called then-Attorney General Bill Barr in mid-November 2020, complaining to him that the Justice Department had not taken action against supposed voter fraud. “She called me up and she was screaming,” Barr told Karl. “I yelled back at her. She’s lost it.” Fox News denied the reports of Bartiromo’s unprofessional conduct — though this wasn’t exactly convincing, because Bartiromo had publicly stated her hopes for Barr to intervene and help reverse the election results.

Hannity Was “At War" With Chris Wallace And News Reporters

Another Fox News host who is heavily implicated in the latest texts is Sean Hannity, who was already known to have functioned as Trump’s “shadow” chief of staff and as a constant sounding board for the disgraced former president. Previously released texts had shown that Hannity tried to work on damage control after the failed coup attempt on January 6, and that he had urged the White House to have Trump call off his supporters from attacking the Capitol. (In public, Hannity claimed the attackers were left-wing infiltrators.) Other texts show that Hannity took instructions from Meadows on coordinating get-out-the-vote messaging on Election Day in 2020. The latest revelations demonstrate the extent of Hannity’s efforts to keep Fox News from straying away from the administration’s illegal efforts to cling to power.

On December 6, 2020, Meadows sent Hannity a link to an article in The Hill, highlighting a segment from that morning’s edition of Fox News Sunday in which the show’s then-host Chris Wallace pointedly interrupted Trump’s former secretary of Health and Human Services, Alex Azar, after Azar had referred to Joe Biden as “Vice President Biden.”

“He's the president-elect, sir,” Wallace replied, repeating that point again in their conversation.

In texts to Hannity, Meadows castigated Wallace and Fox, writing, “Doing this to try and get ratings will not work in the long run and I am doubtful it is even a short term winning strategy.”

“I've been at war with them all week,” Hannity replied.

Meadows later asked on December 11, 2020, for Fox News CEO Suzanne Scott’s direct phone number — noting that he wished to avoid making a call to the network’s main switchboard. Hannity asked the next day whether Meadows had gotten through to Fox executives, again declaring, “I’ve been at war with them.” (As it turned out, Meadows had not yet called Scott, as he had been too busy working on the Trump administration’s lame-duck pardons.)

Keep in mind that the major news networks had all projected Biden as the winner a month before, on November 7 — and yes, that included Fox. The network, however, undermined its own decision desk’s projections by attempting to subvert the election results nearly 600 times in just the two weeks after the election call.

To the degree that tension existed between the opinion and alleged “straight news” sides at Fox, that conflict has since been resolved by Chris Wallace’s decision a year later to quit the network. Wallace said recently that he had been fine with opinion content on the channel, but he had reached his limit. “When people start to question the truth — Who won the 2020 election? Was Jan. 6 an insurrection? — I found that unsustainable.”

Hannity, of course, is still at Fox, where he is launching smear campaigns, parroting Kremlin spokespeople, and helping Trump to continue pushing the Big Lie.

Sean Hannity wrote one cheesy Trump campaign ad — and he may have written yet another one that never aired

This latest batch of text messages also reveals that Hannity lied last year about the extent of his connections to the Trump campaign — seemingly confirming a story that Hannity had previously described as being “full of shit.”

Last year, Wall Street Journal senior White House reporter Mike Bender published a book about the 2020 election and its aftermath, titled Frankly, We Did Win This Election: The Inside Story of How Trump Lost. The book revealed that Hannity had actually written a Trump campaign ad, which insiders even referred to as “the Hannity ad” and “the one Hannity wrote.” The specific ad in question was an attack spot that seemed to deploy every anti-Biden talking point at once, referring to him as a “47-year swamp creature” who had “accomplished nothing,” and tying him to the so-called “radical, socialist Green New Deal.” Trump’s campaign staff reportedly ridiculed it.

“Inside the campaign, the spot was mocked mercilessly, mostly because of the dramatic, over-the-top language and a message that seemed to value quantity over quality,” Bender wrote. The campaign came up with a solution to the problem, by running the ad only during Hannity’s own show on Fox News: “If Trump and Hannity watched the spot on television – and were satisfied enough to stop asking about the commercial – that seemed to be the best result of the ad. The cost of that investment: $1.5m.”

Hannity, however, denied the story in very strong terms. “The world knows that Sean Hannity supports Donald Trump,” he told Bender. “But my involvement specifically in the campaign — no. I was not involved that much. Anybody who said that is full of shit.”

On December 8, 2020, however, as Hannity and Meadows commiserated via text, Hannity bemoaned that the campaign had not done more on the topic of election fraud during the campaign — including regarding an ad he had written for them.

“I was screaming about no ads from Labor Day on,” he wrote. “I made my own they never ran it. I'm not pointing fingers. I'm frustrated.” It is possible here that Hannity may have been referring to yet another campaign ad that he wrote, but which still went unaired.

Hannity’s vulgar denial to Bender of the earlier campaign ad not only reveals that he is a liar, but there’s more. In this instance, he also lied to a news reporter at The Wall Street Journal, the most prominent of the Murdoch media empire’s journalistic front operations and a perpetual doormat for the opinion side. The fact that he would lie to one of his colleagues from another Murdoch publication clearly demonstrates the sense of leverage Hannity has over anyone who thinks they really can report news while working at a Murdoch outlet.

Reprinted with permission from MediaMatters.

Why Journalists Must Disclose Conflicts Of Interest -- Before They're Exposed

News Literacy Week 2022, an annual awareness event started by the News Literacy Project, a nonpartisan nonprofit dedicated to making everyone “smart, active consumers of news and information and equal and engaged participants in a democracy” has closed out. From January 24 to 28, classes, webinars, and Twitter chats taught students and adults how to root out misinformation when consuming news media.
There’s no downplaying the importance of understanding what is accurate in the media. These days, news literacy is a survival tactic. One study estimated that at least 800 people died because they embraced a COVID falsehood — and that inquiry was conducted in the earliest months of the pandemic. About 67 percent of the unvaccinated believe at least one COVID-19 myth, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.
It’s not that accurate information isn’t available; people are rejecting reports of vaccine efficacy and safety because they distrust the news media. A third of Americans polled by Gallup said they have no trust at all in mass media; another 27 percent don’t have much at all.
Getting people to believe information presented to them depends more on trust than it does on the actual data being shared. That is, improving trust isn’t an issue of improving reporting. It’s an issue of improving relationships with one’s audience.
And that’s the real news problem right now; some celebrity anchors at cable news outlets are doing little to strengthen their relationships with their audiences and a lot to strengthen their relationships with government officials.
The most obvious example is how CNN terminated Prime Time anchor Chris Cuomo last month for his failure to disclose the entirety of his role in advising his brother, former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, on the sexual harassment accusation that unfolded in Albany, a scandal that eventually led to Andrew Cuomo’s resignation.
But there are others. Just this month, the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol revealed that another anchor on another cable news network, Laura Ingraham of Fox News’ The Ingraham Angle, texted then-White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows last January, advising Meadows how Trump should react to reports of possible armed protests at state capitols around the country. This revelation followed the story that Sean Hannity, host of the eponymous news hour at Fox News, also texted Meadows with advice last year.
And while he didn't advise a government official, CNN anchor Don Lemon revealed information not available to the public when he texted embattled Empire actor Jussie Smollett to tip him off about the Chicago Police Department’s wavering faith in his story about an assault. That’s from Smollett’s own sworn testimony.
When English philosopher Edmund Burke joked about the press being the Fourth Estate — in addition to the First, Second and Third (the clergy, nobility and commoners, respectively) — his point was that, despite their influence on each other, these “estates” — bastions of power — are supposed to be separate.
The Fourth Estate will always be an essential counterweight to government. But, since Donald Trump was elected in 2016, we’ve been so focused on stopping an executive branch from pressing the press to support an administration's agenda — either by belittling journalists or threatening to arrest them for doing their jobs — that we’ve ignored the ways that it affects and influences other Estates, and not necessarily through its reporting.
That is, we have news personalities-cum-reporters who are influencing government policy — and not telling us about it until it’s too late.
The United States has fostered an incredible closeness between the Second Estate — which in 2021 and 2022 would be political leaders — and the Fourth Estate. About a year ago, an Axios reporter had to be reassigned because she was dating one of President Biden’s press secretaries. Last year, James Bennet, the former editorial page editor of the New York Times and brother of Colorado Senator and 2020 Presidential candidate Michael Bennet, had to recuse himself publicly from the Gray Lady’s endorsement process. In 2013, the Washington Post reported at least eight marriages between Obama officials and established journalists.
To be clear, there aren’t any accusations that anyone just mentioned engaged in anything other than ethical behavior. But I, for one, don’t believe that James and Michael Bennet didn’t discuss Michael’s campaign. I don’t think the Axios reporter and her West Wing-employed boyfriend — or any journalists and their federally employed spouses, for that matter — didn’t share facts that the public will never know. Such is the nature of family and intimacy.
And as long as those conversations don’t affect the coverage of any news events, there’s nothing specifically, technically wrong with them. But that doesn’t mean that they aren’t damaging.
As these stories show, when we don’t know about these advisor roles, at least not until someone other than the journalist in question exposes them, it causes a further erosion of trust in news media.
What’s foolish about the Cuomo, Ingraham, Hannity, and Lemon improprieties is that they don't necessarily need to be the problem they’ve become. Cuomo’s show contained opinion content like 46 percent of CNN’s programming. An active debate rages on as to whether Fox News is all opinion and whether or not it can rightly even be called opinion journalism since its shows are so studded with inaccuracies and lies.
What that means is that Cuomo, Ingraham, Hannity, and Lemon are allowed to take a stand as opinion journalists; Cuomo and Lemon never really worked under a mandate of objectivity and Ingraham and Hannity likely wouldn’t honor it if they did. Indeed, a certain subjectivity — and explaining how it developed for the journalist — is part of an opinion journalist’s craft. To me, little of these consulting roles would be problematic if any of these anchors had just disclosed them and the ways they advised the people they cover.
But they didn’t. Instead, the advice they dispensed to government employees and celebrities was disclosed by a third party and news of it contributes to the public’s distrust in the media. While personal PR advisory connections between journalists and politicians haven’t been pinpointed as a source of distrust, they may have an effect. Almost two-thirds of respondents in a Pew Research poll said they attributed what they deemed unfair coverage to a political agenda on the part of the news organization. No one has rigorously examined the ways in which individual journalists can swing institutional opinion so it may be part of the reason why consumers are suspicious of news.
Cleaning up ex post facto is both a violation of journalistic ethics and ineffective. Apologies and corrections after the fact don't always improve media trust. In other credibility contests, like courtroom battles, statements against one’s interests enhance a person’s believability. But that’s not necessarily true of news; a 2015 study found that corrections don’t automatically enhance a news outlet’s credibility.
It’s a new adage for the 21st century: It’s not the consulting; it’s the cover-up. Journalists need to disclose their connections to government officials — up front — to help maintain trust in news media. Lives depend on it.

Chandra Bozelko did time in a maximum-security facility in Connecticut. While inside she became the first incarcerated person with a regular byline in a publication outside of the facility. Her “Prison Diaries" column ran in The New Haven Independent, and she later established a blog under the same name that earned several professional awards. Her columns now appear regularly in The National Memo.

Questioned By Cruz, FBI Official Debunks January 6 Conspiracy Propaganda

In a development that perfectly illustrates the right-wing media’s collective moral incorrigibility and imperviousness to facts, conservative commentators are now digging in further on a conspiracy theory about the January 6 insurrection — right after it was thoroughly dispelled on Tuesday.

The claims surround an Arizona man named Ray Epps who, on the night of January 5, 2021, was seen on video telling a crowd of Trump supporters to enter the Capitol the next day, and was also seen outside the Capitol building during the siege. Epps was identified online and interviewed by The Arizona Republic in the days following the attack, and it does not appear that he ever actually entered the Capitol or personally committed any violent acts that day.

In a hearing Tuesday in the Senate Judiciary Committee, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) asked FBI official Jill Sanborn a series of leading questions aimed at making it appear that Epps was connected to the FBI — questions that Cruz had been urged to pursue by Fox host Tucker Carlson last week. There is no credible evidence that Epps was some kind of point man in leading the entire attack, but his name has been spread prolifically by Darren Beattie, a former Trump administration staffer who has worked with Carlson to spread a propaganda campaign that the riot had been a setup by elements in the federal government to entrap conservatives.

Sanborn had responded to Cruz’s questions by explaining that the FBI could not get into specifics on sources and methods of investigations. But toward the end of the exchange, he asked her: “Did federal agents or those in service of federal agents actively encourage violent and criminal conduct on January 6?”

She responded: “Not to my knowledge, sir.”

In response, former Trump adviser and far-right media personality Steven Bannon — who has his own record of incitement leading up to the January 6 insurrection — immediately accused Sanborn of having perjured herself.

Beattie appeared with Bannon as a guest and delivered something of a backhanded compliment to Cruz for his reversal from calling the rioters “terrorists” to now spreading the theory that the riot was a false-flag operation: “And so I have to give credit to Ted Cruz. I think this is a testament to the fact that constructive bullying does work.”



Later in the broadcast, Bannon delivered a tirade in response to the January 6 committee’s tweet explaining that it had spoken to Epps, who confirmed he was neither an FBI agent or informant.

“You're liars, and we're going to get to the bottom of all of it, and you're not going to be able to hide,” Bannon proclaimed. “Save your receipts, preserve your documents.”

Tucker Carlson, the man who arguably had done more than anyone else to pressure Cruz into parroting these conspiracy theories, followed up on this broad range of denials Tuesday night by asking new rhetorical questions to suggest the committee was lying: “Supposedly this interview was conducted in secret last November. If that is true — we don't know that it is, but let's say it is — then why did the committee wait months to tell us today in a tweet? … Can we see a transcript of this interview? If not, why not?”


The new pile of follow-up questions that Carlson asked were remarkably similar to tweets from Tuesday afternoon from right-wing commentator Julie Kelly, a frequent guest on Carlson’s January 6 conspiracy theory beat who has also claimed that a D.C. police officer testifying about his violent and traumatic experiences that day was a “crisis actor.” Kelly also claimed that the committee’s denial that Epps had ever worked at the direction of a law enforcement agency was “a pretty narrow denial, by the way.”

Cruz also appeared that night on Fox News, this time with prime-time host Sean Hannity, who said that Cruz had “asked the FBI very important questions about that day. Their answers, or lack thereof, are very telling.”

It is very much worth remembering that text messages released a month ago revealed that during the January 6 riot, Hannity sent text messages to White House chief of staff Mark Meadows urging that Trump make a statement asking people to leave the Capitol. But later that same evening, the Fox host spread false claims that the Capitol rioters may have been left-wing militants disguised as Trump supporters — which had to have been a deliberate lie, because if he had actually believed that, then his private message for Trump to call off the mob would have been pointless.

Hannity and Cruz also claimed that Sanborn had failed to deliver a blanket denial of agency involvement in fomenting January 6 — even though she in fact did state that no such deeds occurred according to her knowledge, video of which was included right before that in the segment. Meanwhile, the segment chyron claimed that “Top FBI official dodges when Cruz asks if agents participated in Jan 6th.”


SEAN HANNITY (HOST): Senator, what an exchange that was. OK, so the FBI — this is the executive assistant director, says, “I can't answer that, we can't reveal sources and methods.” That doesn't prohibit, though, the FBI, senator, in my mind that they could have said the FBI did nothing illegal, the FBI did nothing unethical, the FBI would never encourage any type of violence or participate and such. That would be a broad sweeping generalization without giving out any sources, any methods, or any evidence whatsoever. Why couldn't there be a blanket denial that that's not who we are, that's not the way we act?

SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX): Well, there should have been and if they were doing their jobs, that was what they would have said.

Fox Nation host Lara Logan also retweeted a message from right-wing radio host Jesse Kelly, who continued to insist that Epps was “an FBI informant who was tasked by the FBI to get people to break the law so the FBI could attack Republicans.”

It may also be worth noting that Cruz’s persistent conflation of terms like “agent” and “informant” could have led to problems in Sanborn’s ability to answer his questions. Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL), a member of the House select committee investigating January 6, explained in a Twitter thread that these terms are actually very different categories, with informants usually being “criminals that turn to save their own butt. An informant is not an agent. But Ted wants you to think it is.” (Kinzinger also reiterated that Epps was not even an informant.)

With that in mind, the sort of questions Cruz asked, such as, “Did any FBI agents or confidential informants actively participate in the events of January 6th? Yes or no?” were overly broad because they could have potentially covered anyone who became an informant in the period of time since the riot — that is, to “save their own butt” after the fact — something that law enforcement officials would not publicly comment about.

By contrast, Sanborn actually was able to answer Cruz’s final question on the topic. But that is not going to stop right-wing commentators from acting in extremely bad faith by continuing to spread false-flag conspiracy theories that shift blame for the Capitol attack — especially when they’ve got some serious skeletons in their own closets.

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters

Why The January 6 Committee Keeps Dragging Fox News

For the second time in three weeks, Fox News has been shoved into the insurrection spotlight by the House select panel investigating Trump’s coup attempt. It probably won’t be the last time the Congressional body sets its sights on Rupert Murdoch’s propaganda network. The unprecedented glare is highlighting just how duplicitous its hosts are, as we learn they were beseeching the White House 52 weeks ago to call off the insurrection hounds on the eve of January 6.

Today, Fox News dismisses the Trump riot — the same way it dismisses Covid — and attacks Democrats over their fact-finding mission. But the latest Sean Hannity insurrection texts released by the committee don’t lie. And they were flying fast and furious one year ago. More importantly, it’s clear that the media-savvy committee is going to keep up the pressure on Fox News in a way no government body has since the network debuted more than two decades ago.

The January 6 panel announced yesterday it wants to call Hannity as a “fact witness.” It’s not trying to subpoena Hannity because he can hide behind laws that are designed protect journalists, even though he isn’t one. (Hannity a journalist the same way Alex Jones is a journalist.) So this isn’t going to be a long drawn-out legal battle. It’s a public relation showdown, and so far the committee is scoring wins. (Murdoch hates playing defense.) Especially as the panel releases the damning texts in batches, instead of all at once, which generate rolling headlines.

The revelations pull back the opaque curtain Fox News tries to hide behind in terms of claiming to be a legitimate operation. The communications show Hannity to be a plugged-in operative for an administration he was supposed to be covering.

There has been a long media tradition inside the Beltway of opinion journalists getting the ear of a president and acting as something of an ad hoc advisor. The New York Times’ Arthur Krock did it with FDR and JFK. But Hannity was doing something entirely different. He became entangled in a criminal enterprise to obstruct justice by trying to stop Congress from certifying legal election results.

The texts highlight just how unglued Hannity thought Trump was in late 2020 and early 2021. The host angrily referred to the president as basically being unreachable on the topic of the election. These aren’t Democrats making the claim that Trump had lost his bearings, it was his closest media ally.

“Guys, we have a clear path to land the plane in 9 days,” Hannity frantically texted to Trump’s chief of staff Mark Meadows on January 10. “He can’t mention the election again. Ever. I did not have a good call with him today. And worse, I’m not sure what is left to do or say, and I don’t like not knowing if it’s truly understood. Ideas?”

Days before the actual siege, Hannity was deeply anxious about the looming, Trump-made storm. On Jan. 5 he sent Meadows a note saying he was “very worried about the next 48 hours.”

Hannity’s texts are telling because Fox News had worked feverishly for weeks to build up hysteria around the claims of a stolen election. “They laid the groundwork in the months leading up to the election for Trump to cry fraud, and once he did, they cheered on his cynical effort to subvert the vote and usher in the end of American democracy,” Media Matters’ Matt Gertz wrote one year ago.

The latest Hannity text headlines come three weeks after it was revealed a laundry list of Fox News hosts anxiously texted Meadows on January 6, begging Trump to stop the deadly mob that was laying siege to the U.S. Capitol.

“Please get him on TV,” the network’s Brian Kilmeade messaged. “Destroying everything you have accomplished." Pleaded Laura Ingraham: “Mark, the president needs to tell people in the Capitol to go home. This is hurting all of us. He is destroying his legacy.” And from Sean Hannity, “Can he make a statement? Ask people to leave the Capitol?”

All three have since moved aggressively to dismiss the violence that day at the US Capitol. Just last month, Kilmeade mocked news outlets for focusing too much on the insurrection inquiry. “It's 45 minutes an hour on January 6, that's all they got. ‘Mark Meadows, what’s going to happen?’ January 6, that's all they got,” he complained. “So they don't even want to report any other things, so it's non-reporting by omission.”

This, while “Fox News host Tucker Carlson produced a documentary, “Patriot Purge,” for the Fox Nation streaming platform that included the baseless claim that the deadly attack was a “false flag” operation intended to demonize conservatives,” Huff Post reported.

Thanks to the January 6 committee, we now know Fox hosts were frantic about the unfolding coup attempt, and demanded Trump stop making claims about the ‘stolen’ election. What will be the next Fox shoe to drop?

Reprinted with permission from PressRun

George Conway Drops Legal Bomb On Hannity's "First Amendment" Alibi

George Conway, the well-known legal expert who successfully argued and won a unanimous verdict at the Supreme Court, is tossing cold water on Sean Hannity‘s attorney’s claim that the January 6 Committee requesting his voluntary cooperation “would raise serious constitutional issues, including First Amendment concerns regarding freedom of the press."

Sean Hannity is the Fox News host who at times has claimed he is a journalist while often saying he is not. Fox News itself has refused to call him a journalist when pressed.

On Tuesday the House Select Committee on the January 6 Attack made public a letter it sent him, detailing his stunning texts to then-Trump White House chief of staff Mark Meadows. The committee wrote: “At this time, we are specifically focused on a series of your communications with President Trump, White House staff and President Trump’s legal team between December 31, 2020, and January 20, 2021.”

Hannity has no right to complain about his First Amendment freedoms being violated.

“Hannity has no First Amendment or shield law privilege here,” writes Conway.

“Hannity’s not a journalist. And he certainly wasn’t acting as a journalist when he engaged in these communications” with the White House, Conway adds.

Conway also points to New York State law that makes clear any shield law protections can only be invoked “in the course of gathering or obtaining news for publication … or for public dissemination.”

He concludes: “Hannity wasn’t reporting. He was giving political advice. He has no journalistic First Amendment or similar privilege to invoke.”

Article reprinted with permission from Alternet