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New Testimony Shatters Sean Hannity's January 6 Alibi For Trump

In an attempt to undermine the House Select Committee, Fox News launched an entire-network offensive to repeatedly — with little evidence — claim that outgoing President Donald Trump had called thousands of National Guard troops to secure the Capitol in the days prior to the insurrection.

Nobody played a bigger role in this misinformation machine than Sean Hannity, who pushed the lie hundreds of times in total, and at least on 43 episodes of his prime-time Fox show, and 48 editions of his daily radio show. (His Fox spot earns him almost 3 million viewers, and the latter garners him over 13 million.)

But like most right-wing conspiracy theories about the January 6 putsch, this tale shattered under the burden of proof, turning out to be a fabrication to portray the former president as a peacemaker, rather than an instigator of the violence.

On Tuesday, the January 6 committee released testimony from former Acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller stating that there “was no order from the president” to call 10,000 troops to the Capitol in preparation for January 6. (Previous reporting from Vanity Fair described how Trump made an informal comment, which Miller took as a sign that Trump expected millions of supporters to attend his rally. As Pentagon spokesman John Kirby confirmed to The Washington Post, there was also “no record of such an order being given.”)

In a stunning about-face from his testimony to the committee, Miller even appeared on Hannity on June 6, with Trump loyalist and former Pentagon chief of staff Kash Patel, to claim that the former president had authorized 20,000 troops from the National Guard.

After Patel described the meeting in which Trump supposedly authorized the troops, Hannity said to his guests, “Let me – let me be very clear. Both of you said this under oath and under the threat of penalty and perjury to the committee?” Miller responded, “Oh absolutely, Sean.”

What caused this discrepancy in Miller’s testimony is unclear. What is abundantly clear, however, is that within Fox News’ affinity for distorting the truth about January 6, Miller and Patel found a welcome audience in Sean Hannity, who in turn incessantly spewed the lies to his audience.

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.

Fox News Slimes Green Groups With Bogus ‘Kremlin Gold’ Attack

As Russia’s foreign minister praises Fox News coverage of war in Ukraine, the network has exploited the crisis to villainize the environmental movement, capitalizing on the global economic sanctions against Vladimir Putin’s invasion to recycle previously debunked claims that Russia is secretly funding “green campaigns” against oil drilling and fracking in the U.S.

Fox hosts and personalities took their cues from a March 10 letter from Republican members of the House Energy Committee asking three environmental groups – the League of Conservation Voters, the Natural Resources Defense Council, and Sierra Club – to provide evidence of any financial support from Russia. Yet, as the Washington Post Fact Checker explains, the “bogus” allegations in the letter are remnants of a 2017 scandal concocted by Republicans to distract from an investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

Here are some examples of Fox pushing this lie:

  • Fox host Jesse Watters suggested green energy campaigns “are taking dirty Russian money” in order “to scare Americans out of fracking and energy exploration.” [Fox News, Jesse Watters Primetime, 3/3/22]
  • Watters, and co-host Greg Gutfeld pushed this evidence-free claim again, saying that green energy campaigns in America are funded by Russia to increase dependence on foreign oil. [Fox News, The Five, 3/4/22]
  • Fox’s Carley Shimkus stated that “a lot of Republicans are calling for an investigation into whether Russia was funding climate change groups in the U.S.” Co-host Rachel Campos-Duffy followed up, “Of course they were.” [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 3/16/22]
  • Gutfeld spent his monologue ranting that “the left are in lockstep with what Putin wants, for us to be dependent on other countries like his for energy,” saying “Russia duped Europe into depending on their energy by funding rabid environmental groups” and spread “disinformation within green groups to steer countries away from fracking and shale gas.” [Fox News, Gutfeld!, 3/16/22]
  • Later in the episode, Gutfeld suggested that opposition to fracking in the U.S. had been “driven” by Russian propaganda efforts: “The past 10 years, all this stuff – all the documentaries, all the Hollywood celebrities, all the stuff about fracking – might have all been driven by Russia, or at least paying for that.” [Fox News, Gutfeld!, 3/16/22]
  • Gutfeld repeated the claim yet again the next day, saying the Democrats should be thanking Putin for rising gas prices “because after all, it was Russia who infiltrated the green groups to get us off our domestic oil and buy their foreign oil.” [Fox News, The Five, 3/17/22]

Fox personalities have been criticized for pro-Kremlin commentary – and the Kremlin itself has noticed, as exposed by minister Sergey Lavrov's remarks about Fox and a recently reported memo from the Russian government that directed the country’s media outlets to promote as many clips of Fox News star Tucker Carlson as possible. (The Kremlin’s propaganda and Carlson’s own rhetoric have remarkable similarities.) The narratives parroted by Fox to earn this praise – from blaming Joe Biden for rising gas prices to suggestions the war in Ukraine is pushed by elitist self-interests – are baseless and incendiary. Their recent push of easily debunked anti-environmental conspiracies is no different.

The allegations stem from whether the aforementioned environmental groups received donations from the Sea Change Foundation, an environmental philanthropy group run by billionaire Nat Simons. In 2015, a baseless report from the GOP lobbyist-led front group Environmental Policy Alliance accused the law firm that set up a Bermuda-based company financing Sea Change of having extremely vague ties to an adviser to Putin. The firm refuted these allegations as “completely false and irresponsible,” saying, “We can state categorically that at no point did this philanthropic organization receive or expend funds from Russian sources or Russian-connected sources.” In fact, the sole source of the foundation’s funding is the Simons family. Despite the appearance of Kremlin-linked donations being obliterated, that did not stop 2017 House GOP members from requesting an investigation, and now recycling the debunked claims.

The network’s hosts and guests – primarily recently promoted prime-time stars Jesse Watters and Greg Gutfeld – are also conflating a separate online article from Fox that quotes “experts” like the Heritage Foundation’s James Carafano noting that “Russians actually fund some of the most rabid environmental groups in Europe.” (Carafano has been a vocal critic of climate science and recently co-authored a piece describing the Biden administration’s climate policies as a “titanic disaster in waiting.”) The article’s so-called “experts” also included right-wing media’s favorite climate contrarian, Michael Shellenberger, a notorious natural gas advocate who’s pushed lies about the cost and efficiency of renewable energy.

The Republicans point to a 2017 national intelligence report that highlighted a Russian state news channel, RT America, that ran “anti-fracking programming,” and was trying to expand its U.S. audience. Not only did the report not provide any evidence that the channel had been successful, but as of March 4, RT America announced it was “ceasing production.” It is simply preposterous to believe that over a decade of fracking commentary was driven by the network prior to its dissolution.

Some efforts against European drilling and fracking have been linked to Kremlin propaganda designed to increase dependency on Russian oil exports, but with each reshaping of the conspiracy theory, there has been no evidence of any similarly funded successful campaign in the United States.

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters

Fox News Promotes Its Dumbest Anti-Vax Lie To Date

Amid a surge in COVID-19 cases due to the Omicron variant, Fox News has been relentlessly undermining the vaccination effort, including by recklessly misinterpreting a Danish study on vaccine efficacy against the latest variant.

The study, circulated by professional COVID-19 “contrarian” Alex Berenson and mentioned in a Wall Street Journal op-ed, was originally published on medRxiv, a website for preliminary studies that have not been peer-reviewed. A warning on the website states the studies “should not be relied on to guide clinical practice or health-related behavior and should not be reported in news media as established information.”

This warning did not stop Fox hosts and personalities from citing the study and cherry-picking data to claim that vaccination makes it more likely for an individual to contract COVID-19. The study found that 90 days post “vaccine protection,” or the date 14 days post-second dose, both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccine had negative vaccine efficacy. The authors of the study, however, explained the unusual result as “different behavior and/or exposure patterns in the vaccinated and unvaccinated cohorts causing underestimation of the vaccine efficacy.”

In an email to PolitiFact, one of the authors of the study also suggested that the negative efficacy could be explained by the fact that vaccinated people may test more than unvaccinated people and an overrepresentation of vaccinated people in the studied cohort. Furthermore, Fox hosts and personalities failed to convey the authors’ conclusion that “booster vaccination offer[s] a significant increase in protection” and that their “findings highlight the need for massive rollout of vaccinations and booster vaccinations.”

Article reprinted with permission from Media Matters

Misinformer, Meet Liar: Correcting Maria Bartiromo’s Latest Trump Interview

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters

On March 16, Fox News Primetime and Fox's Maria Bartiromo hosted former President and Celebrity Apprentice host Donald Trump for a friendly interview full of the kind of lies and misinformation for which both interviewer and interviewee are known.

Bartiromo spent most of the interview lobbing softball questions and letting blatant lies go unchecked while the former president rattled off a series of lies and delusions. In several instances, Bartiromo herself was a source of false information.

Below is a list of some of the lies and distortions uncritically aired by Fox.

Trump's Phone Calls To Georgia Officials Conflated

Bartiromo misrepresented a correction issued by The Washington Post regarding a conversation between Trump and Georgia election investigator Frances Watson, asserting that the correction was in regard to the now-infamous conversation between Trump and Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger.

The Post reported that Watson had a conversation with Trump in which the then-president pressured Watson to "find the fraud" and said she would become a "national hero" if she did so. The statements turned out to be false, meriting correction, yet Trump and right-wing media have used the error to excuse and vindicate Trump's behavior during the 2020 election and the aftermath.

As explained by Vox:

According to a newly surfaced recording of the call with Watson, Trump did not in fact use those exact words. He did say she could find "dishonesty" in Fulton County, and that "when the right answer comes out, you'll be praised." But the language of the quotes the Post attributed to Trump were not accurate. As a result, the Post had to run a prominent correction. Trump and conservatives are now scorning the paper, and even some mainstream reporters are looking askance and wondering how it happened.
The correction was merited — it's important for reporters (and their sources) to be careful in attributing exact language in quotes. And it is unfortunate that these incorrect quotes spread so widely.
...
However, Trump has used the correction to claim in a statement that "the original story was a Hoax, right from the very beginning," which is untrue. The original story that got so much attention was Trump's call with Raffensperger, for which we had the full and accurate transcript all along. It has not been corrected. Furthermore, it remains the case that Trump did in fact call Watson to insist he won the state and that she should turn up evidence revealing fraud. "The country is counting on it," he said.

More Lies About The 2020 Election

Trump stated that "our Supreme Court and our courts didn't have the courage to overturn elections that should have been overturned." Courage had nothing to do with it; in fact, of the 62 lawsuits filed by Trump and his allies in a desperate and embarrassing attempt to delay the inevitable, all but one were rejected.

The Supreme Court itself declined to take up two Trump-supported lawsuits over the election, rejecting a major one from Texas as lacking standing and saying all other pending motions were "moot."

Lies About Voting Bights Bill HR-1

V

Trump echoed Fox News's drumbeat of misinformation around HR-1, or the For The People Act, which would expand voting rights and increase campaign finance transparency across the country. Trump echoed Fox's claim that the For The People Act is not constitutional, despite legal precedent and even though experts have affirmed that H.R. 1 is a constitutional exercise of Congress' power. In the interview, Baritomo gave Trump free reign to echo right-wing media attempts to falsely paint the legislation as a corrupt attempt to seize power from Republicans and state legislatures.

Lies About Immigration


Trump said immigrants coming through the southern border would "destroy our country if they don't do something about it." He also claimed that there was an influx of migrants arriving from the Middle East. The claim likely relates to House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy's recent statement that migrants at the border are "not just people from Mexico or Honduras or El Salvador. They're now finding people from Yemen, Iran, Turkey. People on the terrorist watch list they are catching, and they're rushing in all at once."

There is no concrete evidence backing this assertion. In fact, according to The Washington Post, Trump's own State Department debunked the claim:

The Trump administration first asserted this in the run-up to the 2018 midterm elections, offering a range of misleading statistics to buttress the claim that terrorists from the Middle East were filtering through the U.S.-Mexico border. But administration officials never offered any proof or identified a single terrorist.
In reports issued during the Trump administration, the State Department said that there was "no credible evidence indicating that international terrorist groups have established bases in Mexico, worked with Mexican drug cartels, or sent operatives via Mexico into the United States" and that "there have been no cases of terrorist groups exploiting these gaps to move operations through the region."

COVID-19 Vaccine


Trump claimed that he and his administration "came up with the vaccine, which is going to save the world." Of course, that's incorrect, and the COVID-19 vaccine went into development almost as soon as the coronovirus's genetic sequence was made public.

The claim also sits uncomfortably amid Fox News's reticence to encourage its viewers to actually get vaccinated. Hosts on the network are regularly sowing doubt and distrust in vaccinations, Tucker Carlson accused President Joe Biden of "vaccine coercion," and Laura Ingraham called Biden's COVID-19 relief speech "vaccine propaganda." The network is caught between indignation that Trump doesn't receive enough gratitude for the existence of the vaccine and assertions that the vaccine itself should not be trusted.

That being said, it is objectively good that Trump told his supporters to take the vaccine, especially given that others at Fox have been suggesting otherwise.