Reprinted with permission from Media Matters
Last week, Senate Republicans filibustered the proposal for a bipartisan commission to study the events of January 6, when a mob of Trump supporters stormed the Capitol building in an attempt to block Congress from certifying Joe Biden's victory in the 2020 election.
Fox News' spin during the negotiations for the January 6 commission — condemning the small number of Republicans who supported one, denying that an insurrection had ever taken place, and even bringing back the election conspiracy theories that incited the attack — was further proof of why such a commission was needed.
But on a deeper level, it also provides a further contrast between Fox's overall efforts to sweep the insurrection under the rug on the one hand, and its relentless calls for more investigations of the 2012 attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya — when the network played a key role in pushing for a congressional select committee.
At the time, Fox figures even bragged about helping with the creation of the select committee, in the wake of the network's unrelenting coverage of the 2012 attacks. But in the year 2021, network personalities like Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham, and Tammy Bruce cheer on congressional Republicans for blocking a January 6 commission.
Carlson previously declared that he was "totally for" a Benghazi committee, because he was "always interested in learning more about any mystery, and Benghazi has mysteries at the center of it." But as for a January 6 commission, he now says: "It's a complete farce. It's partisan as hell. It's fake. Don't play along with the fraud," while he also ridicules the notion of an insurrection having occurred at all.
Back in 2014, Ingraham decried how "the left is already branding this as a witch hunt" when it came to the Benghazi Committee — only to turn around seven years later and declare that the House of Representatives had just "greenlit another witch hunt, this one into the January 6 riots."
In 2013, Fox News host Sean Hannity asked rhetorically, "Why not [have] a special investigative committee" into the Benghazi attacks, with the power to call "witnesses under oath?" Then in May 2021, Hannity declared that Congress was "rehashing the events of January 6," and that it was "obvious they cannot be trusted in any way, shape, manner, or form to conduct any fair hearing whatsoever."
Hannity's guest in 2013, Rudy Giuliani, who later became former President Donald Trump's attorney, said that the public needed answers on Benghazi "in order to prevent something like this from happening in the future." In 2021, Giuliani's own lawyers now say that his speech on January 6 calling for "trial by combat" before the Capitol attack was "clearly hyperbolic." (It should also be noted that Giuliani attempted to call a Senate Republican on January 6, while the chamber was in lockdown, but left a voicemail with a wrong number in which he hoped to further slow down the certification of the presidential election.)
Back in 2014, Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) implored that "all we ask for is truth and justice, and we just want to understand what really happened" in Benghazi, which was "the constitutional responsibility of Congress." But in 2021, the now-Fox News contributor said that he would not have voted for a January 6 commission if he were still in Congress.
The network has also frequently hosted House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), helping to promote his stances on special investigations — both for and against. Back in 2015, when McCarthy was seeking to become speaker of the House, he infamously touted to Hannity how the Benghazi special committee was set up in order to drag down Hillary Clinton's poll ratings. Hannity gave McCarthy "credit" for accomplishing those politically -motivated investigations.
When McCarthy appeared on Ingraham's Fox prime-time show in the year 2021, however, the host dismissively stated that "the Democrats are claiming that you are covering up for insurrectionists by opposing this commission." In response to the friendly question, McCarthy protested that he was instead opposing a Democratic effort to "put a political commission" in place.
Fox's refrain years ago was that a "cover-up" was going on, what Hannity called a "lie," and a congressional investigation was the only way to find the truth. But in the wake of the network's own role in spreading a big lie and even attempting to subvert a national election result in the lead-up to a violent attack on the Capitol, covering things up is now the order of the day.