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Brief moment of integrity so enraged Fox News’ fans, they gave it a final shove into the abyss

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The slide from being a partisan news source into an outright font of extremist disinformation came about, as Stelter suggests, as a result of pressure from the same authoritarian, fake-news-loving audience that Fox had created during Trump’s tenure. The beast that they had created turned out to have an insatiable appetite for extremism.

“Fox is a really different place than it was pre-election,” one of Stelter’s Fox insiders told him after Biden was inaugurated.

“Fox News has always walked a fine line between trying to look like an independent news organization and supporting conservative politics,” observed TV critic Eric Deggans to The Guardian. “There have to be moments where they act like an actual news organization in order to maintain their veneer of being an independent news organization.”

The wrath of Trump’s followers descended on Fox immediately after its election-night call. Trump himself went on Fox & Friends and complained about the network: “What’s the biggest difference between this and four years ago,” he asked rhetorically. “I say Fox. It’s much different now.”

Outside Arizona’s main election-counting center in Phoenix the day after the election, pro-Trump “Stop the Steal” protesters chanted, “Fox News sucks!”

Fox’s main problem, as Stelter recounts, was that it now had competition to its right in the form of the far-right Newsmax and One America News networks, which unabashedly feature right-wing conspiracy theories and false information about the election and other political topics.

Newsmax refused to initially call Biden the president-elect. One of its hosts, Greg Kelly, repeatedly claimed that Trump could remain in office another four years. “IT ISN’T OVER YET,” Newsmax’s website banners read.

“We’re bleeding eyeballs,” one Fox producer told him in December. “And we’re scared.”

On Facebook, the dismay among longtime Fox fans was furious. “Time to switch to Newsmax or One America News,” one post read. “Fox News has officially joined the corrupt media.”

Another declared simply: “F FOX News,” adding: “They have sold their souls and lost the respect of millions of loyal viewers , [thinking emoji] [crying emoji].Boycott and show them the power of the almighty [money bag emoji] dollar.”

Fox executives decided to fix the problem, as Stelter says, by running “even further to the right.” News Media CEO Suzanne Scott decided to lure viewers back by giving them, as he notes, what they wanted: “False hope.”

On Fox, Trump was treated as a political genius, not a lame duck who failed to win reelection. Some of the network’s key shows waded deeper into the voter fraud depths, eventually spurring massive defamation lawsuits by voting machine companies Dominion and Smartmatic.

“It’s really emotionally taxing,” a dissident Fox contributor told me as the COVID-19 case count exploded and Trump’s legal challenges imploded. “We denied the pandemic and now we’re denying the election outcome.”

Media Matters’ Matt Gertz assembled a laundry list of Fox News’ post-election embrace of Trumpian disinformation:

Fox and its associates did everything they could to support Trump’s autocratic maneuvers. In the two weeks after media outlets called the race for Biden, Fox personalities questioned the results of the election or pushed conspiracy theories about it nearly 800 times. They put the credibility of the network behind deranged lies about fraud plucked from the internet fever swamps, beaming batshit fantasies out to a huge national audience. It worked—polls following the election showed a majority of Republicans believed that the election was stolen from Trump.

But hosts, contributors, and guests went further than simply lying to their viewers—they pushed for action. They attacked Republican state officials for being insufficiently committed to Trump’s scheme; called for the arrests of election workers; suggested that Republican state legislators in states Trump lost should “appoint a clean slate of electors” who support him; promoted fake Trump electoral slates for supposedly keeping Trump’s “legal options open”; suggested a “do-over” election as “the only remedy”; called for congressional investigations; endorsed a lawsuit by Republican state attorneys general asking the Supreme Court to throw out results in four states Biden won; urged Republican governors not to certify unfavorable results; and denounced Republican members of Congress for “destroying the Constitution” by voting to count the electoral votes.

Recently, Fox has gone so far as to embrace right-wing extremist ideology, particularly the strange flavor of white nationalism that has been getting airtime on Tucker Carlson’s evening program, which is Fox’s top-rated show. Carlson has promoted eco-fascist themes related to immigration; endorsed the idea that Republicans are being forced to abandon democracy and eventually embrace fascism because of liberal hegemony; defended the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrectionists as being ordinary conservatives and decried their prosecutions; and spouted white-nationalist “replacement theory” in claiming that immigration is an attack on democracy itself.

Carlson’s most disturbing recent episode, however, came last week when he attacked Biden’s speech in Tulsa, Oklahoma, on the 100th anniversary of the Tulsa Massacre. Biden had decried the continuing existence of violent racist hatred, saying:

I didn’t realize hate is never defeated; it only hides.  It hides.  And given a little bit of oxygen—just a little bit oxygen—by its leaders, it comes out of there from under the rock like it was happening again, as if it never went away.

And so, folks, we can’t—we must not give hate a safe harbor.

As I said in my address to the joint session of Congress: According to the intelligence community, terrorism from white supremacy is the most lethal threat to the homeland today. Not ISIS, not al Qaeda—white supremacists. (Applause.) That’s not me; that’s the intelligence community under both Trump and under my administration.

This set off Carlson, who insisted on his program that evening that this meant Biden intended to target ordinary Republicans:

Yeah, you’re not surprised. It’s always the same people, isn’t it? Those white Republican men—the very ones that just today Joe Biden warned us are more dangerous than ISIS. These are the people who have been beating up elderly Asian women in our cities, you’ve seen that plague unfold. These are the ones who don’t believe in science, who have no decency, they’re the problem.

The next night, he insisted—despite abundant evidence to the contrary—that white nationalist violence is not the most lethal threat to the American public: “There is no credible way to argue that white supremacy is the most lethal threat that we face. That’s not an argument. It’s its own form of racial attack.”

Carlson has been diving headfirst into this abyss, as Gertz has reported, with the blessing of Fox CEO Lachlan Murdoch, who even tried to claim that a review of Carlson’s remarks show “that Mr. Carlson decried and rejected replacement theory.”

However, Carlson also let the curtain slip a bit this week in an interview with right-wing pundit Mollie Hemingway about election misinformation. While introducing Hemingway—whose new book, titled Fixed, offers a wholly Trumpian take—the Fox host asserted that “so many people are lying at such high volume about the 2020 election, it’s hard to know exactly what happened.”

That, in fact, is the point of how the right now deals with reality: Just throw so much misinformation out there that the public becomes unable to discern fact from fiction—at which point right-wing authoritarians will naturally embrace their lying propaganda.

As Deggans told the Guardian, Fox encouraged this kind of extremism for many years while working to maintain a veneer of journalistic credibility—and has now been finally dragged into the abyss, forced to abandon any such pretenses, by the monster it created.

“What’s happening now is the Republican party is getting more strained, and there’s more and more of a sense among Fox News viewership that anything that contradicts a worldview that is supportive of conservatives is wrong,” Deggans said. “I think it’s getting harder and harder for Fox News to ride that balance.”

At this point, it’s clear they no longer are even trying.


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One woman killed and three people injured as vehicle rams into protesters in Minnesota

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Police said that alcohol or drugs may have been a factor in the driver’s actions, but this must not be treated as an isolated incident: Last summer, according to USA Today, there were “at least 104 incidents of people driving vehicles into protests from May 27 through Sept. 5.” In eight of those cases, police were the drivers.

And Republican lawmakers have rushed to offer protections to drivers who injure protesters in this way. Iowa, Oklahoma, and Florida have all reduced or abolished penalties for such drivers, with the Iowa and Florida laws offering civil immunity and the Oklahoma law protecting drivers from criminal penalties when they “unintentionally causes injury or death to an individual” while “fleeing from a riot” and “under a reasonable belief that fleeing was necessary to protect the motor vehicle operator from serious injury or death.” Which just means every driver who does this will claim they were fleeing under a reasonable belief that their life was at risk. 

The Washington Post’s Philip Bump likens such laws to “stand your ground” laws, writing, “A Rand Corp. study found that states with ‘stand your ground’ laws allowing residents to use firearms in self-defense were states that had more firearm homicides. Allowing people to use guns to kill in some circumstances correlated with more people using guns to kill.”

The laws letting drivers off the hook for injuring or even killing protesters came amid a wave of state-level legislation targeting protesters in other ways. In a sense it’s similar to the Republican push to ban the teaching of “critical race theory” (by which they mean “anything about racism”) from schools. Republicans are trying to criminalize any effort to change U.S. culture and society to make it less racist or less unjust. In this case, they are actively encouraging murder.


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Federal judge dismisses anti-vaxxers’ lawsuit, sides with Texas hospital

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Despite the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission supporting policies that employers could require “all employees physically entering the workplace to be vaccinated for COVID-19,” at least 117 employees of the company attempted to sue the hospital claiming it violated state policy and made them “human guinea pigs.” 

According to the plaintiffs, federal law prohibits employees from being required to get vaccinated without full U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval of the vaccines. While the lawsuit was filed in Texas state court, it was moved to federal court at Houston Methodist’s request. As a result, U.S. District Judge Lynn N. Hughes ruled Saturday that federal law does not prevent employers from issuing that mandate because the law in question did not apply to private employers. 

“The hospital’s employees are not participants in a human trial,” Hughes wrote. “They are licensed doctors, nurses, medical technicians, and staff members. The hospital has not applied to test the COVID-19 vaccines on its employees.”

He continued that the mandate was a way to make the environment safer for both employees and patients. “This is not coercion. Methodist is trying to do their business of saving lives without giving them the Covid-19 virus. It is a choice made to keep staff, patients and their families safer.”

Hughes’ ruling addressed each and every one of the plaintiffs’ arguments including the vaccination requirement violating Texas law and a comparison to forced medical experiments in Nazi Germany. “Equating the injection requirement to medical experimentation in concentration camps is reprehensible,” Hughes wrote. “Nazi doctors conducted medical experiments on victims that caused pain, mutilation, permanent disability, and in many cases, death.”

Ultimately Hughes concluded that the plaintiffs “misconstrued” the law and “misrepresented the facts” and “will take nothing” from the hospital. If they had an issue with the policies in place, they should seek employment elsewhere, he wrote.

Upon hearing the ruling, lead plaintiff Jennifer Bridges noted that she would continue to fight her case. “This doesn’t surprise me,” she told USA Today. “Methodist is a very large company, and they are pretty well-protected in a lot of areas. We knew this was going to be a huge fight, and we are prepared to fight it.” Bridges has also started a petition against mandatory vaccinations by employers.

In response to the ruling, attorney and conservative activist Jared Woodfill who represents her and the other 116 plaintiffs said: “We took the position that it shouldn’t be dismissed for a whole host of reasons and we believe that forcing an individual to participate in a vaccine trial is illegal.”

“This is the first battle in a long fight,” Woodfill continued. “There are going to be many battles fought. Not just in this courtroom, but in courtrooms all across the state. There are battles that are going to be fought in the higher courts, the 5th Circuit, the Texas Supreme Court, even the United States Supreme Court. So this is just one battle in a larger war. It’s the first round, if you will.”

Woodfill confirmed that they would appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court “if necessary.”

So despite the judge noting and clearly addressing that they had no case, the plaintiffs refuse to back down.

The employees who were suspended from their roles made up only 1% of the hospital’s total number of employees, according to Houston Methodist CEO Marc Boom. Boom noted that many other hospitals are working on similar initiatives but were only waiting on this case’s verdict to take action. “We can now put this behind us and continue our focus on unparalleled safety, quality, service and innovation,” Boom said after the ruling. “Our employees and physicians made their decisions for our patients, who are always at the center of everything we do.”

According to CBS News, as of this report, nearly 25,000 Houston Methodist employees had been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and at least two employees who worked in management chose to leave rather than receive the vaccine.


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Distress signals already emerging within GOP over sticking with Trump

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Nothing but unicorns and rainbows, folks. 

But the truth is, Trump’s toxic effect on party politics at the state and federal level is already roiling the GOP, and we’re starting see signs of that everywhere. Just over a week ago, Sen. Roy Blunt of Missouri reverted to a practice that Republicans developed during the Trump-era amid efforts to reach a leader who never listened to his advisers—he made an entreaty to Trump on the airwaves.

“He could be incredibly helpful in 2022 if he gets focused on 2022 and the differences in the two political parties,” Blunt said of Trump, on NBC’s Meet The Press.

And who could miss Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell last week telling Fox News that Trump “has his own agenda” when it comes to the midterms?

Then there’s the GOP candidates who are clearly scared out of their wits over what Trump could do to the party’s electoral hopes in 2022 given that he continues to be obsessed with relitigating his 2020 election loss, which he called “the crime of the century” just last month.

“He should have learned from what happened in Georgia,” said one GOP lawmaker, who represents a purple district but obviously didn’t want to risk Trump’s ire by going on the record. “He cost us Georgia by focusing on the election.”

The words “should have” appear to be the operative part in that sentence.

“If Trump focused on Pelosi and Biden’s policy failures, he would help us. If it’s about election fraud and sour grapes from 2020, it will hurt us,” the GOP lawmaker added. 

Again, the word “if” is telling and not particularly hopeful from a Republican lawmaker who was likely speaking more frankly based on being granted anonymity. 

The lawmaker acknowledged that Trump’s 2020 grievances animate the base, but said it’s not particularly helpful when it comes to retaking the majority—presumably in more swingy districts.  

“We may be able to still win the majority, but I think it makes the hill harder to climb.”

In other words, in the eyes of a purple-district House Republican, Trump could be more of a liability to the GOP in the midterms than a boon.

Not exactly unicorns and rainbows, folks.


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