Fox and Newsmax attempted to film the committee’s first hearing on January 6 in prime time

This column is about the media, and this moment illustrates America’s two parallel media avenues. So if you watched the House 1/6th Committee hearing Thursday night, which was broadcast live by most major television networks in the United States, let me tell you what I saw on right-wing television at the same time.

When Rep. Bennie Thompson ordered the hearing, Fox’s Tucker Carlson ignored him. Carlson explained that the “ruling class” had “yet another lecture on January 6th.” He called the hearing “propaganda” and welcomed Fox’s decision not to televise it. He said: “They are lying and we will not help them.”

Carlson then lied to himself: He said “if anything noteworthy happens” at the hearing, “of course we’ll bring it to you right away.” But his show didn’t do that.

When Thompson said January 6 was “the culmination of an attempted coup,” Carlson questioned why the news media even cared. He barely mentioned Donald Trump, but he questioned why other networks are committing “collusion” with the House of Representatives by televising the hearing. His guest Jason Whitlock said, “Because the Democrats and the Left are desperate.”

When Rep. Liz Cheney first revealed many of the committee’s findings, Carlson said everyone knows America “could face some real problems very soon.” indicated that Congress should not waste its time with the 1/6 investigation; and called Thompson and Cheney “crazy guys.”

Carlson sounded like an amateur magician trying to distract kids when a performance falls apart: “Look here, not there.” He said, “Gas is over five dollars. Inflation is higher than when most Americans were alive. Violent crime makes it impossible to live in cities, and more than a hundred thousand Americans used drugs last year. Why not? Is there prime time to hear about it?”

Fox ignored his own role

When Cheney read a Jan. 7, 2021 text exchange between Fox stars Sean Hannity and Kayleigh McEnany in which Hannity called for “no more crazy people” and “no more stolen campaign calls,” Carlson showed the live coverage on other networks and did make fun of these networks. He didn’t mention anything about the lyrics.

Newsmax, Fox’s right-wing rival, did indeed show most of Cheney’s remarks, but was cut away for analysis by pro-Trump commentators. The network’s banners also promoted Trump’s talking points and sometimes Newsmax’s own app.

Back on Fox, when the committee showed never-before-seen video of the attack on the Capitol, with chilling images from security cameras and other sources, Carlson’s producers showed sterile live footage of the hearing room, but not the video. One of his banners read: “HEARING TODAY IS POLITICAL THEATER”.

As the video ended, Newsmax’s Rob Schmitt said: “We’ve seen a lot worse in the summer of 2020, spurred by comments from across the aisle that have burned down major cities in this country. Where is the hearing on this? Well they don’t have that hearing because they don’t care about your life where you live.”

Sean Hannity took over Fox, but nothing changed. Hannity said the hearing — still ongoing — was “the most boring, boring” Democratic “fundraiser.” He didn’t play a word Cheney said. He instead focused on security flaws, blaming House Speaker Nancy Pelosis.

When the committee swore in its witnesses, Fox’s banners called the hearing a “SHAM” and an “ANTI-TRUMP SHOW PROCESS.”

As wounded police officer Caroline Edwards described being tear gassed outside the Capitol, The Federalist editor-in-chief MZ Hemingway reported tweeted“Is the Soviet-style show trial still going on?”
When Edwards described “carnage” and said she was “hatch in the blood of men” Outside the Capitol, Hannity said the hearing was a failure: “They overpromised, they underdelivered.” Somehow he claimed to know that, even though he was on live TV for the second part of the hearing. And no, he has never acknowledged his own lyrics or his own role as an adviser to Trump.

By the time the hearing ended and analysts from the other networks took in the enormity of what was being presented, the pro-Trump media narrative was already baked. At Newsmax, Schmitt dismissed it as a “completely one-sided hearing about something that happened a year and a half ago.” On Fox, the banner for Laura Ingraham’s 10 p.m. show read “6. JAN. COMMITTEE FLOPS IN PRIMETIME”.

“Do not get me wrong…”

Why is right-wing media opposition important? Because it ensures that the country stays on two completely different information channels.

“Don’t get me wrong, these hearings are critical and every American should be watching,” said Tom Nichols, author of The Atlantic wrote Thursday. “But the alternate reality in which about forty percent of us live will never be breached by actual facts.” Dispatch Editor-in-Chief David French estimated that “tens of millions” of people “still don’t understand the reality of January 6, in large part because the news outlets and figures they trust willfully lie and/or withhold the plain truth about Trump and that horrific day.”
Of course, Fox News said days in advance that it wouldn’t be showing the prime-time hearing on its flagship network, but it was still extraordinary to see the network execute on its ignore-the-news schedule. Mediaite Editor-in-Chief Aidan McLaughlin did not hold back: “The footage of horrific violence that is being aired is the reason this hearing is not being aired on Fox News. So you can lie about it,” he said tweeted.
Fox’s actual audio coverage has been relegated to the Fox Business Network, which has a tiny fraction of the main channel’s viewership. The coverage was also streamed on Fox Nation and was available to Fox stations. It is worth noting, however, that the Carlson and Hannity shows did not reference these outlets or advertise these options. They didn’t put a box in the corner of the screen to push for the news. Instead, Bret Baier tweeted a reminder that he was at Fox Business, and critical answers accumulated.
>> CNN’s John Harwood called the presentation a “devastating indictment, not only against Trump, but against the GOP politicians and conservative media figures who continue to seek to mislead Americans by covering up what they know to be true…”
>> Will any conservative media be honest and thorough about what Cheney called Trump’s “seven-part plan” to overturn the 2020 election?

Made for TV?


We all heard that this would be a televised hearing, a presentation aimed at catching the public’s attention in a way that regular Capitol Hill events just don’t. In particular, we’ve heard that the 1/6 committee has been consulting with James Goldston to help with production. The NYT teased that Goldston was hired to “produce the hearings as if they were a must-see docudrama or miniseries.”

But in reality, the hearing didn’t feel like a “docudrama” or a “must-watch miniseries.” Not even close. Instead, it mostly used the style of a standard, run-of-the-mill Capitol Hill hearing. Yes, there was also a haunting video pack showing the raw violence of that day. But this video, the only real detour from the typical audio format, covered only a fraction of the two-hour affair.

The hearing “wasn’t the shock and awe it needed to be,” wrote Deadline executive editor Dominic Patten immediately afterwards. “Despite the praise from TV talking heads, this was NPR when it should have been UFC…”

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