It is no coincidence that just as damaging and embarrassing revelations from a lawsuit by a voting machine maker against the Fox television corporation are released, the network’s Tucker Carlson has gone all in on a false retelling of the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. Unfortunately, hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of Americans will only see the Carlson fabrication and miss his own — and his boss and co-workers’ — actual views. The airtight information bubble that is right-wing media means many of them will never realize that they are being lied to again and again.
This week, Mr. Carlson is again making false claims about a “stolen” election, using footage released to him and Fox by House Speaker Kevin McCarthy and edited and twisted to present the rioters as righteous and correct in what they did. But there is no truth to that, and Mr. Carlson knows it.
Following the 2020 election, Dominion Voting Systems sued Fox, arguing accurately that its executives knew that statements made on air by Donald Trump’s legal team and echoed by Fox hosts were false. Dominion lost more than $1.6 billion of its value and is seeking compensation and more. A trial is scheduled to begin next month in Delaware, a state that does not cap punitive damages in lawsuits.
Internal communications turned over by Fox and sworn testimony show that top executives and hosts rejected privately the election fraud claims even as they continued to air them. Dominion’s legal team has said that this was because Fox feared losing Trump’s millions of followers to harder-right outlets like Newsmax.
After Fox was the first outlet to call Arizona for Joe Biden, viewers, conservative activists, and the White House were outraged. “Do the executives understand how much credibility and trust we’ve lost with our audience?” Mr. Carlson wrote to his producer. “We’re playing with fire, for real.” But, yet, “I hate him passionately,” Mr. Carlson said in a text exchange with a colleague discussing Mr. Trump two days before the Capitol assault. “What he’s good at is destroying things. He’s the undisputed world champion of that. He could easily destroy us if we play it wrong.”
In another message, he said one of the leading conspiracy fakers, Sidney Powell, was “lying.” He texted that it was “shockingly reckless” to claim that Dominion rigged the election when there was “no one inside the company willing to talk, or internal Dominion documents or copies of the software showing that they did it” and “as you know there isn’t.” On Nov. 5, 2020, Mr. Carlson wrote, “We worked really hard to build what we have. Those fuckers are destroying our credibility. It enrages me.” He knew these were lies but he carried on promoting them anyway.
Thousands more pages of Fox texts and documents that were made public on Tuesday in the Dominion suit demonstrate the extent of the network’s duplicity. Among these are statements made by the Fox chairman, Rupert Murdoch, who, in the weeks after the November 2020 election, said that Mr. Trump was going “increasingly mad.” Sean Hannity, whose show airs on Fox at 9 p.m., wrote after the election that the president was “acting like an insane person.” Laura Ingraham, who comes on the network at 10 p.m., agreed, the messages reveal, writing, “Such an idiot.”
Other Fox correspondents and executives were equally unsparing, saying the claims were “dangerously insane” and, “there is NO evidence of fraud, none” as Fox’s chief political correspondent Bret Baier wrote. In a court deposition made under oath, Mr. Hannity said, “Nobody ever convinced me that their argument was anywhere near accurate or true,” and “I did not believe it for a second.” Yet he and his network had continued to push them on air.
In the end, it was all about the money. When a lowly Fox reporter went on Twitter to correctly say there was no evidence of vote-system fraud, Mr. Carlson saw the threat: “It needs to stop immediately, like tonight. It’s measurably hurting the company. The stock price is down. Not a joke,” he wrote to Mr. Hannity. As Ms. Ingraham put it, “Our viewers are good people and they believe it” — the lies, that is, and they would turn away from a network that did not continue to support the fiction. They still do, and the democratic process is still in danger.