Fox News has become the center of conservative leaning sociopolitical coverage since the Trump administration. Today, new details emerge surrounding texts and emails shared between Fox‘s top anchors and producers regarding former President Donald Trump’s voter fraud claims. Dominion Voting Systems is suing the station for defamation, due to their extensive coverage of conspiracy theories that the Biden administration rigged the 2020 election in favor of the Democratic party.
The claims made on Fox rapidly spread misinformation about elections and voting in America across social media. The conspiracy theories continue to be promoted by several GOP members of congress, notably by Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene. For their lead anchors and corporate leads to have expressed disagreement with the claims in private is evidence that the station purposefully spread misinformation.
The thing that still manages to surprise me with each new batch of these emails and texts is that Fox News personalities and producers are simultaneously beholden to and contemptuous of their audience. https://t.co/5UNe81b9uY
— Radley Balko (@radleybalko) February 17, 2023
Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham, and even Rupert Murdoch corresponded via text about Sidney Powell, a 2020 election conspiracy theorist who led the charge to attempt to overturn the election. Powell claimed that she had the ability to time travel, and that she had clear information that the election was stolen.
According to the Dominion lawsuit against Fox News, one of the sources for the network's "election fraud" information said she got her information from "experiencing something like time-travel in a semi-conscious state" that allows her to "see what others don't see." pic.twitter.com/oFexxz01L9
— Ben Collins (@oneunderscore__) February 17, 2023
Newly disclosed messages from some of the biggest Fox News stars and executives reveal that they privately expressed disbelief about Donald Trump’s false claims that the 2020 election was stolen, even as the network promoted many of those lies. https://t.co/BrOmxIdOw6 pic.twitter.com/E9hztvLthx
— The New York Times (@nytimes) February 17, 2023
While Ingraham’s law and media background lies entirely in conservative leaning media, Carlson began his career reporting on multiple perspectives, and even had a brief tenure on CNN before joining Fox News. While Carlson has become infamous for many of the outlandish statements he has made on Tucker Carlson Tonight, it is plausible that he may not be as personally radicalized as meets the eye.
This background in mind, many critics are now placing heavier blame on the hosts involved in the defamation suit for their role in inciting the January 6, 2021 Capitol insurrection.
Fox News hosts purposely fed their audience dangerous lies and rhetoric about election fraud despite knowing it was BS, which led to a Jan. 6 insurrection that ended up killing people.
Tucker Carlson and Sean Hannity have blood on their hands.
— Ritchie Torres (@RitchieTorres) February 17, 2023
Others accuse Ingraham, Carlson and others of prioritizing their hefty salaries over ethical, truthful reporting, especially in the last three years.
Everyone at Fox News has part of their salary paid for by Tucker Carlson’s show. So that means they are okay with making money off a white supremacist pushing Replacement Theory. Once you’ve made that decision, what’s a little lying about who won an election? It’s a choice.
— stuart stevens (@stuartpstevens) February 17, 2023
Fox News hosts pushed a big lie about our election that undermined the foundation of our democracy and got people killed in a failed insurrection.
And they knew exactly what they were doing.
Why did they do it? The same reason they pushed deadly lies about the pandemic.
— Adam Schiff (@AdamSchiff) February 17, 2023
In the messages, Carlson and Ingraham expressed surprise at the vast audiences that believed and ran with the misinformation. By the time they realized what they had done, they felt they created a monster that could not be tamed.
One big takeaway from the Dominion bombshell filing: Fox News is terrified of its own audience. https://t.co/hP08GyvJ1x
— Oliver Darcy (@oliverdarcy) February 17, 2023
Social media platforms have become home to a host of misinformation surrounding COVID-19, the 2020 election, and more. Facebook employed third party fact checkers to flag potential misinformation, but the rapid spread has proven difficult for other platforms. The Fox revelations today could be another major push for social media companies to reconfigure their algorithms to benefit fact over fiction.
This lawsuit is such a public service. Fox News lies to its viewers; its higher-ups know that on-air talent are either crazy people spouting unhinged conspiracy theories, or opportunists lying to a malleable audience. They bear responsibility for those lies. https://t.co/SaxW8wfUIu
— Jill Filipovic (@JillFilipovic) February 17, 2023
While Fox has repeatedly attempted to label themselves as entertainment to avoid defamation lawsuits claiming that they were journalists spreading false information, the new Dominion suit slams them with evidence that the hosts and producers do consider themselves journalists.
Fox News wiggled out of a defamation suit by arguing people shouldn't take the programming seriously (specifically, Tucker Carlson's show). Perhaps to fend off that defense, the Dominion filing goes into detail to show that the network's people see themselves as journalists: pic.twitter.com/PbVfLy9keM
— ErikWemple (@ErikWemple) February 17, 2023
Jim Acosta really hit the nail on the head when he called Fox “News” a “bullshit factory”, didn’t he?
— Jo 🌻 (@JoJoFromJerz) February 17, 2023
Ingraham has posted several new segments from her show on Fox to her social media today, but has not addressed the Dominion suit. Neither has Tucker Carlson or the other hosts, producers, or corporate leads mentioned in the defamation suit. Viewers wonder whether Fox News will mention the lawsuit at all on their airwaves today. One thing remains clear–this case proves a landmark for the handling of misinformation and far-right media conspiracy theories, and will likely have a massive impact on the news media and social media.