In a New York courtroom, freedom of the press is being juxtaposed with the freedom to lie.
Freedom to lie to subvert an election.
Freedom to lie to aid the chief patron of a gold-digging cable network.
Donald Trump’s Big Lie — and his covey of mouthpieces on Fox News — is on trial in a $2.7 billion suit by voting technology company Smartmatic.
Fox is being sued along with disgraced Trump attorneys Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell for claims the company conspired to “steal” the election.
On trial are statements by full-time Trump sycophants Jeanine Pirro, Maria Bartiromo and Lou Dobbs. They wouldn’t dare check any of the claims coming from Trump and his co-conspirators, even if ruinous to a company.
If truth wins with Fox News on trial, the network is in for major hurt. We await the suit from victims of the Jan. 6 insurrection and the role of Fox News’ craven cast after the horse on which they had bet came in out of the money.
MAGA hordes heard Pirro advertise the Jan. 6 rally as the first shots of the second Revolutionary War.
This was going to be great television. “They wanted a coup,” writes Brian Stelter. “They needed a coup.”
Interestingly, the Big Lie and Jan. 6 are barely parenthetical in Stelter’s book, “Hoax: Donald Trump, Fox News and the Dangerous Distortion of Truth.” That means a lot of lies before the biggest one.
That Stelter is CNN’s media correspondent will be seen by Trump believers as discrediting him. The fact is just about all his reporting comes from in the beast’s belly, interviews with current and former Fox News employees.
Former Fox News anchor Shepard Smith spoke of the honor of having a “platform of public influence,” yet mourned the fact that his former employers propagated lies “and pushed them over and over again” to the dual end of appeasing Trump and his hard-core supporters.
Stelter depicts a struggle within Fox between actual news-gatherers and news fabricators who would take their every cue from Trump. Guess which side won? Not Shep Smith’s side. He’s now at CNBC.
One victim was Fox News’ digital politics editor Chris Stirewalt, who had the onerous task of defending the network’s call that Joe Biden had won Arizona Nov. 3. Stirewalt shortly got canned.
After his dismissal for — yes, telling the truth — Stirewalt wrote an oped labeling “Stop the steal” a “cynical, knowing effort by political operatives and their hype men to steal an election or at least get rich trying.”
We now know how Trump has reaped untold riches from his followers on the bogus pretext of fighting the election results. We need not ask, “What was in it for Fox News”?
Ratings, baby. Ratings. The cult status of Trump with his loyal viewers was pure gold.
“Fox News is not a ‘news network,'” Stelter quotes a veteran host there. “Don’t think of it as a network at all. It’s a profit machine.”
As in cut from Trump’s cloth. No wonder the Trump administration was a revolving door for Fox News personalities and employees, with Fox News’ door always open for former Trump hires.
Today, Fox News personalities remain Trump’s faithful servants. After his defeat, the network became “the Trump administration in exile,” writes Stelter.
As such, it will stir up fear, such as Tucker Carlson’s racist drumbeat about “replacement theory,” or the seeding of deadly doubts about the COVID vaccine.
Stelter calls the whole shtick far from news but a “serialized drama” – OMG, where’s that Central American caravan now? — aimed at “filling viewers’ nights with terror.”
It is so very fitting that Trump was the fastest and loudest to shout “hoax” and “fake news,” when in fact he and Fox News have been master barkers of both.
By Stelter’s count, and I’d trust it, the word “hoax” was uttered on Fox News more than 1,500 times in 2020 alone:
“Every time Trump tweeted it, or Hannity shouted it, a little bit more truth was chipped away from America’s foundation.”
Longtime newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.