Monday, December 13, 2021


As you probably know, Chris Wallace is leaving Fox News to join the new streaming service CNN+. I don't like the way Eric Wemple of The Washington Post depicts the news organization Wallace is leaving behind. Let's start with Wemple's headline:
Chris Wallace bolts Tucker Carlson’s Fox News
Wemple writes:
In the last year of Chris Wallace’s tenure at Fox News, he’s had to watch as his colleagues on the opinion side of the network buttressed and amplified the “big lie” that the 2020 election was stolen from former president Donald Trump. That strain of programming culminated in the recent three-part Fox Nation series from host Tucker Carlson titled “Patriot Purge,” which pushed the idea that the Jan. 6 rioters are victims, not perpetrators.

... the network has found its voice in Carlson.... He was serving as a weekend host at Fox News in late 2016 when a prime-time slot opened up. Ever since then, his extremism — telling viewers that Democrats “hate” America; espousing the racist “replacement theory”; subverting science on the coronavirus — has emerged as the network’s defining ideology, a point of reckoning for colleagues wishing to practice anything approximating journalism....

The reward for Carlson was an elevated presence on Fox’s streaming service, Fox Nation.

The resulting fissures are on the public record. Two moderate conservative commentators — Stephen Hayes and Jonah Goldberg — resigned last month over “Patriot Purge.” ... news anchor Shepard Smith ... left — also abruptly — in October 2019 following a tiff with Carlson that played out on-air.

Every day, in other words, Fox News takes another step toward its destiny as The Tucker Carlson Channel. And in that future, there’s no room for journalists.
I don't like this for the same reason I don't like punditry that blames all the pathologies of the Republican Party on Donald Trump. It suggests that the institution was just fine until one individual came along to spoil it (Trump in 2015, Carlson in 2016), and that everything would be fine again if that one individual would just go away.

Fox, of course, has been godawful since its inception:

Carlson is nasty and dangerous, but he doesn't act alone. Reuters recently reported on the harassment two Georgia poll workers have experienced ever since video was made public purportedly showing them committing electoral fraud during 2020 ballot counting. (In fact, they were counting ballots correctly.)
Death threats from angry Trump supporters forced Georgia election worker Ruby Freeman, a 62-year-old grandmother, to flee her home of 20 years. Some messages called for her hanging; one urged people to “hunt” her. Freeman showed hundreds of menacing messages to police and called 911 three times.

But a year after Donald Trump and his allies falsely accused Freeman - along with her daughter and co-worker Wandrea “Shaye” Moss - of election fraud, the threats have not been investigated by local police or state authorities, according to a Reuters review of Georgia law enforcement records. Federal agents have monitored some of the threats, but made no arrests.

... the two women told Reuters about threats of lynching and racial slurs, along with alarming visits by strangers to the homes of Freeman and her mother.
As Media Matters recently noted, Carlson was part of the pile-on...
On December 3, [2020,] Tucker Carlson played the footage on his show, saying it “appears to show poll workers pulling ballots out of suitcases after they told poll monitors to go home.”
... but so were many other Fox on-air personalities:
The following hour, Sean Hannity started his show off with coverage of the video, claiming the “mysterious suitcases” were “filled, we believe, with ballots” and that “partisan election observers [were] asked to leave the room.” ...

Next, on The Ingraham Angle, host Laura Ingraham played footage of Freeman and Moss that included narration from Jacki Pick claiming workers “mov[ed] into action and begin scanning ballots” and saying they acted “once everyone [was] gone, coast [was] clear.” ...

On the December 4 edition of Fox & Friends, correspondent Griff Jenkins reported that the claims had been refuted by state election officials, but the hosts continued to push the conspiracy theory, with co-host Ainsley Earhardt saying, “How about those suitcases that were pulled out from the table in Georgia?” and co-host Brian Kilmeade responding, “I was that last night. It’s pretty hard to dispute that there’s something going on that needs some explanation.

America’s Newsroom followed with yet another report from Jenkins, who explained that the claims were investigated and shown to be untrue. Again, the hosts undermined this evidence, playing the clip from the previous night’s Hannity where Moss was singled out on video. Guest and Wall Street Journal columnist Bill McGurn responded to the video, saying he thought “Sean’s right in the sense that it raises real concerns.”

During that night’s prime-time slate, guest host Trace Gallagher led off The Story with a report on the video, stating that a “senior source in the Georgia secretary of state’s office [told] Fox News that the claims had been ‘investigated and debunked’ and that observers were there the entire time and the case of the ballots in the video is a case that all ballots are supposed to be kept in.” He then brought on Trump legal team consultant Jenny Beth Martin, who repeated a series of false assertions in attempting to deny the video had been debunked and claimed the video showed “a violation of state law.” Later, during a panel discussion on the video, Gallagher said Martin “made a good point” in claiming that the video was “debunked in a heartbeat — very quick to debunk this thing without really taking a good look at all this and talking to all the witnesses involved.”
And on and on for days, across several more Fox shows.

In short, the problem with Fox isn't that it has become the Tucker Carlson Channel. The problem with Fox is that it's the Fox News Channel. Fox is rotten to the core, and it always has been.

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