Media Maelstrom: Despite that $787 million settlement, Fox News is still allowing Trump's election lies to spread
Here's why the network probably can get away with it
When you invite Donald Trump on the air, you are inviting him to lie. That’s what he does.
And so, Fox News could have known better when it made the “exclusive” deal for Trump to do a town hall with Sean Hannity in Iowa that aired Tuesday night. The Murdoch-controlled network really should have known better, give its settlement with Dominion Voting Systems in April. That defamation suit, settled for $787.5 million just before trial, charged that the right-wing network knew that Trumpian lies about a supposedly rigged 2020 election were false but circulated them anyway.
So, no surprise this week when the once and would-be future president started complaining about “phony ballots.” Hannity didn’t correct him in real time, and Fox didn’t edit out that section, which was prerecorded, or provide any immediate after-the-fact correction.
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“Lie now, pay later,” was the assessment of lawyer, author and cultural historian Linda Hirshman, who is researching a new book on the Murdochs.
“The Murdochs have been following that tabloid practice for decades,” she told me Wednesday morning. “The Dominion settlement was just an unusually high price tag, but it didn’t change their core strategy at all.”
Since “phony ballots” doesn’t blame a specific company, and since it was Trump, not an on-air Fox personality, telling the lie, the network can probably get away with it.
But it’s damaging and it’s wrong. Trump — even with his legal troubles mushrooming — has an iron hold on the Republican party and may yet be its presidential nominee, and thus could become president again. And millions of Americans believe this claptrap, because their leader tells them so.
However, all is not lost. The Dominion suit may have resulted in Tucker Carlson’s abrupt firing — a positive development. And a similar, even bigger, suit has been filed by Smartmatic, another voting systems company. Fox does seem to be marginally more careful these days.
I’ll be writing soon here about how concerned citizens can take a stand for truth in the media. That truth is something we desperately need if our democracy is going to function.
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Watch your email for next week’s American Crisis podcast in which I interview Neal Katyal, the prominent Constitutional attorney and former acting U.S. Solicitor General, who offers some trenchant observations about Trump’s legal peril.
Oh, a postscript about what was missing from the “town hall” as televised, observed Phillip M. Bailey of USA Today: “Not once in the version that was broadcast on Fox News did an Iowan get to address the former president.”