February 27, 2023
Another filing today in the defamation lawsuit of Dominion Voting Systems against the Fox News Network has revealed more of the machinations behind the construction of the Big Lie that former president Trump won the 2020 presidential election.
A previous filing showed that Fox News Channel hosts knew full well that Biden had won and that Trump loyalists saying the election was fraudulent had no evidence. Personalities like Tucker Carlson continued to push the Big Lie, though, apparently out of fear that they would lose their audience to Newsmax and other right-wing outlets that continued to parrot the idea that Trump had won the election.
Today’s filing shows that executives at the highest levels of the Fox Corporation and the Fox News Network knowingly permitted Fox News Channel personalities to spread false conspiracy theories about the election in order to protect their profits. It includes testimony from Rupert Murdoch, the chair of the Fox Corporation, showing that Murdoch and his son Lachlan Murdoch, the executive chair and chief executive officer of the Fox Corporation, as well as Suzanne Scott, the chief executive officer of Fox News Media, were all deeply involved in the question of how to deal with Trump’s lies and with the personalities who were echoing those lies, without losing viewership.
Rupert Murdoch spoke with Scott frequently, and testified: “I’m a journalist at heart. I like to be involved in these things.” Lachlan Murdoch, as well, was in the loop with his father and Scott. Ultimately, although they knew that claims of massive election fraud were unfounded, they decided to give the lies airtime anyway to stop their audience from abandoning them for other channels. Fox board member and former House speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-WI) warned them “that Fox News should not be spreading conspiracy theories,” but they ignored him.
Murdoch also revealed FNC’s role as a wing of the Republican Party when he testified that he “provided Trump's son-in-law and senior advisor, Jared Kushner, with Fox confidential information about Biden's ads, along with debate strategy… (providing Kushner a preview of Biden's ads before they were public).”
Political writer Rick Wilson summed it up: “They knew Trump lost. They knew there was not then (nor is there now) a scintilla of fraud. They knew, and lied. Over, and over, and over. They chose guests they knew were lying. They allowed story meetings promoting a massive, dangerous lie that reduced faith and belief in the American system. The entire top level of Fox management knew their lies were leading to danger for this nation…. They knew the lies were lies. They fed and fed the beast.”
The Big Lie has become central to the worldview of far-right Republicans. On February 23, in Arizona, newly elected Republican, conspiracy theorist, and election denier Liz Harris hijacked a hearing of the House and Senate election committees to feature a speaker who talked of election fraud and made wild and unsubstantiated accusations that state lawmakers and judges are taking bribes from a Mexican drug cartel.
When another election denier, state senator Wendy Rogers, said the hearing was “not the appropriate venue” to talk about potential criminal activity, one of her own supporters accused her of being “compromised,” and another said that revolution was now “inevitable.”
Also in the news today was the death of Gleb Pavlovsky, former top political consultant to Russian president Vladimir Putin, after a long illness. Before quietly turning away from Putin, Pavlovsky helped to engineer his rise through a concept called “political technology,” a system that uses technology to manipulate voters into rubber stamping the election of favored political leaders.
According to historian and political scientist Andrew Wilson, who specializes in Eastern Europe, “political technologists” in the post-Soviet republics created a virtual political reality by blackmailing opponents, abusing state power to help favored candidates, sponsoring “double” candidates with names similar to those of opponents in order to take their voters, creating false parties to create opposition, and, finally, creating a false narrative around an election or other event that enabled them to control public debate.
Under such manipulation, usually delivered in a firehose of outrageous and competing stories, people lost the ability to tell what was real and lost faith that they could have any effect on the political system.
In the hands of political technologists, democracy was no longer about voters choosing their representatives, but was simply a way to legitimize manipulation by corrupt politicians to keep themselves in power.
After House speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) gave exclusive access to 41,000 hours of video from the U.S. Capitol to Tucker Carlson of the Fox News Channel, news organizations CBS News, CNN, Politico, ProPublica ABC, Axios, Advance, Scripps, the Los Angeles Times, and Gannett have asked the speaker for equal access to the material.
“Without full public access to the complete historical record,” attorney Charles Tobin wrote, “there is concern that an ideologically-based narrative of an already polarizing event will take hold in the public consciousness, with destabilizing risks to the legitimacy of Congress, the Capitol Police, and the various federal investigations and prosecutions of January 6 crimes.”
Meanwhile, the Biden administration continues to try to restore faith in the government. The Commerce Department will announce tomorrow that any company that hopes to get one of the new federal subsidies for semiconductor manufacturing under the CHIPS and Science Act must make sure its construction workers and employees have access to affordable, high-quality childcare. Such companies will be able to use some of the government money to build new childcare facilities, subsidize care at existing facilities, or find other solutions.
The measure is designed to ease the labor shortages by enabling women currently unable to find affordable childcare to enter the workforce. It will also leave the establishment of more childcare facilities in the hands of private companies, thus avoiding another round of fights over Biden’s so-called soft infrastructure bill that emphasized childcare, elder care, education, and so on.
Using government contracting to enact social change is a long-standing practice, and the call for childcare is not new. The report from the President’s Commission on the Status of Women declared: “Child care services are needed in all communities, for children of all kinds of families who may require day care, after-school care, or intermittent care. In putting major emphasis on this need, the Commission affirms that child care facilities are essential for women in many different circumstances, whether they work outside the home or not.”
The kicker of that statement is that the president who convened the Commission on the Status of Women was not Biden. It was John F. Kennedy, and the commission issued its report in 1963, sixty years ago.