Fox News ran no ads during the two hours of the first hearing on the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection held last night by the House select committee, as the network's hosts spent the time defending former President Trump and minimizing the violence by refusing to show footage of Capitol police being savagely beaten, or to provide the audio of incredibly damaging witness testimony.
Philip Bump, national correspondent for The Washington Post, summed it up this way: “In a break from simply not informing its audience about the riot and the effort by Trump to block Biden’s election, the network decided instead to actively promote an obviously wrong alternate assessment of what happened at the Capitol that day. It hyped doubt about the election results, promoted debunked conspiracy theories and ironically cast the committee’s work as lies and propaganda. Fox News didn’t ignore the hearing, as expected. Its audience would have been better served if it had.”
“As viewers on the other networks saw powerful footage from allies of former President Donald J. Trump saying that they did not agree with his claims of being cheated of victory — including his daughter, Ivanka, and the former attorney general, William P. Barr — the audience on Fox wouldn’t have known any of that was taking place,” reports The New York Times’ Jeremy W. Peters. “While Fox News showed a feed of the hearing room with no sound, it cut away during that testimony.”
For much of Tucker Carlson’s show -- starting at 8 pm, coinciding with the hearing’s kickoff time -- “the hearing was shown on-screen as Carlson and his guests spoke over it,” Bump likewise reported. “Often, the view was not of the committee members, witnesses or the video display at the front of the hearing room. Instead it was often a shot of the audience.”
The oh-so-deliberate, cynical strategy to distort the reality that the American public needs to understand was made even clearer after the hearing, when an NBC News producer synced footage of Carlson’s show with what was being presented in the hearing room. “During footage showing rioters breaking into the Capitol, Fox switched to the camera showing the audience. When the hearing showed information that didn’t need sound, Fox more than once cut away from it,” Bump pointed out.
Why were no commercials run during either Tucker Carlson’s show or during Sean Hannity’s hour that began at 9 pm? (Also see Joe Mandese's commentary on the evidence presented during the hearing about Hannity's role in helping Trump's team with media strategy.)
“Well, one reason [for no ads] would be to keep people glued to Fox News — and therefore not changing the channel to a network that was showing the hearing,” wrote Bump.
Not having commercials also allowed for cramming in more guests, carefully selected to spout thoroughly discredited right-wing conspiracy theories.
Did it occur to Fox parent News Corp that despite their willingness to continue funding this outlet with their advertising dollars, some companies might draw the line at seeing their products touted during this particularly egregious and stomach-turning example of anti-democratic (note the small "d," please) propaganda?
I’m sure we’ll never know. But whether or not this was part of the no-ads decision, looks to me like Fox News may have enabled its loyal advertisers to dodge the worst of a potentially devastating blow to their corporate and brand reputations, temporarily.
However, that won't be true in the months and years to come, when this broadcast is replayed to demonstrate how media can be misused to help create, then aid and abet, would-be tyrants.