One of the most powerful tools when it comes to counter-intuitive thinking is challenging assumptions. This skill is particularly valuable when trying to explain the unexplainable. Case in point, Tucker Carlson’s use of cherry-picked Capitol security footage to claim January 6, 2021, was nothing more than a peaceful sightseeing tour.
Why would anyone, even Fox News, make such a claim? Based on filings in the Dominion Voting Machine defamation case against Fox News, we know the network aired statements about the 2020 presidential election they knew to be false. They feared their viewers would migrate to even more far-right programming on NewsMax and OAN. Chairman Rupert Murdoch justified this behavior in his deposition. “This is not red or blue, it’s green.” From a solely business perspective, Fox News executives made a logical but unethical choice. Give the audience what they want instead of the truth.
In the midst of these revelations, Tucker Carlson appears to have doubled down. The Fox News host made a Faustian deal with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy to relitigate the January 6th insurrection using scenes of the the rare moments of calm as police escorted Trump’s foot soldiers out of the Capitol following the violent attack on the Nation’s recognizable symbol of democracy. Towards what end? Once again giving Fox News‘ MAGA audience exactly what they craved and building support for the disgraced, twice impeached ex-president?
Maybe, just maybe, there is another explanation for showing the selectively edited video. On January 4, 2021, Carlson sent a text to network executives. “We are very, very close to being able to ignore Trump most nights. I truly can’t wait.” He punctuated his desire to move on by adding, “I hate him passionately…What he’s good at is destroying things. He’s the undisputed world champion of that. He could easily destroy us if we play it wrong.”
Why then would Carlson continue to espouse these “alternative facts?” Consider this counter-intuitive possibility. First, the post-1/6/2021 Trump rehabilitation project, led by McCarthy, Jim Jordan, Matt Gaetz and Marjorie Taylor Greene is exactly what Carlson did not want. Just the opposite. He wanted Trump off the airwaves. Carlson knew he could not directly deliver that message for fear of losing 3.5 million views (nightly average). Was this not the reason Fox News created the “nothing to see here” storyline in the first place? Carlson needed a solution not unlike that proposed by Otter (Tim Matheson) in Animal House. “I think this situation absolutely requires a really futile and stupid gesture be done on somebody’s part.”
The “futile and stupid gesture” was airing a few clips of the rioters leaving the Capitol after they had lost the battle and then claiming it was the order of the day. It had the exact impact Carlson hoped it would.
The broadcast generated rebukes from several GOP members of Congress, many who rarely if ever publicly criticized Trump. Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell sided with the Capitol police chief. In a half-hearted rebuke sans calling out Trump, McCarthy or Carlson by name, McConnell stated, “It was a mistake, in my view, for Fox News to depict this in a way that’s completely at variance with what our chief law enforcement official here at the Capitol thinks.”
NC Senator Tom Tillis called the January 6 whitewash “bullshit.” SD Senator Mike Round said, “I was there. I witnessed it. It was violent.” Texas Congressman Dan Crenshaw said, “If the message is then to try and convince people that nothing bad happened, then it’s just gonna make us look silly.”
Not to be outdone in what Bulwark editor-in-chief Charlie Sykes described as a “profile in half-courage,” former vice-president Mike Pence chose Saturday night’s media-free, unrecorded Gridiron Dinner to tell attendees what he really thought about January 6th.
President Trump was wrong. I had no right to overturn the election and his reckless words endangered my family and everyone at the Capitol that day, and I know that history will hold Donald Trump accountable.
Mission accomplished. Without saying it himself, Carlson goaded several former Trump supporters to publicly declare the Mar-a-Lago Sultan of Shamelessness unfit to occupy the Oval Office ever again. Whether this ploy brings Carlson and Fox News any closer to “being able to ignore Trump most nights” is yet to be determined.
Of course, whether this ruse was intentional and premeditated assumes Carlson is both smart and sly as a fox. Another assumption that definitely needs to be challenged.
For what it’s worth.
2 thoughts on “The Fox in the Fox House”
Love this and the last paragraph is my favorite!
Thank you for your insight Dr. Esp!
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