In early January 2021, Fox News hosts and executives were ready to walk away from then-President Donald Trump and his insistence that the election was stolen.
“It’s been 8 weeks and none of them have produced anything tangible or verifiable. and now he wants thousands of his supporters to go to DC without shelter or food to protest,” host Lou Dobbs texted a producer on his show on 3 January. “I believe the election was stolen — but without evidence we can’t do anything significant.”
“We are very, very close to being able to ignore Trump most nights,” Tucker Carlson wrote in a Jan. 4 text to an unidentified person. “I really can’t wait.”
“I hate him with a passion,” she continued. “I can’t take much more than this.”
The revealing private messages were unsealed Tuesday night, part of a massive trove of evidence in Dominion’s $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit against Fox News and Fox Corp. They present a remarkably honest picture of how key players at Fox News viewed the stolen election lie that prompted a mob to storm the US Capitol on January 6, 2021.
Fox News claimed that the manufacturer of the voting systems falsified the data.
“Dominion has again been caught red-handed using more distortions and misinformation in its public relations campaign to smear FOX News and trample on free speech and freedom of the press,” a Fox News spokesperson said in a statement.
Dominion said the documents released speak for themselves.
Trump and his lawyers “have so discredited their own case, and the rest of us to some extent, that it’s infuriating,” Carlson continued in his tweets. “It absolutely infuriates me.”
The next day, January 5, the Chairman of Fox Corp. Rupert Murdoch sent an email on his iPhone: Maybe our top talent should take a seat.
“It has been suggested that the three of us in primetime should independently or together say something like ‘the election is over and Joe Biden won.’ We are all disappointed by this. We love America and we must turn the page. Now we will be the loyal opposition that will criticize every liberal mistake the new administration makes,” Murdoch wrote to Fox News CEO Susan Scott.
“Not the words, but a refinement would go a long way to stopping the Trump myth that the election was stolen,” he added. “And the basis of his 2024 campaign.”
Scott forwarded the email to Meade Cooper, the executive vice president of prime-time programming.
“I told Rupert that privately they’re all there — we have to be careful about using the shows and pissing off viewers, but they know how to navigate.”
Trump’s problems are multiplying. His businesses are now ruined! Who will throw a party at one of their golf clubs or hotel?
Rupert Murdoch in an email on January 12, 2021
But the top talent at Fox News never took a stand.
Instead, the primetime hosts talked about the Stop the Steal rally that took place in Washington on January 6th.
On the evening of January 5th, host Sean Hannity put Eric Trump on the air, who ran through a laundry list The exaggerated or debunked allegations of fraud he proposed cost his father the election.
“Democracy, its future, our future, hangs in the balance,” Dobbs said Jan. 5, citing Judicial Watch’s Tom Fitton, who argued that the outcome of the election could be changed by state legislatures. states and Congress in January. 6.
And the next morning, a mob of Trump supporters stormed the Capitol in an attempt to block the certification of the 2020 election results. Rioters smashed windows and doors, ransacked and ransacked offices and engaged in violent clashes for hours. About 140 police officers were attacked that day and two pipe bombs were also planted nearby but were not detonated.
The private texts and emails included in Dominion’s evidence offer a remarkable snapshot of the frustration and displeasure at Fox News in the hours and days after the attack — messages that were very different from what they were putting out on the air.
“It doesn’t say what’s really going on. It just beats around the bush,” Carlson producer Alex Pfeiffer complained in a text message exchange with Carlson senior executive producer Justin Wells and an unnamed person who analyzes Carlson’s show. on January 6. “Why do people think it was stolen? It wasn’t done flawlessly. Trump told them that’s what happened.”
Within the Fox companies, the shift has been urgent, sometimes frenzied.
“Fox News is too busy pivoting. … We want to make Trump a non-person,” Murdoch wrote in a Jan. 8 email.
Fox News “is spinning as fast as it can. We have to lead our viewers, which is not as easy as it looks,” he wrote in other days later.
The day after Biden’s inauguration, Murdoch was facing heat from Republican senators.
That morning, he met with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and other GOP senators opposed to Trump’s impeachment.
“They’re still throwing mud at us!” Murdoch wrote. “Maybe Sean and Laura went too far,” he continued, referring to Hannity and Laura Ingraham.
He asked Scott if “it is undisputed that Fox’s high-profile voices have fueled the story that the election was stolen and that January 6th is a significant opportunity to overturn the result.”
Scott noted the request to a group of executives, noting “please send details.”
Six hours later, Irena Briganti, the Fox News communications executive, responded with more than 15 pages of transcript examples.
In a Jan. 12 email exchange with former House Speaker Paul Ryan, Murdoch said “everything changed” the day of the uprising.
“Trump’s problems are multiplying. His businesses are now ruined! Who’s going to party at one of his golf clubs or hotels?”
He continued: “Could he still resign and ask Pence for a pardon and then disappear? Would Mike Pence agree?”