On Monday night, Tucker Carlson aired a distorted view of the Capitol Riot, calling it a mostly peaceful demonstration. Carlson, of course, was gaslighting his audience, convincing conservatives that what they saw happen that day didn’t really happen. After years of programing, they’ll take Carlson’s word over their own experiences. It’s pathetic and disturbing at the same time. 

Republican Senators who were in the Capitol that day quickly rebuked Carlson’s account. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell told reporters, unprompted, that he stood with Capitol Police who bashed Carlson’s depiction of the events. Our Senator, Thom Tillis, called the segment “Bullshit.” Mitt Romney called the episode “off the rails.” Even Lindsey Graham accused Carlson of “whitewashing” the riot. 

I would like to praise them for standing up for the truth, but I can’t. They aren’t doing anything courageous. They’re just stating the obvious. None of them will rebuke Donald Trump, the man who incited the riot. And most of the Fox News audience will ever hear about their rebukes. They’re shielded from reality, getting their information from news outlets that lie to them and rejecting anything that conflicts with their victimized worldview. 

What McConnell, Tillis, et al, did yesterday was better than lying, but that’s not saying much, is it? They aren’t going to tell Americans the truth. If Trump becomes the GOP nominee, all of them except Romney will fall in line. They will defend Trump against allegations that he’s lying even when he’s saying the exact same thing as Tucker Carlson. And they will know he’s lying and tried to overthrow an elected government.

That’s the sad state of the Republican Party today. It’s news when U.S. Senators reject outright lies by admitted liars. Somehow, we’re supposed to think they’ve done something noble simply by acknowledging the truth. It’s also a testament to the power of Fox News over its viewers. The network knows they will follow Carlson’s lead, in part, because most will never hear about the rebukes and, in part, because those who do will side with the network carny over sitting U.S. Senators. 

On one hand, the GOP elected officials are trying to push back against lies. On the other, they are loath to expose the source of those lies. The GOP has dug itself into a hole and they won’t do the work to get themselves out. 

They’ve used Fox News to spread their worldview and they’ve ignored or defended the lies for the past 25 years. Now, Fox News is no longer trying to support and promote Republican politicians and ideas. The network is captive to the audience they’ve built, deceived, and misled and they’re trying not to lose them. For millions of Americans, Donald Trump is the Great Oz, Fox News is the man behind the curtain, and Dominion Voting Systems just pulled back the curtain. 

The Dominion lawsuit has exposed that even the so-called “news side” of Fox News is captured by its audience. Anchor Brett Baier knew the fraud allegations were bogus but warned that saying so would alienate the audience. In other words, Fox News worried about more about offending its viewers than telling the truth, so they decided not to. 

The Republican Senators who denounced Tucker Carlson and Fox News without denouncing Donald Trump really haven’t done much. They’re trying to separate the inseparable. Fox News and Donald Trump have a symbiotic relationship linked by a common fan base. Fox News amplified the rantings of a conman to a willing audience and discredited reputable news sources who criticized the former president. The GOP establishment sat silent. 

The Senators now want to distance themselves from Fox News as the network doubles down on the bullshit. The 2022 election showed them that a majority of American voters don’t believe the narrative, but the GOP Senators don’t want to alienate the audience that still does and is still enthralled with Donald Trump. While it might be loosening, Trump’s grip on the Republican Party is still solid. If the voters he inspired sit out 2024, the GOP has a hard time winning a majority. If Fox, Carlson, and Baier admits to their viewers that they lied, the audience wouldn’t believe them and would turn the channel. And that’s the dilemma. The truth would sink both GOP’s propaganda arm and the party’s chances in 2024. 


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