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.
Thomas Mills is the founder and publisher of PoliticsNC.com. Before beginning PoliticsNC, Thomas spent twenty years as a political and public affairs consultant. Learn more >
“Men and nations can be counted upon to do the right thing, when they’ve exhausted every other option.”
I’d say Carlson, Ingraham, and the others have exhausted their options. It remains to be seen however if they will do the right thing. It might be well received though, since they haven’t tried doing so yet.
The late Dean Smith once said famously that doing the right thing should not be praised. It is the expected norm.
The problem these days, however, is that those in high and low places so seldom do the right thing that doing so now is praiseworthy. I am glad the GOP senators, for once at least, did the right thing, and I am giving them a little praise.
On a somewhat unrelated matter, a subscriber came to my newspaper a couple of years ago to inform me they were not going to renew their subscription because I had written so many anti-Trump editorials. I asked the subscriber if they had seen videos of the January 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.
“No,” she responded.
“You watch Fox News, don’t you?”
“Yes,” came the reply.
We have a problem in this country, a big problem.
Now, this former reader will be left with a whitwashed version of the insurrection because of Tucker Carlson’s piece of garage version of that horrible day.
What do you call someone who aides and abets terrorists, or at the very least refuses to acknowledge their violent activities? You got it – a terrorist. Ergo, the entire republican party.
Tillis has a lot of damn gall calling bullshit on Carlson. I get email from him at least once a week that is at minimum just a decal as anything you’d hear from Fox “News”. I get to hear how a living wage would impoverish CEOs and shareholders, and how the added economic activity spawned by more people with disposable income who would actually spend money in the marketplace would bankrupt small businesses. He spouts the same talking points you’ve come to know from Fox & Friends, on a daily basis. But on this point he and McTurtlehead, and Miz Lindsey can’t hide the fact that Tucker is full of shit, because everybody saw what happened in real time. HOW they saw it might be different— MAGAtts as their “revolution” and everyone else as a riot — but we can all agree that there was nothing remotely peaceful about it.
Tillis’s ethics, such as they are, are totally situational. We all remember the time he tried to sack up and critique Mr. Tangerine Man only to make a bootlegger’s turnaround a week later after the tweet he had to know would follow was unleashed. And he never again said anything critical about Fat Donny Two-Times. Same for Graham and McTurtlehead. And Cruz. And Josh “Hawlin’ Ass” Hawley. There is no limit to their shamelessness if the payoff is sufficient, and three seats on SCOTUS and a 2trillion dollar tax dodge for their patrons was more than enough for them to fling themselves prostrate before the Orange Menace. They have no shame snd no spine, which is exactly what the robber barons want in their employees.
Any rational person who witnessed those traitorous thugs in action could not in good conscious agree with Carlson’s characterization of the event. It would be difficult not to have witnessed some portion of the riot as it filled the airwaves on almost every news channel in the US and several foreign countries. In my lifetime, I have never witnessed an attempt to overthrow by force and violence the constituted government of this country. Things like this simply do not happen in a country like the United States. But they did, with the blessings and encouragement of a want a be, over weight bleach blond with five lbs. of makeup.
Carlson, one of the Fox entertainers whose statements appear to have formed the bases of the Dominion Case out did himself by implying the conduct of those thugs on 1/6, could be characterized as peaceful tourists visiting the nations capital. Nine hundred and fifty have been charged with various Federal crimes, with some facing the accusation of seditious conspiracy. A crime that falls within with spirit of treason toward this country. One hundred and ninety-two of these losers have been sentenced to serve time behind bars and four hundred eighty-four have pleaded guilty to lesser and included criminal behavior. Seven persons died as the result of this cowardice conduct, including three members of law enforcement. It is inexcusable and humiliating that a country which advocates for peace should it’s self be the poster boy for violence.