Questions continue to be raised over Fox News executives allowing on-air personalities to continue to spout conspiracy rumors about the 2020 presidential election results while at the same time they were privately texting and emailing each other, acknowledging that they were helping to spread lies.
With the conservative network now looking like it will be on the losing end of a massive $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit filed by Dominion Voting Systems, conservative columnist David French suggested Fox employees threw away what little credibility they had for more than just higher ratings and power.
In his column for the New York Times, he wrote that the pathology of amplifying lies indicates a deeper problem for the network as they deal with the lawsuit and the blowback since the private texts and emails became public in a legal briefing.
"There is now compelling evidence that America’s most-watched cable news network presented information it knew to be false as part of an effort to placate an angry audience. It knowingly sacrificed its integrity to maintain its market share," he wrote before asking, "Why?"
Writing that the answer to that question "goes deeper" than "universal human temptations," he added that Fox increasingly panders to its audience -- journalistic ethics be damned.
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"To understand the Fox News phenomenon, one has to understand the place it occupies in Red America. It’s no mere source of news. It’s the place where Red America goes to feel seen and heard. If there’s an important good news story in Red America, the first call is to Fox. If conservative Christians face a threat to their civil liberties, the first call is to Fox. If you’re a conservative celebrity and you need to sell a book, the first call is to Fox," he suggested before adding, "And Fox takes those calls."
He continued, "Fox isn’t just the news hub of right-wing America, it’s a cultural cornerstone, and its business model is so successful that it’s more accurate to think of the rest of the right-wing media universe not as a collection of competitors to Fox, but rather as imitators."
Explaining that "Representation can have its place," in the media marketplace, he suggested Fox News and its highly influential evening hosts have gone off the rails.
"There is a difference between coming from a community and speaking for a community," he lectured. "In journalism, the former can be valuable, but the latter can be corrupt. It can result in audience capture (writing to please your audience, not challenge it) and in fear and timidity in reporting facts that contradict popular narratives. And in extreme instances — such as what we witnessed from Fox News after the 2020 presidential election — it can result in almost cartoonish villainy."
He then added, "There are courageous reporters at Fox. We learned some of their names in the Dominion filing. They were the people who had the courage to tell the truth. But then there are the leaders, and the prime-time stars. Tough? Courageous? Hardly."
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