Former president Donald Trump was impeached for an unprecedented second time for inciting the Jan. 6 insurrection with his election lies, but none of that could have happened without Fox News.
The ex-president started stoking the violence to come hours after polls closed Nov. 3, when he complained that any early leads that evaporated as more votes were counted could only be explained by fraud -- and both Trump and his allies pushed that false narrative on Fox News and later in losing court battles, reported the Washington Post.
"Trump could have come out that night and offered a cautious wait-and-see to the results, but he chose not to," wrote Post columnist Philip Bump. "Two months and three days later, his supporters, animated by that decision, stormed the Capitol and sought to confront legislators or Vice President Mike Pence."
But Fox News shares much of the blame for that violent assault by repeatedly promoting the "Stop the Steal" rally that preceded the Capitol breach, and by inviting guests on to repeatedly push Trump's lies about his election loss and even coordinating with them to push the dishonest claims.
"NPR obtained a memo delineating an appearance by Republican Party chairwoman Ronna McDaniel on Sean Hannity's Fox News show, including how the pair would discuss the fraud claims that McDaniel and the GOP were elevating on Trump's behalf," Bump wrote. "Fox aired anonymous claims about explicit voter fraud, claims that were never substantiated in any credible way. Host Tucker Carlson raised claims about dead people voting — only to have to backtrack when a local news station spoke with several of the 'dead' voters. Host Maria Bartiromo offered extensive airtime for Trump to spread dishonest claims, offering only nods of her head in response."
Trump got impeached and Fox News has been sued by Dominion Voting Systems over the election lies it broadcast.
"Fox — and in particular Fox Business host Lou Dobbs — earned their place among Dominion's targets," Bump wrote. "On Nov. 21, Dobbs claimed that what had occurred a few weeks prior was 'a cyberattack on our election, those voting machines and software,' an obviously indefensible claim. It was also one of his last; the network axed him in early February."
Before he was shown the door, Dobbs was among the Fox News and Fox Business personalities who urged viewers to descend on the Capitol to pressure lawmakers not to certify Joe Biden's electoral win right up until the night before the insurrection.
"Trump planted the seed, but a lot of people had or developed a vested interest in its germination," Bump wrote. "It would have been far simpler to tell the truth about the election, even if it was not easier to do so and even if the payoff would have been far smaller. But for varying reasons, a lot of folks — Trump, Republicans, Fox News, others on the right — invested heavily in the idea that some wrong had occurred that demanded a correction. Jan. 6 was the result."