As House impeachment managers laid out their case that Donald Trump's "big lie" about election fraud incited the January 6th insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, The New York Times published a new report on the role talk radio played in pushing the conspiracy theory.
"Talk radio is perhaps the most influential and under-chronicled part of right-wing media, where the voices of [Glenn] Beck, Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh and other star hosts waft through the homes, workplaces and commutes of tens of millions of listeners. Before the riot, the shows were often unrestrained forums for claims of rigged voting machines and a liberal conspiracy to steal the presidency for Joseph R. Biden Jr." the newspaper reported.
"Mr. Limbaugh led the rise of right-wing talk in the late 1980s, after deregulation of the radio industry paved the way for a harder-edged shows. In recent years, even as its audience aged and podcasts ate into its market share, radio received a jolt from President Trump, a fan of the genre who catapulted its grievances into policy. Last year, Mr. Trump awarded Mr. Limbaugh the nation's highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom," the newspaper reported. "Leading radio anchors did not explicitly urge an assault on the Capitol, and Mr. Trump often spoke more brazenly than his media counterparts, including in a speech to his supporters in Washington just before the riot. But it was no accident that regular listeners to Mr. Limbaugh and others believed that a grave misdeed had occurred in the 2020 vote count."
The newspaper explained the methodology of the report.
"Unlike cable TV, talk radio is difficult to monitor — broadcasts often vanish into the ether and transcripts are scarce. A system maintained by researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, which monitors radio broadcasts, transcribed what was said on leading conservative programs between Nov. 22 and Jan. 5," the newspaper explained. "A New York Times analysis of those transcripts found that, on 'The Sean Hannity Show,' which is carried by more than 600 stations, the election was referred to as fraudulent, rigged, stolen or illegal in 35 out of the 45 episodes transcribed by M.I.T. in that period, including comments from guests and callers. The election was referred to as fraudulent, rigged, stolen or illegal in 32 of 45 episodes of Mr. Limbaugh's program transcribed in that same time span."
Read the full report.