Everything from BS to Hate
To absolutely no one’s surprise, Tucker Carlson took the footage from January 6 that Speaker Kevin McCarthy gave to him and, at least so far, exclusively to him, and used it to craft an alternative narrative about the peaceful protest that happened that day. That’s the polite way of saying: it was a pack of lies. The QAnon Shaman, Carlson would have you believe, was patiently escorted through the halls of the Capitol by obliging Capitol Police officers.
And on and on.
Today, in response to Carlson’s patent abuse of the video footage, Republican senators decided this was a bridge too far and they needed to get just over the edge of it and on to the right side of history. Mitch McConnell likely gave them all his blessing; the comments came in a pack Tuesday morning, perhaps prompted by a letter from Chief Tom Manger of the Capitol Police, who called Carlson’s coverage “cherry-picked,” “offensive,” and “misleading.” In an internal memo for his officers, he wrote:
McConnell, as legislators like to say, associated himself with the Chief’s comments. North Carolina Senator Thom Tillis went a little bit further, calling Carlson’s show “bullshit.” South Dakota’s Mike Rounds was a bit more eloquent, saying, “I thought it was an insurrection at that time. I still think it was an insurrection today.” Louder, please.
More from Senator McConnell: “The chief of the Capitol Police correctly describes what most of us witnessed firsthand on January 6 … it was a mistake, in my view, for Fox News to depict this in a way that’s completely at variance with what our chief law enforcement official here at the Capitol thinks.” Not quite as fiery as McConnell’s outrage following January 6 when he condemned Trump (while refusing to vote to impeach him), but at least a small spark. Whether it will be loud enough and sustained enough to break through to the Republican base, or whether it was purely performative, remains to be seen.
Not all of the congressional Republicans joined the condemnation. After all, they have the same problem Fox News faced following the election, the one we’re learning more about today in the Dominion Voting Systems defamation case. Fox was worried about losing market share and revenue if they told their viewers the truth about Trump and his Big Lie. With elected officials, that translates into an ongoing fear of losing voters and elections. So, while McConnell and his colleagues went to the microphone to condemn Carlson for MSNBC and CNN, McCarthy didn’t join in.
It’s disgusting that McCarthy gave Carlson the exclusive opportunity to rewrite history, given the way Carlson has spent his time on air, stretching the truth to fit Trump. And now we know for certain that Carlson knew his emperor had no clothes, no matter what he told his viewers.
“We are very, very close to being able to ignore Trump most nights.” “I hate him passionately.”
I wrote about the summary judgment motion filed by Dominion Voting in their defamation case against Fox News in The Week Ahead on February 19. If you want a little refresher, you’ll find that edition of the newsletter here. On Tuesday, we saw more of the evidence Dominion has against Fox, in a release of evidence in support of its request for summary judgment. It’s pretty compelling.
To get summary judgment in a defamation case, a plaintiff that is a public figure—the court in Delaware has decided Dominion is—has to prove the defendant acted with “actual malice.” That means that the false statements were made about it by someone who either knew they were false or who recklessly disregarded their truth. While the burden of proof in a civil case is normally the preponderance of evidence, which means proving something is more likely than not true, when it comes to proving actual malice, plaintiffs must prove it with clear and convincing evidence. That means evidence that is strong enough to leave jurors with a firm conviction that it’s true or highly probable. When you take those two together, you can see why it’s hard for a plaintiff to prevail in a libel case.
Here, though, the evidence seems to be getting stronger by the moment, perhaps ultimately so strong that the court will grant summary judgment and we will be deprived of the trial, which I’m truly looking forward to. Even if Dominion got summary judgment, there would still be proceedings to assess the amount of damages they should receive, but a full trial would be so much more illuminating.
Whether it will ever reach the point where it’s illuminating for Fox News viewers is an entirely different question. This is a trial about the defamation of Dominion, not about lying to viewers, but you’d think it might be important for Fox viewers to know, and a traditional remedy for defamation is having a defendant recant in the some forum where the lies were told.
We’ll likely be learning more about the contents of the absolutely voluminous (and in some places heavily redacted) evidence that was released today in the Dominion case for quite a few days. It’s that much of a deluge. But we know enough to know that trusting Fox with the task of transparency about January 6 is a fool’s errand. Whether this was a political stunt, a nod of thanks to Carlson from the Speaker, part of a pre-emptive legal strategy in advance of the Dominion trial (it’s hard to believe this could have happened without the lawyers signing off on it), or something else is still unclear. But a deeply troubling picture of what happened at Fox has crystallized. The next question will be what, if anything, is going to be done about it.
We’re in this together,
When I listen to McCarthy, I think of the term sniveling. What a horrid little man.
PERFORMATIVE. End of discussion. Everything the GQP members do is just that. They do not have the integrity or intellect to do otherwise. A perfect example is MTG saying the Shaman should get a new trial. I am not able to go along with the idea that McConnell's statement was an example of proper behavior. Too little and way too late. He is trying to save his skin. Nothing else. I think what Carlson has done and will do with the recordings will drive everyone but MAGA to the Democratic party. Carlson may be saving the Union.