Days after court filings revealed Fox News personalities and executives privately rejecting bogus claims surrounding the 2020 presidential election, one of the network’s most-watched stars cast about its legitimacy and appeared to defend hundreds of rioters who breached the halls of Congress.
“The protesters were angry. They believed that the election they had just voted in had been unfairly conducted. And they were right. In retrospect, it is clear that the 2020 election was a grave betrayal of American democracy,” he stated. “No honest person can deny it.”
He added: “The real crime, they will tell you again and again, is not what happened on Election Day 2020. The real crime is what happened two months later, on January 6.”
But according to court documents, Carlson and other top Fox News personalities, producers and executives privately rejected Donald Trump’s baseless narrative that the election was stolen from him, including bogus claims about a voting machine company suing the network for defamation, while Carlson and others broadly gesture at unfounded conspiracy theories that fuelled the attack.
Dominion Voting Systems alleges that Fox News personalities repeatedly amplified election fraud claims despite knowing they were false.
Although he has made similar claims on air, court filings show that Carlson appeared to reject debunked claims about the company and allegations of vote manipulation, while at the same time fearing drops in Fox stock prices and viewership if network hosts and reporters publicly admitted that there is no evidence to support false election claims.
Messages obtained by the company show that Carlson called Mr Trump “a demonic force, a destroyer” and asked his administration to “disavow” far-right attorney Sidney Powell, who promoted false claims about the company in a spurious legal bid to overturn election results.
On 16 November, 2020, according to court filings, Carlson told a producer that “Sidney Powell is lying. F****ing b****.”
Two days later, Carlson told Fox personality Laura Ingraham that “Sidney Powell is lying by the way. caught her. It’s insane.”
“Sidney is a complete nut,” Ingraham said. “No one will work with her. Ditto with [former Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani].”
“It’s unbelievably offensive to me,” Carlson replied. “Our viewers are good people and they believe it.”
But days later, Carlson ended his broadcast by saying that “maybe Sidney Powell will come forward soon with details on exactly how this happened, and precisely who did it. We are certainly hopeful that she will.”
In a sworn deposition from Rupert Murdoch, the Fox Corporation chair conceded that several top personalities at the network “endorsed” bogus claims that the election was stolen, claims that continue to animate and fuel Mr Trump and his allies as he mounts a 2024 campaign.
“I would have liked us to be stronger in denouncing it in hindsight,” Mr Murdoch said, according to court documents.
Democratic leaders in Congress demanded that network hosts “admit on the air that they were wrong to engage in such negligent behavior” by providing a platform for a baseless narrative that the election was compromised.
“As evidenced by the January 6 insurrection, spreading this false propaganda could not only embolden supporters of the Big Lie to engage in further acts of political violence, but also deeply and broadly weakens faith in our democracy and hurts our country in countless other ways,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and House minority leader Hakeem Jeffries wrote on 1 March.
The Independent has requested comment from Fox News.
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