Reviews | Trump and Fox News told the ‘big lie’ for profit
The second public hearing, as committee member Rep. Elaine Luria (D-Va.) said Sunday, was aimed at proving that Trump “knew privately that he lost, but he decided to come out in public and to keep saying he won.”
Trump campaign manager Bill Stepien was unable to attend the hearing in person because his wife was in labor. But in a taped interview, Stepien said he explained to Trump, well in advance and in great detail, that on election night there would be a “red mirage”: the in-person voting of the GOP would be counted before the Democratic-leaning vote cast by mail, giving Trump an early and fleeting lead.
This pattern of mirage is well known and “happens all the time,” Chris Stirewalt, then a Fox News political editor, told the committee. He led the Fox analyst team that called Arizona State for Joe Biden before other networks were ready to do so.
In fact, that’s what happened. On election night, Stepien testified, he told the president that his chances of winning were down to “5, maybe, maybe, 10 percent.” But according to testimony the committee released on Monday, an “apparently intoxicated” Rudy Giuliani burst in and urged Trump to press ahead with a preexisting plan to preemptively claim victory.
Rather than defend Stirewalt’s work, Fox repeatedly hosted Giuliani and other Trump cult liars on its airwaves to make what then-Attorney General William P. Barr called allegations. “completely false and idiotic” mass fraud in Arizona and other states. Stirewalt was made redundant in January 2021 as part of an alleged ‘restructuring’.
Barr told committee investigators that after publicly announcing that the Justice Department found no evidence of fraud that could alter the election outcome, Trump accused him of disloyalty during an Oval Office meeting. , saying, “You hate Trump! You hate Trump!
Barr resigned in December 2020. Jeffrey Rosen, who took over as acting attorney general after Barr’s departure, told the committee that he, too, explained to Trump that claims he was making about voter fraud had no factual basis.
One of two things must be true. Trump has completely lost touch with reality. Or he decided to lie in an attempt to cling to power.
The committee has already made strong arguments in favor of this second scenario. Primetime last Thursday, the panel showed how Trump used the “big lie” to draw a large crowd to Washington on Jan. 6 and send those supporters to the Capitol, where Congress and Vice President Mike Pence were to certify Biden’s Electoral College. victory. What followed was the most serious attack on our democracy since the civil war. As the violence on Capitol Hill raged, Fox hosts Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham and Brian Kilmeade all texted Mark Meadows, Trump’s chief of staff, imploring the president to send his supporters home.
Yet for Trump and Fox News, profit triumphed over patriotism.
Trump’s campaign used the “big lie” to raise $250 million after the election, the committee found. Much of the money was supposed to go to an “official election defense fund”, but no such fund existed. Instead, the big beneficiary has been the Save America political action committee that Trump controls. According to committee researchers on January 6, more than $200,000 ended up in the net income of the Trump Hotel Collection.
Who would have guessed that a big prize pool would be at the heart of this whole sordid affair? Anyone who remotely knows Trump’s modus operandi throughout his career, that’s who.
As for Fox, the network at least covered Monday’s hearing — unlike Thursday, when the network not only ignored the committee’s curtain raiser, but also went so far as to eliminate commercial breaks, when viewers would have might have been tempted to change the channel. Every other major cable news and broadcast channel covered Thursday’s session wall-to-wall. The big lie business is so big that it’s apparently worth sacrificing a night of prime-time ad revenue to keep it going.
The House Select Committee may not be able to reach Trumpists who seem to regard being cheated by their leader as a mark of honor. But sensible Americans will see what a bad deal it is for the country.