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Media Matters: On MSNBC’s All In, Angelo Carusone explains that Fox News’ effort to delegitimize Trump’s impeachment is why the network was built Carusone: This is “the reason why Fox News was built”
ALI VELSHI (GUEST HOST): It's becoming increasingly clear as the impeachment inquiry continues that Fox News is playing a major role in the president's defense. As Greg Sargent lays out in The Washington Post, quote, “Rank and file Republicans who watch Fox News are far more loyal to Trump than those who do not."
A recent poll from the Public Religion Research Institute finds that of Republicans who cite Fox News as their primary news source, a whopping 98% oppose impeaching and removing Trump, compared to just 90% of non-Fox citing Republicans. And 55% of primarily Fox-watching Republicans say there's almost nothing the president could do lose approval, while only 29% of non-Fox citing Republicans feel the same way.
Joining me now is someone who watches all of this very closely, Angelo Carusone is the president and CEO of Media Matters. Angelo, it's not “going on in secret," I just -- I think we have to correct that every time it happens.
ANGELO CARUSONE: That's right.
VELSHI: It's a closed door hearing, exactly the same kind that the Republicans had on Benghazi.
VELSHI: With Republicans in the room alongside Democrats.
CARUSONE: That's right, thank you for doing that.
VELSHI: There's no secret about this.
CARUSONE: It's not secret at all.
VELSHI: However, Fox should be able to clarify that as well, but you heard the Fox anchors saying that to the president's press secretary. So --
CARUSON: That's right.
VELSHI: They are reinforcing the stuff that the White House is putting out there.
CARUSONE: Absolutely, and they're also creating the larger conditions, and I think some of that was referenced in that piece, where 50% say there's nothing he can do -- if you take that one step deeper, what they're really saying is that the ends justify the means. Right?
So, you make the process illegitimate, so that no matter what happens there can't really be any consequences for it. And it's important to keep in mind that this is the -- actually the reason why Fox News was built. I mean, when Roger Ailes was beginning it, the whole idea was that it would prevent what happened to Richard Nixon from ever happening again to a Republican president.
VELSHI: So, what Geraldo said to Sean Hannity is actually kind of true?
CARUSONE: That's exactly right, and their -- it's in plain sight, because it's not actually a secret for Fox News. This was actually their mission statement or founding document, the way that any organization would start from sort of a core principle or a core critique, this was actually the product. Right after the Nixon -- Nixon resigned from the threats of impeachment, Roger Ailes put together the original memo that later became Fox News.
Media Matters Research: This is why Fox News existsNixon didn’t have Fox. Trump does. And that may make all the difference.
Forty-five years ago, President Richard Nixon resigned. His impeachment at the time seemed almost certain, as key Republican senators had signaled they would no longer support him. But Nixon’s acolytes did not blame their president for his gross corruption and mind-boggling criminality. Instead, they blamed the press -- the “enemy,” as Nixon had described it -- for hounding him out of office.
Over two decades later, Roger Ailes, one of those Nixon retainers, founded Fox News. As the network has gained power and influence, it has played many roles -- an attack dog that savages progressive policies and individuals, a counterweight to a media that conservatives consider unbearably liberal, a radicalization engine that brings a bigoted ideology from the fringes into the homes of millions of Americans, and a propaganda machine that champions conservative politicians.
Over the past week, we’ve seen another one of Fox’s roles. As it has become clear that President Donald Trump used the office of the presidency to suborn a foreign government to investigate one of his political opponents -- triggering a formal impeachment inquiry -- Fox has been serving as a bulwark against the repetition of Nixon’s fall.
The network -- “news” and “opinion” sides alike -- is relentlessly lying to its viewers. Its personalities have: offered a response to the release of a memorandum chronicling Trump’s demands that was indistinguishable from the White House’s talking points, mocked Democrats for focusing on the story, claimed that they are exaggerating in a rush to impeachment, suggested that Trump was “duty-bound” to ask the Ukrainian president to investigate his political opponent, and sought to redirect attention to the purported corruption of Democrats. They’ve sought to smear the whistleblower -- whose complaint brought the scandal to light -- as a “partisan hack” who has endangered the country with his “snitching” and is part of a “coup.”
On the rare occasions when Fox employees attempt to tell their audience the truth, they have been publicly condemned by the president’s followers at the network.
Fox’s propaganda has not gone unnoticed at the White House -- Trump has frequently incorporated the network’s commentary into his response to the burgeoning crisis. The president sent 51 tweets or retweets lifting up Fox’s programming or the comments of its employees about the story between its emergence last week and 9 a.m. EST Thursday morning.
The network’s effort to create a fantasy world for its viewers has serious implications. “If Fox chooses to lie to its audience about what’s happening that makes it challenging for GOP members to respond to reality rather than to Foxality,” Vox.com’s Matt Yglesias noted. “And if most Republicans embrace a complete false version of events, most non-Fox television news will embrace a ‘partisans arguing’ frame that naturally dulls the impact on non-Fox viewers who just generally disagree with Democrats about stuff.”
Indeed, Fox’s disinformation campaign has effectively mobilized its audience against impeachment. As The Washington Post’s Greg Sargent noted in a post on the results of a poll from the Public Religion Research Institute, “98 percent of Fox-citing Republicans oppose impeaching and removing Trump -- opposition that’s ‘essentially unanimous,’ as PRRI puts it. By contrast, 90 percent of non-Fox-citing Republicans oppose impeaching and removing him -- which is overwhelmingly high, but suggests that among this group, at least, Trump could suffer losses on the margins as the inquiry turns up worse revelations.” Sargent concluded that the study shows Fox is “having a real impact, and could even help Trump survive.”
Richard Nixon didn’t have Fox. Donald Trump does. And that may make all the difference. That’s no coincidence -- it’s what the network was created to do.
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