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A report looking into Fox News’s role in spreading misinformation about the 2020 presidential election has concluded that the right-wing news channel ‘built the lie’ that resulted in pro-Trump rioters storming the Capitol last week.
Analysis conducted by Media Matters, a non-profit right-wing media watchdog, found that in the two weeks after the election was called for President-elect Joe Biden Fox News presenters and guests cast doubt on the election 774 times, despite the network having themselves officially project Biden as the winner on November 7.
In the report, the watchdog accuses Fox News of ‘fuelling the lie’ that eventually led to thousands of pro-Trump rioters attacking the Capitol in an attempt to prevent Congress from certifying the election results on January 6. The reports goes on to claim that ‘[the] network’s most prominent figures relentlessly attempted to subvert democracy by fueling conspiracy theories and spreading misinformation, rhetoric for which the network has refused to hold them accountable.’
In the two months between the election and the riot, Fox News anchors like Laura Ingraham and Sean Hannity devoted hours of air time to promoting the ‘stop the steal’ campaign, pushing baseless accusations of voter fraud and repeating the lie that it would be possible for Pence and other Republicans to overturn the results of the election.
Meanwhile, analysis by NPR found that in the days leading up to the attack some of the network’s presenters even alluded to January 6 as a time for Trump’s supporters to ‘fight’. On January 3, host Mark Levin told viewers that ‘if we don’t fight on 6 January on the floor of the Senate and the House… then we are done,’ while on the same day Jeanine Pirro compared those trying to overturn the election results to soldiers fighting in the revolutionary war.
While most Fox News hosts have since condemned the violence, some have also attempted to rationalise the mob’s actions. Immediately following the riots, Hannity repeated his claims of voter fraud to viewers, adding that ‘this is something that has been building and building for a long period of time.’
It’s not clear what, if any consequences Fox News and its hosts will face for their role in spreading the lies and conspiracy theories which led to the attack on the Capitol that left five people dead, but Media Matters’ report makes clear that they believe the network ‘shouldn’t escape culpability for its role in the ‘stolen election’ lie that inflamed the violent mob.’
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