Fox News is helping Republicans bury the RNC's embrace of insurrection
Supporting the January 6 insurrection is fundamental to the Republican Party. So is never, ever discussing it again.
Last Friday, the Republican National Committee (RNC) took the remarkable step of describing an attack on Congress aimed at overturning the 2020 presidential election as “legitimate political discourse.” It also censured the only two Republican lawmakers who are participating in the congressional investigation of the Trump-inspired coup attempt.
Heading into a midterm cycle where Republicans hope to retake control of one or both chambers of Congress, these moves make clear where party leadership stands: They aren’t especially bothered that the president publicly organized and inspired an attack on Congress, but are upset that a bipartisan committee is trying to get to the bottom of it. And they’re establishing that there’s no place in the party for anyone who disagrees.
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But while embracing the insurrection may be popular among a Republican base that still overwhelmingly supports Trump, opposing the peaceful transition of power when your guy loses probably won’t win the GOP a whole lot of new voters. The New York Times’ report about Friday’s development nods at this reality, and observes that elected Republicans will try to change the subject from January 6 to anything they can use to beat up on the Biden administration. From the piece:
Most House Republicans tried to ignore the actions of the party on Friday, refusing to answer questions or saying they had not read the censure resolution. Representative Dan Crenshaw, Republican of Texas, called it “dumb stuff,” while Representative Mark Green, Republican of Tennessee, lamented the distraction from “this abysmal administration’s record.”
In short, while they might feel compelled to make peace with January 6 and ostracize Republicans like Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger who refuse to do so, Republicans would rather talk about anything else — and they’d especially rather rail against the Democratic president.
Notably, but unsurprisingly, they’re getting a huge assist in this effort from Fox News.
Fox News is treating protests in Canada as a bigger story than one of our two major parties minimizing a coup attempt
If the Democratic National Committee (DNC) passed a resolution defining antifa protests as “legitimate political discourse” and censured Democratic lawmakers who begged to differ, Sean Hannity would undoubtedly anchor special Fox News coverage that would last through the midterms. So the network’s near-complete silence about the RNC’s declaration speaks volumes.
Fox News has barely mentioned the RNC’s validation of January 6 or the censures of Cheney and Kinzinger. According to transcript searches, the censures were briefly brought up by three pre-primetime hosts on Friday, but then not at all during primetime or on Saturday. They came up on Fox News Sunday and on Howard Kurtz’s Sunday show, Media Buzz, but then were again ignored by hosts on Monday — though Laura Ingraham did interview Reps. Jim Jordan and Jim Banks for a segment beating up on Cheney and alleging (absurdly) that she’s part of a conspiracy to defeat Republicans (she never brought up “censure” or the RNC, however).
Meanwhile, “legitimate political discourse” has only been mentioned by a single host — Kurtz. Completely unmentioned in Fox’s programming has been a statement Sen. Mitt Romney released on Monday rebuking his niece, RNC Chair Ronna McDaniel, over the censures, which he said "could not have been a more inappropriate message."
“To suggest that a violent attack on the seat of democracy is legitimate political discourse is so far from accurate as to shock and make people wonder what we're thinking," Romney added. "Anything that my party does that comes across as being stupid is not going to help us.”
By comparison, consider that Ottawa — the site of major anti-vaccine protests that have been portrayed in heroic terms on Fox — got 26 separate mentions on Fox News and Fox Business on Monday alone.
Why does this matter? Because hundreds of thousands, often more than a million people are tuned in to Fox News at any given moment, and these viewers could be forgiven for not knowing that the Republican Party’s new position that trying to overturn elections is legitimate political speech.
The irony is that asking elected Republicans if they agree with the RNC’s statement actually makes for compelling TV. Consider, for instance, Rep. Mike McCaul’s squirming performance on Sunday’s installment of ABC’s This Week when host Martha Raddatz asked him a very simple question — “do you stand by the RNC’s actions and statements?”
“As I understand it, they were referring to the peaceful protesters,” McCaul said, even though the RNC’s censure resolution makes no such distinction and refers specifically to the January 6 committee.
Predictably, McCaul tried to quickly pivot to Biden bashing.
“We have so much to be unified against when it comes to Biden’s failed policies,” he said, before Raddatz wrapped up the interview.
Actual news networks are willing to ask questions of this sort, but Fox News, of course, is primarily a Republican PR organ. And the RNC’s actions on Friday aren’t the only unflattering story they’re suppressing this week — as I mentioned in yesterday’s newsletter, hosts are also almost entirely ignoring Mike Pence’s public rebuke of Trump for pressuring him to overturn the election.
American voters face a choice between a party that has no qualms about authoritarianism as long as they’re in power and another that, for all of its problems, at least remains committed to free and fair elections. This isn’t really hyperbole. As last Friday’s antics revealed, Republicans are barely trying to conceal what they’re about, and Trump is getting even more brazen — consider his statement from nine days ago asserting that Pence should have “overturned the Election!”
But Fox News is helping Republicans obscure the party’s increasingly open embrace of authoritarianism, and tipping the scales by relentlessly hammering Biden, sometimes in shamelessly unfair ways. At the same time, they suppress stories that portray Republicans in an unflattering light.
I don’t pretend to have any easy solutions to this problem, but it’s at least worth understanding what’s going on — or, in this case, what’s not going on when you tune in to America’s most-watched cable “news” network.