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They lied us into an insurrection, and they knew it
"B.S," "Insane," "Nuts" — Fox News' Secret Horror over Trump's Lies
Hello, Ari here — my new piece is about smoking gun evidence on insurrection lies.
You can read the piece below, and if you want to read all my entries, connect with my newsletter and join my annual Zoom call, you can sign up to be a full subscriber here by clicking the Subscribe Button... (Thanks either way!)
There are people who want certain opposing views to just go away. They dislike certain views so much, or fear their consequences, that they would prefer to obliterate them. I think that’s an understandable but profoundly mistaken approach to debate, democracy and education. You’re reading my newsletter, so I bet you already know that’s where I come down.
Then there is misconduct involving speech that goes beyond pure “speech,” or genuine debate.
“Free speech” does not protect the words a criminal writes down to create a fraudulent deed to a home, or intentional defamation against innocent people.
Fox News is now on defense in a defamation case about election lies. On The Beat, we covered this case from the start, emphasizing that this might be the rare defamation case where the media loses. That was before the texts went public.
And the texts are something else.
One of the cases against Fox exposed how hosts like Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity, and Laura Ingraham — plus billionaire owner Rupert Murdoch — saw Trump’s election claims as “insane” lies, but kept pumping them on air.
Carlson secretly wrote that he “caught” a Trump lawyer lying, and worried the Fox audience would believe the lies. Which they did.
This quite damning evidence would have stayed secret, if not for the lawsuit.
Carlson ultimately rode both sides of the issue, privately lamenting the claims by Trump’s lawyers, then demanding punishment for a Fox employee who questioned Trump’s lies on social media; blasting Trump’s election complaints after the loss, when Trump might have seemed like a has-been; then flipping to minimize the insurrection as Trump retook influence over the party, after the initial shock in January 2021. It’s hypocritical, dangerous and also sounds exhausting.
Is it all the “same”?
Bill Maher invited me on his HBO show Friday, and he began with the Fox story. A former Trump DOJ official argued that Fox hosts were basically doing what “everyone” does, because of pressure for viewers, ratings and clicks. That is false, and demonstrably so.
To boil it down, I responded:
The First Amendment should protect all kinds of ideas and opinions. It doesn't protect a ‘right’ to lie us into an insurrection.
That's why they're in trouble.
We went on from there, and Maher asked about whether other outlets evince their own bias. You can see an excerpt of the segment on YouTube … (even if you don’t have HBO).
On a lighter note, here’s a backstage shot at the Real Time set with my brother:
On Real time, after the “show,” there is a bit more show. Bill typically invites an extra guest to join the news panel. He’s often used his platform for unconventional mixes, like politicians and “creatives,” or artists and journalists. (That’s definitely something we aspire for on The Beat, so shoutout to those who’ve been doing it.)
This time the Oscar-winning actor Christoph Waltz joined us.
It was fun to chat about a few topics in that setting, and obviously it feels different to be the ‘guest’ instead of the host. Waltz comes across as exactly the concise, class act you might expect.
Maher asked about how some big cities are not filling back up after the pandemic, and I shared some anecdotal thoughts about New York, and post-pandemic culture in general. For example:
At the very beginning of Covid, with the lockdowns, people were like,
‘What the hell, I can't stay home?! I need to go out!’
Then by the end of Covid, people were like,
‘What the hell, I can't go out to work, I need to stay home!’
Yes, borderline Seinfeld-level insights right there. (You can see that “OverTime” segment here).
Should liars pay?
Do you think courts should sanction Fox News if they lose the defamation case?
Do you see a difference between legitimate views and deliberate lies and misinformation?
Let me know in the comments and I will respond to some of you per usual.
Thanks for reading my newsletter! Ari
P.S. Here’s our Tuesday Beat report with even more detail on the Fox News Case.
Feel free to share this piece, and until next time, bye!…