March 9, 2023

How Fox News Soured on Trump

Newly revealed texts show that network hosts struggled with coverage and grew tired of the exiting president.

The feud began when Fox News called Arizona for Joe Biden late on Election Night, November 3, 2020. Donald Trump was livid that the network was what he thought to be too early calling Arizona when there were still a lot of votes to be counted. Fox ended up being right*, but the relationship was never the same.

That asterisk is because many conservatives still believe Fox News was wrong and that Trump only “lost” Arizona thanks to shady vote counting. The real problem was signature verification on the vast quantity of mail-in ballots. Because of the untrustworthy nature of verifying mail-in ballots, we will never know what fraud took place or whether it changed the outcome of that race or other ones.

Does Trump have legitimate reason to complain? Absolutely. Did he end up sounding like a sore loser flailing for a reason beyond voters just not choosing him? Millions of Americans certainly think so, even if they weren’t among those already suffering from intense Trump Derangement Syndrome.

Those millions of Americans included some folks at Fox News.

On Election Day 2020, Trump began the morning with one of his typical chummy phone calls to “Fox & Friends.” He was understandably incredibly optimistic about the election, and Fox News personalities likewise hoped he’d win. They and the rest of conservative media (including The Patriot Post) had, after all, invested four years covering all the good things Trump had accomplished while doing yeoman’s work cleaning up after him when he’d undermine his own achievements by tweeting something foolish.

None of that mattered to him or his most devoted followers, however, when anyone stopped short of trumpeting every claim he made about the election.

It got so bad at Fox News that Tucker Carlson, one of Trump’s biggest champions for four years, texted a colleague on January 4, 2021, to vent. “We are very, very close to being able to ignore Trump most nights. I truly can’t wait,” he said. “I hate him passionately.” Carlson had soured on Trump soon after the election, saying in a November text: “What he’s good at is destroying things. He’s the undisputed world champion of that. He could easily destroy us if we play it wrong.”

He wasn’t even talking about the $1.6 billion defamation suit filed against the network by Dominion Voting Systems because, unlike the Leftmedia, Fox actually did its journalistic job by giving a fair hearing to Trump and his legal team. That suit is how we learned about those texts and other comments by Fox insiders who struggled mightily with how to balance coverage of Trump’s legitimate complaints with his (and more specifically his team’s) more outlandish ones.

Trump has certainly made blistering comments denouncing his former allies at the network. If Fox News chief Rupert Murdoch doesn’t believe the 2020 election was stolen, declared Trump recently, “then he & his group of MAGA Hating Globalist RINOs should get out of the News Business as soon as possible” because they’re “aiding & abetting the destruction of America.”

He later expanded on that: “How does Rupert Murdoch say there was no election fraud when [Dinesh D'Souza’s film] 2000 Mules shows, on government tape, that there were millions of ‘stuffed ballots,’ & Elon Musk released the FBI/Twitter Files, where pollsters say that the silencing of information made a 17% difference in the Vote. Then there was, of course, FBI/Facebook, another big election integrity fraud costing millions of Votes-& this doesn’t even count all of the many other ways they cheated, or the fact that they avoided State Legislatures?”

Obviously, much of that is true. And Fox News reported all of it.

True, a few Fox personalities were skeptical of some of the claims coming from Team Trump. For example, Laura Ingraham, a former attorney herself, texted Carlson in November 2020 that “Giuliani embarrassed the President” during court battles because he couldn’t answer a judge’s questions that “a second year law student would [have] known.” She called Sidney Powell “a complete nut” and said “no one will work with her.” Trump did in fact dismiss Powell.

Even Lou Dobbs was disappointed with Team Trump. “It’s been 8 weeks and none of them has produced anything tangible or verifiable. And now he wants thousands of his supporters to go to DC without shelter or food to demonstrate,” he texted a producer on January 3. “I believe the election was stolen — but without evidence we can do nothing significant.”

Carlson decided that Trump and his lawyers “have so discredited their own case, and the rest of us to some extent, that it’s infuriating.”

Yet Ingraham also didn’t want Fox coverage that was unnecessarily antagonistic to Trump or his team, and after coverage she considered to fit that bill she complained to Carlson and Sean Hannity in another text, “We are all officially working for an organization that hates us.” Many customers thought likewise, which is why Fox was bleeding viewers to other even more Trump-friendly networks like Newsmax and One America News Network.

Ingraham and Hannity in particular were as angry as Trump about the Arizona call. Hannity asked, “Why would anyone defend that call?”

Meanwhile, Murdoch simply wanted to move on. “Fox News very busy pivoting,” he wrote in a January 8, 2021, email. “We want to make Trump a non person.”

Speaking of the end of past achievements, Carlson said: “That’s the last four years. We’re all pretending we’ve got a lot to show for it because admitting what a disaster it’s been is too tough to digest. But come on. There isn’t really an upside to Trump.”

That, like so many things Carlson says, is over-the-top absolutism. Trump had a tremendous upside and accomplished a lot, not least of which are those three Supreme Court justices. However, there’s no mistaking the fact that the conservative movement is as fractured as ever, with a growing segment arguing Trump’s time has passed and another segment casting out the first as heretics.

And that’s just it.

What’s truly sad about this episode is that no one seems interested in advancing the conservative cause or principles anymore because they’re all too distracted with bickering over Donald Trump. Rather than unify in the fight against Joe Biden and his America Last radical leftists, conservatives are busy fighting amongst themselves over how to talk about the former president.

Some are content to thank Trump for four great years and move on. Others are so irrationally and emotionally fed up that they can do nothing but rant against him. Still others are and for eight years have been the Right’s version of the thought police, excommunicating anyone who’s insufficiently Trumpian.

It’s tiresome and severely detrimental to the cause. With personalities as strong as Trump and Fox News opinionists, however, we expect the feud to continue.

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