President-elect Joe Biden? Not if you are getting your news from right-wing media.
Websites like Breitbart and some of the biggest stars on Fox News are creating content for an alternative reality in which President Trump’s long shot legal challenge is courageous, where Democratic voter fraud is rampant, and where the Supreme Court may intervene to ensure that Trump will remain president.
These outlets are peddling their audiences false hope that Trump could emerge victorious when, in reality, there is no evidence of widespread fraud and legal experts have said Trump’s legal challenges have little to no merit, much less any chance of swinging the election.
But Trump’s biggest promoters in the media are in denial – or, perhaps, just acting as the propagandists for Trump they’ve become over the past four years. And many Republican party leaders are falling in line.
“So, there’s Joe Biden, who thinks he’s been elected president, and he hasn’t been yet,” Rush Limbaugh, the king of right-wing talk radio, told his audience Monday. “He has not been elected President.”
Limbaugh described Biden as the “so-called President-elect.”
Fox News and all the other major television networks called the election for Biden on Saturday after vote counts and statistical models showed the network decision desks that Trump will not be able to mount a comeback. Numerous Republican lawmakers have criticized the major networks for calling the election, even though it is a custom dating back decades.
Fox’s opinion shows like “Fox & Friends” are among the programs identifying Biden as president-elect, which is infuriating some of the network’s viewers, and even some Fox hosts.
Sunday night host Mark Levin repeatedly criticized the networks and said Democrats are waging “war on the constitution.”
Levin went as far as to float the idea that state legislators could disregard the candidate chosen by voters and send pro-Trump electors to the Electoral College. Later in the evening Trump promoted Levin’s show on Twitter.
“There’s ongoing litigation taking place and much of it is very, very serious,” Levin claimed. “Evidence is still being gathered. Al Gore had 37 days and two U.S. Supreme Court decisions. Shouldn’t these news organizations and others give this time to play out a little bit, the way they did in 2000?”
The networks don’t choose the president, of course, they just report on the results of the voting in each state. And the court battle over the 2000 election involved a single state with only hundreds of votes separating the two candidates and a legitimate court battle, not multiple states that Biden is winning by tens of thousands of votes and no legal case experts think will be successful.
But media-bashing is a throughline among Trump dead-enders. On Fox, Greg Gutfeld mocked the media and the Democrats for converging “on one message.” On Breitbart, which was once headed by Trump’s former chief strategist Steve Bannon, the top headline on Monday described the news media as “desperate to close the books” on the “contested election.” The headline featured an opinion column that said, “‘President-elect’? Not so fast.”
And The Gateway Pundit, a website notorious for peddling baseless conspiracy theories, has published stories aiming to cast doubt on the legitimacy of the US election.
Fox News has not been much better, despite the fact that the channel bills itself as having a no-nonsense news division.
Fox’s newscasts have repeatedly said that there is no actual evidence of widespread fraud, and Fox anchor Neil Cavuto called out White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany on Monday afternoon when she began a press conference with explosive and unproven charges.
“Whoa, whoa, whoa,” Cavuto said as he interrupted the live shot. “I just think we have to be very clear: she’s charging the other side as welcoming fraud and welcoming illegal voting, unless she has more details to back that up, I can’t in good countenance continue to show you this.”
But, despite some brief isolated moments across the network’s 24 hours of programming, Fox’s newscasts have still heavily covered Trump’s efforts to challenge the results of the election, giving his far-fetched effort a sense of legitimacy.
Bret Baier, the network’s chief political anchor, vowed over the weekend that the channel will not “stop digging and following up on leads and following up on indicators” of voter fraud, even though he acknowledged there is no such evidence to date.
That trend continued on Monday as the legal challenges ate up much of the network’s air time.
Tucker Carlson and Sean Hannity, the two most popular hosts on the network, sowed doubt and suspicion on behalf of Trump on Monday night.
“We don’t know how many votes were stolen on Tuesday night,” Carlson said toward the end of a 23-minute monologue. “We don’t know anything about the software that many say was rigged. We don’t know. We ought to find out.”
It’s as if there is a tug-of-war going on within Rupert Murdoch’s media universe: His newspapers, the Wall Street Journal and the New York Post, have run opinion pieces urging Trump to stop the “stolen” election rhetoric and step aside gracefully, while some Fox stars are telling him to keep fighting.
Jeanine Pirro, whose Fox talk show was preempted for Biden’s victory speech on Saturday, has taken up residence in the Cameo app, which lets people request video recordings from public figures. Pirro has recorded videos sneering at the media’s projections and predicting that Trump will still win re-election. Cameo says the cost of a video response from Pirro is $249.
“The stolen-election fantasy is the new birtherism, right down to the racist incantations about ‘Philadelphia,’” New Yorker writer and Biden biographer Evan Osnos wrote on Monday.
A Fox News spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment Monday. The spokesperson has previously ignored emails asking if Fox News chief executive Suzanne Scott and president Jay Wallace have comment.