Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney stared down the most powerful entity in Republican politics on Thursday night and delivered a simple message: You are a big part of the problem.
No, I’m not talking about former President Donald Trump. I’m talking about Fox News.
Here’s the exchange between Cheney and Fox News anchor Bret Baier over Fox’s culpability in pushing the Big Lie – that the 2020 election was somehow fraudulent or stolen, despite all evidence to the contrary.
Cheney: “We all have an obligation, and I would say Fox News especially, especially Fox News, has a particular obligation to make sure people know the election wasn’t stolen.”
Baier: “And we have said that numerous times.”
Cheney: “Fox News – Fox News – Bret, I’m going to answer your question. Fox News needs to make sure that the American people – they need to make sure that the American people–”
Baier: “No, but if you are mentioning Fox News, you have to know that this show has said that numerous times.”
Cheney: “Bret, you are doing the interview. I’m answering the questions.”
Cheney: “We need to make sure that the American people recognize and understand that the election wasn’t stolen, that we shouldn’t perpetuate the Big Lie, and that there is real danger.
“I have worked in countries around the world where we don’t have peaceful transitions of power. And all of us who are elected officials have got to make sure that we obey and abide by the oath that we swore to the Constitution.”
Which, well, yeah. Cheney went right at Baier making clear that Fox News has aided and abetted Trump and his loyalists in their quest to convince people that the election was, in fact, stolen from him. And while Baier is adamant that he has made the point that the 2020 election was fair, the idea that Fox News more broadly hasn’t provided fuel for the Big Lie fire is, in a word, laughable.
As the Daily Beast’s Justin Baragona noted in a piece on Fox in February:
“In the two weeks after Fox called the election for Biden on Nov. 7—joining other news outlets—the network began casting doubt on the election results or pushed conspiracy theories nearly 800 times on its airwaves, according to liberal watchdog Media Matters.”
On his show on January 6, Fox’s Tucker Carlson said that the riot at the US Capitol was driven by “millions of Americans [who] sincerely believe the last election was fake.” How could they ever have gotten that idea?
And just a week ago, Fox was still at it. Here’s Fox anchor John Roberts in an interview with Texas Rep. Kevin Brady (R) last week:
“President Donald Trump says the ‘Big Lie’ was the results of the 2020 election. Liz Cheney says, no, the ‘Big Lie’ was suggesting that the 2020 election was stolen. Between the two of them, who is right?”
Um, it’s not a coin flip. Also, Brady responded “I’ll leave that dispute to them,” which, well, perfect.
It should come as no surprise then, given all of the misinformation pushed by Trump and treated as credible by Fox, that lots and lots of Republicans believe the Big Lie. In a CNN poll conducted late last month, 70% of Republican voters said they did not believe that Joe Biden “legitimately” won the 2020 election.
There is a direct line between 7 in 10 Republicans believing a lie about the election and Fox News – in the main – being unwilling to say simply and repeatedly that Biden won fair and square and that Trump is simply wrong on the facts.
Cheney’s willingness to call out Fox on that connection suggests that she isn’t going to just go after Trump and why he shouldn’t be the leading voice in the GOP going forward, but that Cheney is also going to target the broader conservative media that has (and continues to) enable him.