Fox’s Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity, talk over Jan. 6 hearing, use numerous tricks to avoid showing key content
By Matt Collins Article may include affiliate links
It came as no surprise to many that Fox’s right-leaning cable commentary channel announced it would not carry the June 9, 2022 primetime hearing of the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection committee live — but the lengths it went to discredit, denounce and poke fun at legitimate broadcast journalism outlets for doing so hit a new low.
The hearing, the first of seven but only one scheduled during primetime, started at 8 p.m. eastern, with ABC, CBS, NBC, MSNBC and CNN all offering live, interrupted coverage of the proceedings.
As is common with these types of events, networks were provided access to multiple feeds from within the room, including multiple camera angles of the space as well as the multimedia presentation that played on the large screen. They could then combine these feeds, along with their own video and graphics, into a cohesive look.
When Fox’s cable channel did dip into the hearing, it notably largely avoided showing the feed of the presentation, which included some jarring audio, video and still imagery gathered during the select committee’s investigation, some of which had never been seen before.
Instead, Fox largely would simply show a reverse shot of the room, with the dais on the left and a view of the audience to the right. At numerous points, this meant the network was — and this is important — showing people watching the screen instead of what was showing on the screen itself.
Fox could attempt to claim that showing the presentation without any surrounding context could be confusing to viewers, but showing a bunch of people sitting in a room also doesn’t add much to the story beyond paint the hearing as a stuffy government event.
One key moment in the proceedings came when on-screen graphics in the presentation showcased a text message conversation between Fox’s own Sean Hannity and White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany, obtained as part of the investigation.
This was one of the few times the raw feed of the presentation was actually shown on Fox’s air live — but the only reason was because Fox was airing a multiplexed view showcasing eight live feeds from CNN, MSNBC, Newsmax, CNBC, ABC, CBS, NBC and PBS that were, in turn, broadcasting the graphic of the text message exchange.
Incidentally, you’ll notice one name — Newsmax — that is widely considered to be even farther right that Fox, carried at least portions of the hearings live, namely the including comments from one of the two Republicans on the committee, Liz Cheney, but ultimately ended up dropping out of the continuous coverage in favor of analysis.
Either way, the result, and because the live audio feed from the room was not used on Fox, was that its millions of viewers had no reliable way to tell that the evidence included one of the network’s biggest names.
“If, at any time during your life, you’ve ever made fun of totalitarian regimes that, you know, broadcast lies into the homes of the population,” Carlson said as evidence showing his colleague having a conversation with a White House insider as the insurrection unfolded was broadcast across every other major broadcast and cable news outlet.
He referred to the committee video as “the Nancy Pelosi feed” and repeatedly labeled the material as being full of lies and misinformation, though he offered no concrete evidence that any of the material shown was fabricated or not true.
Carlson and Hannity also went out of their way to use a myriad of words and phrases to both label its “coverage” as being true and honest and shooting down what it saw what it labeled a “show trial” and “political theater.” The hearing was also labeled as “propaganda” and accused of distributing outright lies, accusations that appear to be edging toward the implication that the committee’s work is part of a larger conspiracy.
Multiple on-screen banners attempted to discredit the proceedings, with little to no concrete evidence made to back up the often brazen claims.
This included using the label “Coverage you can count on” (which, incidentally, is a trademarked phrase owned by Cox) along with audio and on-screen promises that Fox was providing an “honest assessment” and “truth” about the events of the day and the hearings.
At one point, Fox called on the committee and Democrats to “denounce” the violence that is “plaguing our cities,” a common conservative media talking point, instead of focusing on the violent events that unfolded Jan. 6.
It’s also noteworthy that Fox ran “Tucker Carlson Tonight” and “Hannity” without any commercial breaks. “The Ingraham Angle” contained limited breaks. Not only was this leaving potential ad revenue on the table, but it also meant the network didn’t allow much incentive for viewers to switch channels.
At least some of the networks airing the hearing live snuck in some commercials when the committee took a break just before switching to in-person witness testimony.
Another distraction was Carlson questioning why there aren’t primetime hearings for gas prices, inflation and drug overdoses, a question similar to one that GOP leadership had poised earlier in the day.
Fox also picked apart news that Ryan Kelly, a candidate for governor of Michigan, had been arrested by the FBI in connection to his alleged involvement with the events on Jan. 6, attempting to paint the timing as suspicious while largely ignoring the actual charges.
Later, on “Hannity,” the network attempted to shift focus to putting the blame on Democratic leadership and FBI for allegedly not taking action on purported warnings about a potential attack on the Capitol, including blaming House leadership for not calling out the National Guard as a precaution.
The District of Columbia is unique in that the National Guard can only be directly deployed inside its boundaries by the president, secretary of defense or the secretary of the army, though at the time of the attack, Congress could work with the chief of the Capitol Police to trigger a vote by the Capitol Police Board to request that the National Guard or federal officers be deployed in the district. This rule has since been revised to allow to allow chief to directly call in the guard.