Fox News Channel is its own exotic animal in the world of journalism. When network commentators didn’t adhere to standards as revealed in the Dominion Voting Systems $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit, it was a monumental journalistic failure. And by association, a black eye on all media.
Only 21% of viewers trust Fox News Channel less after publicly disclosed text messages and emails among executives and on-air personalities, including Tucker Carlson and Sean Hannity, show they didn’t believe election fraud claims in 2020. This is based on survey results this week by the Maru Group for Variety magazine.
We’re surprised this figure isn’t higher.
Also, only 9% of Fox News viewers say they aren’t watching the network as much. And 13% no longer believe the 2020 presidential election was stolen.
Why not more?
And get this. A Fox News representative told VIP+, a Variety platform, no advertisers dropped or paused. This comes after Fox Corporation Chairman Rupert Murdoch said in a deposition he “seriously doubted” election-fraud allegations made by former President Donald Trump. And Carlson, the network’s star, expressed disbelief, too.
But the following figure really baffles us. More than half of Fox News viewers aware of depositions and texts said they continue to trust Fox News – nearly double the percentage of the group that said they trust the network less.
This in a business where trust is everything. Fox News, weirdly, doesn’t follow protocol to earn that trust and, at least until a ruling or settlement in the Dominion case, it doesn’t seem to matter.
This is difficult to stomach. Open debates over journalism ethics signal healthy governance. The news business is messy; we make mistakes. Publicly. But media skepticism and measured criticism is expected. It’s part of the checks and balances.
Dominion has to prove actual malice, as in Fox News meant to cause harm. This is the $1.6 billion question.
It turns out, this is a Colorado story. Perverse entertainment was removed from real people affected. Dominion is based in Denver; Eric Coomer, Dominion’s former director of product strategy and security, is a Colorado resident. He was the scapegoat, the perfect villain.
After the Stop the Steal movement stoked election fears, Trump’s lawyer, Sidney Powell, claimed on Fox News – without evidence – that Dominion had an algorithm that switched votes from Trump to President Joe Biden. Coomer was forced into hiding after death threats. His family members were also threatened.
How would that feel for a private citizen to be called out on a major network with nothing to back it up? Then, the pile-on. Joe Oltmann, a Denver radio host, claimed that he had a smoking gun that proved fraud at Dominion. “We 100 percent know that the election was rigged,” Oltmann said. He said it was Coomer.
Trump, Rudy Giuliani, conservative columnist Michelle Malkin, the website Gateway Pundit, Newsmax and One America News Network all joined it, naming Coomer. Claims of election fraud have never been proven. Yet, Coomer’s career and personal life were cavalierly ruined.
This isn’t news, at this point in time. But the fact that Fox News hasn’t suffered viewership is.
Remarkably, after his win, the new leader of Colorado’s Republican Party, El Paso County conservative Dave Williams, said, “We are the party that elected Donald J. Trump, and we are not going to apologize for that anymore.”
The Denver Post editorial board called Williams’ “divisive brand of politics often divorced from reality.”
According to a February 2023 poll by Gallup and the Knight Foundation, only 26% of Americans have a favorable opinion of the news media.
That’s tough to hear. And, in the Opinion pages, it makes us want to work even harder to earn your trust.