A version of this article first appeared in the “Reliable Sources” newsletter. You can sign up for free right here.
Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham — finally — on Tuesday night addressed the now-public texts that they sent Mark Meadows during the insurrection in which they implored the former White House chief of staff to get then-President Trump to take action to curtail the violence occurring at the US Capitol.
For most of the day, Fox News had largely ignored the texts, which were made public the night before. Which is to say, it took Fox News more than 24 hours to muster up a real response.
So how did Hannity and Ingraham react after having all that time to carefully prepare? Well, predictably.
What they said
First, both Hannity and Ingraham went on the offense and assailed the press. Hannity complained that “nobody” in the media reached out to him, even though plenty of reporters did reach out to Fox News’ public relations department and were given no comment. Ingraham asserted that the “regime media” had “twisted” the meaning of her text message to advance a dishonest narrative.
More importantly, both Hannity and Ingraham maintained that their texts to Meadows were consistent with what they told viewers. “I’ve always been consistent on January 6th,” Hannity told viewers. That’s technically correct. Hannity condemned the violence that took place on January 6 the night of the attack and he has in segments since then. Same with Ingraham.
The problem is that both Hannity and Ingraham also sought to acquit Trump of any responsibility for the attack and suggested that it wasn’t actually his supporters who were responsible for the violence. Ingraham led her show the night of the attack by suggesting to her audience that there were “reports” that “antifa sympathizers” might have “been sprinkled throughout the crowd.” And while Hannity didn’t quite go as far, he did pretend that he didn’t know who was responsible. “I’d like to know who the agitators were,” he said that night.
If Ingraham thought “antifa sympathizers” were responsible for the attack, why was she fearful that the violence was hurting the MAGA cause? Wouldn’t it have simply emboldened it? If Hannity wasn’t sure who the agitators were, why was he wanting Trump to go on television to call them off? The answer, of course, is very clear. The Fox propagandists knew exactly what happened on January 6, but it was damning for their cause and so they did everything they could to sow doubt.
That continued on Tuesday night. While Hannity didn’t even entertain the notion that Trump might have had some responsibility to bear, he demanded an investigation of Nancy Pelosi. Meanwhile, Hannity and Ingraham attacked Liz Cheney, with Hannity repeatedly calling for all of her communications to be released to the public.
Not everyone at Fox appeared to buy the narrative Hannity was selling. Geraldo Rivera appeared on Hannity’s show to discuss the matter and had a plea for him: “I beg you, Sean, to remember the frame of mind you were in when you wrote that text on January 6th. And when Laura did. And when Brian [Kilmeade] did. And when Don Jr. did. Remember that concern you had. Remember the frustration you had at our beloved 45th president.”
But instead of taking Rivera’s words to heart, Hannity dismissed them and moved on.
– In an interview with Dan Abrams, Bill O’Reilly said of the texts his former colleagues sent, “I wouldn’t have done it myself.” Hannity was apparently watching and fired off a text to Abrams… (NewsNation)
– Greg Sergent calls out Fox News hosts for feeding the Big Lie and then being aghast at the terror at the Capitol it caused: “Hannity and Ingraham may not like what the rioters revealed, but they are among its most prominent authors…” (Washington Post)
– S.E. Cupp: “If these folks aren’t the definition of snake oil salesmen, I don’t know what is. They’ve used their influential platforms to sell concocted grievances and false remedies to millions and millions of people, knowing it was all, put simply, made up…” (NY Daily News)
– Alex Shephard: “Despite their horror, they have spent the intervening year happily spreading doubt and outrage all the same. They knew better; their texts prove it. They just don’t care… (New Republic)
– Zack Beauchamp says the texts are “tangible proof that some of Fox’s marquee personalities knowingly lied to their audience about January. The lying began basically immediately, in the direct aftermath of a national tragedy…” (Vox)
– David Corn “compared the new January 6 texts to Mark Meadows’ book.” His conclusion: “It’s damning…” (Mother Jones)
– Jake Sherman discloses that he was the person who sent texts to Mark Meadows during the insurrection warning those at the US Capitol were “helpless,” as read by Liz Cheney during Monday’s hearing… (Twitter)