Robert Reich: A Second Attempted Coup? – OpEd
By Robert Reich
This week we learned that House Speaker McCarthy turned over more than 40,000 hours of internal U.S. Capitol footage from January 6 exclusively to the conspiracy theorist and authoritarian propagandist Tucker Carlson of Fox News.
You’ll recall that Carlson called the vicious mob attack on the Capitol “a footnote” in history and “forgettably minor.” At the same time, Carlson magnified Trump’s lies about a stolen election and voter fraud in 2020.
He’s still at it — repeating baseless theories that the federal government instigated the attack. He even gave airtime to former Trump strategist Stephen Bannon hours after Bannon was convicted of contempt. Carlson has also produced a three-part documentary, “Patriot Purge,” advancing a false claim that FBI operatives were behind the assault and arguing that the Jan. 6 rioters were innocent.
New revelations from the Dominion Voting Systems lawsuit against Fox News expose the depth of the cynicism and greed behind Carlson and his Fox News colleagues. Emails from Carlson and the others reveal that they knowingly put guests on their shows — including Trump lawyer Sidney Powell — to make false claims to the viewing public about fraud in the 2020 election. Carlson and the other hosts knew that their guests were lying. “Sidney Powell is lying by the way. I caught her. It’s insane,” wrote Carlson in an email.
Why did Carlson and the other Fox hosts do this? Not only or even primarily to promote Trump and fuel public anger at Democrats and the so-called “stolen election,” but to maintain their ratings lead over Trump’s more extreme rightwing media outlets (such as Newsmax and OAN) — and therefore the value of their Fox stocks and stock options.
In a text chain with Ingraham and Hannity, Carlson referred to a tweet in which Fox reporter Jacqui Heinrich fact-checked a message from Trump and concluded there was no evidence of voter fraud from Dominion. “Please get her fired,” Carlson said, adding: “It needs to stop immediately, like tonight. It’s measurably hurting the company. The stock price is down. Not a joke.” By the next morning, Heinrich had deleted her tweet.
Having earned a fortune by getting their Fox viewers (and the ad revenue that came with them) revved up over false claims of election fraud, Carlson and his Fox colleagues feared losing those same viewers (and revenue) to even nuttier networks.
What will Carlson do with the 40,000 hours of videotape that Kevin McCarthy just turned over to him? Based on his history, he’ll probably use it to rev up Fox viewers (and ad revenue) to new heights of outrage and money.
How will he do this? By picking and choosing portions of the videotape, and presenting them out of context to create a misleading narrative that will discredit the Jan. 6 investigators and absolve Trump and the insurrectionists.
The reason McCarthy turned over the videotape to Carlson was to appease the most extreme rightwing authoritarian elements of his narrow House majority — such as Marjorie Taylor Greene, the bonkers congresswoman from Georgia who pressured McCarthy to give Carlson the tapes.
Greene has now become a close advisor to McCarthy. She has already suggested that January 6, 2021 was a false-flag operation created by the U.S. government and that the rioters were patriots who got ensnared in the plot. Should anyone be surprised if Carlson’s narrative supports Greene’s view?
Carlson’s goal is not just to reward election deniers in the House, like Greene, nor to help Trump or a Trump-like candidate become President. It’s also to make lot of money for himself in the process — as Carlson and his colleagues did when fueling Trump’s big lie in the months after the 2020 election.
McCarthy’s Republican House’s mission is to attack President Biden along with law enforcement and intelligence agencies, discredit and attack the findings of the Jan. 6 investigations and the likely upcoming indictments, and undermine the public’s confidence in our democracy and in any election results that don’t go their way. McCarthy has even named Greene to the House Homeland Security Committee.
McCarthy and his House Republicans need Fox News to amplify their bizarre views, hearings, and conclusions. Trump needs McCarthy’s House Republicans and Fox News to fuel his candidacy. Fox News needs them both to fuel its ratings and revenue.
The McCarthy-Trump-Fox-complex is internally consistent — connecting authoritarianism, rightwing Republican hackery, GOP political fundraising, Trump-boosting ratings outrage, and greed. It’s a vicious cycle designed to sow anger and distrust while advancing the power and wealth of McCarthy, Greene, Trump, Carlson, and Fox News.
This is the same combination that fueled Trump’s presidency and led to his first attempted coup. Will it lead to a second?