Network of Lies review: Brian Stelter on Fox News, Trump and Dominion | Books

Rupert Murdoch, the chairman of News Corp, has officially stepped down from his position this week. During the annual shareholder’s meeting, the 92-year-old media mogul criticized the “suppression of debate by an intolerant elite who regard differing opinions as anathema”. He has now passed the baton to his son, Lachlan Murdoch, who is described as a “believer in the social purpose of journalism”. However, Murdoch’s departure raises questions about the role of Fox News in the 2020 election and the subsequent legal consequences it has faced.

Just five days after the election, Fox News host Maria Bartiromo defied management and mentioned Dominion Voting Systems, a move that led to a $787.5 million settlement payment in a defamation lawsuit. Bartiromo’s coverage of the election and her promotion of Trump aide Sidney Powell’s baseless claims contributed to the spread of misinformation and ultimately led to the January 6 insurrection. Despite these events, Bartiromo remains on the air, while Powell faces legal consequences for her actions.

Brian Stelter, a veteran Fox-watcher and former CNN host, laments the impact of Bartiromo’s actions, stating that it “destroyed America’s sense of a shared reality about the 2020 election”. The consequences of this misinformation will be felt for years to come. Stelter’s recent book, “Network of Lies: The Epic Saga of Fox News, Donald Trump, and the Battle for American Democracy”, offers a deep dive into the right-wing media landscape and its impact on American democracy. He explores the role of Fox News, the Murdochs, and figures like Tucker Carlson, who played a part in spreading misinformation.

Unlike Bartiromo, Carlson had doubts about the claims of election fraud and even privately found them “absurd”. However, he still went along with the narrative and faced consequences when text messages revealed his knowledge of how white men should fight, which earned him the ire of the Fox board and the Murdochs.

Stelter reveals that Fox News executives were aware of the potential backlash and legal consequences they would face due to their coverage of Dominion Voting Systems. The discovery in the Dominion lawsuit would expose their hypocrisy, as internal doubts conflicted with the network’s public message. The legal miscalculation led Murdoch to believe that the lawsuit would cost him $50 million. However, even Murdoch himself came to the conclusion that high-profile Fox voices contributed to the spread of misinformation.

The Murdochs face the challenge of balancing profitability, audience satisfaction, and liability in their media empire. They must also contend with competition from other right-wing outlets like One America News and Newsmax, which have gained traction among Trump’s base. The Murdochs’ recent pivot towards supporting Ron DeSantis as their preferred Republican candidate may not be forgotten by voters during the GOP primary. However, despite the legal battles and controversies, Trump’s popularity remains strong, and Fox News relies on his support.

Lachlan Murdoch, now in charge of News Corp, will have to navigate various legal challenges, including a defamation lawsuit brought by Smartmatic, another voting machine company, and a suit filed by Ray Epps, an ex-marine involved in the January 6 insurrection. The appetite for right-wing media and conspiracy theories remains strong, and it is unlikely that Fox News will change its approach anytime soon. The show must go on, even at the expense of American democracy.

Original Story at www.theguardian.com – 2023-11-18 07:02:00

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