Talk show host privilege

This could be something to look forward to:

Rupert Murdoch rarely has to answer for the alternative realities presented by his hugely profitable US cable network, Fox News.

Its conspiratorial claims of a parade of cover ups from the 2012 Benghazi attack to the climate crisis and Covid-19 have been lapped up by Fox viewers and scorned by much of the rest of America, and then the world moved on.

Well…the world moved on but with more people believing Fox lies about Benghazi and the climate crisis and the pandemic. It’s not “Fox tells lies and then we move on and nothing bad happened”; it’s Fox tells lies and people believe them and this is why we can’t have nice things.

But on Tuesday, the 91-year-old billionaire media mogul will be obliged to answer difficult questions under oath about the inner workings of Fox.

The “under oath” bit is significant, because it means he’ll have problems if he lies and they can prove he lied. Murdoch and Fox are all about lying, so not lying will be tricky for him.

Dominion Voting Systems is suing the cable news station and its Murdoch-owned parent company, Fox Corp, for $1.6bn (£1.3bn) over repeated claims that it rigged its voting machines as part of a conspiracy to steal the 2020 presidential election from Donald Trump.

The suit shines a spotlight on Fox News’ part in promoting Trump’s “stop the steal” campaign and its hand in driving the January 6 insurrection at the Capitol. But legal experts say that Dominion, which supplied voting machines to 28 states, appears to be building a wider case that Fox News has a long history of misinformation and steamrolling facts that do not fit its editorial line.

Fox’s “alternative realities” and “misinformation” are not what news outlets should be dealing in. Journalism shouldn’t tell lies.

Fox got in trouble with Trump when they called the Arizona vote for Biden in 2020. So…

Fox News put a parade of Trump lawyers, advisers and apologists front and centre over the following weeks to promote a myriad of conspiracy theories about how the election was stolen from Trump, including by rigging the voting machines.

Alongside them, some of Fox’s biggest names took up the cry of fraud. NPR revealed that during the discovery process, Dominion acquired an email written by a Fox News producer begging colleagues not to allow one of those presenters, Jeanine Pirro, on the air because she was spreading conspiracy theories about the vote. Pirro, a former district attorney and judge who is close to Trump, continued broadcasting.

Lawyers have also obtained rafts of internal messages that are “evidence that Fox knew the lies it was broadcasting about Dominion were false” and part of a culture of politically loaded reporting and broadcasts far from the network’s claim to be “fair and balanced”.

Maybe they think the truth should be balanced with lies.

It reminds me of the left over the past decade or so. Some of us say we can’t just keep repeating these stupid lies over and over, and others of us say we can and we must and you who refuse are evil murdering demons.

Fox argues that Hannity and the other presenters are protected by journalistic privilege but that position has been complicated by the Fox host’s own description of his role.

In defending his overt bias in favour of Trump and Republicans, Hannity has more than once said he is not a journalist but a talk show host, and so does not have to adhere to the profession’s ethical standards. He took the same position earlier this year after the January 6 congressional committee exposed dozens of his messages to Trump’s chief of staff, Mark Meadows, offering advice and seeking direction as the White House challenged the presidential election result.

He’s a talk show host who identifies as having journalistic privilege.

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