Top Democrats demand Rupert Murdoch order Fox News to stop ‘pattern of lying to viewers’

Washington: Democratic leaders have sent a letter to Fox News executives demanding the network stop spreading misinformation about the 2020 election and for its hosts to admit on air they were wrong to do so.

The letter comes amid reports that Fox Corp Chairman Rupert Murdoch admitted in a deposition that some Fox hosts “were endorsing” election falsehoods and that he wished the network had pushed back harder on such conspiracy theories.

Rupert Murdoch testified he doubted Trump’s conspiracy theory right away.Credit:AP

In a letter to the network’s executives Wednesday, Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer and House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries cited testimony from Murdoch that was made public this week as part of Dominion Voting Systems’ $1.6 billion ($2.37 billion) defamation lawsuit against the network.

“As noted in your deposition released yesterday, Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham, and other Fox News personalities knowingly, repeatedly, and dangerously endorsed and promoted the ‘big lie’ that Donald Trump won the 2020 presidential election,” Schumer and Jeffries wrote.

“Though you have acknowledged your regret in allowing this grave propaganda to take place, your network hosts continue to promote, spew, and perpetuate election conspiracy theories to this day.”

Schumer and Jeffries noted that Fox News leadership was aware of the dangers of broadcasting such claims – including Murdoch, who according to the deposition said former president Donald Trump’s election lies were “damaging” and “really crazy stuff”.

Rupert Murdoch and then US president Donald Trump embrace at a function in 2017.Credit:The New York Times

“Despite that shocking admission, Fox News hosts have continued to peddle election denialism to the American people,” the Democratic leaders wrote. “This sets a dangerous precedent that ignores basic journalistic fact-checking principles and public accountability.”

“We demand that you direct Tucker Carlson and other hosts on your network to stop spreading false election narratives and admit on the air that they were wrong to engage in such negligent behaviour.”

In their letter Wednesday, Schumer and Jeffries warned Fox News executives that spreading false propaganda about the so-called “Big Lie” that the 2020 election was stolen could further embolden its believers and Trump’s supporters to engage in more political violence.

“Fox News executives and all other hosts on your network have a clear choice,” Schumer and Jeffries wrote.

“You can continue a pattern of lying to your viewers and risking democracy or move beyond this damaging chapter in your company’s history by siding with the truth and reporting the facts. We ask that you make sure Fox News ceases disseminating the ‘big lie’ and other election conspiracy theories on your network.”

Former US president Donald Trump used lies spread on Fox to instigate January 6 rioters to violence. Credit:AP

In a statement provided on Monday in response to Dominion’s latest brief, a Fox News spokesperson said that the lawsuit “has always been more about what will generate headlines than what can withstand legal and factual scrutiny, as illustrated by them now being forced to slash their fanciful damages demand by more than half a billion dollars after their own expert debunked its implausible claims. Their summary judgment motion took an extreme, unsupported view of defamation law that would prevent journalists from basic reporting and their efforts to publicly smear Fox for covering and commenting on allegations by a sitting President of the United States should be recognised for what it is: a blatant violation of the First Amendment.”

In response to Murdoch’s newly public testimony, the White House emphasised that Biden had won, despite Fox News reportedly putting its thumb on the scale for Trump.

House Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries.Credit:AP

“Regardless of any new revelations of media bias and hypocrisy during the 2020 campaign, Joe Biden won the most votes of any candidate in American history because of his vision for the middle class, his message, and his record,” White House spokesman Andrew Bates said in a statement Tuesday.

“And anyone who is surprised by such revelations hasn’t been paying attention to – or watching – Fox News lately.”

The two top Democrats also slammed House Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s decision to give Fox News host Tucker Carlson exclusive access to more than 40,000 hours of surveillance footage from the January 6, 2021, attack on the US Capitol by a pro-Trump mob seeking to stop the certification of Joe Biden’s electoral college win.

Carlson, who has downplayed the severity of the insurrection and claimed it was a “false flag” operation, suggested without evidence on his program on Monday night that some of the footage “already in some ways . . . does contradict” what has been reported about the January 6 insurrection.

The Washington Post was among about a dozen media outlets who demanded the same access to the surveillance footage, arguing through an attorney last month that “there is concern that an ideologically-based narrative of an already polarising event will take hold in the public consciousness.”

McCarthy has defended his decision to give Carlson exclusive access to the footage, calling the media “jealous.”

Washington Post

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