Published with permission of PRESS RUN, Eric Boehlert’s must-read media newsletter. Subscribe here.
Apparently Howard Kurtz never got the memo.
On his weekly Fox News show, “Media Buzz,” Kurtz invited a panel of guests to discuss the results of the so-called Arizona audit, which had dragged on all year in an effort by MAGA’s to prove somehow that Trump had won the Copper State last November.
Instead of finding a treasure trove of uncounted Trump ballots, as conspirators had predicted, the pointless review of two million ballots in Maricopa County found that President Joe Biden defeated Trump by slightly more votes than the official count. This, after his crew of misfits inspected ballots for traces of bamboo to determine if they were snuck into to the U.S. from Asia. It made sense that Kurtz would cover the results. It also made sense that Fox viewers would hate him for it.
“A little sad that when the GOP-commissioned and Trump-ally-funded Arizona audit found Biden got 99 more votes, people attack me & the media,” Kurtz tweeted Sunday afternoon, after being bombarded by right-wing criticism online. “Raising questions about possible errors & fraud is not the same as proving them, and was reported. This is our tribal politics today.”
The memo that Kurtz apparently missed was the one announcing the entire network had decided to ignore the Arizona story, even though Fox News for months had cheered the bogus ballot review, providing fawning coverage. In the week since the Arizona results were released and the story has continued to roil U.S. politics, Kurtz’s segment was the only substantial effort by Fox to address it. (The day the Arizona news broke on Sept. 24, the network’s Bret Baier briefly addressed the topic.)
Forget about the ethical shortcomings of the current blackout — the gaslighting — since those kinds of failures represent the network’s hallmark. What I’m struck by is the sheer cowardice displayed by Sean Hannity, Tucker Carlson, Jesse Watters, Maria Bartiromo and others who, when faced with a bad outcome in Arizona, couldn’t even summon the courage to acknowledge the story. Instead, they turned and ran like scared school children.
This represents North Korea-level of propaganda. Fox News didn’t try to spin the Arizona results, which confirmed Biden’s victory again. Instead, the network made a wholesale decision not to cover a story which the network had covered all year long.
In truth, Fox News created the Arizona ‘audit’ story because it was Rupert Murdoch’s network that first called the state for Biden on Election Night, sending Trump and his acolytes into a frenzy. Their hysteria soon led loyalists in Arizona to launch an absurd review, over the objections of local Republicans in Maricopa County, who insist there was no fraud, ever.
The Arizona election results were so consuming for Fox News that this spring they purged two key news executives who were responsible for the Election Night call, senior vice president and D.C. managing editor Bill Sammon, and politics editor Chris Stirewalt. And of course, in the weeks directly following Trump’s 8-million vote loss last year, Fox News did everything in its power to fuel right-wing lies about the election being “stolen.”
Yet when the crucial ‘audit’ tabulations were released, Fox News ordered a blackout, one that persists to this day.
I’ve been a close student of Fox News for many years. While Murdoch’s dishonest network has a long, proud history of ignoring stories that don’t fit its preferred, GOP propaganda storyline, I cannot recall an instance where the network breathlessly covered a partisan story for months, eagerly hyping its every twist, and then turned on a dime and cast the entire storyline into the wilderness.
If you watched Fox News over the last seven days you simply would not know there had been an Arizona ballot review, despite the fact Fox News covered the story on February 26, March 29, April 5, April 23, April 26, April 27, May 7, May 16, May 26, June 12, July 11, July 15, July 16, July 19, July 25, July 26, August 1, August 8, August 22, etc.
It’s true that Fox News got outflanked on the ‘audit’ story by far-far-right outlets such as OAN, which essentially co-sponsored the charade. But Fox made sure to give the proceedings plenty of positive coverage.
During Baier’s July 26 program, he set aside 10 minutes to dive into what he called a “a fair and balanced” look at the Arizona “audit.” One week earlier, when reporting on a statement Trump released about the ballot review, Baier noted, “He actually pointed to the reporting on this show on Friday.” On July 15, Sean Hannity told viewers that “shocking results” were being turned up in Arizona.
Back on August 22, when the Fox News team had high hopes about the laughable Arizona ballot exercise, host Bartiromo was indignant about how little attention the event was receiving. “How come there’s no discussion about the audit going on in Arizona right now?” she demanded.
Since the bad-news-for-Trump “audit” results were released, Bartiromo hasn’t mentioned them once.