Emails and Texts Show What Fox News Hosts Really Thought About ‘Rigged’ U.S. Election

Emails and Texts Show What Fox News Hosts Really Thought About ‘Rigged’ U.S. Election

Fox News needs to present a specific face to its audience. It’s one of grievance and hurt, of a changing world that is changing too damn fast. Though all too often, the entire network strays into the absurd, whether it’s guests going on about “climate vaccines” or its hosts like Tucker Carlson going off about being “turned off” by a redesigned M&M mascot.

Nothing was more absurd than the 2020 election denier conspiracy. Fox News did its part platforming the people who said President Joe Biden stole the election from former President Donald Trump, despite there being no evidence there was anything behind the conspiracy.

According to court documents filed on Thursday by Dominion Voting Systems, many of those at Fox and its parent company Newscorp doubted there was any real proof of voter fraud. The documents share texts and emails sent back and forth between major Fox faces. In those texts, prominent show hosts actively critiqued prominent election deniers like Sidney Powell and Rudy Giuliani, calling them “nuts” or “idiot.” All the while, the hosts grew intensely concerned their ratings would be hurt if they disputed anything of the Trump’s election denial campaign.

Dominion filed a $US1.6 ($2) billion defamation lawsuit against Fox News back in 2021 in Delaware state court. The company argued Fox magnified the false story that Dominion was involved in a vast conspiracy to rig the 2020 election in favour of President Biden. The company has filed a similar lawsuit against ultra-conservative networks Newsmax and OAN.

Steve Bannon, the ex-White House staff turned MAGA mouthpiece after his ouster, made it clear that there was a “plan.” In a text to Fox personality Maria Bartiromo on Nov. 10, 2020, Bannon wrote: “71 million voters will never accept Biden. This process is to destroy his presidency before it even starts; IF it even starts…..We either close on Trump’s victory or delegitimize Biden…THE PLAN.”

But according to the filings, Fox was more than beholden to its audience. After the channel called Arizona for Biden, execs and prominent hosts were taken aback by the intensity of the criticism thrown their way.

In its own summary judgment published the same day, Fox’s lawyers argued the network had the right to report on election fraud allegations by Trump, calling it “undeniably newsworthy,” according to Reuters. The network further said its coverage was protected under New York Times v. Sullivan, the landmark case that provides protections for media companies being sued by public officials. The full trial is expected to begin April 17.

In their texts, hosts often chatted about rating analyses with each other. After every time they or reporters made mention of the election denial campaign being, in talk show host Tucker Carlson’s own words, “ludicrous,” they would see an immediate “backlash” with ratings. Carlson even said “I’ve heard from angry viewers every hour of the day all weekend, including at dinner tonight.”

Bill Sammon, the former managing editor and VP for Fox News, told the network’s political analyst Chris Stirewalt “it’s remarkable how weak ratings make good journalists do bad things,” according to the filing.

Overall, the messages show that the prominent Fox News personalities felt the entire narrative was wrong, but that they had to thread the needle to not destroy Fox News’ stock price or upset Trump and his fans that made up such a huge part of the Fox News audience.

Fox News Host Tucker Carlson

Photo: Jason Koerner, Getty Images
Photo: Jason Koerner, Getty Images
  • “We worked really hard to build what we have. Those fuckers are destroying our credibility… at this point we’re getting hurt no matter what… What [Trump]’s good at is destroying things. He’s the undisputed world champion of that. He could easily destroy us if we play it wrong.” — 11/5/2020
  • “Do the executives understand how much credibility and trust we’ve lost with our audience? We’re playing with fire, for real… an alternative like [N]ewsmax could be devastating to us.” — 11/7/2020
  • “Sidney Powell is lying. Fucking bitch.” — 11/16/2020
  • “Our viewers are good people and they believe it.” — 11/18/2020
  • “Ludicrous” — 11/20/2020
  • “Totally off the rails” — 12/24/2020
  • “You keep telling our viewers that millions of votes were changed by the software. I hope you will prove that very soon. You’ve convinced them that Trump will win. If you don’t have conclusive evidence of fraud at that scale, it’s a cruel and reckless thing to keep saying.” — 11/17/2020
  • “Shockingly reckless… [i]f there’s no one inside the company willing to talk, or internal Dominion documents or copies of the software showing that they did it… as you know there isn’t.” — 11/21/2020
  • After Fox reporter Jacqui Heinrich tweeted a fact check of a separate tweet from Trump: “Please get her fired. Seriously… What the fuck? I’m actually shocked. It needs to stop immediately, like tonight. It’s measurably hurting the company. The stock price is down. Not a joke”

Fox News Host Laura Ingraham

Photo: Alex Wong, Getty Images
Photo: Alex Wong, Getty Images
  • “Sidney Powell is a bit nuts. Sorry but she is.” — 11/15/2020
  • “[Sidney Powell is] a complete nut.” — 11/18/2020
  • “Rudy [Giuliani] is acting like an insane person” — 11/11/2020
  • “Rudy [Giuliani is] such an idiot” — 1/12/2021

Fox News Show Host Sean Hannity

Photo: Theo Wargo, Getty Images
Photo: Theo Wargo, Getty Images
  • Referring to Sidney Powell: “F’ing lunatic.” — 12/22/2020
  • “In one week and one debate they destroyed a brand that took 25 years to build and the damage is incalculable.” — 11/12/2020
  • “Rudy [Giuliani] is acting like an insane person.” — 11/12/2021
  • “Respecting this audience whether we agree or not is critical. Fox has spent the month spitting at them.”
  • To which executive producer Robert Samuel responded: “Right, our best minutes from last week were on the voting irregularities.” — 11/24/2020

Executive VP of Primetime Programming Meade Cooper

Photo: Kevin Hagen, Getty Images
Photo: Kevin Hagen, Getty Images
  • “Going on television to say that the election is being stolen… would not be based in fact at that point.” — 11/6/2020
  • “I feel really good about Tucker and Laura. I think Sean will see the wisdom of this track eventually, but even this morning he was still looking for examples of fraud.” — 11/6/2020

Fox News CEO Suzanne Scott

Susan Scott, centre, when she was still Senior Vice President of Programming & Development at Fox News. (Photo: Larry Busacca, Getty Images)
Susan Scott, centre, when she was still Senior Vice President of Programming & Development at Fox News. (Photo: Larry Busacca, Getty Images)
  • “[It’s] very hard to credibly cry foul everywhere.” — 11/6/2020
  • “Privately, I had a number of conversations with Sean [Hannity] where he wanted the President to accept the results.”
  • “Viewers going through the 5 stages of grief. It’s a question of trust — the AZ [call] was damaging but we will highlight our stars and plant flags letting the viewers know we hear them and respect them.” — 11/9/2020
  • “[Y]ou can’t give the crazies an inch right now… they are looking for and blowing up all appearances of disrespect to the audience.”
  • “The audience feels like we crapped on [them] and we have damaged their trust and belief in us… We can fix this but we cannot smirk at our viewers any longer.”

Fox Corporation Senior VP Raj Shah

Photo: Alex Wong, Getty Images
Photo: Alex Wong, Getty Images
  • “Lots of conservative criticism on the [Arizona] call.” — 11/4/2020.
  • “Hannity is a little out there.” — 11/5/2020
  • “MIND BLOWINGLY NUTS.” — 11/21/2020

Newscorp Owner Rupert Murdoch

Photo: Dia Dipasupil, Getty Images
Photo: Dia Dipasupil, Getty Images
  • “[It’s] very hard to credibly cry foul everywhere… if Trump becomes a sore loser we should watch Sean especially and others don’t sound the same.” — 11/6/202-
  • “Getting creamed by CNN! Guess our viewers don’t want to watch it.” — 11/8/2020
  • “Trump will concede eventually and we should concentrate on Georgia, helping any way we can. We don’t want to antagonize Trump further, but Giuliani taken with a large grain of salt. Everything at stake here.” — 11/16/2020
  • “Terrible stuff damaging everybody, I fear.” — 11/19/2020
  • Murdoch asked CEO Suzanne Scott: “[Is it] unarguable that high-profile Fox voices fed the story that the election was stolen and that January 6 an important chance to have the results overturned?”

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