Read: Do you speak Fox?
“As poll workers continue to slowly tabulate results,” Sean Hannity said last night, “we have serious reports of irregularities and fraud and not allowing vote counters to observe counting. Which is a matter of law. And they continue to come in, these reports, from all over the country.”
The reports have been coming from the Trump campaign itself. They have not been validated. They have been, in some cases, thoroughly debunked. “Trump,” The Washington Post noted yesterday, in an extensive summary of his campaign’s long-running attempts to claim voter fraud where there is none, “has offered no evidence that the election’s integrity has been compromised, and none has been found. In fact, cybersecurity experts in the Trump administration and local officials say the process has been smooth despite the unusual historic circumstance of a deadly pandemic.”
That did not stop the misinformation on the news network. On Wednesday evening, Laura Ingraham—who had spent part of the day in the White House with the Trump campaign—claimed that Democrats were trying to “destroy the integrity of our election process with this mail-in, day-of registration efforts, counting after the election is over, dumping batches of votes a day, two days, maybe even three days after an election.”
The election results trickled in as they did because the pandemic has changed the logistics of how Americans vote: New circumstances led to new systems, as they should. And the lag in vote counting is partially attributable to Trump himself: His campaign, operating on the conventional wisdom that in-person and same-day voting favors Republicans, spent months telling its base not to vote by mail.
None of that was explained to Fox’s viewers. In fact, if you watched only Fox to get election results, as so many Americans do, you could reasonably forget that America is currently living through a steadily worsening pandemic. Instead, on Fox this week, “fraud” has been a refrain. Political actors who have various vested interests in a second term of Trump have filled the network’s air with baseless claims of Democrats’ malfeasance and, consequently, the wide-scale failures of a free and fair election. (PRESIDENT TRUMP DISCUSSES QUESTIONABLE ELECTION RESULTS read one Fox chyron last night. THE CORRUPT MEDIA MOB went another.) As ballot counts in remaining states continued to narrow in favor of Joe Biden, Fox’s viewers were misled: They were told, again and again, that an election whose outcome they might not like is the same thing as an election that has been stolen.
Senator Ted Cruz: “What we’re seeing tonight, what we’ve been seeing the last three days, is outrageous. It is partisan, it is political and it is lawless. We’re seeing this pattern in Democratic city after Democratic city, with the worst in the country right now is Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.”
Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich: “You have a group of corrupt people who have absolute contempt for the American people, who believe that we are so spineless, so cowardly, so unwilling to stand up for ourselves, that they can steal the presidency … No one should have any doubt: You are watching an effort to steal the presidency of the United States.”
Senator Lindsey Graham: “The allegations of wrongdoing are earth-shattering … So Senate Republicans are going to be briefed by the Trump campaign Saturday, and every Senate Republican and House Republican needs to get on television and tell this story.”
These baseless claims were echoes of the desperate and lie-riddled speech Donald Trump had delivered from the White House earlier yesterday evening. They were also distillations of arguments that had been building throughout the day on the network. On the early-evening talk show The Five, one of the hosts, Greg Gutfeld, made the eye-popping argument that Democrats’ dislike of Trump was its own evidence of voter fraud. (He said nothing about the grounds for the dislike.) “Because if you’re that emotionally invested in getting rid of somebody,” Gutfeld said—“and especially the hard left, who are emotionally invested in politics—they’re gonna do anything that they can. They will cheat.”