Dec 15, 2021

Chris Wallace picked the right week to quit Fox News

The Murdoch debacle

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Forget about the homeless man who burned down Fox News’ metal Christmas tree last week. The network’s real troubles began Sunday morning when longtime host Chris Wallace announced his resignation on live TV, in order to jump to rival CNN. The network’s woes then exploded into full view Monday night when it was revealed a laundry list of Fox News hosts anxiously texted Trump’s chief of staff, Mark Meadows, on January 6, begging Trump to stop the deadly mob that was laying siege to the U.S. Capitol.

“Please get him on TV,” the network’s Brian Kilmeade messaged. “Destroying everything you have accomplished.” Pleaded Laura Ingraham: “Mark, the president needs to tell people in the Capitol to go home. This is hurting all of us. He is destroying his legacy.” And from Sean Hannity, “Can he make a statement? Ask people to leave the Capitol?”

For hours, Trump did nothing to stop the insurrection, before eventually issuing a bland, irrelevant statement on that very dark day.

The Sunday news flash about Wallace was a punch in the gut for Fox, mostly because it robs the network of its ability to point to the morning host as supposedly a ‘serious journalist’ when trying to knock down the obvious claim that the network is nothing more than a bigoted propaganda outlet.

“The abrupt departure of “Fox News Sunday” host Chris Wallace stripped the network of its foremost fig leaf, and gave reality-based journalists clear license to stop the lame euphemisms and call Fox what it is: a propaganda and disinformation operation,” wrote media critic Dan Froomkin.

The second, more serious newsflash about the text messages ripped away the Fox veneer that’s been constructed since January 6, that the insurrection was no big deal (i.e. a bunch of grandparents marching around with placards), and that any investigation today represents a partisan witch hunt. Just last week, Kilmeade, who was privately beseeching for action on January 6, mocked news outlets for spending too much time reporting on the revelations that keep tumbling out about Trump’s coup attempt last winter, and about the widespread obstruction of justice on display.

Since everyone at Fox News operates without a moral compass, none of the millionaire hosts will have trouble sleeping despite their insurrection hypocrisy making headlines this week. Still, the network privately hates episodes like this, because it puts them on the defensive and it chips away at the preferred fantasy they push on Madison Avenue and within the Beltway that Fox is merely a conservative media outlet and that it actually employs a “news” division.

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It was an awful 36 hours for Fox, and Wallace definitely picked a prime time to leave. I wonder if he knew the release of the Insurrection Day texts from his colleagues was imminent, and if that sped up what appeared to be his hasty exit from his TV home for 18 years. Either way, his move was a stinger for the network, for lots of reasons.

The exit, and how it was choreographed, came with an unmistakable scent of F.U. directed to Wallace’s former bosses. According to reports, virtually nobody inside Fox’s Washington D.C. bureau knew about the departure before Wallace announced it live on television. Worse, he’s jumping straight to Fox News’ most hated rival — CNN. That’s a poke in the eye for the right-wing network, which hates the fact that CNN doggedly details Fox’s dishonest ways. It’s unheard of for a high-profile Fox player like Wallace to pack their bags and head directly to CNN.

When Rupert Morduch’s network on Sunday released a perfunctory statement about Wallace, it was clear the two did not leave on good terms, which is rather stunning considering he’s been among their most recognizable faces for nearly two decades.

That personnel headache was soon superseded by the insurrection controversy, when Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY), the vice chair of the House select committee investigating January 6, read the Fox News texts aloud Monday night during a primetime hearing. Of course Fox News stonewalled the insurrection text news for 24 hours, refusing to acknowledge that its horrified hosts desperately communicated with Trump’s top aide in real time on January 6, trying to get the president to stop the deranged coup attempt.

They ignored the blockbuster news because Fox employees today are paid to whitewash the insurrection. Last summer, Ingraham openly mocked Capitol Police officers who testified before Congress about the chaos and trauma of Insurrection Day, when law enforcement was attacked and many thought they would die.

And just last month, “Fox News host Tucker Carlson produced a documentary, “Patriot Purge,” for the Fox Nation streaming platform that included the baseless claim that the deadly attack was a “false flag” operation intended to demonize conservatives,” Huff Post notes. Carlson infamously told viewers in September that the Capitol rioters “don’t look like terrorists. They look like tourists.”

The lingering, pungent stench from episodes like this might be why Wallace walked away this week. His timing was impeccable.

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(Photo: Getty Images)

GOOD STUFF:

Marcy Wheeler has an excellent new piece up stressing what she’s been stressing for months, which is that obstruction of justice remains Trump’s most pressing criminal exposure.

From her new piece, “Finally, Everyone Is Talking about Trump’s Obstruction on January 6”:

The January 6 Committee has already collected evidence demonstrating many of these issues, for example, the efforts to sow the Big Lie, including coordination with Congress, reveling in the collecting mobs, directing Guard deployment in ways that would support the insurrection, the unbelievable pressure on Mike Pence to violate his oath to the Constitution. In the interim four months, the press and Committee have identified other potential means of obstruction, such as ordering Alex Jones to bring his mob to the Capitol.

This is not a guarantee that Trump will be prosecuted. But all three branches of government now agree on the framework with which he might be held accountable.

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EXTRA STUFF:

I talked about the Fox News debacle last night on Chris Hayes’ show:

FUN STUFF — BECAUSE WE ALL NEED A BREAK

Rod Stewart, “One More Time”

The fact that a 76-year-old is still having this much fun musically is really a testament to Stewart’s incorrigible spirit.

Not many septuagenarians make pop songs this contagious and yes, this cheesy. The whole thing is a hoot, which Stewart pulls off as he remains true to his self. And yes, his hallmark voice still sounds amazing.

It’s not the color of your hair, or the beauty in your eyes
That I’ll be missing
Or the sunshine in your smile, or those ruby red lips I’ve been kissing Now your family don’t like me, this I understand
I don’t wanna settle down I am just a rambling man

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