Opinion editor's note: Editorials represent the opinions of the Star Tribune Editorial Board, which operates independently from the newsroom.
"We Report, You Decide" was among Fox News' marketing mantras when the then-upstart network was challenging CNN.
A more truthful slogan these days would be "They endorsed" — the admission, made under oath by Fox Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch, that several of his network's hosts knowingly lied to their audience by embracing conspiracy theories about the results of the 2020 presidential election.
Murdoch's court-induced honesty came in the Dominion Voting Systems case against Fox News over erroneous claims made about Dominion during the manufactured controversy over the election legitimately won by Joe Biden, not former President Donald Trump.
Several Fox hosts irresponsibly and irrepressibly advanced Trump's falsehoods, partly by allowing sycophantic supporters like lawyers Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell to recklessly charge the election was being stolen from Trump. The "endorsements" were made despite some of these same hosts privately disparaging the attorneys' barely contested on-air claims.
"Sidney Powell is lying," Fox Host Tucker Carlson texted a Fox News producer on Nov. 16, 2020, in just one of many examples of the duplicity of hosts working for an ostensible news organization. Carlson colleague Laura Ingraham texted him that Powell was "a complete nut. No one will work with her. Ditto with Rudy."
And yet Fox News largely let both go unchallenged, working up its audience before the deadly Jan. 6 attacks on the U.S. Capitol and building the foundation of falsehoods that Trump still proffers in his presidential campaign to reclaim the White House in 2024.
The text exchanges, which came from depositions in the Dominion case, also revealed host Sean Hannity saying, "that whole narrative that Sidney was pushing, I did not believe it for one second." However, Fox viewers were given a decidedly different perspective from Hannity, with weeks of careless commentary on the election results.
Off-air, Hannity was "privately disgusted by Trump for weeks, but was scared to lose viewers," Murdoch said in an email addressed to "Paul" and included in a court filing.
That would be Paul Ryan, former speaker of the House and now a Fox Corp. board member. Ryan responded: "The sooner we can put down the echoes of falsehoods from our side, the faster we can get onto principled loyal opposition."
News organizations shouldn't have a "side" or be co-opted to engage in "loyal opposition." But Fox became an unofficial arm of the Republican Party, propagandizing instead of walking the talk of its old slogan.
Those unprofessionally and unethically tight ties between Fox and the GOP may be even more insidious, according to Dominion's court filing, which alleges that "During Trump's campaign, Rupert [Murdoch] provided Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, with Fox confidential information about Biden's ads, along with debate strategy."
The symbiotic FOX-Republican relationship was reflected in the disgraceful decision by current House Speaker Kevin McCarthy to release thousands of hours of surveillance footage of the Capitol attack to Carlson, who previously produced a documentary suggesting the U.S. government used the insurrection as an excuse to persecute conservatives, suggesting that it was a "false flag" to discredit Trump supporters.
Among those appropriately questioning McCarthy's decision are some members of the Capitol Police, rightly concerned about the security implications of potentially showing how the MAGA mob entered the building and how some lawmakers escaped. So much for "back the blue."
And, after Murdoch's testimony, so much for "We Report, You Decide."