Fox News Stays Silent On Stars' Incendiary Rhetoric Following Capitol Riot Many Fox News hosts, commentators and guests helped stoke the pro-Trump protests that became an assault on Congress. Among those influenced was Ashli Babbitt, who died while storming the Capitol.
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After Deadly Capitol Riot, Fox News Stays Silent On Stars' Incendiary Rhetoric

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After Deadly Capitol Riot, Fox News Stays Silent On Stars' Incendiary Rhetoric

After Deadly Capitol Riot, Fox News Stays Silent On Stars' Incendiary Rhetoric

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AILSA CHANG, HOST:

Across America and within the Republican Party, a reckoning has erupted over rhetoric leading up to the attack on the U.S. Capitol. Not so at the Fox News Channel, where people repeatedly claimed - falsely - that President Trump was cheated out of a victory in November. NPR's David Folkenflik reports.

DAVID FOLKENFLIK, BYLINE: The Fox News Channel was the first network to call the pivotal state of Arizona for Joe Biden on election night. Yet some of the network's most popular figures have done something very different ever since.

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MARIA BARTIROMO: ...An intel source telling me that President Trump did, in fact, win the election.

FOLKENFLIK: That was Maria Bartiromo. Fox has deluged viewers with false claims, even allegations of betrayal and treason. And in the days preceding Congress's certification of Biden's win, exhortations for citizens and lawmakers to do something about it. Here's Jeanine Pirro invoking the Revolutionary War, followed by Mark Levin and Lou Dobbs.

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JEANINE PIRRO: As we are all being told to simply shut up and move on, January 6 will tell us whether there are any in Congress willing to battle for the America that those soldiers fought for.

MARK LEVIN: On January 6, we learned whether our Constitution will hold and whether the Republicans care.

LOU DOBBS: Wouldn't it be criminal for these Republicans and, particularly, Republican senators who are saying that they will not step forward?

FOLKENFLIK: Among those watching Fox was an Air Force veteran named Ashli Babbitt. Babbitt was shot and killed last week as she participated in the pro-Trump mob trying to enter the U.S. House speaker's lobby. Here's a video she posted to social media two years ago.

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ASHLI BABBITT: You guys refuse to choose America - America - over your stupid political party. I am so tired of it.

FOLKENFLIK: NPR reviewed Babbitt's Twitter feed, and here's what we found. She shared conspiracy theories of QAnon. She watched Fox, sometimes complained about it, but she also took inspiration from its hosts, commentators and frequent talking heads, retweeting them scores of times in the past year. Right after the election, she retweeted this video of Fox host Tucker Carlson.

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TUCKER CARLSON: You can't simply tell people to accept an outcome because force doesn't work in a democracy - that's dictatorship.

FOLKENFLIK: The commercial radio giant Cumulus Media has ordered its radio hosts to accept the legitimacy of President-elect Biden's win. Social media companies have frozen accounts, including that of President Trump, that it says have incited violence. Fox News staffers tell NPR the network has not had any such reckoning.

NICOLE HEMMER: Well, one responsibility that Fox News has is not to spread false conspiracy theories. By doing so, they are fueling a movement that they actually, at the end of the day, can't control.

FOLKENFLIK: The Columbia University historian Nicole Hemmer is a scholar of conservative media. She also writes columns for CNN's website. She says it's not enough that sometimes Tucker Carlson and others urged Trump to accept the verdict or denounce violence, as many did.

HEMMER: In the aftermath of the Capitol insurrection, what you would like to see is Fox News come forward and not only say that we are not going to spread these conspiracies anymore on our network, but we take responsibility for platforming these ideas and for spreading them.

FOLKENFLIK: Instead, if you turn on Fox News now, hosts and personalities are focusing on what they say is an ominous new threat - social media acting against pro-Trump voices. Here's Fox News anchor Bill Hemmer - no relation to Nicole.

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BILL HEMMER: The events of last Wednesday notwithstanding, the ultimate cancel culture - would you not agree - is when you can cancel a sitting U.S. president?

FOLKENFLIK: As his question suggests, much of Fox's coverage involves moving focus away from the deadly attack of last week.

David Folkenflik, NPR News.

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