Like a lot of conservatives who have always been distrusting of the old “mainstream media,” I once rejoiced at the existence of Fox News Channel. I viewed their extremely important mission as being a source of real news and credible opinion which was being systematically ignored by the other major television outlets.
Since then, I have come to view Fox News through a far more cynical lens. I now believe that Fox News is actually bad for conservatives politically – the record for conservatives in presidential races since their debut in early 1996 has been horrendous – and that they actually prefer a Democratic president because it is better for their business model. Most recently, their complete and utter sellout to the unqualified liberal conman Donald Trump was an abomination for which I have been highly critical of them.
However, even with all of that said, the reaction of Fox News to the first round of indictments (and a guilty plea) in special counsel Robert Muller’s investigation into Russian election tampering has still somehow managed to be both utterly shocking and frankly, downright embarrassing. While it has become an overused cliché, there is no longer ANY doubt that Fox News has officially “jumped the shark,” and can never again (at least not without a massive overhaul) be taken remotely seriously as a news organization.
And you know who clearly agrees with me? Multiple Fox News employees who went to CNN to confess their network’s Mueller-related sins, that’s who.
Fox News has tried every tactic possible to diminish these developments which, at the very least, have permanently discredited the president’s constant claims that this entire story is “Fake News!” They have:
But my “favorite” Fox News reaction has been from Trump’s most reliable sycophant, the intellectually-challenged Sean Hannity.
Hannity’s first attempt at protecting Trump came in the form of acting like this was somehow the end of the investigation and concluding that the “witch hunt” had come up “pretty empty.” This reminded me of a boy, in another era of American life, celebrating that he had gotten away with little punishment for his transgression at school even before his father had come home from work to provide the final sentence.
Then he predictably turned to his old standby, attacking Hillary Clinton (it feels like somewhere at Fox’s studios there is a batch of encased anti-Hillary material with a sign on it which reads, “In case of emergency, break glass”). At one point during his attempt to distract his audience of Trump cult members, in a slip so “Freudian” that it can’t even be described as a mistake, Hannity literally referred to her as “President Clinton.” (Oh, how he WISHES that were true!)
It has long appeared as if Fox News as a whole was somehow under the self-serving delusion that Hillary was really president, which is something she her herself recently noted. This then created the bizarre “Through the Looking Glass” moment of Fox hosts criticizing Hillary for noting correctly that Fox hosts are acting like she is actually the president of the United States.
To those who understand this sick cable news game, it is obvious what is really going on here (and why I, as someone who has long been blackballed by Fox News, am one of the few conservatives willing to say it). Fox News is stuck because the vast majority of their audience is made up of Trump cult members who cannot risk being offended with the truth about him.
They also can’t allow their audience to see that the emperor that they created has no clothes, as it would leave them with BOTH no credibility AND no audience. They have clearly chosen, like Trump himself, to hold on to the cult for dear life at the cost of everything else.
The primary reason I have always vehemently opposed Trump is that I knew that the catastrophic long-term damage to conservatism which would inevitably ensue from him would not be worth the meager short-term gains. Fox News, in a business where what happens today is all that really matters, obviously never game-planned out this rather simple equation.
As hard as it is to currently believe, Trump will one day, maybe soon, maybe not, no longer be president. What is to happen to Fox News once Trump is gone? Not only will his cult quickly lose interest and go away, but they will have no credibility remaining on which to build a new audience.
As a conservative, the thing which concerns me most is now about Fox News is, now that they sold all of their integrity to service a cult, what will stop a Democratic version of Trump from taking power next, with no effective media counter measure? Now that Fox News has blindly defended Trump over nearly every conceivable wrongdoing, on what basis will they ever be able to attack a future Democratic president in a way which won’t be instantly provoke wide-spread laughter?
The answer is “none,” and conservatism and Democracy will suffer greatly because of this pathetic shortsighted sellout.
John Ziegler hosts a weekly podcast focusing on news media issues and is documentary filmmaker. You can follow him on Twitter at @ZigManFreud or email him at email@example.com
This is an opinion piece. The views expressed in this article are those of just the author.