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Panicked Texts To Mark Meadows Show What Fox News Hosts Really Thought on Jan. 6

Pro-Trump rioters try to break into the U.S. Capitol as police hold them off with plastic shields.

Donald Trump’s former chief of staff Mark Meadows has refused to comply with a congressional subpoena ordering him to testify before the House committee investigating the January 6 Capitol riot.

Initially, Meadows was cooperating with the committee, at least to some degree, and he turned over about 9,000 pages of documents, including texts, emails, and a 38-page PowerPoint presentation titled “Election Fraud, Foreign Interference, & Options for 6 JAN”—essentially a how-to guide for doing a coup.

On Monday evening, the committee met for a vote to recommend Meadows be charged with criminal contempt of Congress. (The vote passed 9 to 0 and will now move on to a full House vote.) Before the vote, Rep. Liz Cheney decided to read some of Meadows’ texts aloud and they paint a very interesting picture of that day from the perspective of Fox News hosts and other MAGA mouthpieces.

It’s been nearly a year since the attack on the Capitol and in that time, right-wing media personalities, conservative pundits, and sitting Republican lawmakers have repeatedly dismissed that day’s events as being no big deal. They’ve said Democrats are blowing it out of proportion, saying only a few outliers were violent among a nonviolent protest, and even floating a wild conspiracy theory that the attack was a “false flag,” covertly organized by the government and carried out by antifa/BLM/FBI spies. (Yes, that is an actual thing they’ve suggested.)

But, as Cheney said Monday, “According to the records, multiple Fox News hosts knew the president needed to act immediately.”

Laura Ingraham texted Meadows during the riot: “Mark, the president needs to tell people in the Capitol to go home. This is hurting all of us. He is destroying his legacy.”

“Please get him on TV,” wrote Brian Kilmeade. “Destroying everything you have accomplished.”

Sean Hannity asked “Can he make a statement? Ask people to leave the Capitol?”

Even Donald Trump Jr. texted Meadows (instead of his father for whatever reason), telling him, “He’s got to condemn this shit ASAP. The Capitol police tweet is not enough.”

Jr. texted again later: “We need an Oval Office address. He has to lead now. It has gone too far and gotten out of hand.”

These texts begging for action came during the 187 minutes after the start of the riot when Trump did nothing to quell the violence being perpetrated by his supporters, in his name.

As Cheney says, the texts are evidence of Trump’s “supreme dereliction of duty” during the attack. But they also cast a light on just how disingenuous the Fox News narrative has been, both on that day and in the months since.

As Media Matters President Angelo Carusone explained it speaking to MSNBC Monday night, “It’s a big deal … for two reasons. One, this is a stunning illustration—and it is rare to use the word stunning in relation to something Fox does—but this is a stunning illustration of the Trump-Fox feedback loop because it shows that in real time on January 6th they knew there was a problem.”

Carusone continued:

On January 6th itself, the same day that they were sending these text messages, all three of these individuals, Laura Ingraham, Sean Hannity, and Brian Kilmeade went on Fox News. And while they were telling Donald Trump that he needed to call off his supporters, they were telling Fox News viewers and the rest—you know, American public by extension, that the people that were actually attacking the Capitol were not Donald Trump supporters, but actually secretly antifa or Black Lives Matter.

Laura Ingraham called in. Sean Hannity did a show that night. Brian Kilmeade did the same thing. So they recognized in real time that this was actually Trump supporters and yet they spent an enormous amount of effort that very day lying, explicitly saying and blaming this on antifa and Black Lives Matter.

Fox News’ top stars knew how terrible and dangerous the Capitol attack was as it was happening, and they created their own narrative to spread to their audiences, based on nothing but pure lies.

(image: Brent Stirton/Getty Images)

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Vivian Kane (she/her) has a lot of opinions about a lot of things. Born in San Francisco and radicalized in Los Angeles, she now lives in Kansas City, Missouri with her husband Brock Wilbur and too many cats.