December 14, 2021

What did Fox News personalities such as Laura Ingraham, Sean Hannity and Brian Kilmeade really think while insurrectionists were storming the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6?

Well, they didn’t think it was no big deal. And they took what was happening far more seriously than many of the Donald Trump supporters who have downplayed or dismissed the horrific events of that day. In fact, what they thought at the moment was a far cry from some of the commentary that has been heard on Fox News since that fateful day, one of the worst in American history.

On Monday evening, the House committee digging into the events of Jan. 6 recommended by a 9-0 vote that Mark Meadows, Trump’s then-White House chief of staff, be charged with criminal contempt for defying a subpoena.

As the committee was getting set to vote Monday evening, Republican Congresswoman Liz Cheney of Wyoming, the committee’s vice chairman, read text messages sent to Meadows on Jan. 6 from the Fox News personalities. (Meadows provided the texts to the committee.)

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

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

Hannity texted, “Can he make a statement? Ask people to leave the Capitol?”

Many on Fox News, including the three who texted Meadows, would later go on to question who was behind the attacks because they said they had never seen Trump supporters act that way. Hannity would claim most who attended that day were peaceful.

In a Twitter feed, CNN’s Brian Stelter referenced his book “Hoax” about Fox News and what was said on the air that night. Hannity talked about a rigged election. Ingraham praised peaceful “patriots” and, Stelter wrote in his book, “Ingraham and her guests floated bogus theories about Antifa instead, implying that left-wing radicals were actually responsible for the riot. Federal authorities compiled a mountain of evidence to the contrary.”

During an appearance on MSNBC, Media Matters for America president Angelo Carusone also talked about what Hannity, Ingraham and Kilmeade said on the air that night. Carusone said all three questioned who stoked the riots.

Yet these texts tell a much different story, that they were aware of how serious the insurrection was and wanted Trump to do what he could to stop it.

Equally stunning was Donald Trump Jr. also texting Meadows on Jan. 6, saying, “He’s got to condemn this (expletive) ASAP.” That was just one of several texts Trump Jr. sent Meadows. (Doesn’t it seem odd that Junior would text Meadows and not his father?)

By the way, Fox News did not show the committee’s hearing Monday night live. CNN and MSNBC did. Hannity interviewed Meadows for eight minutes during his prime-time show Monday night, but his Jan. 6 text to Meadows never came up.

Does Chris Wallace’s move to CNN+ change the streaming news game?

Soon-to-be-CNN+ anchor Chris Wallace. (Olivier Douliery/Pool via AP)

Initially, the stunning part of Chris Wallace’s announcement Sunday that he was leaving Fox News for CNN was the Fox News part. At 74 year old and an 18-year veteran at the network, Wallace seemed like a Fox News lifer.

Wallace praised his Fox News bosses on his way out the door, saying all the classy things you’re supposed to say, but you can’t help but think Wallace had enough of what Fox News has become. Which is largely a right-wing propaganda machine that has handed over the reins of the network to prime-time pundit Tucker Carlson.

The New York Times Michael M. Grynbaum wrote, “The network’s biggest star is Mr. Carlson, who is the top-rated host not just on Fox News but in all of cable news, and who enjoys strong support from management.”

The Washington Post’s Erik Wemple went further, writing, “Every day, in other words, Fox News takes another step toward its destiny as The Tucker Carlson Channel. And in that future, there’s no room for journalists.”

So there’s that part of the story — Wallace leaving Fox News.

But just as interesting is where Wallace is heading: CNN+, which is CNN’s streaming news service that will launch early next year.

Wallace joins another high-profile journalist in former NBC News and MSNBC anchor Kasie Hunt. There were rumors that MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow was a target when she was negotiating a new deal at MSNBC, and that Brian Williams could be joining CNN+ now that he has left NBC News. Again, that’s just a rumor.

But this is a fact: CNN president Jeff Zucker is all-in on CNN+. As my colleague Al Tompkins wrote in August, CNN+ was/is hiring 200 journalists. The Wall Street Journal’s Benjamin Mullin wrote, “Wallace’s move to CNN+ is one of the biggest signs yet that CNN is investing heavily in its pivot to direct-to-consumer streaming.”

The big question is: Are people going to pay for a streaming news service?

It’s true that more and more folks are cutting cable, and CNN is the last major TV news outlet to get in the streaming game. It had to eventually, and sooner rather than later makes sense.

But while people will pay for things such as Netflix, Disney+ and Apple TV+ to watch movies and specific shows such as “Squid Game,” “The Morning Show” and the Beatles documentary and what have you, are they going to sign up for streaming news, even if there is some original programming?

It should be noted that back in the summer, Variety’s Andrew Wallenstein wrote that CNN+ could be bundled with HBO Max and Discovery+.

I have my doubts about audiences paying for streaming news, but it’s not like CNN is going to invest this kind of money without doing serious research and understanding the future of TV. And it’s not like CNN is the only network turning to streaming.

As Axios’ Sara Fischer writes, “NBC News has already hired the majority of the 200+ new jobs it announced over the summer for its new streaming service and digital team, a top executive confirmed to Axios last month. One of its linear TV anchors, Joshua Johnson, moved full-time to host a primetime streaming show for NBC News Now. Fox News launched a new weather-focused streaming service in October. A Fox executive said last week the company is prepared to migrate Fox News to a streaming platform when the time is right. CBS News changed the name of its streaming service recently from CBSN to ‘CBS News’ to represent a new streamlined vision for streaming.”

It will be a while before we see if all this pays off for the networks, and whether big hires such as Hunt and Wallace really can bring in viewers. And audiences are not completely abandoning cable just yet, mostly because of one reason. As Fischer smartly writes, “TV networks won’t stop seriously investing in linear news programs until sports move out of the cable bundle, and that won’t be for another few years.”

Time’s Person of the Year

Elon Musk. (AP Photo/Britta Pedersen, Pool, File)

Time magazine has selected its Person of the Year and it was a bit of a surprise. It was Elon Musk, the CEO of Tesla and SpaceX.

In making the pick, Time editor-in-chief Edward Felsenthal wrote, “Person of the Year is a marker of influence, and few individuals have had more influence than Musk on life on Earth, and potentially life off Earth too. In 2021, Musk emerged not just as the world’s richest person but also as perhaps the richest example of a massive shift in our society.”

Picking Musk might have been a slight surprise, considering the influence of Joe Biden in his first year as president or someone involved in COVID-19 vaccines. But Musk also is not that far out of the box. He not only became the world’s richest person, but launched the first-ever mission to Earth’s orbit with a crew of only tourists and no professional astronauts.


The United States has now surpassed 800,000 deaths from COVID-19. Stop and think about that for a moment.


Here’s another number that seems hard to believe: We are about to enter Year Three of COVID-19. Remember back when this first started and we began to stay at home and wear masks? Some of us predicted it could take a while before things would go back to normal. We might have to wait until July or August … of 2020! And here we are about to start year three, although we do now have vaccines that appear to be working.

Writing for The New York Times, Julie Bosman, Amy Harmon and Albert Sun have some more grim numbers, such as, “Seventy-five percent of people who have died of the virus in the United States — or about 600,000 of the nearly 800,000 who have perished so far — have been 65 or older. One in 100 older Americans has died from the virus.”

Be sure to check out the Times’ thorough story about the pandemic as we reach this unthinkable milestone. Also for The New York Times, read Roger Cohen’s “Across the World, Covid Anxiety and Depression Take Hold.”

Prize picks

The Pulitzer Prize Board has added two new members: Anne Applebaum, author and staff writer for The Atlantic, and Gabriel Escobar, the editor and senior vice president of The Philadelphia Inquirer.

Applebaum was a columnist for The Washington Post for 15 years, and was a member of the Post editorial board. She also has been the deputy editor at The Spectator, and has written for The Economist, The Independent, The New York Review of Books and The Wall Street Journal. She is the author of several books.

“It’s a great honor to be part of an institution with such a long history of dedication to journalism,” Applebaum said in a statement. “The recognition and reward of excellence is an important task, especially in this era of informational revolution.”

Escobar spent 16 years at The Washington Post as a reporter and an editor. Escobar also worked at The Hartford Courant, the Philadelphia Daily News and The Dallas Morning News, where he was an editorial writer and columnist. At the Inquirer, he has been managing editor, deputy managing editor for Metro and assistant managing editor for news.

In a statement, Escobar said, “For over a century The Pulitzer Prizes have defined the gold standard in journalism and the arts through the annual awards. Joining the board and taking part in this illustrious process is both an honor and a privilege.”

Dispatches from Kentucky

My Poynter colleague, Al Tompkins, continues to report from Kentucky and the scene from the weekend’s devastating tornadoes. His latest is superb: “CNN anchor Pamela Brown isn’t just covering the tornado damage in Kentucky. She’s reporting on her home.”

Off the air

Dr. Mehmet Oz. (Evan Agostini/Invision/AP, File)

“The Dr. Oz Show” will come to an end on Jan. 14, 2022. That’s because Oz is running for U.S. Senate in Pennsylvania as a Republican. Sony, which owns Oz’s show, will replace it with “The Good Dish” — a nutrition and recipe show that is co-hosted by Oz’s daughter.

Dr. Mehmet Oz, a cardiothoracic surgeon, first gained celebrity fame by being one of the medical experts on “The Oprah Winfrey Show.” He parlayed that into his own TV show starting in 2009.

But Oz has not always been embraced by the medical community and became even more polarizing during the COVID-19 pandemic. CNN’s Oliver Darcy wrote, “His commentary on the coronavirus, which often took place on the right-wing channel Fox News, was applauded by Republicans. But it turned off others and, at times, was criticized by the medical community.”

And check out this story:

According to Mediaite, CNN’s Michael Smerconish, who has been filling in for the recently-fired Chris Cuomo, said on his SiriusXM radio show Monday that he ran into Oz at a Christmas party.

“I don’t think he had any idea who I was,” Smerconish said.

Smerconish invited Oz to come on either CNN or his SiriusXM show.

“I said to him, ‘I’d really like to get you on my program, and I will treat you with dignity and respect.’” Smerconish said. “He proceeds to say to me, ‘I can’t possibly do that because it would upset everybody at Fox. And I’ll come on your show after the primary.’”

What a finale

If you’re a diehard fan like me, you were blown away by the season three finale of the HBO masterpiece “Succession.” If you haven’t seen it yet, avoid these links because there are major spoilers. But if you have seen it, you might enjoy:

Media tidbits

Hot type

(Courtesy: The New York Times)

Only one Hot Type item today because it’s so good …

From The New York Times Opinion, an absolutely stunning piece of multimedia journalism about climate. Everything about it — the design, the art, the reporting, the importance of the topic — is elite. I cannot stress enough just how good “Postcards From a World On Fire” is. Just remarkable.

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Tom Jones is Poynter’s senior media writer for He was previously part of the Tampa Bay Times family during three stints over some 30…
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