By:
January 11, 2021

Prediction: if you watch or listen to conservative media this week, you’ll hear the same topic over and over again. Big Tech and social media giants, they’ll rage, are trying to censor the right and mute the voices of “American patriots.”

That’s what I think will happen in the next few days because that is exactly what has happened over the past several days.

Instead of talking about the horrific events of last week, when MAGA supporters urged by the president himself stormed the Capitol, many of the biggest voices on places such as Fox News, Newsmax and One America News Network are stomping their feet about how President Donald Trump has been banned by social media giants such as Twitter and Facebook.

Instead of condemning the violence that led to the death of five people, including a police officer, many conservative pundits are whining about how Google and Apple are making it increasingly difficult to access Parler, the social media platform whose anything goes policy has attracted many Trump supporters.

For example, on Sunday evening, I took a trip through the Twitter feed of Laura Ingraham — one of Fox News’ primetime stars and biggest voices. She railed against Twitter banning President Trump. She talked about joining Parler. She tweeted, “Every Democrat should be asked: 1. Do you believe that Trump and his supporters should be banned from the Internet?

  1. Do you believe that private companies should refuse to hire Trump supporters? Let’s start getting everyone on the record.”

Sean Hannity, perhaps Fox News’ biggest personality, tweeted out a Jeffrey Lord column with the headline “Biden-Big Tech-Media Dictatorship Begins.”

Conservative radio and podcast host Mark Levin announced he suspended his Twitter account “in protest” and asked his followers to join him on Parler and Rumble. Ben Shapiro, another conservative podcaster, went on a nine-tweet Twitter thread rage about Big Tech.

This is what they are talking about.

Never mind that the president has used these private companies, especially Twitter, to put out messages of election fraud that riled up his supporters. Never mind that many of these social media outlets were used to organize last week’s gathering. And never mind that they could be used to coordinate future violence.

Big Tech and social media will be the narrative this week. It’s like holding up a shiny object over here to distract you from the insurrection and destruction over there. It’s a way to keep from taking responsibility or assigning the real blame for last week’s unprecedented and inexcusable behavior and, instead, playing the victim.

It’s more shameful behavior.

After weeks of stoking the anger that led to last Wednesday, many in conservative media are now excusing it — either by actually excusing it or talking about anything but what happened.

I hope I’m wrong. I hope places like Fox News and shows such as Ingraham’s and Hannity’s will dig into the real horrors of last week to help make sure it doesn’t happen again. The next few days are precarious and their voices are influential among their viewers.

They could make a difference. Or they could repeat the same woe-is-us whining that makes their viewers feel better, but damages the country along the way.

Biggest interview

CBS News’ Lesley Stahl, left, interviews House Speaker Nancy Pelosi at the Capitol for “60 Minutes.” (Courtesy: CBS News)

Sunday’s “60 Minutes” on CBS featured an interview between Lesley Stahl and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Stahl toured the inside the Capitol with Pelosi, in her first interview since last Wednesday’s insurrection.

The big topic of the interview was impeachment. Pelosi told Stahl that a motivating factor behind possibly impeaching President Trump is so that he can never run for president again.

But, she told Stahl, “I like the 25th Amendment because it gets rid of him. He’s out of office. But there’s strong support in the Congress for impeaching the president a second time.”

Most ridiculous statement of the day

(Photo: STRF/STAR MAX/IPx)

That goes to Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), who actually said this to Fox News’ Maria Bartiromo on Sunday: “Republicans have no way to communicate” now that the social media platform Parler was pretty much taken down by Apple, Google and Amazon Web Services. He added, “I have three million followers on Parler. Tonight, I will no longer be able to communicate with those people.”

Gee, how did Republicans communicate before 2018 — the year Parler was founded?

Speaking of Bartiromo. She led off her Sunday Fox News show talking about Parler. Not the riot that took place in Washington last week. Not the state of the nation. Not the state of the presidency. She talked about Parler, saying, “Today, an assault on freedom and free speech.”

She’s a Trump enabler, partly responsible for riling up those who attacked the Capitol last week with her baseless claims of election fraud. And Fox News seems perfectly fine with that.

Speaking of Parler, check out this story from The New York Times’ Jack Nicas and Davey Alba: “How Parler, a Chosen App of Trump Fans, Became a Test of Free Speech.”

Schieffer’s powerful words

Powerful words from CBS News veteran Bob Schieffer in a piece produced for CBS’s “Face the Nation:”

“As we saw in those awful scenes unfolding in the Capitol, we came to understand the man who had a manic desire for power had no real understanding of the power he possessed, or what happens when it is misused. … He showed us America was not broken; he was.”

More from ‘Face the Nation’

During a conversation with “Face the Nation” correspondent and presidential historian John Dickerson, moderator Margaret Brennan didn’t hold back when pointing a finger at who was to blame for the ugliness of last Wednesday.

Brennan said, “I mean, some of the extraordinary things we heard and we saw this week: the president has, yes, he told people to go home. But then he said, ‘We love you. You’re patriots.’ He has not come out and said anything about the chants calling for his vice president to be executed.”

Dickerson said, “You’re exactly right, Margaret. This to me was — there are a lot of ways in which the president contributed to what happened on the 6th. But the example of what he was willing to trample in order to get his way is clearest in — in the grotesque treatment of his vice president. He says loyalty is the most important thing. No one has been more loyal to this president than Mike Pence. He has wagered his entire repetition defending the president. How was he repaid? The president said he could stop the count in Congress. He knew that to be a lie. When Mike Pence didn’t do that because he couldn’t, the president said he lacked courage. He put a target on the back of his vice president. And what happened? As sure as night follows day, those rioters said ‘Hang Mike Pence. Hang Mike Pence.’ What gave them the idea that Mike Pence had done anything worthy of a hanging? Well, the president of the United States told them that, the person to whom Mike Pence was loyal. That’s pretty low.”

Todd’s take

(Courtesy: NBC News)

Here’s what NBC’s “Meet the Press” moderator Chuck Todd said Sunday: “If the Republican Party allows Donald Trump to still be an influential figure, it will end up in the ash bin of history.”

Mick Mulvaney, Trump’s former chief of staff, who, because of Wednesday’s riot, resigned as special envoy to Northern Ireland, joined Todd on “Meet the Press.”

Credit to Todd for calling out Mulvaney for working with and excusing the behavior of Trump even after calling Trump a “terrible human being” back in 2016. And Todd also asked Mulvaney about a Wall Street Journal op-ed that he wrote that now looks simply ridiculous in hindsight. The headline on Mulvaney’s op-ed? “If He Loses, Trump Will Concede Gracefully.”

As a reminder, Mulvaney wrote, “I’ve been asked the same question at least a hundred times in the past week: If the president loses, will he participate in a peaceful transition of power? … But, I am happy to answer: Yes.”

“I know it’s easy for folks now who’ve never liked the president or always disagreed with his policies or really disliked him as a person to say, ‘Why didn’t everybody see this coming?’” Muvaney told Todd. “But keep in mind, so many of us that worked with him every single day didn’t see him through a filter. In fairness, you saw him oftentimes — you’ve had some face to face with him — but most people saw him through the filter of a media that didn’t like him very much. We saw him every single day. The reason that I wrote in The Wall Street Journal six weeks ago that I thought the president would leave presidentially is because I had evidence to that end. I had stories. I had background. I had seen that type of president, and I never thought I’d see what I saw on Wednesday.”

Today, however, people ask: How could you NOT have seen it?

Todd asked Mulvaney if he thought Trump should be ostracized from the Republican Party.

“I think it’s going to happen anyway,” Mulvaney said. “I think the ideas will live on. The ideas of the Republican Party are bigger than one man. But I think if you have any role at all in what happened on Wednesday, that you sort of, you don’t deserve to lead the party anymore.”

Todd’s true words

This is worth a mention, too. Here’s what Chuck Todd said on Sunday’s “Meet the Press:”

“Wednesday’s madness was what happens when supporters take President Trump both seriously and literally.”

Three pieces you must see

Two must-read pieces that look back at Wednesday:

And check out this disturbing video piece from CNN’s Alexander Marquardt, who showed just how ugly it was inside Wednesday’s mob.

MyPillow guy’s ridiculous remarks

Mike Lindell, the MyPillow guy and ardent supporter of President Trump, is not happy with Fox News. Why does that matter? He’s one of the network’s biggest advertisers. The Washington Post’s Jeremy Barr points out that “Lindell is among the Trump supporters who have accused Fox News of hurting the president’s chances of winning a second term and who claim baselessly that he was the victim of widespread voter fraud.”

Lindell has taken to Twitter to criticize Fox News and he continues to claim the election could be overturned because of election fraud. But despite his criticism, Lindell told Barr that he will continue to advertise on Fox News.

“I make all of my advertising decisions based on what is best for MyPillow, my customers and my employees,” Lindell said.

Lindell, by the way, went on Newsmax and called the riots last week “very peaceful” even though five people, including a police officer, were killed. Lindell told Newsmax, “(There were) probably some undercover antifa that dressed as Trump people and did some damage to windows and got in there.”

Speaking of Fox News

Fox News’ Tucker Carlson. (AP Photo/Richard Drew, File)

Does Fox News need to worry about losing viewers to places such as Newsmax and One America News Network once Trump is out of office?

The New York Times’ Michael M. Grynbaum notes that Fox News star Tucker Carlson assured Trump supporters that Fox News will still be there for them.

Fox News has tried to walk the fine line of admitting and accepting that Joe Biden won the election, but still acting as if they are a voice for Trump voters. But, as Grynbaum writes, “Anyone expecting an about-face from Fox News — or an apology, as some liberals might daydream — has not studied its history or that of its owner, Mr. Murdoch, whose ability to adapt to political change is matched only by his reluctance to kowtow to critics.”

Fox News will soon have to completely abandon this idea that the election was stolen. So it will turn to what will please its viewers: continuing to praise Trump while criticizing Biden, demonizing the left and beating up the media.

Grynbaum writes, “As repulsive as such rhetoric may be to liberals, it is part of a formula that has rarely failed Fox News, which remains the profit engine of Mr. Murdoch’s Fox Corporation.”

What could put a dent in Fox News? If Trump decides to start his own TV network. But even if he did, that seems way down the road.

Cover controversy

The cover of February’s Vogue is causing controversy. It all started Saturday night when HuffPost contributor Yashar Ali tweeted out the Vogue cover days before it’s scheduled to hit newsstands.

The cover has Vice President-elect Kamala Harris wearing black pants, a black blazer and her Converse Chuck Taylor shoes. That cover, apparently, blindsided Harris’ team. They thought another photo was going to be used, a photo with Harris wearing a powder blue power suit with an American flag pin on it and Harris’ arms folded. (Both will be displayed digitally. You can see both photos here.)

So what’s the controversy?

For starters, Ali said that Harris’ team and Vogue agreed upon the cover with the blue suit. The other photo has been criticized as not being up to Vogue standards, partly because of the sloppy background, and that the photo looks washed out.

New York Times’ contributing opinion writer Wajahat Ali tweeted, “What a mess up. (Editor-in-chief) Anna Wintour must really not have Black friends and colleagues.”

Activist and writer Charlotte Clymer told her nearly 357,000 Twitter followers:

“Folks who don’t get why the Vogue cover of VP-elect Kamala Harris is bad are missing the point. The pic itself isn’t terrible as a pic. It’s just far, far below the standards of Vogue. They didn’t put thought into it. Like homework finished the morning it’s due. Disrespectful.

“There’s no theme to the pic. It’s like they said: ‘Okay, yeah, we’ll grab this sheet and stick it in the background. Ma’am, can you wear the Chucks to give it some pizazz? Great, that’s good enough. Okay, moving on.’ For a cover photo of the first woman VP.”

In a statement to USA Today’s Kim Willis, Vogue said, “The team at Vogue loved the images Tyler Mitchell shot and felt the more informal image captured Vice President-elect Harris’s authentic, approachable nature — which we feel is one of the hallmarks of the Biden/Harris administration. To respond to the seriousness of this moment in history, and the role she has to play leading our country forward, we’re celebrating both images of her as covers digitally.”

But — and this is important as New Statesman’s Emily Tamkin points outAlexis Okeowo’s profile of Harris in Vogue is excellent.

Hot type

Have feedback or a tip? Email Poynter senior media writer Tom Jones at tjones@poynter.org.

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