The president needs to tell people in the Capitol to go home. This is hurting all of us.
Fox News host Laura Ingraham, in a text to Mark Meadows
Erik McGregor/LightRocket/Getty Images
The biggest names at Fox News have spent nearly a full year now downplaying the events of Jan. 6, when supporters of exiting President Donald Trump stormed the U.S. Capitol and attempted to stop the certification of the 2020 election results. “It’s an overblown witch hunt to smear Trump” has been the company line. Weird, then, that while the insurrection attempt was happening, Fox hosts Brian Kilmeade, Laura Ingraham, and Sean Hannity fired off texts to Trump’s chief of staff Mark Meadows and pleaded with him to make the violence stop.
On Monday, the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack released text messages and communications that Meadows received while Trump supporters were smashing windows and forcing their way into the Capitol building. The texts came in a flurry, with several Fox News hosts showing a vested interest in getting the president to act.
Laura Ingraham texted Meadows and said, “The president needs to tell people in the Capitol to go home. This is hurting all of us. He is destroying his legacy.” Hours later, she’d go on air and float a conspiracy theory to her millions of viewers that it couldn’t have been Trump supporters who were responsible. “I have never seen Trump rally attendees wearing helmets, black helmets, brown helmets. Black backpacks. The uniforms that you saw in some of these crowd shots. Have you ever seen them wearing … those knee pads and the, you know, all of the pads on their elbows?”
In the months since the attack, Ingraham has regularly undermined the seriousness of the event — which is odd considering she seemed to have no problem recognizing how bad it was in the moment, per her texts to Meadows. She made the false and baseless claim that “antifa sympathizers” carried out the attack (side note: weird how when she figured out a way to pin the riot on political enemies, suddenly it’s a big deal again!). She complained that investigations into who was involved in the attack amounted to the federal government “going after” Trump supporters. She argued that there is no need for a House investigation and called it “third-rate theatrics.”
Ingraham isn’t the only hypocrite taking up air time on Fox News. Sean Hannity, arguably Trump’s most vocal supporter and an apparent confidant to the former president, also appeared deeply troubled by what was happening at the Capitol on Jan. 6. “Can he make a statement? Ask people to leave the Capitol?” Hannity texted Meadows, hoping to push Trump to get the situation under control.
Hannity was less worried as he spoke to his radio audience while the attack was still ongoing. “They knew there was going to be a march. They knew they were heading to the Capitol. I’m not surprised,” he said, dismissing the seriousness of the riot that resulted in five deaths. He also told his audience that antifa in MAGA gear was responsible, which, uh, okay, sure. It’s hard to imagine Hannity begging the president to simply ask antifa to leave the Capitol. That’s more how you’d ask someone to speak to their supporters, knowing they would listen.
Much like Ingraham, Hannity also condemned the very idea of an investigation into what happened. “Any proceeding would be used as yet another smear campaign against Donald Trump, all Republicans, and Trump supporters everywhere. It’s not worth the time of day,” he said on air. Hannity is no stranger to having his texts leaked, seeing as hundreds of messages between him and former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort were released in 2019 and revealed that the Fox News host offered to do “anything I can do to help.” That’s a totally normal and not at all compromising way for a TV host to talk to a political campaign, for sure.
Brian Kilmeade, one of the friends on Fox & Friends and perpetual Trump brown-noser, also sent Meadows a panicked message as the Capitol was under siege. “Please get him on TV. Destroying everything you have accomplished,” he wrote, pleading for Trump to send a message to his people. Kilmeade has since smiled and nodded as guest after guest uses his platform to undermine the seriousness of the attack. He asked Tucker Carlson if the FBI was involved in leading the riot and let a guest say the rioters just “love freedom” without pushing back.
Hannity and Kilmeade have had opportunities to address the text messages and have chosen to say nothing. Kilmeade ignored it entirely during a three-hour edition of Fox & Friends and Hannity had Meadows on his show hours after the text messages were made public and never even brought it up. Ingraham will surely follow suit, not because it is some sort of coordinated cover-up, but because all of these people are cowards and frauds.
The Fox News hosts like to claim that reporters are in the pockets of Democrats. but they were quite literally in the pocket of Trump, blowing up the phone of his chief of staff during the moment that will forever mark his presidency. They weren’t just watching, they were participating, trying to influence a sitting president because they were invested in his legacy and, in turn, their own success. They downplayed the attack in public to protect him and themselves and pushed to kill an investigation that has now revealed their true feelings. But the folks who need to hear that most won’t hear it on Fox News, so they won’t hear it at all.