“Right-wing voice gets deplatformed by establishment media” sounds like a fabulous story for the talking heads at Fox News. Think back one year, when Amazon Web Services, Apple and Google cut ties with Parler, a social media site popular with Trump supporters. The rationale was that Parler was trafficking in extremism and threats of violence. (Parler had issued warnings to the FBI before the Jan. 6 riot.)
Fox News found the story compelling. “Big Tech was just waiting to pounce on conservative accounts,” said Fox’s Pete Hegseth in January 2021. “Parler, the upstart social media platform and Twitter competitor has been effectively erased, dead, gone, ghosted from the Internet by Amazon’s web hosting service.” (Disclosure: Amazon founder Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post.)
“I mean, speaking of lockdowns, a total lockdown, really, on information-sharing for certain classes of people, in this case, a political class,” said host Laura Ingraham.
And host Tucker Carlson: “So I went on the websites — the Committee to Protect Journalists, today, which raises lots of money to protect journalists. Here are journalists under assault from lawmakers for political reasons. They don’t — unless I missed it — appear to be weighing in Parler’s defense. Is anyone?”
Now for a look at how Fox News has reprised those arguments for OAN. “Speaking of Trump and the media, his favorite network, One America News, is being dropped by AT&T’s DirecTV. That’s a big blow to OAN in terms of its reach and its revenue,” said host Howard Kurtz on Sunday’s edition of “Media Buzz.”
That’s all we could find over nearly a week of Fox News programming. We checked with the Fox News trackers at Media Matters for America, and the Kurtz mention was the only one they had found as of Thursday afternoon.
So where’s the outrage, Fox News? The network declined to comment.
Over on OAN itself, there’s plenty of outrage. Host Dan Ball declared this week that OAN is “now at war with AT&T, and it is time that we all fight and fight like hell with our words and our pocketbooks.” Ball has appealed to viewers to jam AT&T phone lines with protests over the impending cancellation. “What’s happening is a direct attack on free speech and freedom of the press. And what’s being done to us at this network is 110 percent politically driven and motivated, period.”
Ball even solicited his viewers for tips on AT&T board chairman William Kennard. “If you’ve got any dirt on Mr. Kennard, I would love to see it and put it on this program. You bring me concrete evidence of whatever it may be: cheating on his taxes, cheating on his wife, saying racial slurs toward White people. … Bring it, and we’ll air it,” said Ball.
As an outlet, OAN almost makes Sean Hannity’s Trump-oriented sycophancy look tame. It takes a particularly self-abasing brand of bootlicking, after all, to secure your status as former president Donald Trump’s favorite cable channel, a distinction that OAN has secured with around-the-clock boosterism. Just days after the Jan. 6 riot, network founder and chief executive Robert Herring Sr. tweeted:
If anyone thinks we will throw the best President America has had, in my 79 years, under the bus, you are wrong. We will continue to give him honest coverage on what he has been & will be doing. I’m totally surprised that people who worked with the President, don’t back him up.
— Robert Herring (@RobHerring) January 8, 2021
OAN, like Fox News, is facing lawsuits for programming in service of the “big lie” that the 2020 election was stolen from Trump. In December, two Georgia election workers sued OAN for its portrayal of their work on the election. And in November, voting technology company Smartmatic sued OAN, arguing, “OANN had every opportunity to do the right thing after the 2020 election for President and Vice President of the United States. It could have reported the truth. Instead, OANN chose to do the wrong thing every time. It reported a lie.” Another voting tech outfit, Dominion, sued OAN in August, and both companies have also sued Fox News over “big lie” content.
And it’s these parallels that help explain why Fox News might just ignore OAN’s carriage troubles. “It would certainly be consistent for Fox News to rush to OAN’s defense, decrying DirecTV’s decision as another instance of the so-called cancel culture they warn so much about,” says Media Matters President Angelo Carusone. But such criticism, he argues, would “put Fox News’ relationship with cable companies into the spotlight and raises some tough questions that Fox doesn’t have compelling answers to.”
Perhaps OAN is too puny, too fringy to care about. A 2019 Nielsen survey of its reach found that it averaged 14,000 total viewers, compared with an average of 631,000 for Fox News, as reported by CNN. But if you can blather on about open discourse when a rinky-dink social media outfit posing no threat to Fox News hangs in the balance, you can certainly blather on about open discourse when a rinky-dink cable outfit posing no threat to Fox News hangs in the balance. It all goes to show that Fox News, despite its bluster, doesn’t stick up for American values, free expression or other “conservative” outlets. It sticks up for itself.