Introduction: In a shocking turn of events, two prominent Fox News commentators, Stephen Hayes and Jonah Goldberg, have recently resigned in protest, citing a disturbing pattern of incendiary and fabricated claims by the network's opinion hosts in support of former President Donald Trump. The focal point of their discontent lies in Tucker Carlson's three-part series on the Jan. 6 siege of the U.S. Capitol, which they argue relied on fabrications and conspiracy theories to exonerate Trump supporters involved in the attack.
The Breaking Point: Hayes and Goldberg, both long-time conservative figures on Fox News, revealed in separate interviews with NPR that Carlson's series, titled Patriot Purge, served as the proverbial last straw. The series, aired on Fox's paid streaming service, Fox Nation, raised eyebrows within the network and beyond. It claimed that the Biden regime was targeting half the country, framing the events as a War on Terror 2.0. This narrative, laden with innuendo and conspiracy theories, sparked concerns of potential real-world consequences, including violence.
Resignations Reflect Larger Tumult: Insiders suggest that the resignations of Hayes and Goldberg reflect a broader upheaval within Fox News. Carlson's increasingly strident stances and the network's willingness to let opinion hosts propagate false claims against President Biden and his administration have triggered discontent. Veteran figures on Fox's news side, such as political anchors Bret Baier and Chris Wallace, voiced objections to Fox News executives, including CEO Suzanne Scott and President of News Jay Wallace, and ultimately to Lachlan Murdoch, the chairman and CEO of Fox Corp.
Unfulfilled Assurances: Goldberg revealed that he had received assurances from Fox's news leaders that the network would tone down incendiary commentary and claims as Trump left Washington, D.C., following his election defeat. However, the decision by Fox's election analysts to be the first to project Biden's win in Arizona on election night triggered a different trajectory. The network's stars, including Carlson, showcased unwavering support for Trump and his most ardent followers, leading to increasingly indefensible positions, according to Goldberg.
Shifts in Programming: Fox News underwent notable changes, including the removal of leaders from its political desk, layoffs of researchers, and the introduction of a new opinion hour at 7 p.m. These changes tilted the channel towards more Trump-friendly content, despite attempts by its news programs to gently correct the record on the 2020 elections and the Capitol siege. The news anchor lineup saw adjustments, pushing Trump-friendly content into more prominent slots.
Carlson's Patriot Purge: Carlson's series on the Capitol insurrection, Patriot Purge, depicted a dystopian narrative that raised concerns even within the network. The series, available on Fox Nation, claimed a new war on terror, with soldiers and paramilitary agencies hunting down American citizens. Promotional videos for the series triggered alarm, with critics deeming it irresponsible to broadcast such content. The narrative contradicted legal documents, broad news reporting, and Fox News' own news site.
Response and Criticism: In response to the resignations, Carlson stated that the departure of the two contributors would substantially improve the channel. He dismissed their criticism, mocking them for denouncing him as a purveyor of conspiracy theories. Notably, he drew attention to their support for the Iraq War, questioning the credibility of their commentary.
News Programs Distancing Themselves: Viewers witnessed prominent Fox News journalists distancing themselves from Carlson's series without explicitly mentioning his name. Segments on the investigation of the insurrection and interviews dismissing false-flag attack claims showcased a notable departure from the controversial narrative presented in Patriot Purge.
Conclusion: The resignations of Hayes and Goldberg signal a deeper conflict within Fox News, highlighting the tension between journalistic integrity and the network's commitment to a particular political narrative. As the fallout continues, it remains to be seen how Fox News will navigate these internal challenges and address concerns raised by both its own journalists and the broader media landscape. The controversy surrounding Carlson's Patriot Purge underscores the delicate balance between opinion journalism and responsible reporting in today's polarized media environment.