Bringhurst: Fox News Deliberately Spreads Hateful Rhetoric


Emily Christensen

(Design by Emily Christensen | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

By Maggie Bringhurst, Opinion Writer


Voicing an opinion on Fox News feels like screaming into an echo chamber. While a majority of Republicans trust the news outlet, Democrats like President Joe Biden regard it as “one of the most destructive forces in the United States.” Their selective reporting on gun control, climate change and COVID-19 demonstrate political bias and gross negligence, leading to deadly consequences like the racially-motivated Buffalo shooting.

Fox News intentionally blurs the line between opinion and news to get away with promoting reactionary content. Extreme polarization solidifies loyalty to the network and Republican party, meaning it is in politicians’ and media’s best interests to leave Fox News unchecked.

Between Opinion and Fact

In 2020, former Playboy model Karen McDougal sued Fox News host Tucker Carlson for defamation after he accused her of extorting former President Donald Trump. Carlson won the case despite the falseness of his claims, where the judge cited Carlson’s role as a commentator rather than reporter. “Given Mr. Carlson’s reputation, any reasonable viewer ‘arrive[s] with an appropriate amount of skepticism’ about the statement he makes,” the judge wrote.

If that is true, then Fox News viewers aren’t reasonable. While Carlson doesn’t outright claim vaccines to be ineffective, he floats questions to incite conspiratorial thinking in his audience. As a result, Fox News viewers are less likely to trust vaccines. And during coverage of the Jan. 6 insurrection, hosts Laura Ingraham and Sean Hannity suggested “Antifa” coordinated the attack. Yet text messages with former White House Chief-of-Staff Mark Meadows revealed that the hosts begged Meadows to ask Trump to call off the riot.

Ingraham, Hannity and Carlson propose conspiracies with no basis in fact. Subsequently, Republicans who watch Fox News are more likely to believe conspiracies about Jan. 6 and election fraud than Republicans who watch other news outlets. Viewers clearly take Fox News hosts seriously, where the outlet’s skepticism can be outright disinformation.

Journalists should tell people what issues to think about, not what to think. Fox News does both. In a 2020 study, researchers paid Fox News viewers to watch CNN for a month, and compared their attitudes on current events with a control group. Researchers concluded, “Group participants became more likely to agree that if Donald Trump made a mistake, Fox News would not cover it — i.e., that Fox News engages in partisan coverage filtering.” Though the test group recognized Fox News’s biased reporting, they returned to old viewing habits which fed into their preconceived notions. Reporters must be the ones to ensure the public is receiving all the facts.

The Business of Polarization

Fox News won’t report facts because polarization is profitable. Fox News retains loyal viewers by prioritizing divisive news and presenting issues in a polarizing way, isolating Republicans from other news sources. Sixty-five percent of Republicans trust Fox News, while no more than 33% trust any other news organization.

Fostering a right-wing echo chamber also benefits Republican politicians. Politicians who criticize the left will likely receive more screen time, and the easiest way to gain support from constituents is to amplify polarization.

In the aftermath of two mass shootings, Fox News should have followed other news outlets in debating gun control. But that’s not what their viewers want to hear, so they deflected the conversation. Fox News debated numerous solutions to gun violence following the Uvalde school shooting, but not a single one was gun control. Texas Lt. Governor Dan Patrick later appeared on Carlson’s show, where Carlson asked why “it’s important to pray in a moment like this” instead of grilling the politician on solutions.

Reactionary media has deadly consequences. While the first amendment may prevent the courts from holding Fox News accountable, greed prevents politicians and Fox News from changing the way they report. And unfortunately, the consequences of biased news spread further than party loyalty.

Hold Responsible Parties Accountable

The Buffalo shooter’s alleged manifesto mentions the “great replacement theory,” a debunked racist myth arguing that Democrats support open-border immigration policies to minimize the percentage of white people in the country. Carlson referenced the replacement theory in more than 400 episodes of his show, with other hosts referencing it as well. Following the shooting, Fox News could have provided their audience with clarity and recognized the danger to the myth. Instead Carlson played dumb, claiming he didn’t know what replacement theory was.

“For years, these types of beliefs have existed at the fringes of American life,” wrote Democrat Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer in a letter to Fox News. “However, this pernicious theory, which has no basis in fact, has been injected into the mainstream thanks in large part to a dangerous level of amplification by your network and its anchors.”

We should hold Fox News to a higher journalistic standard. Allowing a popular news network to spread such harmful conspiracy theories only ensures a more violent, polarized future for our society. 

As a student studying journalism, the success of Fox News discourages me. A functional democracy relies on accurate, unbiased reporting. Fox News monopolizes viewership by fostering distrust in Republican viewers, and young people should challenge parents and relatives on their primary news sources. Fox News threatens more than just partisanship — it threatens lives. 


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