Pull the Press Tags

Why the White House should strip Fox News of its press credentials, part infinity:

DAILY BEAST: [Fox News host Jesse] Watters had urged [Turning Point USA] attendees to “go in for the kill shot” and “ambush” Fauci if they see him in public, using violent rhetoric to encourage them to confront Fauci with conspiracy theories over the origins of the coronavirus pandemic.

“The kill shot, with an ambush—deadly, ’cause he doesn’t see it coming. This is when you say, ‘Dr. Fauci, you funded risky research at a sloppy Chinese lab, the same lab that sprung this pandemic on the world. You know why people don’t trust you, don’t you?’ Boom, he is dead! He is dead! He’s done!” Watters told the crowd, referring to the baseless claim among conservatives that the virus was “engineered” by a lab Fauci funded.

Watters also encouraged supporters to film their “ambush” of Fauci so they could become famous.

“You do that—30 seconds, it’s all you need. Now you get that footage to us, you get it to Fox… Imagine Tucker Carlson teases that…,” he said.

Fauci said Watters should be “fired on the spot.” Predictably, Fox News is standing by BillO’s gropenführer-in-training:

“Based on watching the full clip and reading the entire transcript, it’s more than clear that Jesse Watters was using a metaphor for asking hard-hitting questions to Dr. Fauci about gain-of-function research and his words have been twisted completely out of context,” Fox News said in a statement obtained by Newsweek.

Imagine how the Fox News personalities who were texting their leader’s chief of staff on January 6th to protect their joint reputations would respond to a garbage rationalization like that if you switched the names “Fauci” and “Trump” in Watters’ script. Actually, we don’t have to imagine it. I know it’s not an apples-to-apples comparison, but the Fox News team shrieked in unison like 10,000 simultaneously scalded ferrets when comedian Kathy Griffin did the stunt with the fake Trump head, and Griffin suffered real professional consequences.

It’s pretty obvious to me at least why Watters chose violent imagery when smearing a public health official who has worked to keep Americans safe from deadly diseases for decades. The network’s business model is to radicalize viewers against political opponents. Another Fox News personality recently compared Fauci to Josef Megele. She wasn’t fired either. Kyle Rittenhouse was the celebrity guest at the event where Watters babbled about “kill shots.” Viewers can put two and two together.

I believe in a free press, and I’m not saying the government should shut Fox News down, though I also believe no single contemporary entity has done more to make America stupid and enraged and violent than Fox News has. Fox News was conjured into existence to protect one of the two viable political parties from the consequences of their corrupt and/or criminal actions. Having achieved that, it has morphed into a dangerous propaganda outlet that threatens democracy itself.

The U.S. Constitution not being a suicide pact, maybe there’s a case to be made for the feds to do something about how Fox News and its imitators dump poison into people’s minds, in the same way they’d stop a strip-mining outfit from dumping toxins into a river. That’s not an argument I’m making here, and I acknowledge it’s a fraught issue.

But Democrats should stop treating that network like a legitimate news organization, starting with the current press secretary. It’s time to shut down the Psaki and Doocy show, even if seeing the daily/weekly pantsing is satisfying on some level. There’s real harm in giving Fox News an imprimatur of respectability.

I’m not constitutional scholar, so maybe our First Amendment requires Fox News to openly foment a Radio Rwanda-style atrocity before they’re sued out of existence or otherwise put out of business. But there’s nothing but norms and unearned professional courtesy keeping Fox News in the White House briefing room and claiming seats on Air Force One right now. Enough already. Kick those fuckers out.

Open thread.

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