Let’s stipulate that Roberts is not akin to the “Fox & Friends” hosts or Fox’s evening lineup of Trump sycophants when it comes to distorting reality and cheerleading Trump. (Disclosure: I am an MSNBC contributor.) However, the White House has been deflecting like this for nearly four years. It has refused to answer all sorts of questions about Russian President Vladimir Putin, about Trump’s finances, about Trump’s embrace of racists and about any topic that would reveal Trump to be clueless or malicious. McEnany is just the most egregious practitioner of the non-response or the out-and-out falsehood. Roberts cannot possibly have just figured this out.
Roberts should look closer to home, if he’s “tired of it.” It is his network that allows Trump on air to spin bizarre conspiracy theories and blatant lies about his opponent. It is Fox News that has become a cesspool of anti-democratic (small “d”) and racist tropes. It is Fox News that tries to avoid — or to borrow a word, “deflects” — topics injurious to Trump, such as the New York Times bombshell about his taxes. It is his network that followed Trump’s anti-mask sneering. It is Fox News that has denigrated Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s top infectious-disease expert, and defended Trump’s covid-19 inanities — until he declares he was joking or being sarcastic. Even its “straight news” anchor Bret Baier went on air before the presidential debate to treat wild conspiracy theories about former vice president Joe Biden cheating at the debate as a serious story. It is Fox News that repeats Russian propaganda debunked by our intelligence community and the Senate Intelligence Committee concerning Ukraine.
It would be hard to find one entity on the planet more responsible than John Roberts’s employer for enabling Trump, keeping his base in line, misleading the public about Trump’s corruption, excusing his culpability and giving him a sense of invincibility. It is not the only one, but it certainly leads the pack of Pravda-like outlets whose job is to defend Trump by deceiving viewers and readers if need be.
And speaking of Fox News’s role in creating and sustaining the Trump phenomenon, what exactly does the network do if and when Trump loses and the story of Trump’s unfitness, incompetence and the rest comes tumbling out? I suppose it would decline to cover that as well.
But in the end (we are reaching the end, right?), Fox News aggravated Trump’s worst tendencies and put him in a feedback loop. He comfortably inhabited a parallel reality and therefore never learned to function in our reality. He could always count on Sean Hannity, Tucker Carlson or “Fox & Friends” to reinforce his delusions. Fox News has encouraged him and its viewers to downplay the coronavirus, literally putting Americans’ lives at risk. Fox News might have sustained Trump for a few years, but it has left him entirely vulnerable to a real opponent with real facts. And if the goal was to bolster the views of its viewers, Fox News wound up deluding them as well.
Fox News did accomplish one thing: It made a ton of money. It might be money gained at the expense of our democracy and of thousands of American lives, but it did deliver for its stock owners. Think of it as the political equivalent of blood diamonds. I do wonder in the quiet moments whether Fox News’s board of directors, senior management and stockholders think it was worth it. Are they proud of their handiwork?
As for Roberts, if he really is tired, he might consider leaving his present position. No one would blame him for deciding not to work for a propaganda machine thinly disguised as a news network.