Fox News explains why America shouldn’t hear from Hunter Biden after Comer chickens out

House Republicans are still all-in on their plan to impeach President Joe Biden for Something Something Hunter Biden, even if they still haven't been able to work out the pesky details. But Hunter threw a wrench in the gears Tuesday morning with an offer to testify, in person, to the House Oversight Committee investigating him—but only if his testimony is public.

Crack Republican investigator and committee chair James Comer immediately shot that idea down, because at no point in the process did Republicans intend for Hunter Biden to actually respond to any of this. No, Republicans absolutely do not want Hunter to come in and testify publicly about their speculations and accusations.

Now Fox News and other Republican disinformation factories have to come up with some spin on why the House committee is right to not want the American public to hear Hunter's willing testimony. Acyn has the clip, so here's your shit show:

Fox News hosts trying to convince their viewers that a closed door deposition of Hunter Biden is better than a public hearing

— Acyn (@Acyn) November 28, 2023

Michele Tafoya: But I agree, I prefer hearings to be done behind closed doors, because I think they actually get to the heart of the matter, and they get some truth, and they can ask questions without preening for the camera, without all the grandstanding.

Yes, that's what the Republicans investigating the Something Something Hunter Biden conspiracy hate more than anything else: grandstanding. Comer and Jim Jordan are known nationwide for their unwillingness to do anything that looks like grandstanding. Republicans specifically selected lawmakers who would be least likely to tolerate grandstanding, which is why Comer and Jordan are joined on the committee by such level heads as—taking a deep breath here—Virginia Foxx, Glenn Grothman, Pete Sessions, Clay Higgins, Andy Biggs, Lauren Boebert, Anna Paulina Luna, Paul Gosar, and Marjorie Taylor “Absolutely No Grandstanding Here” Greene.

The House hearings on Hunter Biden are likely the most dignified and least showboating hearings to ever have occurred in any Congress anywhere, in fact. They ooze decorum like Jordan oozes concern for college athletes’ welfare.

Hmm. The chyron identifies Tafoya as a "former NFL sideline reporter." During her many years on the field, I wonder if she ever discovered a football game going on.

“That is my preference, and for Abby Lowell, for his attorney to say, ‘well you all use that to misinform, and to distort the facts,’ well you know what? You can do that too. After he comes out of his closed door session, you feel free to knock yourself out and you can distort too.”

Ah, and there we have the perfect encapsulation of the Fox News mindset: The truth isn't important! Nobody wants to see the truth for themselves! What's important is how partisans want to "distort" the facts, and the other side can distort the facts too, and then Fox will broadcast the distorted facts that it thinks are best and those are what you, loyal couch potato, should then base your entire mushy worldview around. That's how America is supposed to work.

It seems like just last week House Republicans were loudly crowing about how America needed to see all of the Capitol security camera footage from the Jan. 6, 2021 insurrection—absolutely needed to see every bit of it (except for the bits they're going to withhold because of reasons and the bits where they're going to blur out faces so that nasty, nasty law-abiding Americans can't snitch on any more rioters than they've already snitched on). Now we're hearing that cameras and public broadcasts are bad and what Americans really want to know is what the loudest conspiracy freaks in Congress think they should know.

I mean, you can't say she's wrong here. Roger Ailes built a whole network around that idea and he died rich and only mildly discredited, shunned, and a social pariah.

“I mean, it's a silly argument and Comer has said, ‘fine, sit before us publicly, a public hearing, we will do that later. We want the closed door one first.’”

And if you can't trust Comer and Jordan to keep their word, who can you trust? Ask Jordan's old wrestling team: This is a man who's never told a lie.

“And I think it's totally, totally appropriate. Hunter Biden would love nothing more than to sit, have cameras pointed at him, and try to generate the narrative that he wants to form.”

That darn grandstanding Hunter Biden. He tricked Rudy Giuliani into possessing his criminally hacked computer files. He tricked the least grandstand-y group of House Republicans to ever exist into displaying his hacked, private nude photos during a public hearing. He tricked them into focusing obsessively on all of the lowest moments of his life, using all of his worst failures as tabloid fodder for the sake of discrediting his father. Now he's trying to trick them into allowing him to tell his side of the story, after years of Republicans broadcasting their own version?

The absolute gall.


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Fox News host suggests ‘Biden and his boys’ framed Sen. Menendez to, uh, sell jets

I've asked this before and I'll likely ask it again, but can anyone figure out what the hell Fox host Jesse Watters is going on about this time?

JESSE WATTERS (HOST): Primetime finally figured out why gold bar-Bob Menendez is being taken out. The president of Turkey, Erdogan, wanted to buy F-16s from us, but gold bar-Bob, Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee put a hold on the jets. And now that the hold is lifted, Turkey's on an F-16 shopping spree.

Erdogan admitted it, saying this: "One of our most important problems regarding the F-16s were the activities of U.S. Senator Bob Menendez against our country." But it wasn't just a $20 billion sale that cleared, Turkey was holding up Sweden's application to NATO until they got their F-16s. And now that gold bar-Bob's gone, Turkey gets their jets, Sweden gets its NATO membership. Look how nicely things fall into place for Biden and his boys, when two gold bars are found in a Senator's house. Eh, it's probably a conspiracy theory.

That's the Media Matters transcription from Fox News' Oct. 2 broadcast of “Jesse Watters Primetime,” the program that replaced Tucker Carlson's show after Tucker got too big for his conspiracy britches and had to be sent to a farm upstate. And yes, there are elements of actual news stories rattling around in there. Now-indicted Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez did indeed use his chairmanship of the Foreign Relations Committee to block the sale of F-16 jets to ostensible NATO ally Turkey, a hold that Menendez based on Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan's stonewalling of Sweden's NATO membership, "aggression against [Turkey's] neighbors," and dismal human rights record. It’s worth noting that the committee’s new chair, Sen. Ben Cardin, seems to be in no hurry to lift the block.

Erdogan was nearly giddy about Menendez's indictment, saying last week that his removal from the chairmanship "gives us an advantage."

From these facts, we get a Watters snowball of speculation that even he has to pass off as a conspiracy theory, though only after lodging it inside Fox News viewers' gullible heads. So President Joe Biden "and his boys" get things to fall into place by, uh, planting gold bars in a senator's house? Biden and his boys got Menendez "taken out," framing a Democratic senator for acts of corruption because, uh, Turkey really wanted those jets?

What the airborne monkey heck are you going on about, Jesse? Is it your genuine premise that an innocent and hapless Menendez was taken down by the Biden regime for offending Turkey's would-be strongman or for holding up a big defense contract?

Have you been guzzling any off-brand cough medicine lately, buddy?

Alas, this is par for the course for Fox News primetime hours and is one of the reasons why as far back as 20 years ago, studies concluded that watching the network somehow made viewers even less informed about the news than people who watched no news at all. The reason Watters was pushed into the primetime slot vacated by Carlson was because he best matched Carlson's own brand of flagrant racism and bizarre conspiracies, providing Fox with the best chance of keeping Carlson's viewers glued to their TVs.

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You would definitely be less informed after watching Watters’ latest rant. Turkey has not gotten its jets. Sweden is not yet a NATO member (though Turkey did relent on its opposition), and Turkey's "shopping spree" doesn't consist of anything more than wanting the jets they originally ordered. If this is a conspiracy by the so-called Biden crime family to dispose of a senator who was being too mean to Tayyip Erdogan, of all people, they may have to smuggle gold bars into a lot of other senators' houses.

The Menendez indictment has highlighted the conservative movement’s disbelief that anyone would want to prosecute felonies committed by "important" people. Watters and other conservative pundits appear to be totally flummoxed by the thought that prosecutors would indict someone not for political reasons but instead because doing crimes is illegal even if you're wearing a flag pin and proclaiming yourself above such laws. Instead, they speculate, Menendez must only have been indicted because he was getting in the way of international arms deals or because the Justice Department needed to frame an important Democrat for committing crimes so that their indictments of Donald Trump for committing other crimes would look more legitimate.

That's led to Republicans either clamming up or actively defending Menendez, even as a majority of Democratic senators have demanded his resignation.

Republican lawmakers launched an impeachment inquiry into President Biden as an evidence-free act of retaliation against Democrats for impeaching Donald Trump over the Jan. 6 coup attempt and other corruption. It's already clear they don't consider the rule of law to be anything but a tool to be used against political enemies, one to be hidden away again whenever one of their own gets caught doing a crime (or 10).

All of that said, Watters will likely get into huge trouble on this one from the higher-ups, and not for the reasons you might think. Watters is mocking Menendez as a goldbug, calling him "Gold Bar Bob," but precious-metals companies prodding conservatives into hoarding overpriced gold and silver are some of Fox News' most reliable remaining advertisers. Jesse is making fun of the network's most-valued viewers here, and you know network bigwigs aren't going to let that one stand.


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Another day, another outright hoax promoted on Fox News

Fox "News" is a propaganda outfit intended to manipulate public opinion by bending the "news" to preferentially be whatever the Republican hard right would most like it to be. Sometimes this means reporting real news with a conservative edge to it; sometimes it means peddling hoaxes, often in tacit coordination with the Republicans who invented them to begin with. We're supposed to believe that if Fox only promotes a certain percentage of fake stories, they still retain legitimacy as a "real" news outlet, but there's never a number put to that. Can a legitimate news outlet run one completely made-up story a day and retain legitimacy? Is it fine if the hoaxes run mostly during prime-time hours? Can a network promote $790 million worth of fake news, but not $795 million?

Do tell, American pundit corps, because the rest of us remain mystified.

Over the weekend, Fox News showed us how they operate—again—with nearly three hours of gaudy coverage of a straight-up news hoax. This one was a throwback to the specific Rudy Giuliani-spread anti-Ukraine, anti-Biden hoaxes that got Donald Trump impeached when Trump attempted to solicit support for the hoax from the Ukrainian government in exchange for an end to his holdup of congressionally mandated military aid to the country.

Remember discredited former Ukrainian prosecutor general Viktor Shokin, the man ousted from the government after international pressure over what was seen as Shokin's, ahem, lackluster interest in fighting Ukrainian corruption? He's back, thanks to Fox News bobblehead Brian Kilmeade.

That it was left to one of the glassy-eyed “Fox & Friends” hosts to interview the disgraced Shokin should tell you just how little appetite there was among Fox’s "legitimate" news team to appear on camera with the buffoon; Kilmeade certainly has no reputation for "journalism" that could be tarnished. This is the conspiracy that resulted in the complete dismantling of conservative faux-journalist John Solomon's waning career, after all, and there's not many media figures outside the “Fox & Friends” lineup who want to be the next John Solomon.

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In the interview, Shokin regurgitated the same conspiracy theory that Giuliani attempted to import to the United States the moment it appeared that Joe Biden would be Trump's presidential opponent: the notion that he was the victim of a Biden plot to oust him when, in fact, his removal was spurred by an international campaign and by official United States government condemnation of his failures. Giuliani sought to boost the theory with the help of pro-Russian (read: treasonous) Ukrainian oligarchs that Ukraine's post-Shokin anticorruption efforts had targeted. That not a shred of this theory turned out to be true—and a whole lot of it was manufactured outright—was hardly a surprise.

That Trump himself would soon attach himself to the hoax, using the powers of his office to demand the Ukrainian government announce they were "investigating" the false charges, was ... also not a surprise.

Media Matters tallies up the Fox promotion of Shokin's completely hoax-premised claims against Biden, and between "teasing, airing, and analyzing" the interview it amounted to "at least 50 segments across 19 different programs." That's a heavy media push, and it coincides with a new House Republican push to mount an impeachment trial against Biden to act as a counternarrative to Trump potentially landing his ass in a prison cell on a host of federal and state charges.

Why would Fox News be resurrecting a Giuliani-boosted hoax immediately after Giuliani himself has been indicted for attempting to corruptly undermine an American election? What's the "news" value in rerunning one of his most notorious anti-Biden campaign scams?

There isn't any, as the interview itself made clear. But it allowed conspiracy-minded Fox News hosts to run the footage as if the claims were new, and to speculate on whether House Republicans would use Shokin's claims to help justify a Biden impeachment. That is of tremendous use to Republicans, even if Shokin himself remains an utterly discredited fraud-promoting huckster.

That brings us back to our original question, then. What percentage of the Fox News day can be booked with actual, known hoax-pushers before the "journalism" side of the business can be discredited? We've been told repeatedly by other media figures that the "news" side of Fox News is on the up-and-up, no matter how many times their anchors make partisan asses of themselves during "real news" hours. It's up to those media figures, then, to share a number with us. For CNN, for NBC, for The Washington Post, for The New York Times: What percentage of completely fake "news" can your journalism include, per segment or per page, and still retain its “real news” label?

Do tell. The rest of us simply don't seem to understand "journalism" with enough nuance to put some numbers to these things, so stop beating around the bush and just give us your answers, straight up. How many intentional hoaxes are "real" news outlets allowed to promote?


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As evidence of Trump’s coup plot grows, most Republican pundits are only shouting louder

The evidence that Donald J. Trump attempted to overthrow the United States government on Jan. 6, 2021 is overwhelming, and the House select committee tasked with investigating the coup has been remarkably effective in gathering and presenting it. It's a certainty that Trump gathered the crowd that day, that he was told many were armed, and that he specifically told them to "march" to the Capitol at the exact time Congress was meeting to acknowledge his election loss. His intent was to intimidate Congress into declaring the election invalid. He sat on his behind, watching television, watching the violence play out, and with a tweet attacking vice president Mike Pence specifically, egging it on. He refused to help until it had already been made clear that the violence had failed and both Congress and Pence were safe.

Trump is a stone-cold traitor surrounded by Republicans bent on toppling the government, and the effectiveness of the Jan. 6 committee's explanation of Trump's pathetic but still-violent plot has been enough to rattle anyone in conservative media not explicitly devoted to kissing Trump's ass. And that would be very good news—if the number of media conservatives who condemned the coup to begin with amounted to more than a handful. Everyone else in Republicanism is still riding the ol' fascist trolley, and anyone who thinks a fascist base is going to condemn a fascist leader for attempting to erase the rules preventing him from retaining power needs a refresher on what fascism actually is.

Is the conservative media turning against Trump, then? Not in any real numbers, no. What's changing right now is that some individual media figures are looking to cut Trump loose as too much of a liability even for Trumpism. Most of the movement is not that tactical, however, and those who supported the coup by promoting the invented hoaxes used to fuel it, and who immediately downplayed the deaths afterward—either with new hoaxes or by insisting that "most" of the crowd Trump gathered did not attempt to beat Capitol police officers to death in an effort to hunt down Trump's named enemies—are only shrieking those same hoaxes louder.

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In The New York Times, we get a run-through of so-called conservative reactions to the hearings and, surprise, it's all the usual garbage fire. Radio shrieker Mark Levin says that it wasn't a real insurrection because a real insurrection would have involved Trump arresting Mike Pence. Merely pointing an angry mob in his direction and telling them that Pence was the thing standing between them and victory doesn't count. There's Laura Ingraham, one of the Fox News hosts who thought the violence of the day was extremely bad when it was happening, and were begging the White House to call it off—but who immediately turned around to downplay the same violence to viewers, a process that has become rote whenever the network's hosts have found their own network rhetoric to be in too-close proximity to acts of domestic terrorism.

As for Tucker, what is there even to say? The perpetually whining brat remains as devoted to a fascist remaking of the country as fellow sociopath Steve Bannon, who Carlson hosted after Bannon was found guilty of criminal contempt of Congress. As the House select committee has held hearing after hearing, Carlson's show has gotten more and more vigorous in its condemnations of the committee's very existence.

Carlson's post-Trump-revelations show was a raging trash fire, an absolute parade of gaslighting with mockery for Pence's Secret Service team and every other law enforcement officer on the job that day:

Watch Tucker Carlson literally laugh at DC cop Michael Fanone saying he's "been left with psychological trauma and emotional anxiety" from the Capitol riots. Fanone was nearly beaten to death and suffered a heart attack! This is truly sociopathic behavior here.

— Justin Baragona (@justinbaragona) July 28, 2021

Sociopathic? Maybe. But even back during his CNN days, Tucker Carlson had a thing for mocking injured people—he spent multiple such days sneering about a lawsuit filed after a child had been disemboweled by a poorly designed pool drain. That giddy cruelty is his own little schtick, and possibly the only aspect of his persona that carried over from "smug fraternity kid in bowtie" to "globetrotting white nationalist with penchant for anti-democratic strongmen."

At The Washington Post, Greg Sargent mulls the "fracturing" between those conservatives that are attempting to cut Trump loose and those who are not, and is correct in suggesting that the split is mostly for self-serving reasons.

Two editorials from far-right media kingpin Rupert Murdoch's possessions, in The Wall Street Journal and the New York Post, are unambiguous in cutting Trump loose; Trump has proven "unworthy" for office, says the Post. Sargent cites Post newsletter-writer Olivier Knox to note that the split is perhaps between those who fancy themselves part of the D.C. establishment versus those whose public personas rely on demonizing that establishment.

Put more bluntly: As revelations mount about what Trump did not just to assemble the violent mob, but the acts he took to use the resulting violence in his bid to stay in power, it's every conservative pundit for themselves. The question in every pundit’s mind is whether Donald Trump is so damaged—or so close to being indicted—that the movement has to pry him loose and accept the damage.

Much of what passes for intellectual Republicanism still secretly despises Trump, as anyone with a brain and a pulse naturally should, and would absolutely love to cut the ineffectual, unpredictable blowhard away from his base so that the movement could be inherited by an equally mean-spirited but more competent new Dear Leader. From most Republican senators to the editors of the Journal, replacing Trump with a less buffoonish figure would be a dream come true.

For the vast majority of the "conservative" media, however, every possible off-ramp was passed by long ago. The whole point of the newly fascist movement is that their "enemies" are wrong, every investigation of wrongdoing by movement leaders is a fabrication meant to discredit them, and indeed the entire world is allied in conspiracy against them. The news is no longer even news, but a jumping-off point for adding another lie to the big pile.

Fox's Greg Gutfeld makes ridiculous claim that the January 6 hearings are “exonerating Trump”

— Media Matters (@mmfa) July 25, 2022

You're not going to get career talking heads who staked themselves to the notion that four years and two impeachments’ worth of rampant Trump corruption was all a conspiracy by Republicanism's enemies to make the ridiculous public clown look bad to now reverse themselves. They became big-name pundit celebrities by claiming all Republicans are innocent all the time.

Nobody on the Fox News programs is struggling with the question, or doing any nighttime soul-searching on whether the new details of Trump's inaction should finally be the brick that walls him up forever in the mausoleum of failed leaders. Every paycheck for the last four years has been dependent on their own ability to feed their audience whatever that audience wants most to hear, and the Republican base most wants to hear unhinged conspiracy theories about how all of their non-white, non-conservative, non-straight, non-library-hating enemies all plotted to make it look like Trump is a nation-betraying pile of crap, even after far-right cartoonists spent all those years drawing him as conservatism's musclebound and perfect-postured savior.

Republicanism is a fascist movement. There's no getting around that at this point; the party is dedicated to pushing hoaxes and propaganda as a primary means of winning elections, and is especially focused on targeting all Americans who are not them as their enemies. The truth of whether or not Dear Leader incited a violent, armed mob to assault a joint session of Congress rather than abide an election loss is not important, because the Republicans of the House and Senate, the Fox News punditry, and the Republican base would all have absolutely supported Trump's move to seize power if it had worked.

If the mob had found and killed Mike Pence and Trump used the act to declare emergency powers, nullify the election, and remain parked in the White House, every Republican from McConnell to Graham to McCarthy to Sean Hannity would all be defending Trump's position as the only plausible path forward. It would only be "reasonable" for Trump to act to maintain the nation's "security," and if the loser of an election announcing themselves to be the winner has never been done before, at the presidential level, then it would still be declared better than the unrest that would transpire if law enforcement or the military tried to remove him from the building.

We've been here before. We've been here even during the impeachment process launched against Trump for this precise event. Terrible shame, the Republicans all said, but Congress having to flee a violent mob is hardly reason to put a negative mark down in a president's permanent political record. Now let us all move on to hunt down "critical race theory" in all its imagined forms.

Fascist pundits respect power (see: Viktor Orban) and mock perceived weakness (see: Capitol police officers unable to subdue the mob.) The coup attempt is still seen, by them, as a perfectly reasonable bit of politicking, and the main concern even when it was happening was not over whether their dear ally Donald Trump was a filthy violence-provoking traitor using hoaxes to overturn an American election but the optics that would result after it presumably failed. There's nobody on Fox News saying this should never happen again. They're saying it was no big deal to begin with, and why are our political enemies so obsessed with this.

The bad news for Trump is that even pro-fascist conservative pundits are likely to cut Trump loose in the near future. The movement no longer needs him. Anyone looking for promises of vengeance against non-whites, against LGBT children, against school librarians, against pandemic scientists or other movement enemies has a host of Republican governors who have been falling over themselves to prove they could lead such a movement. Florida's Ron DeSantis has literally been copying even Trump's mannerisms in his bid to detach Trump from his base and paste himself into its leadership.

Whether the base will go along is another matter, but ... they probably will. Again, fascist movements celebrate power and mock weakness; all a new leader has to do to beat Trump is belittle him in front of the base that coalesced around Trump specifically because they liked seeing people belittled. Trump's success in creating a movement that is utterly vapid will eventually be his own undoing; these are people with low attention spans. Their focus is on hurting their perceived enemies, not loyalty toward their perceived allies. Anyone who lets them express their constant bubbling rage will do.

Trump and his followers proved on Jan. 6 how dangerously close they came to overturning our democracy. Help cancel Republican voter suppression with the power of your pen by clicking here and signing up to volunteer with Vote Forward, writing personalized letters to targeted voters urging them to exercise their right to vote this year.


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