The 2020 U.S. presidential election witnessed an unprecedented level of tension, heightened by four years of President Donald Trump’s aggressive leadership style and a nation divided. Not only did people have to vote in the middle of an extraordinary global pandemic, but the country was still coming to terms with a racially charged summer filled with social unrest and turmoil. Amidst this backdrop, it is hardly surprising that the political discourse was highly polarizing and heavily saturated with disinformation.
This polarization became particularly evident when Joe Biden won the election and his rival Donald Trump refused to concede graciously. This refusal was accompanied by wild allegations of fraud without any proof, as well as a constant stream of conspiracy theories perpetuated by Fox News – one of America’s most-watched cable networks. This ultimately culminated in the Capitol Hill riots of January 6th 2021, emphasizing how Fox News had become Trump’s weaponized propaganda machine for spreading what has come to be known as ‘The Big Lie’.
Fox News is owned by Rupert Murdoch and was created in 1996 as a direct challenge to CNN – which leaned more to the left on political issues. Under CEO Roger Ailes’ tenure, although the network presented conservative perspectives, it was still mostly fair and balanced in its coverage – which was even reflected in its tagline: “Fair & Balanced”. However, things changed drastically when Trump entered politics and Murdoch replaced Ailes as CEO; Fox News abandoned its tagline and shifted further towards extreme right-wing positions – eventually becoming Trump’s primary platform for spreading lies about electoral fraud during 2020’s U.S presidential election campaign.
It is now clear that Fox News played an integral role in undermining democracy in America by extensively promoting false claims about voter fraud without any basis in truth or evidence, all while allowing their highest profile news presenters openly campaign for Donald Trump at rallies held during the 2018 elections. It is thus not surprising that Fox News provided a ready platform for President Trump to declare victory before all votes were tallied or when he baselessly alleged that Biden had stolen it from him after he lost the election outright.
If you want to get an even deeper understanding into how Fox News evolved into one of President Trump’s most potent weapons against truth and democracy, then check out this two-part documentary series which examines this subject matter in detail!