Fox News talking heads have been chasing Donald Trump down the election conspiracy rabbit hole and keep getting caught betwixt and between when the conspiracies don’t pan out.
The credibility of its talking heads, even among die-hard right-wingers, has been shattered, sending ratings to the basement among cable news channels.
Some blame the ratings plunge on Trump himself, both directly and indirectly.
The President went so far as to call out Fox host Laura Ingraham for wearing a mask at his Waterford Township, Michigan rally.
It was a classic case of hypocrisy. Ingraham, one of Trump’s loyal sycophants, has been touting his COVID-19 lies and misrepresentations on air.
But off-camera she and other Fox News employees have been working under COVID restrictions just like most other businesses.
“Somewhere along the line we lost Fox, but that’s OK,” Trump said at the rally.
Trump has turned the COVID response–especially wearing masks–into a political issue.
He’s consistently ignored protocols by refusing to wear a mask and packing mostly maskless people in at his rallies.
“I can’t recognize you,” Trump bleated at Ingraham when he spotted her wearing a mask.
“Look at you, Laura,” he shouted. ‘”She’s being very politically correct. Whoa! Whoa!”
At least 20 people, including top administration officials, tested positive, including Trump himself in the runup to the election.
New outbreaks have occurred among out-going Vice President Mike Pence’s staff, and three days after the election, White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows also tested positive.
Tucker Carlson has used his talk show to tout a number of Trump’s conspiracies, only to be led down one blind alley after another.
Carlson aggressively covered the alleged Hunter Biden email scandal, after The New York Post reported the story in early October.
He went way out on a limb pushing supposed allegations, including charging that Joe Biden was lying about his role in his son’s Chinese business dealings.
Other media outlets, including the news division at Fox News debunked the claims. Nonetheless, Carlson continued his crusade.
In a bizarre, conspiratorial twist, he claimed a trove of documents had mysteriously disappeared, strongly implying they had been pinched by nefarious (read Democratic) individuals.
But that ended up being another blind alley. A UPS tracer found the package.
Then, seemingly out of the blue, Carlson did a stunning about-face.
Beside the obvious reason–Hunter Biden wasn’t running for president–Carlson gave this bizarre explanation.
“I never thought Hunter Biden was a bad person,” he said. “I thought he had demons but in the time I knew him he kept them mostly under control. At some point, he lost control of those demons and the world knows that now.
“He’s now humiliated and alone. Probably too strong to say we feel sorry for Hunter Biden, but the point is pounding on a man, jumping on, and piling on when he’s already down is something we don’t want to be involved in.”
Fox talking heads did an even deeper dive down the rabbit hole chasing Trump’s post-election conspiracies about widespread voter fraud.
Carlson and leading Trump sycophant Sean Hannity spoke ominously about the vote results, according to The New York Times.
Ingraham, burned once by Trump, towed the line on election fraud conspiracies.
She claimed Democrats were trying to “destroy the integrity of our election process.”
She cited “mail-in, day-of registration efforts, counting after the election is over, dumping batches of votes a day, two days, maybe even three days after an election.”
All of the allegations are unproven.
Yet, she hosted right-wing talking head Newt Gingrich, who outright charged Democrats had “stolen the election” in major cities like Philadelphia, Milwaukee, Atlanta and Detroit.
“I think the more information that comes out, the greater the rage is going to be,” he said.
Trump’s legal team has filed and lost at least two dozen lawsuits since then. No fraud has been proven.
But an air of reality was also creeping into some Fox broadcasts.
On the Trump friendly show, “Fox & Friends,” co-host Steve Doocy challenged Trump supporter Pam Bondi over claims that “fake ballots” were coming in late.
Carlson also went out on a limb to promote another conspiracy theory that electronic voting systems used in some states had altered, or erased, tens of thousands of votes to favor Biden.
But he backtracked again, clashing with Trump lawyer Sidney Powell, after she blew off his request to see the evidence.
“We invited Sidney Powell on the show. We would have given her the whole hour,” Carlson said.
“But she never sent us any evidence, despite a lot of requests, polite requests. Not a page. When we kept pressing, she got angry and told us to stop contacting her.
“She never demonstrated that a single actual vote was moved illegitimately by software from one candidate to another. Not one.”
Carlson’s recklessness on air landed him in court last year.
In a complaint, former Playboy model Karen McDougal sued Fox News over a “Tucker Carlson Tonight” segment.
Carlson accused her of “extortion” in her dealings with Donald Trump over a 10-month sexual affair that ended with a $130,000 payoff to silence her through The National Enquirer.
In reality, Trump and his then-attorney, Michael Cohen, were coordinating the whole “catch and kill” operation with Enquirer executive David Pecker, according to The Washington Post.
A federal judge dismissed the case in September, with a decided slap at Carlson. The judge, Mary Kay Vyskocil, said he was “not a credible news source.”