Throughout the last administration, Fox News served as an unofficial channel to a president who was pretty much always tuned in, with on-air lobbyists ranging from the family of an accused war criminal to the former prime minister of Israel. But in the midst of the Capitol riot, the effort to contact Trump was even more direct than usual. According to text messages read aloud by Republican Liz Cheney during a Monday night hearing of the House committee investigating the insurrection, several Fox News hosts texted White House chief of staff Mark Meadows to get Donald Trump to act to stop the rioters.
“Mark, the president needs to tell people in the Capitol to go home,” Laura Ingraham texted Meadows. “This is hurting all of us. He is destroying his legacy.” Sean Hannity asked if the president could “make a statement” and “ask people to leave the Capitol,” and Fox & Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade said the Trump supporters breaking into the building were “destroying everything you have accomplished.” Kilmeade’s solution? “Please get him on TV.” Another unofficial network star texted Meadows as well: According to the records obtained by the committee before the former chief of staff stopped cooperating, Donald Trump Jr. texted Meadows to ask the president to “condemn this shit ASAP.” (Perhaps his father wasn’t responding to direct messages.)
Setting aside the issue of whether a news organization’s on-air talent advising the president is a conflict of interest, the texts raise some questions about the hosts’ more dismissive coverage of the insurrection. On her show January 6, Ingraham suggested that many in the crowd could be leftist agitators: “I have never seen Trump rally attendees wearing helmets, black helmets, brown helmets, black backpacks — the uniforms you saw in some of these crowd shots.” (There is scant evidence for the claim, which has become a common dismissal of the violence at the Capitol.) That night, Kilmeade said, “I do not know Trump supporters that have ever demonstrated violence that I know of in a big situation.” And Monday night, shortly after the texts were read aloud by Cheney, Hannity had Meadows on his show for close to ten minutes without ever mentioning the exchange.
Other messages to Meadows detail the extent to which the White House was aware of the events at the Capitol on January 6. “There’s an armed standoff at the House chamber door,” one text read, while another stated, “We are all helpless.” Cheney argued that these messages left “no doubt” Meadows and Trump were aware of just how intense the break-in at the Capitol was. On Monday night, the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack voted to recommend holding Meadows in criminal contempt for defying a subpoena with the measure going to the House at-large tomorrow.