Three Fox News hosts who have been among Donald Trump’s most ardent media boosters were so horrified by the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol that they begged the then-president’s chief of staff to convince him to intercede, according to newly aired messages from that day.
The text messages were read aloud by Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) during a Monday night hearing of the House select committee investigating the events of Jan. 6, which voted to hold Meadows in criminal contempt for defying a subpoena to appear before the committee.
“According to the records, multiple Fox News hosts knew the president needed to act immediately,” Cheney said. “They texted Mark Meadows, and he has turned over those texts.”
Ingraham, as well her colleagues Sean Hannity and Brian Kilmeade, urged Meadows to implore Trump to take the riot seriously and to work to protect his accomplishments as president.
Kilmeade, who co-hosts the morning show “Fox & Friends,” urged Meadows in a text message to “please get him on TV.” He said that the riot was “destroying everything you have accomplished.”
Hannity asked Meadows if Trump could “make a statement” and “ask people to leave the Capitol.”
The texts, which were among thousands of pages of messages and documents that Meadows turned over to the committee before deciding not to cooperate further, demonstrate a high level of alarm about the events of that day among Fox’s top opinion hosts, two of them fretting about the long-term impact on Trump’s reputation.
During the hearing, Cheney also read out frantic texts to Meadows from the president’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., who called on his father to “condemn” the actions of the rioters and make a speech from the Oval Office.
The hearing was not carried on Fox News on Monday evening. Representatives for the network have not yet responded to a request for comment about the texts.
But the texts stand in contrast with some of the messages that Ingraham, Hannity and Kilmeade sent to Fox News viewers in appearances on the night of Jan. 6.
While Ingraham that afternoon called the attack “disgraceful” and said that “the president needs to tell everyone to leave the building,” later that night, she suggested on-air that some of the rioters might have been left-wing agitators rather than Trump supporters. “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,” she said.
Kilmeade made a similar point in an appearance that night on Fox. “I do not know Trump supporters that have ever demonstrated violence that I know of in a big situation,” he said.
While Hannity expressed his displeasure with the riot — “I don’t want to ever see our Capitol building breached like this ever again” — he also cast doubt about whether Trump supporters were largely responsible. Of the Jan. 6 participants, Hannity said that “the majority of them were peaceful.”
Hannity hosted Meadows on his Fox News show on Monday night but did not address his messages to the former Trump aide.
Alyssa Farah, who resigned as White House communications director approximately one month before the Jan. 6 riot, criticized the Fox News hosts during a Monday night appearance on CNN, where she now works as a political commentator. “Some of these Fox News hosts are speaking out of both sides of their mouth on this,” she said. “They knew how bad this was the day of and even the few days afterwards.”
Although many conservative media personalities expressed concern about the actions of the protesters on Jan. 6, some of the most influential voices on television and radio slowly modified the way they talked about the events of that day over the following months.
On Monday, Hannity seemed to equate the Jan. 6 riot with protests that followed the murder of George Floyd in May 2020.
“I said it that day, and I said it now, and I mean it: we’re a country of law and order. We have to be,” he said. But “with that said,” he added, “I would like an answer to why we had 500 riots in the summer of 2020, dozens of Americans dead, thousands of cops injured, billions of dollars in property damage, arson and looting. Where’s that committee, congressman? I’d like to see that committee.”
Fox News host Tucker Carlson, who had said on Jan. 6 that “you’re not allowed to break windows or encourage people to break windows,” told his audience in September that the Capitol rioters “don’t look like terrorists. They look like tourists.” He has also baselessly suggested federal government involvement in the events of Jan. 6, culminating with his production of a three-part documentary series that featured claims that the deadly riot was a “false flag” or a “honey pot.” Two Fox News contributors, Jonah Goldberg and Stephen Hayes, cited that series as their primary rationale for resigning from the network, calling it “a collection of incoherent conspiracy-mongering, riddled with factual inaccuracies, half-truths, deceptive imagery, and damning omissions.”