Brian Stelter says the origins of Donald Trump’s election-fraud story lie not with the former president, his former lawyer lieutenants or anyone else — but squarely with Fox News and star host Sean Hannity.
The former CNN anchor appeared Thursday on “Alex Wagner Tonight” to promote his new book, “Network of Lies: The Epic Saga of Fox News, Donald Trump, and the Battle for American Democracy.” During the segment, Stelter said it was Hannity and Fox who originally “seeded” the narrative later pushed by Sidney Powell, Rudy Giuliani and others — with a direct line to the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol.
“First of all, people say a lot of things about how Fox is poisoning democracy,” Wagner said to kick off the conversation. “But you’ve done a sort of granular assessment and deep reporting on how lit-er-al-ly Fox is feeding Trump the lies — that then in turn lead to the coup attempt.”
“And they knew what they were doing,” Stelter replied, referencing the trove of texts, emails and other evidence brought forth in Dominion Voting Systems’ successful lawsuit against Rupert Murdoch’s company.
“Lawyers were able to get inside and read all of the emails with Sean Hannity, Tucker Carlson, and read what they were saying at the time,” he continued. “I have never seen any major media company in the United States exposed the way Fox was exposed.”
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“It is remarkable to see how [Fox] seeded the ‘Big Lie’ for Trump,” Stelter continued. “[It] didn’t just happen in 2020. It was made to happen. Maria Bartiromo went on the air to talk about Dominion, with the help of Sidney Powell — the Trump-aligned lawyer — and four days later Trump started saying it.”
Next came a Trump tweet “thanking” Hannity for bringing the Colorado-based voting machine company to his attention: “It was Fox who seeded the story that gets us down the path toward January 6th.”
Stelter also agreed with Wagner’s assessment that Hannity served as a “sort of shadow chief of staff in the White House” during the time when the 2020 election was being questioned.
“What stuns me is the degree to which Donald Trump is at once the puppet master and … the puppet itself,” Wagner said.
Fox did not immediately respond to a request for comment Friday.