Rupert Murdoch’s team has heard the Jan. 6 committee’s message
How do you know when a core communication that crosses the partisan divide has gotten through?
Answer: When media from both sides of the divide receive the message.
That’s what happened on Saturday, June 11 — even before yesterday’s second hearing of the bipartisan House Select Committee investigating the events that led up to Jan. 6, 2021, and the violent siege of the Capitol that day. A powerful national voice of conservatism, The Wall Street Journal, let us know that it heard what the committee was telling us at its June 9 hearing.
In the Journal’s Saturday editorial entitled, “The Evidence of the Jan. 6 Committee,” its editors offered a powerful summation: “Mr. Trump betrayed his supporters by conning them on Jan. 6, and he is still doing it.”
This from the newspaper owned by Rupert Murdoch, who also controls Fox News, the cable channel that refused to show the June 9 prime-time hearings.
Even so, his preeminent newspaper’s editorial is noteworthy because journalists on the left heard and amplified the virtually identical message. The eminent James Fallows articulated it: “Donald Trump lost the election, and everyone [in his circle] including him knew it.” Fallows wrote that the mistake the Jan. 6 mob members made “was believing the lies they were continually fed by Trump himself.”
As it happens, those lies — and more evidence disproving them — were the core of yesterday’s second committee hearing. The committee is trying to shake us into seeing that Trump’s Orwellian disinformation continues today, just as the Journal says.
Violence is not alone among the ongoing dangers of the “big lie.” Based on it, there is an epidemic of voter suppression measures enacted by Republican-controlled state legislatures. “Election-deniers” are potentially taking over secretary of state offices in battleground states, seeking the power to declare victory for their favored winners, whatever the vote. And the Republican legislature in Georgia has taken partisan control of local election offices to do the same.
The committee’s point is that there’s an antidote to the toxin: People must live in fact-based reality going forward, recognizing that Trump’s disinformation continues doing harm. Editorialists left and right picking up that message shows the committee’s success.
To be sure, the Journal failed to specify many of the dangers or to acknowledge key realities, for example that Trump’s conspiracy began well before Jan. 6 or that — with a few additional well-placed collaborators — it might well have succeeded.
Still, there is hope in conservative outlets highlighting pieces of this historic committee’s evidence. The Journal editorial, for example, cited the visual power of former Trump Attorney General William Barr stating gruffly in video testimony, “I did not agree with the idea of saying the election was stolen, which I told the president was bullshit.”
The Journal’s editors did not mention the bombshell video of Ivanka Trump testifying that she accepted what Barr said as true. That told the hearing’s audience that she, too, did not believe the lies that her father was spewing.
To the 20 million Americans watching — nearly twice the number who watched each Trump impeachment trial — the takeaway was that Trump knew the truth, or blinded himself willfully to it. (Side note: Either shows criminal intent if one takes actions violating the law and seeks to justify it based on, to borrow Barr’s description, such “nonsense.”) Recognizing how damaging that testimony was to him, Trump threw them both under the bus on his social media channel the next day.
The Journal’s editorialists did emphasize this critical focus of the committee: “Mr. Trump’s designs on overturning the election were foiled mainly by Republicans.” That bipartisan truth cannot be restated often enough.
Were it not for the courage of Vice President Mike Pence standing up to Trump at great personal risk and doing his constitutional duty by certifying President Biden’s election; of Republican Justice Department leaders and White House counsel Pat Cipollone threatening to resign over Trump’s post-election plots; of Georgia’s Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger resisting Trump’s pressure to “find [him] 11,780 votes” in the days before Jan 6, the criminal conspiracy to thwart the will of the people could easily have achieved its goal of keeping Trump in power.
Of course, it would be fantasy to believe that the hardest core Trump believers will accept facts that undermine their orthodoxy. In today’s America, something approximating political agreement on any subject is possible only among a strong majority.
Nonetheless, a strong majority can demand the accountability for Trump and his co-conspirators’ misconduct, accountability we need to ensure our right to choose our leaders. That is the only way to secure our liberty. The service that the select committee’s evidence-based hearings are performing for all of us is immeasurable.
Dennis Aftergut is a former federal prosecutor, currently of counsel to Lawyers Defending American Democracy.
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