In the weeks leading up to the US midterm elections, Fox News’ message was clear: Violent crime is on the rise, cities are dangerous hellscapes, and Democrats are responsible.
Once the vote was over, however, the right-wing news channel seemed to decide it wasn’t so bad after all, cutting violent crime coverage by 50% compared to its pre-election average.
Media Matters for America, a media watchdog, found that each week from Labor Day to the Friday before the vote on Tuesday, Nov. 8, the network logged an average of 141 segments about weekday crime. The general coverage of crime was consistent with the Republican Party’s efforts to portray violent crime as uncontrollable and the Democrats as responsible.
But in the week of the midterms, when the vote was over, Fox News only aired 71 segments on violent crime, Media Matters reported.
“I think this shows pretty clearly that the amount of Fox coverage of violent crime doesn’t really have anything to do with the level of violent crime in America — it has to do with the political benefits,” said Matt Gertz, a senior fellow at Media Affairs.
“The crescendo just before Election Day, and once the election was over, the US crime crisis was no longer the subject of maximum concern than it had been in previous weeks.”
Media Matters noted that Fox News’ crime coverage had picked up somewhat in recent days following the University of Virginia shooting and the student killings in Idaho, but said that “notably, coverage has become less focused on depicting Democratic cities as crime-ridden”.
Fox News declined to comment.
Gertz said Tucker Carlson, Fox News’ most-watched host, played a big role in the coverage — and how Republicans across the country used crime as an issue. In a soliloquy in August, Carlson advised Republican politicians to focus their campaigns on “law and order,” which he said would result in a “red wave” in the meantime.
Republicans did just that, spending millions on ads highlighting violent crime cases and portraying Democrats, such as John Fetterman, who was running for the U.S. Senate in Pennsylvania, as responsible. The Washington Post reported that between Sept. 5 and Oct. 25, Republicans spent nearly $50 million on crime-focused advertising, far more than Democrats on the issue.
The network’s focus on a single issue in the run-up to elections is nothing new, Gertz said. He said prior to the 2014 midterm elections, the Ebola outbreak became a recurring issue on Fox News, with the network blaming Barack Obama for the spread of the virus.
In 2016, Hillary Clinton’s emails became the hot topic, while in 2018 Fox News picked up a so-called “migrant caravan” and used it to support Donald Trump’s midterm election that the country should elect more Republicans to enact stricter immigration laws .
“It’s a play they’ve played over and over in elections for the past decade,” Gertz said.
“Fox does this every time they come out with some kind of message that they want to push, and they try to get the Republicans to take it over, and they try to get the mainstream press to take it over as well,” he added up to it.
“And so the question becomes, how far is the mainstream press going to take the bait and turn it into a multiplier effect – where they repeat Fox’s message and the debate in the final days of the election revolves around whatever Fox wanted. talk about?”
It seems that neither the mainstream media nor voters have taken the bait this time.
Carlson’s “red wave” failed to materialize on the midterm vote, as the Republican candidates largely performed below expectations.
Fetterman, the target of repeated attacks by Fox News and numerous crime ads from his opponent, Mehmet Oz, won his race by nearly 5%, and while he had been predicted to make significant gains in Congress, the Republicans only narrowly took control about the House. and Democrats retained the Senate.