For a moment on Tuesday afternoon, it appeared as though testimony from a January 6 committee hearing had actually broken through on Fox News—a network that’s had coverage largely deriving the committee’s work. anchor Bret Baier described ex–White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson‘s explosive statements, in which she said administration officials knew January 6 would be “bad,” and that Trump knew the crowd was heavily armed and didn’t care, as testimony the most “compelling we’ve heard on Capitol Hill in many , many years”––a sentiment akin to CNN and MSNBC’s coverage of the hearing.
“I’ve covered politics a long time,” said Baier, Fox’s chief political anchor. “I don’t think there’s been testimony like this––that is kind of jaw-dropping, in a way––on the inside workings of a White House in crisis after, you know, at this moment, on January 6, that we’ve seen since Watergate.” He went on to reference Hutchinson’s account of hearing “the word ‘Oath Keeper’ and…the word ‘Proud Boys’ closer to the planning of the January 6 rally, when Mr. [Rudy] Giuliani would be around.” Even while noting that Trump was refuting Hutchinson’s claims in real-time via posts on Truth Social, a social media platform launched by the former president’s media company, Baier included the caveat: “Cassie Hutchinson is under oath on Capitol Hill,” and, “ the president is on Social Truth making his statements.”
It was the kind of coverage that starkly contrasted with the network’s handling of the committee’s first hearing, which Fox News did not air live, instead sticking with Tucker Carlson and its regular prime-time lineup. But it quickly became clear that Baier was a minority voice on Fox News, his prime-time colleagues went on to dismiss the testimony as merely “bad acting.”
Sean Hannity called the hearing “hearsay” orchestrated by an “anti-Trump kangaroo court.” He also downplayed Hutchinson’s claim that Trump was “fucking furious” over the crowd size of his January 6 rally and that, as she said, Secret Service agents were not “letting people through the mags [magnetometer metal detectors] with weapons—[with] what the Secret Service gives as weapons.” In response, Hannity, referring to Hutchinson as a “so-called witness,” said that “Trump flat-out denied this claim and pointed out a simple fact. Zero guns were ever discharged by those that breached the Capitol or in DC that day.”
Likewise, Laura Ingraham, another Fox News opinion host, attacked the credibility of the witness, saying, “I spoke with some former White House staffers, three or four of them, in the afternoon, and they knew her well. And not one person had anything good to say about her performance today, because they watched.” (Both Hannity and Ingraham’s texts to White House staff around January 6 have come up during the proceedings.)
Still, the tone about the proceedings on some Fox News shows seemed notably different on Tuesday. Just after the hearing, Fox News anchor Neil Cavuto asked former assistant US attorney Alex Little, “How much of this has criminal implications for the former president––again, if true?”
“If you are okay with there being a greater risk of harm because folks have guns and weapons and they’re marching towards the Capitol, that shows a real betrayal of your oath and…goes directly in line with charges like seditious conspiracy,” Little said. “You can say, ‘Hey, I’m not worried about them hurting me.’ But you need to be worried about them hurting the democratic process and the folks who are in the Capitol building.”