When Joe Biden is sworn in as president on January 20, cable viewing news could look like one of the most dramatic 180-degree twists and turns in history.
After four years of slavish promotion of the president, Fox News is expected to pump on the brakes within seconds of the inauguration ceremony.
The person in the White House is suddenly not a Republican. Moreover, the network can no longer rely on the willingness of the president or his assistants to call in Fox News at any time of the day or night.
The right-wing TV channel, with Tucker Carlson and Sean Hannity’s biggest name, will spend the next four years as the party of the opposition. Of course, the network has already done so – the eight years of Barack Obama’s presidency were not so long ago – but Biden presents another challenge.
“Of course we can expect it to be relentlessly negative, but it’s a challenge on some levels because he’s a 78-year-old white man, pretty mediocre,” Heather Hendershot, a professor of film and media at the MIT, who is studying, said. conservative and right-wing media.
“In the past, they have attacked Hillary Clinton very hard, not only because she was a liberal, but of course there was an underlying sexism and misogyny – and of course the fact that Barack Obama was African-American was central to the legal attacks on him. , implicitly or explicitly. , also on Fox News. ”
This is not to say that Biden’s government will escape the attack, even if it escapes the worst.
Kamala Harris will be the first black vice president and could become a target for the Fox News host. If the Democrats win the two Senate by-elections in Georgia, the Senate will be split 50-50 and Harris will cast the deciding vote.
‘[If that happens] she will continue to be a forward in Congress, ‘Hendershot said.
‘And every time it happens, it’s a way to attack Biden in a tangible way – it gives [Fox News and other rightwing outlets] a kind of ‘red meat’ to attack Kamala Harris, because she is a woman and a colored person. ‘
Biden claims to have nominated “the most diverse cabinet in American history ever announced,” with Janet Yellen as the first woman to become secretary of the Treasury, while Lloyd Austin, if confirmed, would become the first black defense secretary. .
Pete Buttigieg, occasionally a Fox News guest, is the first public gay cabinet secretary as chief of staff.
Fox News is already attacking another variety of Democrats: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar and other female, non-white members of Congress.
Matthew Gertz, senior fellow at Media Matters for America, a media watchdog, said it is a theme that has continued to dominate even since Biden became president-elect.
‘A lot of what we’re seeing right now is focusing less on Joe Biden himself and more on this idea that he’s going to be a puppet for some other figure who can attack them more easily, whether it’s Kamala Harris or Bernie Sanders. , or Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, ”Gertz said.
“It’s an angle they’ve been pursuing quite a bit during the campaign, and it’s also something they focused on during the transition.”
Fox News is acknowledging that it fueled the growth of the Tea Party movement in 2010, which was the initial vehicle for right-wingers to gain greater influence in the Republican Party.
The attack on the US consulate in Benghazi in 2012 has become a long story on Fox News, even though the government – through a Republican-controlled House committee – has been cleared of any violations.
“It simply came to our notice then. Looking back at 2009, 2010, there were many incredibly overheated and conspiracy-oriented Fox News comments in the early years of the Obama administration. “I think it will probably be an area they would love to return to,” Gertz said.
‘It’s likely to be a source for the scandal we saw during the Obama administration – basically a return to Benghazi coverage, where the network takes a news event and spends months and months and years and years on it and their audience it tells. the Democratic government is the source of appalling actions. ”
Clearly, a shift from the support of one president to the opposition of the next is not unprecedented.
The more liberal cable news networks experienced something similar when Trump was elected in 2016 – although CNN and MSNBC were never the same quasi-propaganda outfits for Obama as Fox News was for Trump.
Yet the more liberal news organizations had an increase in popularity and a boost in numbers, after Trump won.
MSNBC and CNN received double-digit increases in viewer ratings after Trump won, while the Atlantic, the New Yorker and ProPublica all had a boost in readers. Fox News declined to comment, but a spokesman pointed to Nielsen ratings showing that the network is the most watched cable channel throughout.
Hendershot said Fox News could see a similar advantage as its more left-leaning rivals once it is against the White House opposition.
“Politicalized media, whether magazines or opinions, smaller than the [left-leaning] Nation or the [conservative] “National Review, or bigger like Fox News, tends to thrive financially the more opposition they have,” Hendershot said.
‘They will have to increase their opposition, due to the fact that Biden is president – and at the same time they can eat their cake and eat it too, by not losing Trump as a story because he will continue to promote himself inaccurately as the real president in exile. ”
‘So they can do very well financially and politically, because not only can they attack Biden, but they can swing very hard at Kamala Harris, and they can also keep trying to work the Trump story to satisfy the base,’ because Trump is not going to leave. “