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Dec. 16, 2021, 2:15 a.m. EST

Fox News personalities defend texts to Meadows made public by Jan. 6 committee as consistent messages

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Associated Press

NEW YORK (AP) — The revelation that Fox News Channel personalities sent text messages to the White House during the Jan. 6 insurrection is another example of how the network’s stars sought to influence then-President Donald Trump instead of simply reporting or commenting on him.

Context: House votes to hold Trump chief of staff Meadows in contempt over defiance of Jan. 6 select committee subpoena

Also: Jan. 6 select committee unanimously backs criminal contempt-of-Congress charge against Trump chief of staff Mark Meadows

Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham and Brian Kilmeade all texted advice to Trump’s chief of staff, Mark Meadows, as a mob of pro–Donald Trump loyalists stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6, according to Republican Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, vice chair of the congressional committee probing the riot.

“Mark, the president needs to tell people in the Capitol to go home,” texted Ingraham, host of “The Ingraham Angle.” “This is hurting all of us. He is destroying his legacy.”

“Please get him on TV,” texted Kilmeade, a “Fox & Friends” host. “Destroying everything you have accomplished.”

Hannity, like Ingraham a prime-time host, wondered whether Trump could give a statement and ask people to leave the Capitol.

Cheney’s release of the text messages late Monday came a day after the most prominent hard-news journalist at Fox, Chris Wallace, announced he was leaving after 18 years for a new job at CNN. Wallace had grown privately frustrated by Fox’s amplification of its conservative opinion hosts, particularly since the network’s ratings took a brief dive following the election of President Joe Biden.

The network had no immediate comment Tuesday about the texts.

For straight-news journalists, the ethical lines are clear: Your job is to report the news, not try to influence the actions of newsmakers. Fox has always tried to distinguish between “news” and “opinion” programming, even if viewers don’t make the same distinctions.

The network considers Hannity, Ingraham and Kilmeade hosts of opinion shows. Fox has argued in court that its prime-time hosts can’t be held to the same factual standards as actual journalists.

It’s not the first time Fox personalities acted as sort of a kitchen cabinet to Trump.

Key Words (May 2020): Pete Buttigieg visits Fox News, promptly criticizes two of network’s biggest stars

Hannity frequently consulted with him during his presidency, and Tucker Carlson once asked for and received a meeting with Trump to talk about COVID-19 in the early days of the pandemic.

“I don’t consider them in the traditional definition of a journalist,” said Aly Colon, a professor of media ethics at Washington and Lee University. “But even so, they are representative of a news operation at Fox.”

See: Two noted conservative commentators leave Fox News fold over Tucker Carlson’s Jan. 6 film

Their actions leave questions about whether their loyalty was to Trump or to viewers, who expect to learn about the news from them or at least get news analysis, Colon said.

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