The biggest political story in the past 24 hours has been the back and forth between former President Donald Trump and Rep. Liz Cheney, the third-ranking member of the House Republicans, over the meaning of “the big lie,” or whether Trump lost the White House to a “rigged” election (he did not) or if Trump’s constant promotion of that falsehood is in fact a lie. (It is.)
In many ways, this battle is for the soul of a Republican Party that has pivoted over the past five years from conservative values espoused by Cheney to a more nativist and populist approach under Trump. It’s a very big story, but for reasons that remain unclear, Fox News has not found it worthy of any coverage. At all.
According to transcript database TVeyes, Liz Cheney’s name has not been mentioned on Fox News since her infamous fist bump of President Joe Biden after his joint address of Congress last Wednesday. That is nearly six whole days in which on-air talent, showrunners, and Fox News programming executives made the intentional decision to ignore this story, despite the fact that it is exactly the sort of mano a mano conflict that cable news delights in featuring.
It’s not like Cheney is a bit player who rarely gets coverage. She has frequently appeared on Fox News over the past few years and is often mentioned in both news and opinion portions of the cable outlet. For example, Cheney’s name was mentioned 23 times on Fox News between April 1st to April 29th. In the past five days, her name has not been uttered once on the network.
Cheney is the Republican House Conference Chair, which makes her the third-ranking member of her party’s caucus. She is one of a dozen or so House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump over his alleged fomenting of the Capitol riots led by his supporters on January 6th and has since been an outlier within her own caucus for having the gumption to criticize the former president.
The relationship between Trump and Cheney hasn’t been a friendly one for some time, but in the past few days, the animus between the two has reached something of a fevered pique.
Trump sent a clear direction to his followers and media surrogates that the election results of 2020 should be referred to as “The Big Lie,” which was a curious play seeing as that’s a clear reference to Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels, who is largely credited for fostering that particular rhetorical device.
Liz Cheney pushed back on that idea Monday morning, shortly after Trump’s proclamation, that “the Big Lie” is in fact Trump’s claim that the election was stolen. Later in the day, she reportedly railed at fellow members of the Republican House Caucus during an event hosted by former House Majority leader Paul Ryan. Cheney reportedly said:
We have to be the party of ideas and substance and policy. We need to defeat the threat internationally and from the left here at home. We can’t rebuild the party or the conservative movement on a foundation of lies. We can’t embrace the notion the election is stolen. It’s a poison in the bloodstream of our democracy. The way we win back suburban voters and keep all who voted for us in 2020 is with ideas and policy. We can’t be a cult of personality… We can’t whitewash what happened on January 6th or perpetuate Trump’s big lie. It is a threat to democracy. What he did on January 6 is a line that cannot be crossed.
Trump later followed with another statement that read:
Heartwarming to read new polls on big-shot warmonger Liz Cheney of the great State of Wyoming. She is so low that her only chance would be if vast numbers of people run against her which, hopefully, won’t happen. They never liked her much, but I say she’ll never run in a Wyoming election again!
Again, this is an intra-party political fight, the likes of which we haven’t seen in some time. And yes, there is other news to discuss, but when it comes to the future of the Republican party, it seems a curious decision to pretend it doesn’t exist.
So why is the largely pro-Trump cable news outlet largely ignoring this story? Perhaps because covering it will force Fox News hosts and anchors to weigh in on the results of the 2020 election and reaffirm whether or not it was stolen. And given how Fox News has only recently recaptured a raft of pro-Trump viewers who left for more fringe outlets, re-litigating the election results in a manner that is truthful — and thereby critical of Trump — is a dangerous game.
Fox News appears to be prioritizing its business goals over reporting the truth. And instead of lying — which is a potentially expensive strategy — pretending this story isn’t a story is a more feckless but ultimately safer approach.
This is an opinion piece. The views expressed in this article are those of just the author.