UnFoxMyCableBox Campaign Targets Fox News’ Toxic Rhetoric That Provokes Violence

Interview with Andrew Lawrence, senior researcher at Media Matters for America, conducted by Scott Harris

Fox News has gained a well-deserved reputation for disseminating all manner of misinformation and disinformation on a wide variety of topics, but most of the lies the network spreads are squarely aimed at improving the political fortunes of the Republican Party and disparaging Democratic party politicians.

Often referred to as the propaganda arm of the Republican Party, the 26-year-old cable channel owned by right-wing media mogul Rupert Murdoch has a more recent history of being a supportive megaphone for Donald Trump and his supporters. Fox News was roundly condemned for spreading lies in support of the deadly Jan. 6th insurrection, Trump’s “Big Lie” about the 2020 election being stolen from him — and promotion of dangerous bogus cures for the coronavirus and absurd conspiracy theories about Covid vaccines.

More recently, Fox News host Tucker Carlson has promoted the white supremacist “Great Replacement” theory in more than 400 episodes of his program, the same racist conspiracy theory that a mass murderer wrote about in his manifesto before killing 10 people and wounding three others in a predominately black Buffalo, New York neighborhood supermarket. Between The Lines’ Scott Harris spoke with Andrew Lawrence, a senior researcher at Media Matters for America, who discusses his group’s Un-Fox-My-Cable-Box campaign that’s pressuring cable companies to stop supporting Fox News’ toxic rhetoric that provokes violence.

ANDREW LAWRENCE: It is the top-rated cable news channel in America. And I think that, you know, a great example, a sad example of these types of conspiracy theories and dangerous rhetorics is what we saw in Buffalo a couple of weeks ago where you had a white supremacist intentionally go to a black area of town and just fire on people indiscriminately because of what is known as the Great Replacement theory.

And what this is, is a white supremacist theory that’s been bubbling around in those sort of spheres for years. And what they’re saying is that Democrats are bringing in immigrants. They’re intentionally trying to replace white people with minorities. And it’s led to some awful acts of violence like we saw in Buffalo. But not just there. If your listeners remember back to the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, this was sort of the same thing.

You know, this guy was motivated by conspiracy theories that George Soros is funding migrant caravans coming up from Mexico. And so this man went into a synagogue because George Soros is Jewish and shot up a bunch of people there. We saw it in El Paso at the Wal-Mart at the border. And this is, again, the same thing. The Great Replacement theory that immigrants are coming in and somebody just went into a Wal-Mart that they sought out. They targeted minorities in a border town and shot them up.

And we can go back even further here. There’s George Tiller, who was an abortion doctor who was shot in the back of the head while sitting in a church. And in the months leading up to his murder, Bill O’Reilly, who was a Fox News host at the time, had labeled him “George Tiller, the Baby Killer,” and was going after him day after day after day after day.

And, you know, we saw two weeks ago in Buffalo this type of rhetoric. And the next night, Fox News and Tucker Carlson are on air defending what they had said about the replacement theory and continue to push it. So it’s incredibly dangerous, this type of stuff, this type of rhetoric. But, you know, from their standpoint, it is getting them ratings. People are watching this stuff. And, you know, there just doesn’t seem to be any sort of self-reflection there that what they’re doing is dangerous. And it is. It’s dangerous and it’s scary. And it doesn’t look like anything is changing there right now.

SCOTT HARRIS: Andrew, tell our audience about the objectives of the UnFox My Cable Box campaign that’s been going on for a bit of time right now.

ANDREW LAWRENCE: Yeah. Well, you know, we at Media Matters have led advertiser boycotts of Fox News and in particular, Tucker Carlson. And, you know, if you take a look at his advertisers right now, it’s nothing. He doesn’t really have any major brands. Fox News advertises itself a lot on the air there. And the thing about the way Fox News operates is that they don’t need advertisers, so there’s really no accountability.

Now, the reason that they don’t need advertisers is because of something called carriage fees. So let’s say that you pay $100 a month for your cable bill. A portion of that goes to every single channel that you have access to on your box. Let’s say Comcast, for example, they’re paying ESPN a fee so that they can show you their channel and you’ll subscribe to them because you want ESPN.

Same thing with MSNBC, CNN. MSNBC gets about $0.30 of your bill. What you pay is about $0.30 to MSNBC. I believe CNN is around $0.70. Fox News gets around $2. It’s completely out of whack. And now what that means is that they can operate. They don’t need a single advertiser. And they would still be incredibly profitable.

And so what we’re trying to do with UnFox My Cable Box is give people options. Get the cable companies to give people options where you don’t have to pay for that anymore, where you don’t want your money going to a channel that is spouting white supremacist nonsense that is getting people killed. And so that, in essence, is, you know, what we’re asking people to do is to contact their cable providers, tell them that I don’t want to pay for Fox News anymore.

I would like the option to not do that. I think, you know, something else that we’re sort of looking at is the a la carte option. You know, that’s just not offered by any cable companies right now where you get to pick and choose which channels you’re paying for on a monthly basis. So all these types of things, it leads to zero accountability for Fox News because they’re getting their money no matter what.

You know, if you don’t put Fox News on your TV a single time all year long, you are still giving them money every single month and funding this this type of hatred and violence and this awful rhetoric. And it’s you know, from my standpoint, I think most people would agree with me that’s not right. And so that is essentially what UnFox My Cable Box is all about.

Listen to Scott Harris’ in-depth interview with Andrew Lawrence (17:44) and see more articles and opinion pieces in the Related Links section of this page.

For more information, visit Media Matters for America at mediamatters.org and UnFox My Cable Box Campaign at unfoxmycablebox.com.

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