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See how right-wing networks covered January 6th hearing

<i>Brendan Smialowski/AP</i><br/>
AP
Brendan Smialowski/AP

By Brian Stelter, CNN Business

While viewers of other TV channels heard House Democrats denouncing the “whitewashing” of the January 6 attack, One America News viewers witnessed the whitewashing first-hand.

On OAN, Tuesday’s select committee hearing about the insurrection barely happened at all. The channel’s poorly-produced programs avoided the substance of the hearing; slipped in several factual mistakes; and promoted the GOP’s counter-programming instead.

In other words, Donald Trump would have loved OAN’s coverage.

It stood in stark contrast to Fox News and Newsmax, two other right-wing channels that actually showed the hearing while police officers described fearing for their lives when a pro-Trump mob overwhelmed law enforcement at the Capitol on January 6.

Fox and Newsmax did however air complaints about the hearing before and afterward. Newsmax featured an interview with a father and son who entered the Capitol during the riot and described a peaceful scene, including police officers being “really cordial.”

But the mere act of carrying the police testimony at all is noteworthy because right-wing media has so thoroughly downplayed the crimes of that day.

Immediately after the hearing, which included a video compilation of the assault, Fox anchor Bret Baier said the hearing “was an eye-opener” for “anybody watching who… thought it was not violent.”

Of course, it’s impossible to know how persuasive a single hearing might have been. Trump fans have been primed ever since January 6 to excuse or ignore the insurrection.

One America News advanced that agenda on Tuesday. The channel previewed the hearing by criticizing Reps. Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger, the two Republicans who agreed to serve on the Democrat-led House select committee that is investigating the events of January 6. The channel also repeatedly ran Trump’s statements accusing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of failing to secure the Capitol from his mob.

At 8:15 a.m., OAN went live to the Capitol for a press conference by House Republican lawmakers who repeated many of Trump’s talking points. The channel carried it live in full. Afterward, the anchor promised even more, saying “we’ll be sure to keep you updated on what more GOP members have to say about that.”

When the hearing began at 9:30 a.m., OAN ran a segment about crime in Chicago instead.

The channel showed about 20 seconds of the hearing at 10:05 a.m., but the anchor talked over the testimony and didn’t explain why US Capitol Police Sgt. Aquilino Gonell looked so emotional.

Then the anchor, apparently reading an outdated script in the teleprompter, said that Cheney was “expected to speak in her opening statements,” fifteen minutes after Cheney had spoken. OAN did not show what Cheney said. Instead, the channel re-aired an old report about tension between Cheney and other Republican lawmakers.

That mistake summed up OAN’s approach to the hearing overall: Pretending that it wasn’t happening the way it was.

The 12 p.m. hour began with an anchor reading another outdated script about Trump: “The 45th president says that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is spending too much time and money on the highly partisan January 6 commission.”

OAN didn’t show any clips of the officers’ gripping accounts — or of DC Metropolitan Police Officer Michael Fanone repeatedly calling the attackers “terrorists.”

But the producers made sure to break into a taped business report about Tesla’s record profits at 12:55 in order to air another GOP press conference.

“Lawmakers are speaking regarding the treatment of those that have been arrested as of their actions after January 6,” the anchor said, mangling her words.

At the press conference, far-right lawmakers bashed the Department of Justice and defended riot suspects they depicted as “political prisoners.” The on-screen banner referenced “JAN. 6 PROTESTERS” rather than accused criminals.

The press conference was interrupted by protesters who blew whistles and held up signs. One America News moved onto a segment about voter fraud allegations in Georgia. Other stories in the anti-Democrat news wheel on Tuesday were titled “Delaware Democrats facing accusations of racism, violence” and “N.J. congressional candidate targets Pelosi and Andy Kim.”

One America News president Charles Herring did not respond to requests for comment about his channel’s coverage.

OAN is not nationally rated by Nielsen, which is often a sign that a channel is relatively obscure to news consumers. However, data from set-top-boxes and other sources showed a big uptick in viewership after Trump lost the election last November.

“A massive wave of former Fox News viewers have abandoned Fox and have found a home at OAN,” Herring claimed at the time.

Trump has promoted OAN on many occasions, including as recently as last Saturday, when he said his speech in Arizona would be carried live by both OAN and Newsmax.

Newsmax is nationally rated by Nielsen, and it normally ranks far behind Fox News, except on rare occasions. Saturday was one of them: Fox didn’t air Trump’s speech, but Newsmax did, so Newsmax surged ahead in the ratings for about an hour.

The Nielsen data shows how Trump continues to draw a small but devoted audience: Before Newsmax’s special coverage began on Saturday afternoon, Newsmax had fewer than 100,000 total viewers, but when Trump was speaking, the channel averaged 879,000. After Trump finished speaking, most of those viewers turned the channel.

For both Fox and Newsmax, Tuesday’s January 6 hearing may have had the opposite effect, turning off Trump fans who are loath to hear the reality of the riot. But those ratings results won’t be available until later in the week.

The banners on both Fox and Newsmax cast the hearing in political language by calling it “DEM-LED.” One of the Fox banners said “OFFICERS TESTIFY AT FIRST DEM-LED JAN 6 HEARING,” which was inaccurate, since there have been numerous other hearings into the attack by other committees.

Fox also wrapped the hearing in Republican commentary with the help of Jim Banks, one of the Republican nominees who was barred from the committee by Pelosi. The congressman was interviewed both immediately before and after the hearing.

“Clearly this is politically designed by the Democrats,” Banks said, “to stop Republicans from winning back the majority in the midterms.”

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