AMAC Exclusive – By Andrew Abbott
Last week, an unprecedented twelve different TV channels suspended their prime-time lineup to show the first public hearing of the House “Select Committee to Investigate the January 6 Attack on the United States Capitol.” While congressional hearings have been televised in some form since 1954, never before have mainstream media outlets been so actively complicit in promoting such an aggressively politicized narrative surrounding a hearing in a blatant attempt to shame Americans who hold certain political views.
In the days immediately following January 6, there was broad bipartisan condemnation of events at the Capitol and a real desire to determine what went wrong and who might be responsible. But Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) soon made clear that any investigation would be a strictly partisan endeavor. Rather than a legitimate inquiry into how a group of protestors managed to infiltrate the Capitol, Democrats intentionally designed the investigatory committee to be a cudgel against their political opponents.
Despite being formed as a “bipartisan” committee, Speaker Pelosi rejected two of the five GOP picks to sit on said committee. Doing so was entirely unprecedented and initially resulted in Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy calling for a complete boycott of the committee. As he said at the time, “Denying the voices of members who have served in the military and law enforcement, as well as leaders of standing committees, has made it undeniable that this panel has lost all legitimacy and credibility and shows the Speaker is more interested in playing politics than seeking the truth.”
Nevertheless, the “bipartisan” committee was permitted to continue with seven Democrats and two avowed anti-Trump Republicans – Reps. Liz Cheney of Wyoming and Adam Kinzinger of Illinois.
In the days leading up to the first public hearings, the American people learned the lengths to which Pelosi had gone to make this already partisan committee a public spectacle. For example, it was revealed that the committee had recruited former President of ABC News James Goldston to help produce the hearings. Goldston has previously produced shows like Good Morning America and Who Wants to Be a Millionaire. According to Fox News, he intended to produce the January 6 hearings as a “blockbuster event.”
Such sensationalizing of public hearings has historically been frowned upon at best and outright condemned at worst. Yet, the news that a producer was doing just that for the January 6 hearings was praised by much of the mainstream media. One CNN legal analyst said that “we have to make a television show, and that’s why they hired a television professional.” CNN anchor Laura Jarrett agreed with this assessment, noting, “It shows you they want to make this compelling.”
The gambit initially paid off. Twenty million viewers watched the first session of the January 6 hearings, nearly half of the viewership of Biden’s State of the Union Address. But by the second hearing, viewership had dropped by 50% – clearly, viewers recognized the hearings for the political stunt that they were, despite all the window dressing Democrats had applied.
In addition, much of the mainstream media has uncritically amplified the coverage of the hearings without any substantive criticism or objective critical assessment. Usually, even in today’s polarized political climate, a public hearing involves some form of differing opinion, dissenting voice, or even a critical witness. Thus far, the hearing has been a relentless framing of January 6th around Donald Trump with no other factors considered. Many Americans have wondered why security was so lax at the Capitol, why intelligence communities failed to anticipate what happened, and how it was seemingly so easy for a large mob to gain access to the House and Senate chambers.
Yet the committee has instead entirely focused on the actions of former President Trump and White House aides, alleging an organized conspiracy to overthrow the government entirely – despite no evidence of any such plot existing. It seems that, on the core questions that most Americans want answers to, this committee will provide none.
This blatant partisan agenda raises new questions about media credibility at a time when mainstream outlets can least afford them. USA Today, for example, recently announced it had removed almost two dozen articles after learning that breaking news reporter Gabriela Miranda had fabricated multiple sources. Over at the Washington Post, culture reporter Taylor Lorenz has also come under fierce criticism for publishing the personal information of the creator of the “Libs of TikTok” Twitter account in an apparent attempt to intimidate her into silence. Other internal chaos has rocked other newsrooms, even as ratings are plummeting at mainstream outlets, a clear sign that viewers are growing disillusioned with their biased reporting and nakedly partisan agenda.
The January 6 hearings are likely to only accelerate this trend, and may ultimately prove for many Americans to be the final blow to media credibility.
Andrew Abbott is the pen name of a writer and public affairs consultant with over a decade of experience in DC at the intersection of politics and culture.