A lot of things happened. Here are some of the things. This is TPM’s Morning Memo.
A Fragile Business Model
I wanted to circle back to this Amanda Marcotte column from a few days ago. I’m mostly in agreement with Amanda, except in my view this doesn’t quite capture it:
In light of all this, I suspect the reason Murdoch and Fox News seem determined to stick this out is that they are just that worried about what impact an admission of wrongdoing would have on their reputation with their audience. The possibility of a jury ruling in their favor, which they could spin as a total exoneration of their tactics, is so important to them that they’re willing to take a big risk that the opposite could happen. A settlement, however, would remove all doubt about who was in the wrong.
I would put a slightly different emphasis on it. Fox News viewers don’t care whether the network was “in the wrong.” If anything, they celebrate and reward Fox News’ transgressive behavior. If Fox News takes the case to trial and loses, it and its viewers can easily dismiss it as another rigged, liberal, stabbed-in-the-back setup by their foes. They will all be victims together of Dominion’s jihad against them.
But that doesn’t work if Fox News settles. It’s not the admission of wrongdoing that’s the issue: It’s the capitulation. That is harder to spin up into a made-up narrative of victimization and fighting the good fight.
How do I know this? Because there’s an almost perfect parallel in the Dominion lawsuit itself: Fox News’ call of Arizona for Biden on election night.
As long as Fox News remains in its self-created bubble of propaganda, misinformation, and uncritical reporting, its relationship with its viewers remains intact and the spin cycle can continue. If Fox News punctures that bubble, it risks its viewership and its entire business model. That’s what happened when the network projected a Biden win in Arizona. In fact, in Dominion’s convincing telling, the damage to Fox News’ reputation with its viewers over the Arizona call is what motivated Rupert et al. to launch the libelous attacks on Dominion.
I’m not predicting Fox News will never settle this case. The risks the case poses to it financially are significant, and it’s legal position is not strong. But settling the case would be like the Arizona call all over again, and the Fox News business model, as revolting as it is, is still staggering from that blow.
TPM On TV
Mitch McConnell Hospitalized
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) was hospitalized last night in DC after taking a fall. The incident reportedly happened while he was attending a private event at the former Trump hotel in DC.
Your occasional reminder that that the current median age of senators is 65.3 years, in a body where Democrats cling to a two-vote majority.
Things Are Going To Get Worse Before They Get Better
Republicans in the House are beginning to plot multiple probes into the 2021 Capitol attack, including looking into the Democratic-led select committee’s actions from the last Congress, the security failures from that day and potentially even the treatment of January 6 defendants, multiple sources familiar with the work tell CNN.
Jenna Ellis Admits To Big Misrepresentin’
Trump attorney Jenna Ellis is the first of the former president’s lawyers to admit to professional misconduct arising from her role in his effort to overturn the results of the 2020 election.
Ellis was publicly censured Wednesday in disciplinary proceedings in Colorado. Ellis stipulated to the underlying facts and to the public rebuke:
While serving as a senior legal advisor to the then-President of the United States and as counsel for his reelection campaign, Jenna Lynn Ellis … repeatedly made misrepresentations on national television and on Twitter, undermining the American public’s confidence in the 2020 presidential election. The parties stipulate that Respondent’s misconduct warrants public censure, and the Presiding Disciplinary Judge … approves the parties’ stipulation.
Couldn’t Happen To Two Nicer Guys
Jack Burkman and Jacob Wohl, the bizarre conservative duo who already pleaded guilty in Ohio to launching a campaign of racist robocalls targeting Black voters in 2020, have now been found liable in a civil lawsuit arising from the same robocalls.
In a lengthy ruling Wednesday, a federal judge in New York found that Burkman and Wohl violated the federal Voting Rights Act, the Civil Rights Act, the Ku Klux Klan Act and New York civil rights laws.
The evidence was so overwhelming, the judge ruled in fully granting plaintiffs motion for summary judgment on liability, that no trial on liability will necessary.
This case probably isn’t on your radar. It dates all the way back to the 2016 election, when an influential online troll tried to convince Hillary Clinton voters that they could cast their ballots by text message. No really. The alleged culprit was Douglass Mackey, who has been charged by the feds and is awaiting trial.
Yesterday, we learned for the first time when the court unsealed filings that prosecutors have a cooperating witness who was part of the alleged conspiracy and who they want to put on the stand at Mackey’s upcoming trial. The cooperator, according to prosecutors, continues to assist the government in other cases (and, they anticipate, future cases), so they want to make his real name known only to the court and defense counsel.
Schlapp Accuser Identifies Himself
The GOP political operative who accused CPAC honcho Matt Schlapp of groping him while he was working the Herschel Walker Senate campaign has come forward to identify himself publicly.
Carlton Huffman, 39, of North Carolina, did an interview with the Washington Post after a Virginia judge ruled Wednesday that Huffman could not proceed anonymously with his lawsuit against Schlapp and Schlapp’s wife Mercedes. The Schlapps deny Huffman’s allegations.
Today’s Top Story
Biden unveils his proposed budget, laying down his marker for budget negotiations with the new GOP House majority, which remains keen on forcing a government shutdown later this year.
Headline Of The Day
Esquire: Now We Have to Worry about Misogynistic Neo-Nazi Jihadist Satanists Infiltrating the Military?
The Post-Carbon Energy Transition
A couple of graphs that show real movement is happening toward the energy transition. As a non-expert I would put it like this: Enormous progress is being made (which is astounding since its been mostly voluntary in the absence of government action), but it continues to be not nearly enough progress nearly fast enough.
This is the kind of progress we needed in the 1990s, but we’re just getting there now in the 2020s. Time is not on our side.
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