Fox News addresses onscreen message calling Biden a “wannabe dictator”

by Joshua Brown
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Fox News

On Wednesday, Fox News appeared to express remorse for broadcasting an onscreen message that referred to President Joe Biden as a “wannabe dictator” who had his political rival arrested.

Former President Donald Trump’s arraignment on federal charges for hoarding classified documents stirred media attention, highlighting his enduring role as a magnet for controversy. PBS reevaluated one of its own messages about Trump, and CNN showcased a policy change in its primetime speech following the departure of its former leader.

During a split-screen display featuring Trump addressing supporters in New Jersey and Biden speaking at the White House earlier in the day, Fox News displayed a chyron stating, “Wannabe dictator speaks at the White House after having his political rival arrested.”

On Wednesday, Fox stated that “the chyron was promptly removed and addressed.” Mediaite reported that the message remained onscreen for 27 seconds and was not removed during the late-night rerun.

Fox did not clarify how the message appeared on the screen or how it was rectified.

The White House stated that Biden had no contact with Attorney General Merrick Garland regarding the indictment brought forth by special counsel Jack Smith, which accuses Trump of unlawfully hoarding classified documents. Biden has not commented on the case.

Two months ago, Fox News agreed to pay Dominion Voting Systems $787 million to settle a lawsuit accusing the news organization of spreading falsehoods about the 2020 presidential election.

When asked about the chyron, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre responded, “There are probably about 787 million things that I can say about this. That was wrong—what we witnessed last night—but I don’t think I’m going to get into it.”

Republican politicians and commentators on Fox readily suggest that the indictment against Trump was politically motivated. Trump’s attorney, Joe Tacopina, made similar allegations on Sean Hannity’s show just half an hour after Trump’s speech.

However, some individuals on Fox have acknowledged the seriousness of the case against Trump, notably his former attorney general, William Barr, during a recent appearance, as well as legal analyst [Name redacted].

Since the settlement of the Dominion case, Fox has experienced a significant decline in its primetime ratings after the termination of Tucker Carlson. Despite Fox’s lawyers demanding that he cease, Carlson posted another video commentary on Twitter on Tuesday night, violating the terms of his contract, which runs until early 2025.

Meanwhile, during the live stream of Trump’s New Jersey speech on its YouTube channel, PBS used the lower third of the screen to fact-check his statements.

One of the fact-checks drew attention, stating, “Experts warn that inflammatory rhetoric from elected officials or people in power can prompt individual actors to commit acts of violence.”

While this statement holds true, PBS officials are deliberating whether this was the appropriate venue, according to Sara Just, senior executive producer at “NewsHour.” Other onscreen messages by PBS emphasized federal officials’ affirmation of the 2020 presidential election’s security and prosecutors’ claim that some documents found at Trump’s residence pertained to U.S. nuclear programs and defense capabilities.

“We are discussing whether we could phrase that better,” Just stated.

Fox News aired Trump’s speech live, while MSNBC and CNN did not. This contrasted with Trump’s separate charges in New York in April when CNN broadcasted most of a similar Trump address on the night of his arraignment. However, former CNN chief executive Chris Licht, who had been striving to appeal to GOP viewers, was ousted.

“We’re not airing his remarks live because, frankly, he says a lot of things that are untrue and, frankly, potentially dangerous,” said CNN’s Jake Tapper.

After the speech, CNN played a nearly two-minute clip of Trump, followed by several fact-checks from Tapper.

“In terms of trying to destroy American democracy, we all know who tried to actually undo an election,” Tapper commented. “It’s not Joe Biden. It’s Mr. Trump.”

Rachel Maddow of MSNBC made a similar statement before the network chose not to air Trump’s speech live. Clips from the speech were shown later.

This report includes contributions from Big Big News writer Aamer Madhani in Washington.

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