In an extraordinary attempt at GOP damage control, Fox News failed to make any mention, for more than an entire day, of the exploding sex trafficking scandal that's engulfing Republican Congressman Matt Gaetz (R-FL), a close ally of the network. Opting instead for a total blackout, Fox News tried and failed to quell the raging controversy, which on Thursday night hit new heights with another round of explosive revelations.
But at Fox News, it's Gaetz who?
According to TVeyes, the 24-hour cable news monitoring service, Fox News mentioned "Matt Gaetz" just 17 times all day Wednesday and all day Thursday of this week. In fact, the network aired zero mentions of Gaetz on Thursday, and the final mention of him came Wednesday at 6:22 pm. That means for more than 30 hours, Fox News didn't reference the Congressman a single time. During that same period, CNN mentioned Gaetz 70 times, MSNBC more than 80 times.
Suffice it to say that if a prominent Democrat found him or herself at the center of a scandal as lurid as Gaetz's, who's under investigation in a federal sex trafficking probe involving a 17-year-old girl, Fox News would have hyped the story hundreds of times this week. Fox News would have been in nonstop scandal mode demanding answers, pressing for Congressional inquiries, and denouncing the moral bankruptcy of the Democratic Party.
But with one of its closest allies under federal fire, the best Fox News can do is pretend nothing is happening. Instead of opting for covering the story lightly, Fox News went straight to banning it.
Obviously an attempt to erase a story as big and breaking as the Gaetz scandal doesn't happen by accident. We're witnessing a deliberate, top-down attempt by Fox News to unplug an important political story simply because the man at the center is a Republican and a vociferous Trump loyalist who loudly claimed the 2020 election had been stolen. In fact, Gaetz owes his career to Fox News and the hundreds of appearances he's made on the network in recent years.
"His combination of bottomless self-confidence and a rich kid-honed skill at being a remorseless bully turned him into an aspirational figure for the Fox News audience, a role model for the trigger-the-liberals crowd," Salon's Amanda Marcotte noted this week. Suddenly though, the network doesn't want to say his name.
The blackout isn't working as the Gaetz scandal continues to gain momentum with each new blockbuster revelation. Two jaw-dropping reports came late yesterday.
From the New York Times:
A Justice Department investigation into Representative Matt Gaetz and an indicted Florida politician is focusing on their involvement with multiple women who were recruited online for sex and received cash payments, according to people close to the investigation and text messages and payment receipts reviewed by The New York Times.
Gaetz allegedly showed off to other lawmakers photos and videos of nude women he said he had slept with, the sources told CNN, including while on the House floor. The sources, including two people directly shown the material, said Gaetz displayed the images of women on his phone and talked about having sex with them. One of the videos showed a naked woman with a hula hoop, according to one source.
This is, hands down, the most shocking scandal involving a sitting member of Congress in at least a decade. But Fox News remains on the sidelines, too nervous to cover the story.
Rupert Murdoch's Republican propaganda outlet likely knew it had a major problem on its hands with the Gaetz story when he appeared on Tucker Carlson's show Tuesday night just as the scandal was breaking, and seemed to try to drag the host into the swamp.
"You and I went to dinner about two years ago, your wife was there, and I brought a friend of mine, you'll remember her," Gaetz said. Carlson, reportedly "pissed" about the interview, quickly denied remembering any such female friend and acted confused. He later told viewers the Gaetz segment was one of the "weirdest" interviews he had ever done.
And now Fox News is trying to flush the whole sordid story down the memory hole. But it's not going to work. The Republican bottom feeder, who has been groomed for right-wing stardom by Fox News, where his obnoxious and ignorant antics were celebrated, is now facing his time in the barrel.