Following the beginning in June of the public hearings by the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, far-right network Newsmax made approximately 40 false or misleading claims about the 2020 election, the attack and the committee through the rest of the month, a new report from the nonpartisan media watchdog NewsGuard finds, helping to demonstrate why the high-profile hearings and their explosive claims about former President Donald Trump aren’t swaying his base against him.
The report, which looked at Newsmax’s coverage from June 9, the day of the first House hearing, and June 30, found the network repeatedly pushed false claims either by its anchors directly or by guests, who made untrue statements that went unchallenged and were not refuted by anyone else on air.
There were at least 12 claims of fraud in the 2020 election on Newsmax during the hearings, NewsGuard found—which there is no credible evidence to support—including by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, Arizona gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake and former President Donald Trump himself, who asserted on the network that the election was “stolen.”
It also pushed false claims 11 times that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) had blocked Trump from sending the National Guard to the Capitol on January 6—which is not supported by evidence and Pelosi did not actually have the power to do, as the president and not Congress control whether to deploy the National Guard.
Newsmax guests and anchor Greg Kelly claimed six times that the rioters on January 6 were unarmed, despite reports from police that they recovered firearms from protesters and multiple rioters being charged with unlawful possession of a firearm or dangerous weapon.
Other claims aired on Newsmax between June 9-30—none of which are supported by evidence—include that January 6 was a “false flag” event, only a few hundred rioters were present at the Capitol (the Justice Department estimates there were at least 2,000 participants) and that Vice President Mike Pence could have blocked Congress from certifying the presidential election results, which even conservative legal experts have said he didn’t have the power to do.
Newsmax has not responded to a request for comment.
NewsGuard co-CEO Gordon Crovitz told Forbes in an interview that Newsmax’s coverage during the hearings and its likely impact on Trump’s base is part of a broader trend of Americans consuming news in “information bubbles” that frequently include misinformation. “A significant number of people are only seeing news on different topics from misinformation sources, and as a result they are not getting exposure to the actual situation,” Crovitz told Forbes, saying this leads to people “making assumptions about what’s true or false without having been presented with a full picture of facts.”
Newsmax said in a statement before the committee’s first public hearing that it would air the hearing live but continued to cast doubt on the committee, saying it believed the purpose of the hearing was to “blame” Trump. “This is an important news event and the reason Newsmax will carry it live, but it will also be important for us to make sure the public is aware of any and all partisan bias that results from the hearing,” the network said.
What We Don’t Know
What impact the hearings will have on Trump’s base, as Republicans so far don’t seem to be particularly moved by the hearings’ startling findings—possibly because they’re following news sources like Newsmax that have continued to downplay and refute them. Morning Consult/Politico polls have found the share of Republicans that believe Trump was “at least somewhat responsible” for January 6 ticked up from 29% to 31% between June 10-12 and July 8-10, and the percentage of GOP respondents who believe Trump committed a crime by trying to overturn the 2020 election has actually gone down from 38% to 21%. The share of Republicans who said they would vote for Trump in the GOP’s 2024 presidential primary changed only slightly, from 53% in June to 54% in July.
Fox News’ coverage of the House January 6 hearings has also drawn controversy, as it was the only major network not to carry the committee’s first hearing live in prime time, instead moving forward with its normal programming from anchors who disparaged the committee. “They are lying, and we are not going to help them do it,” host Tucker Carlson said during his show that aired at the same time as the hearing, as quoted by the Guardian. The network has gone on to air hearings live that took place during daytime hours, but backing off the higher-profile prime-time events.
What To Watch For
What’s still to come when the House January 6 Committee holds its next—and possibly last—hearing on Thursday. Rep. Elaine Luria (D-Va.) told ABC News the hearing will look at Trump’s “supreme dereliction of duty” by failing to stop his supporters on January 6 and the 187 minutes between when Trump departed the rally that preceded the attack and when he finally told the rioters to go home. Committee chair Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) has said the hearing is “the last one at this point,” though it’s possible lawmakers could still schedule more in the future.
The January 6 hearings have largely focused on Trump’s culpability in the Capitol attack and the post-election period leading up to it, with Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) arguing during the first hearing that the ex-president “summoned the mob, assembled the mob, and lit the flame of this attack.” The committee’s findings made public during the hearings include revelations that Trump wanted to let armed protesters enter the January 6 rally; lunged at a Secret Service agent who refused to take him to the Capitol building and tried to take the wheel of the car; asked Justice Department officials to seize voting machines and was asked by Trump attorney John Eastman and several GOP lawmakers for pardons following the January 6 attack, among other key takeaways. The hearings have also debunked Trump’s election fraud claims—which numerous audits and investigations had already discredited—and reported the president was repeatedly told there was no evidence of fraud but pushed the allegations anyway. The president’s post-election actions have raised the possibility he could face criminal charges, including for criminal conspiracy, fraud or potential witness tampering regarding people testifying to the committee. The House committee can’t actually charge Trump with anything themselves, but can refer potential crimes to the Justice Department.
The Jan. 6 Panel’s Hearings Are (Mostly) Falling on Voters’ Deaf Ears (Morning Consult)