The Fox News host Tucker Carlson told an associate he “hated” Donald Trump “passionately”, new filings in a $1.6bn defamation suit against Fox News by Dominion Voter Systems revealed.
Even as the filings were reported on Tuesday, Carlson continued to broadcast January 6 security footage in his attempt to cast the deadly attack on Congress as “peaceful chaos” arising from a protest of Trump’s defeat by Joe Biden.
“We are very, very close to being able to ignore Trump most nights,” Carlson said in a text on 4 January 2021, two days before the riot. “I truly can’t wait.”
He also wrote: “I hate him passionately … What he’s good at is destroying things. He’s the undisputed world champion of that. He could easily destroy us if we play it wrong.”
Many observers think the Dominion suit, over the broadcast of lies about electoral fraud by Trump and his allies, could prove seriously costly to Fox News.
Hosts and executives up to and including Rupert Murdoch have been shown to have said Trump was lying, and to have ridiculed surrogates including Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell but to have broadcast their claims regardless.
In one message newly revealed on Tuesday, the host Laura Ingraham called Powell a “complete nut” and said “no one will work with her. Ditto with Rudy.”
In a statement, Fox News said Dominion was “using further distortion and misinformation in its PR campaign to smear Fox News and trample on freedom of speech and freedom of the press”.
Carlson is Fox News’ premier primetime host. Last month, over protests from Democrats and Fox News’ rivals, the House speaker, Kevin McCarthy, chose to give Carlson more than 40,000 hours of security footage from the Capitol on January 6.
After Carlson’s first broadcast on Monday, Democrats, Senate Republicans, the chief of Capitol police and the family of an officer who died the day after the riot were among those to condemn him.
The police chief, Tom Manger, said in an internal memo Carlson’s broadcast was “filled with offensive and misleading conclusions”, “conveniently cherry-picked from the calmer moments of our 41,000 hours of video” and “fail[ed] to provide context about the chaos and violence … before or during these less tense moments”.
Manger also said Carlson’s staff did not reach out to “provide accurate context”.
The family of Brian Sicknick, who was 42 when he suffered two strokes and died a day after battling rioters and being sprayed with chemicals, decried “the ongoing attack on our family by the unscrupulous and outright sleazy so-called news network”.
Nine deaths have been linked to the Capitol attack, including law enforcement suicides. More than 1,000 people have been charged and hundreds convicted of offences including seditious conspiracy.
Trump escaped conviction in an impeachment trial and has not been criminally charged. A House committee made four referrals to the Department of Justice.
On air on Tuesday, Carlson claimed Democrats had shown “hysteria, overstatement, crazed hyperbole, red-in-the-face anger” over his use of the January 6 footage. It was “not outrage”, he said, but “fear. It’s panic.”
He then focused on Nancy Pelosi, the former speaker of the House, saying footage would show the January 6 security failure was her fault.
On Wednesday, the White House condemned Carlson’s actions.
“To have said what he said when we saw police officers lose their lives is just shameful,” the press secretary, Karine Jean-Pierre, told reporters.
Jean-Pierre also said the White House agreed with Fox News’s own attorneys and executives who “have repeatedly stressed in courts of law that Tucker Carlson is not credible when it comes to this issue in particular”.
The media continued to pore over the filings in the Dominion suit.
In another text, Carlson said of “the last four years” under Trump, “We’re all pretending we’ve got a lot to show for it, because admitting what a disaster it’s been is too tough to digest. But come on. There isn’t really an upside to Trump.”
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