The damage and division created by Fox News on America may never heal. The “Big Lie” and the warped reality pushed by Murdoch and company are illustrated in poll after poll that show the vast majority of Republicans brainwashed by the rhetoric.

But what is most painful is seeing the blatant collusion between Donald Trump’s White House and the right-wing cable channel out in the open. Texts released by the Jan. 6 committee between Fox host Sean Hannity and chief of staff Mark Meadows demonstrate that the channel operated as a shadow public relations arm of the Trump White House. This is not breaking news but seeing the collusion in writing is nothing short of jaw-dropping. CNN writes:

Hannity’s texts to Mark Meadows, disclosed by the J6 Committee, illustrate for the umpteenth time a clear breach of traditional news media ethics by Hannity. And they show, also for the umpteenth time, how Hannity operated during the Trump years behind the scenes as a shadow chief of staff. The new part, perhaps, is how ineffective he was! As Jamie Gangel pointed out on “Don Lemon Tonight,” every line of the letter was crafted on purpose. So what about Hannity’s December 31, 2020 message to Meadows that said, “I do NOT see January 6 happening the way he is being told.” Did Hannity try to talk Trump away from delusional thinking? If so, he failed. And what about the January 10 text to Meadows and Jim Jordan, saying, “Guys, we have a clear path to land the plane in 9 days. He can’t mention the election again. Ever.” Clearly Trump doesn’t respect Hannity very much, since Trump’s past 12 months have been full of election lies.

Historian Heather Cox Richardson notes Fox is not representing Hannity in the matter, nor is the “news” organization arguing first amendment protections. That’s being done by a Trump lawyer.

The texts reveal that Hannity saw his role not as a news reader, but rather as a member of the White House team, protecting the president, and Hannity’s participation in the conversations means that none of them can be considered privileged. 

Hannity is apparently being represented in this matter by Jay Sekulow, a lawyer on Trump’s legal team, rather than lawyers from the Fox News Channel. While Sekulow has indicated he will object to the committee’s invitation on First Amendment grounds, the fact that the Fox News Channelseems to be standing back suggests that the corporation does not see the committee’s invitation as a First Amendment case involving freedom of the press and in fact might well be concerned that one of its lead personalities is connected to an event that should have been reported to the FBI. 

Fox will try, again, to say that Hannity hosts an opinion program, but does that give him license to deceive his audience? CNN’s Oliver Darcy:

The texts also prove — once more — that Hannity was dishonest with his audience. He likes to claim that he says the same thing privately as he says publicly. But that clearly isn’t the case. Privately, in these text messages, Hannity was expressing profound worries about Trump. But, publicly, those concerns were never conveyed to his audience. Instead, Hannity served as a loyal cheerleader of Trump until the end. Brian Stelter went off about that on Lemon’s show just now, highlighting Hannity’s January 10 comment to Meadows that “I did not have a good call with him today.” Stelter said: “On January 10, 11 and 12, what did Sean Hannity tell his viewers” about that call? “Did he inform them about Donald Trump’s mental health? About his state of mind? No. He lied and assisted the cover-up.” Stelter also pointed out that House members have many, many more texts from other Fox personalities. What else is going to be revealed?

It should be noted that Hannity did not mention the texts on his program Tuesday night.

This post contains opinion and analysis.