January 26, 2018

Fox News Goes Silent as ‘Secret Society’ Conspiracy Theory Falls Apart



By Lis Power / 01.25.2018


If you were watching Fox News on Tuesday or Wednesday this week, you no doubt heard about the “explosive new claims” and “bombshell” revelations that there was an anti-Trump “secret society” in the FBI. In fact, the term “secret society” was aired on the network over 100 times during those two days. But if you tuned into Fox on Thursday, the morning after ABC News threw cold water on the “secret society” conspiracy theory, all you heard were crickets.

This new narrative began on Monday night when Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) and Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-TX) claimed on Fox News that a post-election text message exchange between FBI agent Peter Strzok and FBI lawyer Lisa Page contained the line, “Perhaps this is the first meeting of the secret society.” Gowdy omitted any context to the message and offered no evidence to show that such a text, which has not been released, wouldn’t have been facetious.

Fox News went all in.

The following two days, the phrase “secret society” was aired on Fox over 100 times. The network repeatedly showed the video of Rep. Gowdy and another video of Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) as Fox anchors, hosts, and guests piled on.

On Wednesday night, ABC News published the text of the full, stand-alone “secret society” text message. The message, according to ABC, read: “Are you even going to give out your calendars? Seems kind of depressing. Maybe it should just be the first meeting of the secret society.”

That’s it. People were less than impressed.

Fox News host Sean Hannity briefly mentioned ABC’s reporting Wednesday evening, saying “Really? Secret societies? You can’t make this stuff up,” adding, “ABC News, they have obtained this particular text message and they’re actually questioning if it was all a joke. We’ll let you decide.” After Hannity’s show, Fox host Laura Ingraham continued to hype the possibility of secret societies.

But now, after two days of breathlessly pushing the “bombshell” story about secret societies, Fox has decided to stop mentioning it at all. On Thursday, its executives apparently didn’t think it was important to even report on ABC News’ clarifying reporting on the “secret society” text message.

The network did not mention “secret society” even once on Thursday morning. There was no update, no clarification, no added context. Fox didn’t acknowledge that the so-called “secret society” was seemingly not a story at all.

There was nothing.


Originally published by Media Matters as a 501(c)(3) non-profit.

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