Is Liz Cheney trying to get Paul Ryan to do something about Fox News?

AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster

Recall that Ryan, the genial avatar of the “reasonable” pre-Trump GOP, now sits on the board of directors of the Fox Corporation, the parent company of Fox News. Why Fox wanted him given the disdain with which he’s viewed by most of their audience isn’t clear to me. Maybe it’s precisely because he offers them a veneer of mainstream “reasonableness” as the network veers further into stuff like this.

“Insurrection apologists? Don’t you know that Paul Ryan is a director of our company?”

Whatever the explanation, the arrangement seems mutually agreeable. Now and then Never Trumpers will pipe up and plead publicly with Ryan to intervene and put a stop to primetime’s anti-vax propaganda and January 6 whitewashing, but Ryan’s bitten his lip. Either he doesn’t care or they’re paying him enough to make him pretend not to care.

CNN hears from a source that one of Liz Cheney’s motives in reading aloud from the text messages Fox anchors sent to Mark Meadows on January 6 might have been to spur Ryan to do … something. It’s not clear what.

But naming Fox hosts as part of an ongoing effort to target Trump could have negative consequences for Cheney’s political career. The last time Cheney appeared on the channel was November 7 with “Fox News Sunday” host Chris Wallace, who this week departed for CNN.

“I think that’s actually, for her, a pretty courageous thing, because a Republican politician has to be able to go on Fox,” said one person close to her. “To me it was like sending up a smoke signal to Paul Ryan,” the former House speaker who sits on the board of the network’s parent company, Fox Corp.

Does she want Ryan to quit Fox in protest? In protest of what, though? Various Fox defenders noted yesterday that the texts the anchors sent to Meadows on January 6 begged him to have Trump intervene to stop the insurrection, which was the proper reaction. There’s nothing Ryan would or should object to in that.

Rather, maybe Cheney wants him to intervene to make sure that what the anchors are saying publicly to Fox viewers is the same thing they’re saying privately. If they thought Trump was derelict in his duty on January 6 to stop the riot, they shouldn’t pretend otherwise on air. Right, Geraldo?

Likewise, if they and their families are vaccinated, their vaccine coverage shouldn’t be stridently and consistently negative. But you know what Ryan would say to that: It’s not his job to interfere editorially with the primetime hosts. He’s a director, someone concerned with the business side of Fox, not a news executive. And business is booming.

To all appearances he’s happy as a clam in his Fox Corp. sinecure, content to profit from the Trumpist turn in the party the way so many others have. I have no sense of whether he even exercises meaningful influence over how Fox operates. Presumably Fox’s leadership wants him on the board purely as a figurehead, not because they value his advice. So it’s not just a question of why he doesn’t intervene, it’s a question of whether he’d be capable if he wanted to.

Let’s say he did want to. Even so, the opinion side of Fox is probably untouchable. They deliver the ratings so the company has to let them do what they want. But to the extent Ryan has any influence, he could try to beef up the news operation and make sure that the January 6 committee’s findings are getting appropriate coverage. There are obviously revelations to come, starting with the fact that as-yet-unnamed Republican members of Congress were egging on Meadows to follow through with the coup:

Not that there’s much mystery about who those people are:

Two of the chief organizers of the January 6 rally that preceded the riot are also reportedly preparing to cooperate with the committee. Will Fox’s news team cover it when they do?

Dustin Stockton and Jennifer Lynn Lawrence are set to testify next week before the House select committee investigating the attack on the U.S. Capitol. The pair will deliver testimony and turn over documents, including text messages, that indicate the extensive involvement members of Congress and the Trump administration had in planning the House challenge to certifying Biden’s election and rally near the White House where Donald Trump spoke — efforts that ultimately contributed to a massive and violent attack on the Capitol…

“We’re turning it all over and we’ll let the cards fall where they may,” Stockton says.

If Ryan can’t stop the counter-narrative in primetime, he can at least try to make sure Fox viewers have the facts earlier in the day. Maybe that’s the “smoke signal” Cheney had in mind, assuming CNN’s source was correct. She was singling out Fox anchors’ communiques with Meadows to show Ryan and other Fox execs that the network shouldn’t try to hide from this story, because it can’t. It’s part of it.

Although it’ll try. Here’s Cheney addressing her Republican colleagues last night before the House voted to refer Meadows to the DOJ for contempt proceedings.