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Jan. 6 Hearing Dominates Top TV Networks — Except One

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NEW YORK (AP) — America’s top television networks on Thursday turned prime time over to a gripping account of former President Donald Trump’s actions in the course of the Jan. 6, 2021, riot on the U.S. Capitol — with one outstanding exception.

The highest-rated news network, Fox News Channel, stuck with its own lineup of commentators. Sean Hannity denounced the “show trial” elsewhere on TV just as he was featured in it, with the House’s Jan. 6 committee examining his tweets to Trump administration figures.

Hannity aired a soundless snippet of committee members entering the hearing room as a part of a lengthy monologue condemning the proceedings.

That was all Fox News Channel viewers saw of the hearing.

“It’s really just an inexpensive, selectively edited political ad,” Hannity told his viewers.

Meanwhile, ABC, CBS, NBC, PBS, CNN and MSNBC aired the second prime-time hearing, specializing in Trump’s real-time response to the riot. The committee said it was the last hearing until September.

“This very much appeared like a closing argument, actually of this chapter of their investigation, and it was profound,” ABC News anchor David Muir said.

About 20 million people watched the primary prime-time hearing on June 9, the Nielsen Company said. Generally, reaching that big an audience in mid-July could be an extended shot, as it’s the least-watched television month of the yr.

Yet the seven daytime hearings have proven something of an oddity. Buoyed by strong word-of-mouth, the hearings grew in audience as they went along. CNN, for instance, reached 1.5 million people for the second daytime hearing on June 16, and a couple of.6 million for the last one on June 12, Nielsen said.

Fox’s broadcast station in Recent York, which didn’t air last month’s prime-time hearing, showed the Thursday night session.

There’s little interest at Fox News Channel, which televised the daytime hearings, although only up until the demarcation line of the network’s popular show “The Five.” Rankings show that roughly half the network’s audience flees when the hearings start, and return once they’re over.

That might be a far more major problem in prime time, where Fox’s audience is greater than double what it’s in the course of the day. Fox News Channel’s decision to not air the prime-time hearings is sort of actually a function of the demands of their audience and prime-time hosts, said Nicole Hemmer, an authority on conservative media and writer of the upcoming book “Partisans: The Conservative Revolutionaries Who Remade American Politics within the Nineties.”

This exhibit from video released by the House Select Committee, shows a Sean Hannity text to Mark Meadows, displayed at a hearing by the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, on July 21, 2022, on Capitol Hill in Washington.

House Select Committee via AP

“It creates a clumsy situation when a bunch like Tucker Carlson tells his audience that the hearings are a debacle not value their time, after which the network preempts his show to air them,” Hemmer said.

Carlson found loads of things to speak about besides the hearing Thursday, including President Joe Biden’s COVID-19 diagnosis, a “meltdown” by liberals over the U.S. Supreme Court’s abortion decision, the failure of drug legalization, “climate crazies” and “trans-affirming” lessons in Los Angeles schools.

Hannity’s lead story was the “grand finale” of the Jan. 6 committee, although he didn’t show it — at the least with the sound on.

He brought on guests like GOP Rep. Jim Banks of Indiana, who said that if the hearings have done anything, “they’ve exonerated President Trump and the people supporting him.”

Talk show host Mark Levin told Hannity the U.S. Justice Department is corrupt because “the Colbert 9 are roaming free.” That’s a reference to federal prosecutors’ decision to not bring charges against nine people related to CBS’ “Late Show with Stephen Colbert” who were arrested in a U.S. Capitol complex constructing last month.

While Hannity was on the air, the Jan. 6 committee showed tweets that Hannity and other Fox News personalities had sent to Trump administration officials, warning that the Capitol riot was making the president look bad.

In a closing statement, Rep. Liz Cheney, the committee’s vice chair, noted that almost all of its case against Trump has been made by Republicans. She ridiculed the notion that the committee’s findings could be much different if Republicans aside from she and Rep. Adam Kinzinger were members.

“Do you actually think that Bill Barr is such a fragile flower that he would wilt under cross-examination?” she said.

The Republicans watching Fox News Channel on Thursday night didn’t hear her.

Follow AP’s coverage of the Jan. 6 committee hearings at https://apnews.com/hub/capitol-siege.

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