Protests this past week have been largely peaceful, but Fox News continues to show old footage to rile up viewers

insider@insider.com (Jake Lahut)
·4 min read
Sean Hannity
Fox News opinion host Sean Hannity.

AP Photo/Julie Jacobson

  • The nationwide protests over the death of George Floyd took a peaceful turn in the last week. But Fox News has stuck with visuals and segments focused on instances of rioting and looting, often running B-roll footage from prior weeks and protests.

  • While some of the footage carried a timestamp to show a date — such as a "Fox & Friends" segment with shots of fires in Minneapolis marked May 28 — the continued focus on rioting and looting can be misleading and has often been described in the present tense.

  • A Tuesday night chyron banner from Sean Hannity's show read "GROWING LAWLESSNESS IN MAJOR CITIES" despite a lack of evidence to back it up.

  • With fewer and fewer new examples of full-blown unrest, the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone in Seattle has taken center stage in Fox's coverage. 

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Throughout the week on Fox News, viewers have been shown harrowing scenes of rioting, looting, and widespread violence with indignant commentary from opinion hosts.

The only problem: Much of the footage being shown isn't actually new.

"Fox & Friends," the three-hour morning show frequently live-tweeted by President Trump, showed fires raging across Minneapolis on Tuesday. 

There were no widespread fires nor looting in the Twin Cities that day, and the B-roll footage had a little red May 28 time stamp on it.

The same day, opinion host Sean Hannity ran a chyron banner reading "GROWING LAWLESSNESS IN MAJOR CITIES" despite a lack of evidence to back it up.

Overall, the tenor of the coverage can imply that violent unrest is still unfolding, with the present tense overshadowing the smaller time signature visuals.

The images of fires burning and looting taking place accompany a whole litany of segments, even if there is no ostensible connection to those events.

 

A Fox News spokesperson pointed Insider to examples of peaceful protests being highlighted on the network, and noted that the time signatures for the B-roll — an industry term for accompanying footage shown in news packages — fit the usual protocols.

Hannity Fox News NYC protests
In this segment from "Hannity," a live shot of the reporter (left), is juxtaposed with unrest from earlier in the week (right). A time stamp for that Wednesday can be seen in the corner.

Fox News

With few examples of looting and full-blown unrest to report on in real-time, the Occupy Wall Street-esque "Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone" in Seattle has taken center stage.

Between 100 and 200 protesters — some of whom have been reported to be armed by Fox and other outlets, though city officials dispute those claims — have been occupying several blocks barricaded off in the city, with a local police precinct abandoned as part of a concession to the protesters

With the National Guard also moving out of the city, the protesters have established an independent space under the notion that the zone is free from police.

Along with the copious coverage on Fox, President Trump has tweeted about the demonstrations, making threats to Democratic Washington Gov. Jay Inslee.

Armed protesters by a capitol building are nothing new — earlier this year, anti-lockdown protesters bearing weapons from assault rifles to a rocket launcher stormed Michigan's state capitol building — but Fox's coverage of Seattle has depicted the occupied area as a major insurrection.

Last night on one of Hannity's panels, Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., alleged that Antifa had made Seattle their own "capital."

The network also had a reporter on the ground. Dan Springer, a Fox News correspondent, told Hannity last night that he had to move his live shot after going on Tucker Carlson because the scene was getting violent. 

"That is absolutely true, Sean, and we actually had to leave. We were actually at one of the barricades in our last live shot an hour ago [on Tucker Carlson Tonight]," Springer said. "But it got a little too hot, so we had to move a couple blocks away."

No footage was shown to back up Springer's claims, though police have reportedly launched tear gas at times to disperse protesters around the area.

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During coverage of the Seattle autonomous zone on "Hannity" last night, most of the B-roll footage focused on a Confederate monument in Virginia.

Fox News

As Hannity dedicated the first half of his show to the scene in Seattle, B-roll on the screen showed a Confederate monument protest in Virginia. 

While Trump often takes his cues from Fox, he has also criticized the channel for not being as supportive of him as they used to be, even expressing nostalgia for the network's late disgraced CEO Roger Ailes.

Yet despite Trump's criticism, Fox News remains a force in the Nielsen ratings night after night, sometimes doubling CNN and MSNBC's viewership combined.

 

As Fox's prime time lineup continues to dominate the ratings, millions of Americans may come away with the impression that destruction and chaos continue to rampage the country — unless they squint to read the time stamp.

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