Leonard Pitts: Right-wing media bad for American business

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, February 10, 2021

By Leonard Pitts Jr.
Tribune Content Agency

‘You think we’re bad for America?’

Sean Hannity of Fox “News” asked that question of Ted Koppel four years ago as the latter was interviewing him on “CBS Sunday Morning.” Yes, answered Koppel, “because you’re very good at what you do and … you have attracted people who are determined that ideology is more important than facts.”

Thus dressed down, Hannity smirked and made a face. He later asserted that Koppel — 1992 inductee into the Television Academy Hall of Fame, winner of nine Peabody Awards and 25 Emmys for journalistic excellence — is “not a journalist.” His echo chamber promptly echoed him. Laura Ingraham called him a “victim.” Michelle Malkin derided Koppel as “a walking dead decrepit media elitist.”

Anyone naive enough to believe Koppel’s exercise in speaking truth to falsity might chasten Hannity and other facts-impervious right-wing pundits was thus duly educated. What do they care? They’ve been dressed down by a thousand Ted Koppels for their utter indifference to truth and the damage it’s inflicted upon this country. They’ve happily ignored it all. But now comes something they can’t ignore, and it means business — literally.

Consider that, in December, Fox and Newsmax ran extraordinary segments debunking bogus claims made by their own hosts and guests against Smartmatic, a provider of election technology, over its supposed role in supposed voter fraud. This came after threatening letters from Smartmatic attorneys. Last week, the company filed a $2.7 billion defamation suit against Fox, two of its guests (Donald Trump lawyers Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell) and three of its hosts (Lou Dobbs, Maria Bartiromo and Jeanine Pirro).

Powell and Giuliani are also each facing a $1.3 billion defamation suit from Dominion Voting Systems. That company has suggested it may sue My Pillow CEO and election fraud conspiracy theorist Mike Lindell as well.

The novel idea of being held accountable — more to the point, of having to pay cash money — for the garbage they spew seems to have gotten the attention of right-wing media in a way little else ever has. Last week, WABC radio slapped a disclaimer on Giuliani’s program, a Newsmax anchor walked off the set rather than sit passively as Lindell spewed nonsense, and Fox Business abruptly canceled “Lou Dobbs Tonight,” its highest-rated show.

It is tempting to believe that in undermining the integrity of an American election, and feeding the unhinged paranoia of people like those who stormed the Capitol last month, the right wing finally went too far. But when have they not gone too far? Going too far is their brand. So it’s not that they went too far, but that they did so against big business, against those with deep pockets and corporate reputations to protect.

Make no mistake: for some of us, this comeuppance is like Christmas wrapped in summer vacation with New Year’s Eve on top. Yet that joy is mitigated when you consider how we came to this point. After all, the right-wing rampage against truth has long done violence to American elections, American courts, American news media, American hearts and American minds — and they’ve always gotten away with it.

Now, however, that rampage threatens violence against American business and we see right-wing media slamming on the brakes like a toddler just wandered into the street. Which speaks volumes about their priorities. See, they don’t care if something is bad for America.

Just so long as it’s not bad for business.

Leonard Pitts Jr. is a columnist for the Miami Herald, 3511 NW 91st Ave., Miami, Fla., 33172. Readers may contact him via e-mail at lpitts@miamiherald.com.