Democrat Representatives Anna Eshoo and Jerry McNerney sent letters to 12 major cable providers Monday pressuring them to stop hosting right-wing news outlets like Newsmax, One America News Network (OANN) and Fox News.
“By writing letters to the cable providers and other regulated entities that carry these news media outlets, the Democrats are sending a message that is as clear as it is troubling – these regulated entities will pay a price if the targeted newsrooms do not conform to Democrats’ preferred political narrative,” said FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr.
Eshoo and McNerney sent letters to AT&T, Verizon, Roku, Amazon, Apple, Comcast Corporation, Charter Communications, Dish Network, Cox Communications, Altice USA, Alphabet Inc. and Hulu, questioning the service providers’ “moral or ethical principles” related to their private business decision to host conservative outlets.
The letter questions whether any “adverse actions” were taken by the providers in response to the dissemination of what Eshoo and McNerney deem “disinformation” that they allege “undergird the radicalization of seditious individuals who committed acts of insurrection on January 6th” and “[contribute] to a growing distrust of public health measures necessary to crush the pandemic.”
The letter claims Newsmax, OANN and Fox News are causing “real harm” and that “the cable, satellite, and over-the-top companies that disseminate these media outlets to American viewers have done nothing in response to the misinformation aired by these outlets.”
Revealingly, Eshoo and McNerney do not mention any left-leaning media outlets in the letters and specifically target conservative media outlets only, which they claim “’ran incendiary reports’ of false information following the elections and continue to support ‘an angry and dangerous subculture [that] will continue to operate semi-openly.’”
Eshoo and McNerney question why these privately-owned companies continue to host right-wing news outlets and specifically ask if they will continue to do so in the future, and “if so, why?”
AT&T, for example, is “a company that serves 17 million Americans” and continues to host Newsmax, OANN, and Fox News, apparently meaning that it “plays a major role in the spread of dangerous misinformation that enabled the insurrection of January 6 and hinders our public response to the current pandemic,” according to Eshoo and McNerney.
Eshoo and McNerney acknowledge that television is a primary source of information for many individuals but proceed to differentiate between outlets that disseminate “truth” and outlets that disseminate information that they allege leads to “radicalization.”
“Not all TV news sources are the same. Some purported news outlets have long been misinformation rumor mills and conspiracy theory hotbeds that produce content that leads to real harm,” reads the letter, citing one study that found “that the right-wing media ecosystem is ‘much more susceptible…to disinformation, lies, and half-truths.’”
Newsmax responded to the letter by pointing out the blatant “attack on free speech” and specific targeting of conservative thinking.
“The House Democrats’ attack on free speech and basic First Amendment rights should send chills down the spine of all Americans. Newsmax reported fairly and accurately on allegations and claims made by both sides during the recent election contest. We did not see the same balanced coverage when CNN and MSNBC pushed for years the Russian collusion hoax, airing numerous claims and interviews with Democrat leaders that turned out to be patently false,” Newsmax said to The Foreign Desk.
Carr emphasizes that this move by House Democrats to regulate news outlets for the sake of upholding a particular political narrative “is a chilling transgression of the free speech rights that every media outlet in this country enjoys.”
“Debate on matters of public interest should be robust, uninhibited, and wide open. More speech is better than less. Yet the concerted effort by Democrats to drive political dissent from the public square represents a marked departure from these First Amendment norms. A newsroom’s decision about what stories to cover and how to frame them should be beyond the reach of any government official, not targeted by them,” said Carr.