In February, a pair of U.S. representatives from California stirred controversy with a concerted effort to pressure cable television providers into removing conservative outlets like Fox News, Newsmax, and One America News Network (OANN) from their airwaves.
Now, the Washington Examiner reports that two Republicans in Congress’s lower chamber are looking to ensure the House’s internal TV system continues to carry these stations, despite efforts to block them by members of the Democratic caucus.
“Reject cancel culture”
In a letter to House Administration Committee Chairwoman Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), Reps. Jim Jordan (R-OH) and Rodney Davis (R-IL) said the right-leaning outlets are being “targeted,” but that the House “can fight back against cancel culture” by refusing to bow to the pressure.
“The House of Representatives can fight back against cancel culture by ensuring that Members and staff have access to these targeted news networks on the House’s internal television system,” the Republicans wrote, according to the Examiner.
“We therefore ask you, as chair of the committee responsible for internal House operations, to reject cancel culture and ensure that the House’s television system carries Fox News, OANN, and Newsmax,” they added.
“Not all TV news sources are the same”
The trio of networks were explicitly named by California Reps. Anna Eshoo and Jerry McNerney in letters sent last month to at least a dozen cable companies, including Verizon, Roku, Amazon, Comcast, and Hulu, as Politico reported.
In their letters, the Democrat lawmakers accused Fox et al. of functioning as “misinformation rumor mills and conspiracy theory hotbeds that produce content that leads to real harm.”
“Nearly half of Americans get their news primarily from TV,” Eshoo and McNerney pointed out, according to Politico. “However, not all TV news sources are the same,” they argued.
“Misinformation on TV has led to our current polluted information environment that radicalizes individuals to commit seditious acts and rejects public health best practices, among other issues in our public discourse,” the Democrats alleged. They went on:
Right-wing media outlets, like Newsmax, One America News Network (OANN), and Fox News all aired misinformation about the November 2020 elections. These same networks also have been key vectors of spreading misinformation related to the pandemic. […]
Yet, to our knowledge, 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.
“Attempt to stifle political speech”
According to Politico, Fox responded to the Democrats’ letters by arguing that it “sets a terrible precedent” for the pair “to highlight political speech they do not like and demand cable distributors engage in viewpoint discrimination.” Newsmax, meanwhile, called the letters an “attack on free speech and basic First Amendment rights” that “should send chills down the spines of all Americans.”
Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Commission Brendan Carr expressed a similar sentiment, slamming Eshoo and McNerney over their “troubling” message in a statement of his own.
“To the House Democrats that used their official letterhead to launch this inquiry, I would say this: Your demand to know the ‘moral principles’ that guide a private entity’s decision about what news to carry cannot be reconciled with bedrock principles of free speech and journalistic freedom,” Carr said, according to Mediaite. “I call on my FCC colleagues to join me in publicly denouncing this attempt to stifle political speech and independent news judgment.”