By Brian Stelter, CNN Business
A version of this article first appeared in the “Reliable Sources” newsletter. You can sign up for free right here.
“Assault on Democracy.”
That’s the title of an ambitious new CNN documentary that is premiering Sunday at 9pm Eastern and Pacific and re-airing several times in the coming days. The subtitle is “The Roots of Trump’s Insurrection.”
Those roots run deep into the right-wing media dirt. The influence of MAGA TV, the radical right web and social media is highlighted throughout the special. “Former employees of InfoWars and Breitbart discuss the profit and political motives of their owners/leaders,” CNN senior VP Jim Murphy says. Fox News also comes up.
It’s important to connect the dots — say, from “the election of Barack Obama, when Rush Limbaugh said ‘I hope he fails,’ through Breitbart’s massive influence on the former president and thus his followers,” exec producer Patricia DiCarlo says. Trump “shared more articles from Breitbart than any other source,” she notes. Now, post-riot, “right-wing media helps keep alive the lie that the election was stolen.”
Regarding the riot, “we went behind the numbers, behind the court cases, and actually talked to the people who are charged,” correspondent Drew Griffin says. What is stunning “is that even now, even facing tremendous charges, some of them… don’t feel any remorse. They don’t feel like they were in the wrong.”
It’s sad when you think about how inevitable the January 6 riot felt, in hindsight. Trump’s lies were always going to lead to violence. When I Googled “assault on democracy” on Sunday, one of the first results was a January 2018 report by Freedom House — a stark warning that “democracy is under assault and in retreat around the globe, a crisis that has intensified as America’s democratic standards erode at an accelerating pace.” January 2018! Three years later, the assault continues…
Why the “fraudit” is a new cause for concern
Donie O’Sullivan writes: “There are concerning parallels between the lead-up to January 6 and the the fast-approaching conclusion of the Republican-led audit of the election in Arizona. Some Trump supporters (and yes, Qanon believers) are clinging onto the hope that this is going to be the big event that overturns the election. Have we been here before? Yes. Some Trump supporters believed Trump would declare martial law and stop the Biden inauguration, others believed Trump would come back on March 4. But what’s different here is that Trump is publicly backing the buzz around Arizona — just like he was riling up his supporters on January 6. ‘Stay tuned for Arizona,’ Trump said in a recent interview. ‘It’s going to be a very interesting time in our country… Because I mean — how do you govern when you lost?'”
Parallels between 1/6 and today
Tim Miller, writing for The Bulwark, warns that Republican leaders should not ignore the Arizona hype:
“Sometime soon the results of the Arizona audit will be brought forth. It seems quite likely, given the participants, that the auditor ninjas will claim that Donald Trump won Arizona. Or probably won Arizona—who can say! Or would have won Arizona, if not for those meddling kids. And if this happens, the former president and his MAGA media echo chamber will once again stoke the flames of insurrection…”
>> WaPo’s Philip Bump summed up the troubling parallels between 1/6 and the now singular focus on Arizona: “A place. A moment. An energy. Just like the Capitol…”