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After weeks of blasting it as a totalitarian-style Truth Ministry that would police citizens’ thoughts, Fox News hosts on Wednesday, especially during its top-rated primetime hours, took turns praising the abrupt pause of the Biden administration’s Disinformation Governance Board — an entity within the Department of Homeland Security that launched less than a month ago.
In a statement that the Homeland Security department provided to me, which you can read in full below, the board’s pause was attributed to unnamed outside forces that “grossly and intentionally mischaracterized” the board’s work. And, for that matter, the work of the disinformation expert hired to run it, Nina Jankowicz — who also tendered her resignation after becoming a focal point of the scrutiny and criticism from right-wing news sources, and especially from Fox’s most high-profile hosts.
The network’s coverage of the announcement got started earlier in the day, when Fox’s White House correspondent Peter Doocy asked newly installed White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre about what looked like a degree of irony in the news about the board. Specifically, he wanted to know: Does the announcement mean that “the disinformation board is being shut down because of … disinformation?”
Jean-Pierre’s response basically reflected the statement that the department shared with me, which reads in full as follows: “DHS created an internal working group called the Disinformation Governance Board to ensure the Department’s disinformation-related work protects free speech, civil rights, civil liberties, and privacy. It was intended to ensure coordination across the Department’s component agencies as they protect Americans from disinformation that threatens the homeland — including malicious efforts spread by foreign adversaries, human traffickers, and transnational criminal organizations.
“The Board has been grossly and intentionally mischaracterized: it was never about censorship or policing speech in any manner. It was designed to ensure we fulfill our mission to protect the homeland, while protecting core Constitutional rights. However, false attacks have become a significant distraction from the Department’s vitally important work to combat disinformation that threatens the safety and security of the American people.”
Because of that “distraction,” an assessment of the board is underway now, for which next-step recommendations will come in 75 days. Until then, the board will not conduct any work — but the department is still characterizing this as a “pause.”
“To help instill trust in our work,” the DHS spokesman’s statement continues, “Secretary Mayorkas has asked former DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff and former US Deputy Attorney General Jamie Gorelick to lead a thorough review and assessment, conducted through the bipartisan Homeland Security Advisory Council (HSAC). This assessment will focus on answering two pivotal questions. First, how can the Department most effectively and appropriately address disinformation that poses a threat to our country, while protecting free speech, civil rights, civil liberties, and privacy?
“Second, how can DHS achieve greater transparency across our disinformation-related work and increase trust with the public and other key stakeholders? The Secretary has requested the HSAC’s final recommendations within 75 days. During the HSAC’s review, the Board will not convene and its work will be paused, but the Department’s critical work across several administrations to address disinformation that threatens the security of our country will continue.”
The Washington Post, which first broke the news about the disinformation board going on hiatus, pointed to the unrelenting pace of coverage that Fox News directed at the board and at its leader. Including something on the order of 70 percent of the network’s one-hour segments in the week following the board’s late April launch, according to the paper, either mentioning Jankowicz or the board — and usually attaching a derisive “Ministry of Truth” label to the latter.
Jankowicz, Fox’s Tucker Carlson declared on his Wednesday night “Tucker Carlson Tonight” broadcast, “was so embarrassing that even the Biden administration, which has an almost infinite capacity for embarrassment … even they couldn’t put up with her.”
Sean Hannity, in the hour block he hosts following Carlson’s show, described Jankowicz as a “far-left lunatic” and revisited the Fox-designated “Ministry of Truth” appellation.
This all comes, by the way, just days after Amazon
“This Orwellian nightmare is never going to see the light of day again. Never,” Laura Ingraham, the host of Fox’s “The Ingraham Angle,” chimed in on Wednesday night, before getting in a dig at a rival. “Hey, it’s shocking that it lasted, what, three whole weeks. Or about as long as CNN+.”