Congress to hold hearing on news media's role in promoting conspiracy theories about COVID-19 and the 2020 election

GettyImages 1294904312Win McNamee/Getty ImagesSupporters of US President Donald Trump fly a US flag with a symbol from the group QAnon as they gather outside the US Capitol January 06, 2021 in Washington, DC.
  • House Democrats are holding a hearing on the media’s role in promoting “disinformation and extremism.”
  • The hearing, by the Energy and Commerce Committee, will be held remotely on February 24.
  • It will feature testimony from as-yet-unnamed “media experts.”
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Conspiracy theories are no longer the domain of fringe websites, but have aired on major cable news networks. Now Democrats in Congress say they want to examine the role that the mainstream media has played in promoting false and outlandish claims.

“The prolonged severity of the COVID-19 pandemic and the attack on our Capitol on January 6 have driven home a frightening reality: the spread of disinformation and extremism by traditional news media presents a tangible and destabilizing threat,” Reps. Frank Pallone and Mike Doyle said in a joint statement on Thursday.

Palone, a Democrat from New Jersey, chairs the House Energy and Commerce Committee while Doyle, a Democrat from Pennsylvania, leads the Communications and Technology subcommittee. On February 24, the two lawmakers will host a remote hearing, featuring unnamed “media experts,” examining the issue.

“Some broadcasters’ and cable networks’ increasing reliance on conspiracy theories and misleading or patently false information raises questions about their devotion to journalistic integrity,” the lawmakers said.

Though not stated, it’s possible that lawmakers will be discussing Fox News, which until this year has long been the top-rated cable news network. In January, host Steve Hilton promoted a claim that Dr. Anthony Fauci played a direct role in creating the coronavirus. Many of the network’s anchors and commentators also promoted false claims about election fraud, assertions that were challenged by some of its more fact-oriented, straight-news personalities.

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