“Some weeks, the show just writes itself, my friend.”
That was Eliana Johnson, kicking off the June 8 episode of the journalism-focused “Ink Stained Wretches” podcast by expressing her amazement over the increasingly drama-filled state of the media beat these days. Johnson’s intro was a clear and unmistakable reference to multiple crises roiling The Washington Post newsroom — including the fallout from the addition of multiple corrections to a story by columnist Taylor Lorenz, and an unrelated drama that began with the retweet of a sexist joke on Twitter and led to a month-long unpaid suspension for reporter David Weigel and the firing of reporter Felicia Sonmez.
Johnson’s co-host — former Fox News political editor Chris Stirewalt — quickly chimed in, gleefully bashing the Post as “America’s worst big-city newspaper.” He and Johnson also performed a “dramatic reading” of some of the grievance-filled tweets that Post writers lobbed at each other in recent days.
General news audiences might not know Stirewalt’s name right now. But that will change in a big way come Monday, which is when he’s set to temporarily transition from his role as an analyst commenting on the news cycle — to occupying the center of one.
No sooner had his latest podcast episode been released, than Stirewalt confirmed on the NewsNation cable network that he’ll appear before the House Select Committee investigating the January 6th attack on the U.S. Capitol.
In fact, thanks to his background, he’ll be a star witness of sorts for the June 13 hearing. For one thing, he was part of the Fox News team that made the bombshell call declaring a Biden win in Arizona during the November 2020 presidential election. Stirewalt was also fired by Fox in early 2021 as part of what the network said at the time was a company restructuring. To make matters even more interesting, Stirewalt has also made no secret of his belief that Fox, as he once put it, “created the space” that led to the attack at the Capitol.
“I have been called to testify before (the Jan. 6) committee, and will do so on Monday,” Stirewalt confirmed on NewsNation, adding that he’s “not in a position now to tell you what my testimony will be about.” He will, however, discuss his testimony, following the hearing, on NewsNation.
So, to quickly recap: A prominent former Fox News personality, part of a team that made a big anti-Trump call in 2020 who was later fired by Fox, is about to parlay his belief that Fox bears some culpability for the Jan. 6 riot into an appearance before the congressional committee investigating said riot. As for his former network home, Fox offloaded live coverage of the first committee hearing to its business channel, Fox Business, leaving Fox’s key primetime hosts like Tucker Carlson to savage the committee proceedings — which were carried live, of course, by CNN and MSNBC.
Like Stirewalt’s podcast co-host said: Sometimes, the show does indeed write itself.
“Americans gorge themselves daily on empty informational calories, indulging their sugar fixes of self-affirming half-truths and even outright lies,” Stirewalt wrote in a Los Angeles Times op-ed in January 2021, soon after he was fired by Fox. “Can anyone really be surprised that the problem has gotten worse in the last few years?”
As for the background of this latest Jan. 6 committee witness, here are some of the key facts to know:
As noted above, Stirewalt co-hosts a podcast that deconstructs the latest media headlines (the latest episode, which took a deep dive into the chaos at the Post, is titled “KinderCare at The Washington Post”).
Meanwhile, along the lines of the drubbing he’s all but certain to direct at Fox News on Monday, Stirewalt will expand on some of those same themes in “Broken News: Why the Media Rage Machine Divides America and How to Fight Back.” It’s a book Stirewalt has penned that will be published in August, and it’s not hard to feel like you’re reading the book blurb equivalent of a subtweet about Fox News in the official summary:
“Rage revenue-addicted news companies are plagued by shoddy reporting, sensationalism, groupthink, and brain-dead partisan tribalism. Newsrooms rely on emotion-driven blabber to entrance conflict-addled super users.” The book summary goes on to argue that (unnamed) news companies reward bad journalism because it’s “easy and profitable,” not because it’s necessarily an enjoyable pursuit.
At Fox News, Stirewalt helped coordinate the network’s political coverage and worked as a digital politics editor before Fox let him go. He was part of the decision desk on the night of the 2020 election, but he didn’t lead it — Arnon Mishkin ran it then, and still runs it today.
Stirewalt’s credentials also include serving as a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and as a contributing editor for The Dispatch.