Opinion | Fox News embraces post-shooting thoughts and prayers

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Hours after Tuesday’s massacre in Uvalde, Tex., Fox News host Harris Faulkner tweeted:

On Wednesday, one of Faulkner’s colleagues read back those words during the network’s coverage of the killings, which claimed the lives of 19 students and two teachers at Robb Elementary School. “I was looking at what was on social media and it was breaking my heart that people felt so hopeless,” Faulkner said. “So I tweeted that. Just maybe somebody might see it.” Faulkner recalled having covered the Sandy Hook massacre. “I said ’26 dead on that day. Never again.’ Look at where we are,” Faulkner recalled.

Another mass shooting, another round of thoughts and prayers on Fox News. Comforting words are, of course, much needed in times of tragedy, and Faulkner seemed genuinely moved by the country’s pain. But the retreats to prayer, the démarches to religion, serve another purpose for Fox News and its GOP constituency — that of deflecting pressure for gun control and, more generally, shifting responsibility away from elected leaders.

Ainsley Earhardt, a “Fox & Friends” co-host who leads a Bible-study program on Fox Nation, accomplished both of those objectives with these comments on Wednesday morning: “I don’t know what the solution is. I don’t know how to fix this,” Earhardt said. “But I do know, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ That’s what the Bible instructs us to do.”

Rachel Campos-Duffy, another Fox News host, said during another segment, “We took God out of schools and we wonder how this evil comes in. We’ve left a vacuum there. … There’s a lot to be done, but we can start with God.”

Host Will Cain declared the sentiment “unanimous.” “We can effectuate change, but it’s as much prayer as it is policy,” he said. “It is as much in your home as it is at the ballot box. Or more so.”

How do those views square with those of the Republican leadership of Texas? Look no further than “Tucker Carlson Tonight,” where Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick appeared on Tuesday. “We’ve got to unify in prayer, we have to unify in faith. We have to unify in who are we?” Patrick said. “Tucker, when I grew up — and most of the people watching grew up, and you — we didn’t have these situations, we didn’t have mass shooters in our schools, we didn’t have this evil.”

Carlson, a self-described adversary of America’s ruling elites, had his chance to pounce. Here was an elected leader, faced with a national crisis, taking refuge in religious platitudes. So Carlson pushed him to show some actual leadership, right? Uh, well: “When you say your prayers are with people, you seem to mean it,” Carlson said, prefacing this request: “Tell us why you think it’s important to pray in a moment like this.”

Patrick then unspooled a 321-word response that included a frank distillation of post-massacre political strategy for the gun-rights crowd: “This was a country founded on faith, Tucker,” Patrick said. “And that’s why … we have to come together as a people — don’t politicize it. Don’t point fingers. We’ll figure all this out afterwards, and we’ll do better, and everyone will learn from it.”

Instead of pointing out that neither Texas — home to eight mass shootings in the past 13 years — nor the rest of the country has “figured all this out,” Carlson ended the interview.

There are lots of questions being asked on Fox News in the aftermath of Uvalde, as well as solutions being offered. Media Matters for America, a nonprofit watchdog group that monitors Fox News, has stitched together a video of 50 ideas presented on that network to prevent another school massacre. None involved gun control. A good way to abridge that list: More guns, more security, more ballistic blankets and more prayer.

In fairness to the network, however, a couple of voices have managed to pierce the proceedings. Longtime Fox News personality Geraldo Rivera advocated a ban on sales of assault weapons to young people, and host Martha MacCallum said there are gun measures that “might help to save some lives.”

On her program Wednesday night, host Laura Ingraham scoffed at any focus on the killer’s “methods.” “He could have just as easily, probably, built a pressure cooker bomb and killed just as many people,” Ingraham said. Yeah, “probably.”