Bruce Murphy
Back in the News

Sykes Backs Biden, Blasts Fox News

Fox News, Rush Limbaugh offer an "alternative reality silo," Sykes says. No mention of his own show.

By - Sep 9th, 2020 12:52 pm
Charlie Sykes. Photo by Michael Horne.

Charlie Sykes. Photo by Michael Horne.

News flash: Longtime Milwaukee conservative talk radio host Charlie Sykes is voting for Joe Biden this November, as he recently told Wisconsin Public Radio.

Sykes, of course, has become one of the country’s better known Never Trumpers. After stepping down from 23 years as a right-wing zealot on talk radio, he quickly built a national reputation by dramatically recanting some of his views and blasting Republican President Donald Trump. That and the publication of his book, How the Right Lost Its Mind, helped win Sykes a gig as a contributor on liberal MSNBC and a position as editor-at-large at The Bulwark, a conservative publication that opposes Trump,  while also doing occasional op eds for the New York Times.

“Whether you want to talk about fiscal prudence, free trade, American exceptionalism — one after another, those values were jettisoned, not to mention just the damage that’s been done to the American political culture by four years of Donald Trump,” Sykes told WPR reporter Elizabeth Dohms-Harter.

Sykes charged that the “Trumpification” of the Republican Party has been aided by conservative media such as Fox News, Breitbart and Rush Limbaugh. “It’s not just that there’s an echo chamber,” Sykes said. “It’s an alternative reality silo.”

He pointed to Fox’s coverage of  the recent story from The Atlantic reporting that Trump called war heroes and members of the military “losers” and “suckers.”

“If you’re watching Fox News, you will see tremendous efforts to discredit that story, and actually discredit their own reporting of the story,” Sykes said.

Unmentioned was Sykes own role in enforcing hard-right Republican views for decades, bashing any independent thinkers within the party by deriding them as RINOS (Republicans In Name Only). The model for local talk radio hosts was Rush and his ditto heads, the goal was to get conservative listeners angry, to “perpetuate the notion that his or her listeners are victims, and the host is the vehicle by which they can become empowered,” as Sykes’ former boss Dan Shelley, who served for years as news director for WTMJ Radio, wrote in a feature story for Milwaukee Magazine. Sykes also operated based on talking points provided by the Republican Party, Shelley noted, while relentlessly bashing the “liberal” mainstream media as biased. His show was an alternative reality silo.

The point of Trump’s lies “is not to make you believe the lie,” Sykes told WPR. “It’s making you doubt your critical sensibilities, so you just shrug and go, ‘I don’t know who to believe. I don’t know what is truth.’ And that’s a dangerous place for a democracy.”

But back during his recantation period, which has apparently ended, Sykes admitted he had helped pave the way for Trump to lie with impunity, telling Business Insider that “We’ve basically eliminated any of the referees, the gatekeepers… All conservative hosts have basically established their brand as being contrasted to the mainstream media. So we have spent 20 years demonizing the liberal mainstream media…But, at a certain point you wake up and you realize you have destroyed the credibility of any credible outlet out there. And I am feeling, to a certain extent, that we are reaping the whirlwind at that. And I have to look in the mirror and ask myself, ‘To what extent did I contribute?’”

Quite a bit, actually. And for 23 years, not twenty.

8 thoughts on “Back in the News: Sykes Backs Biden, Blasts Fox News”

  1. Patty Thompson says:

    I hope that his views are not too little too late.

  2. Bill Sweeney says:

    “We can debate policies and issues, and we should. But those debates must be based on common facts rather than raw appeals to emotion and fear through polarizing rhetoric and fabrications. Not only is there such a thing as objective truth, failing to tell the truth matters. We can’t control whether our public servants lie to us. But we can control whether we hold them accountable for those lies or whether, in either a state of exhaustion or to protect our own political objectives, we look the other way and normalize an indifference to truth.” -Sally Yates, former acting attorney general

  3. frank a schneiger says:

    (Luke 15:7), Jesus: “I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” Except, for the “never-Trumpers,” this is not exactly repentance. To the extent that the Walker years were an out-of-town tryout for Trumpism (racial animus, dark money, corruption, worship of “business,” taxes are evil, hatred of government), it owed a lot to Charlie Sykes, the local version of Fox News/Rush Limbaugh. MSNBC has lately become the rehab center for the supposedly repentant, including Charlie Sykes, none of whom have been willing to acknowledge the straight line from Reagan to the various Walkers to Donald Trump.

    Sykes is quite correct in his attack on Fox News, but almost certainly understates the case. There is no way to explain our flirtation with fascism, the continuing fidelity of the 40% white “base,” and the looming triumph of white supremacy without watching Fox News. Especially Fox and Friends and the trio of prime-time racists and fascists (Carlson, Hannity and Ingraham.)

    Two things are becoming clearer by the day: first, that putting the worst interpretation on everything being done by this administration, including measured use of the word “treason,” will put you closer to the truth than any other interpretation. And, second, that the fate of the Republican Party, not just Donald Trump, is now firmly tied to the Russians, to far-right extremists and Nazis, to dark money crooks and slime-balls who are capable of anything, as is Trump, and to voter suppression on a large scale.

    It would be a shame if, after this episode is over and – hopefully – the nation is saved, everyone has a typically American short memory about who did and said what. “Gosh, we didn’t know what was going on,”or “Let’s just turn the page.” Everyone knows because none of it is hidden. And none of it is “fake news.” George Costanza of Seinfeld was wrong. The fact that you don’t want to believe it doesn’t mean that it isn’t a lie.

  4. Thomas Martinsen says:

    Yes, Patty Thompson, the Sykes apologies are too weak and too late. Bill Sweeney’s quote from Sally Yates re “indifference to truth” stings the likes of Sykes. I am glad that Charlie has stopped talking smack for reactionary fabricators of alternative reality, but Charlie told too many lies for too long to ever expect to be regarded as credible in any respect. He pumped the puppy for fun and profit for 23 years, diminished our democracy while doing so … It would be good for all if he would graciously disappear.

  5. gerrybroderick says:

    “On Charlie’s Conversion Gig”

    Charlie’s contrition holds his admission
    That all his bloviation has damaged our nation.
    The sinner repented, he quickly invented
    A means to wring profit from all he’d lamented.

  6. Douglas Johnson says:

    Yes to all the above. Like Lee Atwater’s late death bed confession and mea culpa, Charlie Sykes’ conversion is similarly ‘too little, too late’ and equally disingenuous. He clearly saw were money could be made and where his next paycheck was going to come from. This is the same for all those authors of ‘insider tell all books’ written by people intimately involved in the Trump Administration. There are like lawyers who solicit people to sign up for lawsuits to sue corporations. Who profits, certainly not the plaintiffs.

  7. Thomas Martinsen says:

    gerrybroderick’s poem on “Charlie’s alleged contrition was more than amusing. It hit the nailer on the head.

  8. George Wagner says:

    I always blamed Charlie Sykes more than other Wisconsin right wing radio hosts, because I knew he was smarter than the rest of them, knew exactly what dog whistles he was blowing, and how disingenuous he himself really was. Wisconsin’s disaster of Scott Walker and his Republican buddies might well never have happened without Sykes’ help. Thanks, Bruce, for elucidating Sykes record and to the excellent comments above.

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