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The Fox News effect: Can we have an impeachment debate if one side is brainwashed?

“All right senator, I have no idea why a Fox News conspiracy, propaganda stuff is popping up here,” lamented Meet The Press host Chuck Todd on Sunday morning, trying to get a straight answer out of Republican Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson regarding Donald Trump's widening Ukraine collusion scandal. “I have no idea why we're going there.” Todd has hardly been alone in recent days as journalists gamely try to make sense of the increasingly nonsensical Republican defense of the besieged president.

Unlike other hallmark political scandals, where presidents caught in the crossfire do their best to spin the facts to their advantage and hope to win over voters with a coherent messaging war, Republicans are opting for a different route for Trump's unfolding crisis. Taking their cues from Fox News, the entire Trump defense is now based on wholesale lies and rattled conspiracy theories. That poses a key question: How can America have a national debate about impeachment if one side has been willingly brainwashed by Fox News? And that includes Trump himself.

Note that last week a Monmouth University poll revealed that six in 10 self-identified Republicans don't believe that Trump mentioned Joe Biden during Trump's  infamous call with Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelensky, when Trump demanded the foreign power dig up dirt on a political foe. Think about it: More than half of Republicans think Trump never mentioned Biden, even though Trump has publicly acknowledged mentioning Biden on the phone, and actually bragged about it.

“This seems to be another example of partisan tribalism at work in public opinion,” Patrick Murray, director of the independent Monmouth University Polling Institute, told USA Today. Instead of tribalism though, I'd call it Fox News brainwashing.

That's not a term usually used when discussing mainstream American politics. But as the conservative movement becomes increasingly radicalized, using the media to brainwash its followers has become a key part of the calculation, and the political implications are enormous. We're seeing that now with Trump's impeachment scandal.

This is what happens when Fox News and the entire right-wing media echo chamber shift into disinformation and damage-control mode, and just lie relentlessly about the Ukraine scandal: They lie about stuff that even Trump has admitted to doing. It's just one part of the corrosive Fox News effect that's coming into view during the impeachment scandal. Objective truth has been replaced with pure fantasy, and facts have become worthless.

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