Lawyers for Cesar Sayoc, the man who pleaded guilty in the spring to sending numerous packages containing improvised explosive devices to various voices on the left and opponents of President Donald Trump in general, said this week that their client was influenced by Fox News.
The sentencing memo from his lawyers alleged that Sayoc deserved leniency in his sentencing due to the errant reports that the network aired, which influenced him to take decisive and unlawful actions by sending bomb packages to people like former President Barack Obama, former Democratic nominee for president Hillary Clinton, current candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden, and others, per reporting from The Washington Post.
Sayoc paid little mind to cable news networks before Trump decided to run for office. But because he was a fan of his motivational tapes and other products, Sayoc paid closer attention, primarily to Fox News, after Trump’s 2015 announcement. He even “began watching Fox News religiously at the gym, planning his morning workout to coincide with Fox and Friends and his evenings to dovetail with Hannity.”
“Mr. Sayoc viewed Donald Trump as everything he wanted to be: self-made, successful, and a ‘playboy,'” his lawyers wrote.
Sayoc also joined Facebook groups that matched his far-right conservative viewpoints. Some of the groups, his lawyers said, “promoted various conspiracy theories and, more generally, the idea that Trump’s critics were dangerous, unpatriotic, and evil.”
Rather than dispelling those assessments, “Fox News furthered these arguments,” his lawyers wrote. “For example, just days before Mr. Sayoc mailed his packages, Sean Hannity said on his program that a large ‘number of Democratic leaders [were] encouraging mob violence against their political opponents.'”
Fox News does indeed appear to have a negative effect on viewers’ understandings of the world around them. One study found that viewers of Fox News were actually less likely to comprehend domestic policy debates than were people who consumed no news media at all, per reporting from Business Insider.
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