A defendant in the January 6 insurrection, Anthony Antonio, made headlines recently when his lawyer claimed that Antonio’s significant consumption of the Fox News Channel was responsible for his participation in the siege on the Capitol, resulting in five federal criminal charges against him.
The lawyer called it “Foxitis” and “Foxmania,” suggesting that Antonio’s steady diet of Fox misinformation in the weeks after the 2020 election convinced him that the election was stolen.
But while the Foxitis claim is not a valid legal defense, it might operate in a different way to help Antonio’s cause, as an expression of remorse.
Judges often — though not always — credit defendants at sentencing for heartfelt demonstrations of remorse. And it’s at least possible that an early demonstration of remorse and a willingness to take responsibility for his actions could influence prosecutors to give Antonio a more favorable plea offer than they might otherwise.
But putting aside the potential impact on Antonio’s criminal case, there may be a fringe benefit to the Foxitis argument for our society at large.
The public calling out of Fox News for setting the groundwork for and then supporting and perpetuating the Big Lie that led to the January 6 insurrection from someone who bought that nonsense hook, line and sinker could be a powerful thing.
I don’t know whether anything will get through to those who still buy the Big Lie, but if in the course of resolving these hundreds of criminal cases stemming from the events of January 6, those who no longer believe speak out about it, it certainly can’t hurt.