Congressmember Adam Schiff addresses a crowd in the Santa Barbara Public Library Faulkner Gallery. | Credit: Callie Fausey

U.S. House Representative Adam Schiff made a stop in Santa Barbara on Saturday in his campaign for the U.S Senate, hoping to fill the shoes of retiring California Senator Dianne Feinstein. The Santa Barbara Public Library’s Faulkner Gallery was packed with people from Santa Barbara and Ventura County for a meet-and-greet with the congressmember.

Schiff began his talk by introducing the three general issues he said he would focus on if elected to the Senate: the “dangers to our democracy,” making the United States economy “work for everyone,” and the threats to our environment. He illustrated the issue of poverty in the United States, spoke of his views on immigration and making asylum available in the U.S., and touched on how the country can address climate change and wean off fossil fuels.

But out of everything Schiff spoke on, a popular interest among many in the crowd seemed to be the January 6 Capitol riot and Schiff’s work on the January 6 committee.

Schiff mentioned that he was “proud of the work” that the January 6 committee accomplished, and that one of the goals of the committee was to make the point that “now, more than ever, we are at a very fragile point in our democracy.”

The Massachusetts-born Democrat said that Trump’s presidency brought about the first time in his life that he felt the “predominant threats” to the country “came from within.”

“I think of all the corrosive things that we saw there in the last administration, perhaps none was as corrosive to democracy as this relentless assault on truth,” Schiff said. “We felt that in America, we were immune from the forces of xenophobic populism that so rent the rest of the world over the decades, only to discover that no, we’re not immune, that we are subjected to the same human frailties as the rest of the world.”

An hour prior to the meet-and-greet, the former California state senator was at the Santa Barbara County Courthouse to speak at a rally in support of Ukraine and marking the one-year anniversary since Russia’s invasion of the East European country. Schiff acknowledged the ongoing war in Ukraine in his broader discussion of democracy and his criticism of Fox News.

The first question posed to the congressmember was whether there is anything that can be done about “some of the dangerous personalities on Fox News.”

In response, Schiff brought attention to the role of social media in “this kind of dangerous pattern of funneling people into more and more extreme conduct later.” He said that while the January 6 committee didn’t “really get into the impact of Fox News,” one thing that became “very clear” through his time on the committee was that “Fox was a big propagator of the Big Lie,” referring to the baseless claim that Donald Trump had won the 2020 election, which fueled the insurrection on January 6. 

After Schiff’s visit, it was revealed that Fox News founder Rupert Murdoch admitted under oath that Fox News hosts “endorsed” the election lies despite knowing they were false. The news comes out of voting-tech company Dominion Voting Systems’ $1.6 billion defamation suit against the conservative news channel and its parent company, Fox Corp.

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On Saturday, Schiff alluded to a conversation he had with “someone who served on a board” with Murdoch last year, around the start of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. He said that while American companies were pulling out of Russia, Fox News host Tucker Carlson was broadcasting that the U.S. should be on the side of Russia, and that “Ukraine is not a real country.” 

“And I could not for the life of me understand how Murdoch would really allow such treacherous conduct, while companies are pulling out of Russia,” Schiff said. “And I asked this guy that served on the board and I said, ‘Is it just about the money?’ And he said, ‘I served with him, I know him, I was on the board with him, and I can tell you it’s just about the money.’” 

Schiff continued to say that the only way to “attack Fox” is to “attack the money” and boycott Fox “if they continue putting these demagogues on who are tearing the country apart.”

Schiff used the prompt to then address House Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s decision to authorize Tucker Carlson’s staff to view the January 6 Capitol surveillance footage. 

He said that he was not sure at the time whether McCarthy had actually authorized giving the Capitol video to Carlson but expressed concern that Carlson having access to the footage would compromise the Capitol Police and the safety of members of Congress and their staff, before adding that the House administration is “looking into it.”

“And it is such a flagrant and terrible illustration of how Mr. McCarthy sold his soul to get that position, to get that investment,” Schiff said, “Now that this is what he’s doing, as a part of what appears to be a commitment he made to the Matt Gaetzes of the world.” 

Later, when asked what could be done to secure the Capitol video, and if McCarthy has unilateral authority to release it, he said, “The speakership does have a lot of unilateral authority, which has not been a problem because usually we would have responsible people.

“But we don’t anymore. And the things we see from McCarthy are demonstrating not the strength of the speakership, but the weakness of it, that he has adhered to these most extreme elements.”

Toward the end of the meet-and-greet, County Supervisor Das Williams stepped into the gallery, and Schiff, who has long ties to Santa Barbara, greeted him with familiarity. Williams used the moment to urge Schiff to do whatever he can to fight climate change, and called out regional representatives in attendance, including former supervisor Janet Wolf and current Goleta school board member Emily Zacarias.  

Schiff did not have time to answer many of the audience’s questions on Saturday afternoon, but he was able to use the last question about his thoughts on border security to somewhat tie the whole conversation together.

“More broadly, there are ways that we can ameliorate the situation at the border by helping address the conditions that caused so many people to flee the threat of violence,” Schiff said. “These aren’t going to be easy things, and there’s not a single thing you can point to and say, ‘Go fix it.’ It really has to be a comprehensive solution, and as of right now, we don’t have a partner in the GOP. We have to make sure that the next time that we have the opportunity, that we use the political capital to get it done.”


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