On MSNBC, Angelo Carusone explains how right-wing media are relying on a conspiratorial mindset in reaction to Trump's federal indictment

“he is really just echoing and reflecting back out there the types of conspiracies that have been percolating in the fevered swamps and QAnon and talk radio on Fox News.”

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Citation From the June 10, 2023, edition of MSNBC's American Voices with Alicia Menendez

ALICIA MENENDEZ (HOST): Right-wing media when they are covering the story, mimic Trump's language, paint the case as political persecution, not the by-the-book investigation that it is. Matt Dowd is back with us. And joining us, Angelo Carusone, president of Media Matters. It is good to see you both. I'm just so struck, Angelo, by what we have heard from the former president today. Nothing new, the type of deflection that we are accustomed to about the deep state, about this just being a set of boxes. Talk to me about how much of this is coming from him and how much of it is then amplified in the right-wing echo chamber and the danger of it all?

ANGELO CARUSONE (MEDIA MATTERS): Yeah, I think the big thing that that to me is like the overall overarching takeaway from all of this so far – is obviously little things in the details and lots of quiet about how this is going to play out. But to your point, the big thing is how does this all sort of fit in with where power is really organized and that is – which then fuels it. And much of what Trump is saying actually comes from the right-wing media. There's this feedback loop. And so he is really just echoing and reflecting back out there the types of conspiracies that have been percolating in the fevered swamps and QAnon and talk radio on Fox News.

None of the things that he is saying is new to Trump. In fact, he's not echoing any of the defenses that right-wing media had gave leading up to this. He's just laying out the big-picture attacks on the infrastructure, on the institutions. At its core, it's essentially a conspiratorial mindset. And what he is putting when you add it all up, he is pushing a conspiratorial mindset that is now and that has been the primary defense of Trump in the last couple of days. So there's that feedback loop in action.

And to me, where this goes and this is the danger is that – you know there's lots of questions about how this benefits Trump one way or the other, in the long run, maybe it'll hurt him, maybe not.

But one thing is certain If you have the right-wing media pushing and advocating and advancing a conspiratorial mindset and validating and even his critics in the right-wing media pushing that – like Ben Shapiro, that will benefit Trump in the long run one way or the other, because that is fundamentally what he builds so much of his power and his narrative on. And the danger is that when you organize and build power increasingly on what is considered or used to be considered the fringes, those individuals are, one, more likely to act. It's much more volatile, it's much hotter, it burns hotter. And they have much more of an ends justify the means mentality. So what you have basically is a bunch of kindling. And his latest attacks that will now be reverberated through the right-wing media is like throwing a match on top of it.

MENENDEZ: Well, and let's put a pin in that, because I want to come back to some of the calls to action we've seen from the former president. But, Matt, it strikes me that it's not just Trump and it's not just the right-wing echo chamber. It is also sitting members of Congress. It is people who aspire like Trump himself to be the commander in chief of this nation, repeating these conspiracies – that is just as dangerous.

MATT DOWD (GUEST): Well, you know, I was – been thinking about this for the last 24 or 48 hours. To me, the Republican Party today is divided into three segments right now, and it's reflected in the elected officials in Washington. There's this sort of cultist slash conspiratorial people who are totally backing Trump, creating whatever smokescreen they can on it, defending him at all costs. Because part of what they're doing that is they want to retain power. And I think that's Kevin McCarthy is to stay in the call, do whatever you take. Then there's this tiny group which I'll call the Constitutionalists in the Republican Party and Asa Hutchinson and Chris Christie and Lisa Murkowski and Mitt Romney, who are basically stand by the Constitution saying Donald Trump isn't fit for office. It's a small, very small group, the largest segment of the Republican Party today, in my view, as I watch this unfold, is what I would call the Sergeant Schultz coalition. And the Sergeant Schultz is from Hogan's Heroes. And Sergeant Schultz would be known for saying, I see nothing, I know nothing, I hear nothing. And they basically put their fingers in their ears, closed their eyes, and don't want to have anything to do with this at all and let it let Donald Trump say whatever he wants to say and they won't say anything. Obviously, complete lack of courage, but that's the way it breaks down. But the problem is, the smallest segment in the Republican Party today is the group of elected officials, and it's reflected into a very small group of voters that stands by the Constitution, is willing to call Donald Trump out and say he is unfit for office. And that's why Donald Trump, in my view, is still the dominant presence and will remain the dominant presence of the party, because what his views represent is the majority of the Republican Party today.

MENENDEZ: And I think you agree with me, Matt, that the people who are burying their head in the sand, pretending they don't see anything, they don't hear anything, they are also culpable. Angelo, the fact that you have the former president once again calling his supporters to action, just how dangerous is that?

CARUSONE: I mean, I think it ties in with what Matthew was just saying as well. Right – Is that the largest pool within the Republican Party that actually could shift, I mean, that's what's going to have to happen here, is that media apparatus, that political apparatus is going to have to reorient itself away from this sort of anti-government, anti-Constitution, anti-democracy, anti-authoritarian position that they're currently in. But they're the lever of power here and they're quiet and they're silent.

And so to your question, what concerns me the most is that when you have these appeals that Trump is making that will then make their way into the right-wing media and to the more violent parts of the right-wing media – to say, hey, we have to call to arms here. You have to do something. There has to be a spark. You have to get out there. You have to take action. You have to be willing to you have to threaten. You have to use force. You have to escalate. What that basically does is it ratchets up that temperature a little bit more and it keeps those people quiet because everybody naturally ducks and covers when there's sort of a risk for violence, especially when you're benefiting from it politically, even if you're not participating in it. And so that's what concerns me, is that you not only have the potential for violence, but you also have a flexing an exercise of power, political power, and increasingly authoritarian ways.

MENENDEZ: Angelo and Matt, as always, thank you both so much for your time.