Media Matters weekly newsletter, May 12
Welcome back to Media Matters' weekly email. As a senior researcher with Media Matters, I monitor and analyze right-wing content across a wide variety of platforms, trying to understand what makes it tick. Each Friday I'll go through all the main narratives, craziest clips, and ridiculous moments from conservative media over the past week. If you want this delivered straight to your inbox, subscribe here.
On Wednesday, CNN hosted the twice impeached, once indicted, coup-promoting disgraced former president for a town hall. The event was an unmitigated disaster for the cause of journalistic integrity.
During the CNN town hall, Donald Trump pledged to pardon January 6 insurrectionists, laughed as he described sexual assault, enjoyed audience cheers for lying about the 2020 election, and insulted the moderator, Kaitlan Collins. The event was nothing less than an infomercial for the Trump campaign, featuring a near-constant barrage of unchecked misinformation and conspiracy theories and mockery of his sexual abuse victim.
The event was perfectly attuned to benefit Trump. As Media Matters' News Director John Whitehouse said, “The dynamic was not unlike that of a pro wrestling crowd: attentive and ready to cheer for the conquering hero who was making the feckless villain's life a living hell.” Trump thrives in front of an audience, particularly when he is seen as fighting in enemy territory. One of CNN's big mistakes was doing this event live, which was not at all necessary. Though Collins attempted to roll through fact checks to counter Trump's lies, nothing she did would ever have been enough.
From a business angle, though, this event encapsulated CNN's model. After a corporate spin-off and merger in 2021 and 2022, CNN is now part of Warner Bros. Discovery. Discovery's largest shareholder, John Malone, who is a right-wing billionaire, stated in 2021 that he wanted to see CNN become more like Fox News. Coupled with CNN CEO's Chris Licht stated "strategy shift" to make the network “more ideologically neutral” (as opposed to the supposed left-wing bias of the network during the Trump administration) this week's townhall has a clear business context. As Media Matters' Senior Fellow Matt Gertz said, the corporate goal is to make “a more compliant network that treats Trump like any other candidate, lets him make his case to viewers regardless of how frequently he lies, and gets attention that might generate ratings.” Though CNN ratings have tanked under Licht, he is accomplishing Malone's ideological goal.
Conservative media correctly saw the townhall as a victory for Trump. Fox News gloated in the aftermath of the town hall, with a prime-time chyron declaring, “Trump steamrolls CNN.” Newsmax’s Greg Kelly said, “Donald Trump totally killed at the CNN town hall. He ate their breakfast, lunch, and dinner.” Newsmax’s Shaun Kraisman even acknowledged Collins was “bulldozed” by Trump. And Steve Bannon said it was “the humiliation of the mainstream media.”
The townhall went according to CNN's design, as evidenced by Licht's praise following the broadcast. We should expect to see more of this as CNN is increasingly Foxified.
In leaked behind-the-scenes footage, Tucker Carlson said Fox News was under siege from liberals working within the network. The former prime-time host identified one purported liberal element within Fox as “Judge Jeanine [Pirro’s] guy,” who he described as “a screaming left-wing lunatic.”
This week’s video comes on the heels of other leaked footage Media Matters published last week. Those videos showed Carlson criticizing Fox, acting creepy and weird toward women, and saying he was “triggered” by a Dominion deposition lawyer. In response, Fox tried to silence Media Matters with a cease and desist letter. We immediately rejected that attempt. As Media Matters President Angelo Carusone said, “Reporting on newsworthy leaked material is a cornerstone of journalism.”
Fox Corp. CEO Lachlan Murdoch said in an earnings call this week that Carlson's departure will not change programming strategy at Fox News." Fox will continue to be a purveyor of dangerous conspiracy theories, hate speech, and misinformation. The network will subsidize this harmful content with your cable fees, which it is trying to raise. Don’t let it.
Sign up to NoFoxFee.com to get tips on how to send a polite message to your provider and say, “Don’t let Fox News raise my bill.”
This week in stupid
This week in scary
- The Trump National Doral resort scheduled pro-Adolf Hitler antisemites to speak next to Eric Trump, Lara Trump, Devin Nunes, Kash Patel, and other Trump personalities. After heavy criticism, the antisemites, along with Eric Trump, were dropped from the engagement. MSNBC's Rachel Maddow gave great breakdown of this debacle.
- Tim Pool called the Allen, Texas shooter’s pro-Nazi footprint a “PSYOP” and blamed mass shootings on multiculturalism. Other right-wing media pundits followed Pool's lead. Later in the week, Pool said “I think it’s funny and I really don’t care” that the Allen shooter shared screenshots from Pool’s YouTube show on social media.
- Newsmax host Chris Plante said “If you’re going to say whatever you want to say in the United States of America, you might have to have a gun.”
- Fox News hosts Jesse Watters and Sean Hannity both pushed the white supremacist “great replacement” theory.
- Fox’s Mark Levin defended the white supremacist replacement theory, claiming Democrats believe “white dominant society has been around too long so it's time to end it.”
- BlazeTV’s Steve Deace said “The social compact in America is dead. We are at war. A different kind of war. It’s a cold civil war.”
- After Donald Trump was found liable for sexual abuse and defamation against E. Jean Carroll, Newsmax’s Dick Morris said Trump should “defame” Carroll “a little bit more.”
- The Daily Wire’s Michael Knowles claimed “The culture hates white people.”
- On YouTube, disgraced bully Steven Crowder claimed “Jordan Neely forfeited his right to live.”
- Fox’s Jesse Watters blamed “white liberals” for Jordan Neely’s death.
- Fox’s Laura Ingraham called the coverage of the Allen, Texas shooting “a bloody electoral strategy” by Democrats.
- Fox’s Mark Levin said “It’s not even possible” that the Texas shooter with a swastika tattoo was a white supremacist because “he was Hispanic.”
- BlazeTV’s Steve Deace called former Governor Nikki Haley a “prostitute for corporations” and is “not accustomed to how..alpha males behave.”
In case you missed it
- Fox’s Sean Hannity said Trump should have pardoned himself and his family.
- Fox’s Kayleigh McEnany hosted Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton to attack gender-affirming care, only days after the Allen, Texas shooting.
- Fox’s Laura Ingraham accused the Biden administration of encouraging border crossings “to fundamentally change America.”
- Minutes after Trump was found liable of sexual assault and defamation, a Newsmax guest called it a “major win for Trump.”
- During a Fox Corp. earnings call, Lachlan Murdoch defended Fox News’ Dominion settlement, saying “We’re proud of our Fox News team.”
- A guest on Laura Ingraham's podcast said “You have Biden running on an anti-white platform.”
- Fox News used a Washington Post headline to present restrictions on trans equality as a winning issue for Republicans.
- After Jordan Neely was killed on a New York subway, right-wing media has been rushing to praise the killer and suggesting the left are trying to foment unrest.
- Fox’s Brian Kilmeade is using his Fox radio show to attack Trump and talk up a Ron DeSantis presidential run.
- Pinal County, Arizona, Sheriff Mark Lamb’s adult son hosts a podcast where he has platformed election deniers, QAnon-adjacent activists, and right-wing vigilante Kyle Rittenhouse.
- Twitter uses were inundated with graphic photos and videos in the aftermath of the Texas mass shooting.
- Right-wing media has been using the Allen, Texas mass shooting to fearmonger about a supposed border crisis.
- After Proud Boys members were convicted of seditious conspiracy, right-wing media rushed to defend them.
- The New York Times Magazine dedicated a multipage spread to the conservative war on public education.
- Media Matters demonstrated Fox News’ editor Hannah Grossman’s yearlong obsession with demonizing educators.
- In covering the death of Jordan Neely, mainstream media framed some of their reporting on Neely’s past arrest record, mental health problems, and alleged “aggressive behavior.”
- Right-wing media celebrated a verdict that found Donald Trump liable for sexual assault and defamation.
- Fox News has been giving free promotion to the Hobby Lobby-centered Museum of the Bible.
- Twitter CEO Elon Musk is using his site to amplify dangerous conspiracy theories and misinformation about the Allen, Texas shooting.