While Moms for Liberty continues to masquerade as a grassroots “parental rights” movement, a crucial detail of its success is often omitted: how right-wing media heavily elevated the group from its infancy. Since the organization’s first appearance on The Rush Limbaugh Show in January 2021 — less than a month after it was created — representatives have been regulars on right-wing media, appearing on Fox News at least 16 times and Steve Bannon’s War Room at least 14 times.
Right-wing media’s ready embrace of Moms for Liberty at a time when the group barely existed is eyebrow-raising, particularly when considering the details of just how small and new the group was.
Moms for Liberty received 501(c)(4) nonprofit status on January 1, 2021, and by January 27, co-founder Tina Descovich had already appeared on The Rush Limbaugh Show. Moms for Liberty nationally launched on February 8 with only five chapters. By the end of February, the group had been spotlighted by Breitbart and had received a “shout out” on Tucker Carlson Tonight.
What can’t be emphasized enough is just how small Moms for Liberty was when major media attention began and how crucial that coverage was to the group’s expansion, with influential right-wing media figures functionally recruiting their eager audience to join the organization. As media attention of the group increased, new chapters were created and more members joined.
Just six months after its launch, Moms for Liberty was connected enough to have conservative Megyn Kelly host a fundraiser on its behalf and right-wing media outlet The Daily Wire praise it as “one of the fastest-growing and most robustly organized groups.” At seven months old, Moms for Liberty claims that it had grown to 30 chapters in 18 states, which was followed by attention from Newsmax and more Fox News publicity. At 10 months, Moms for Liberty lept to 135 chapters in 35 states. By July of 2022, Moms for Liberty claimed that it had grown to 200 chapters in 38 states.
Moms for Liberty also seems to be inflating its membership numbers. The group claims to have 200 chapters and over 100,000 members, which would be an average of at least 500 members per chapter. The alleged membership-numbers-to-chapters ratio is unlikely, and Media Matters obtained internal evidence showing many chapters have far fewer. The organization’s founders also mentioned that the group numbers they reported to The Washington Post include not just members but also “supporters."
Moms for Liberty also seems to be attempting to rebrand itself to appear less radical, including wiping or omitting select media appearances from its website. For example, the group’s website no longer includes press releases about interviews given before March 2021, with releases for The Rush Limbaugh Show, Breitbart, and The Glenn Beck Program all removed from the website. The website’s pages of press releases also omit the group’s frequent appearances on Steve Bannon’s War Room. In April, Bannon even encouraged his viewers to start their own chapters of Moms for Liberty.
Right-wing media undeniably catapulted Moms for Liberty to prominence by essentially providing the group with free recruitment services. The claim that Moms for Liberty is a grassroots entity is seriously undermined by the fact that the actual organizing was done on a massive scale by high-profile right-wing media.