Media Matters weekly newsletter, April 5

Welcome back to Media Matters’ weekly newsletter. This week:

  • An attack on Trump’s trial judge spread across right-wing cable news.
  • Project 2025’s assault on reproductive rights.
  • Right-wing media has a meltdown over Trans Day of Visibility.

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On March 26, Judge Juan Merchan issued a gag order to prohibit Donald Trump from attacking “witnesses, prosecutors, jurors and court staff, as well as their relatives” ahead of the disgraced former president's April 15 hush-money payment trial. The same day, Islamophobic troll Laura Loomer attacked Merchan’s daughter, Loren, on social media, claiming that her X profile featured a photo of Trump behind bars. Trump repeated Loomer’s attack, which led the judge to extend the gag order to include attacks on members of his own family.

A spokesperson for New York’s state court system said that the social media account associated with the picture of Trump behind bars “is not linked to her [Loren Merchan’s] email address, nor has she posted under the screenname since she deleted the accounts” about a year ago. The spokesperson went on to say that the account “represents the reconstitution, last April, and manipulation of an account she has long ago abandoned.”

Right-wing figures launched similar attacks on Loren Merchan a year ago when they posted photos of her online and claimed that her work for Vice President Kamala Harris’ 2020 presidential campaign was evidence that her father was politically biased against Trump. Trump’s legal team attempted to bully Merchan into recusing himself. But the judge declined, citing the determination of the state advisory committee on judicial ethics that said his impartiality could not “reasonably be questioned.”

After Trump repeated Loomer’s smear, it spread on right-wing media, appearing on One America News and Newsmax.

It’s a dark reality we’re living in when the family of a judge performing their constitutional duties is subjected to such abuse. The incident demonstrates how right-wing media personalities will launch smears and engage in bloodthirsty rhetoric, regardless of its consequences, to performatively pledge fealty to their Dear Leader.

The Heritage Foundation

Citation Andrea Austria / Media Matters

In previous newsletters, we’ve told you about Project 2025, The Heritage Foundation’s authoritarian policy and staffing proposals for the next Republican administration, and the threat it poses to our republic. The conservative think tank’s policy book contains proposals that would attack reproductive rights from several angles, including taking aim at surrogacy. In fact, the Heritage Foundation recently published several articles attacking surrogacy as part of a broader campaign by conservatives to roll back reproductive rights.

The Right has been engaged in a decadeslong war on reproductive rights. Surrogacy has become another prong in this attack, aided by the recent Alabama Supreme Court ruling that granted frozen embryos the same rights as children. The attacks often take the form of homophobic and sexist rhetoric to shame LGBTQ couples and single women who use surrogacy and in vitro fertilization to have babies.

The recent Heritage Foundation articles, coupled with the broader Project 2025 policy proposals, underscore the conservative movement's determination to roll back reproductive rights. The next Republican administration may very well bring these proposals into reality.

Michael Savage on Newsmax

This week in stupid

  • War Room host Steve Bannon: “There’s empirical evidence” that Trump is an “instrument of divine providence.”
  • Ben Shapiro said Trump’s polling may be helped if he is imprisoned.

This week in scary

  • Turning Point USA founder Charlie Kirk: “We need to have a Nuremberg-style trial for every gender-affirming clinic doctor.”
  • Fox’s Jesse Watters said immigrants will make America a “third world dumping ground.”

Excuse me?

  • The Daily Wire’s Matt Walsh: “The people that are destroying the planet, the worst offenders at destroying the planet are non-whites.”
  • Steve Bannon said Trump should not try to win women voters.
bunny rabbits with pink background

Citation Andrea Austria/Media Matters

President Joe Biden designated March 31 as Trans Day of Visibility, an occasion to celebrate the lives and contributions of trans people. In its inaugural year, Trans Visibility Day coincided with Easter. While there is no obvious conflict between celebrating Easter and recognizing the dignity and humanity of a marginalized group, right-wing media disagreed. For days conservative commentators condemned Biden and claimed that his administration had made a deliberate “satanic” mockery of Christianity by recognizing Trans Day of Visibility on Easter.

  • The Daily Wire’s Matt Walsh called Biden a “demon” for recognizing Trans Day of Visibility.
  • Fox host Jesse Watters suggested that the Biden administration is “waging spiritual warfare against Christianity.”
  • Salem Media host Eric Metaxas wrote: “The deeply evil thing Joe Biden has done in declaring today ‘Trans Visibility Day’ is a deliberate and satanic mockery of God Himself on the holiest day of the year.”

Beyond the obscene takes, right-wing media obsessively covered the fake outrage. Fox News devoted 2 hours and 19 minutes to this story from March 30 through April 1. Newsmax, the fledgling Fox wannabe, spent 1 hour and 45 minutes on the subject.

This is yet another example of conservative media’s bloodthirsty war against trans people. It’s a war that doesn't allow for even the mildest recognition that trans people are people.

In case you missed it

  • We have this fantastic new guide on election denier and former Trump attorney Christina Bobb, the RNC’s new election integrity counsel.
  • U.S. Senate candidate Kari Lake (R-AZ) has been cultivating the support of far-right commentator Laura Loomer, who has described herself as a “proud Islamophobe,” said she is “pro-white nationalism,” and celebrated the death of thousands of migrants.
  • Fox News spent just under 17 minutes covering an Israeli airstrike that killed seven World Central Kitchen workers in Gaza.
  • Before anti-woke crusader Chris Rufo became a right-wing influencer and leading force driving moral panic around sex education and LGBTQ curriculum in our nation’s schools, his now-defunct nonprofit created a course that assisted students in making films about affirming and supporting gay youth and going through pregnancy in high school.
  • Fox News largely ignored the March release of the FBI’s quarterly report showing that crime in the U.S. dropped significantly last year.
  • Despite the platform’s policies, YouTube is allowing videos showing how to simulate or fully create automatic weapons.
  • Fox News is fearmongering about California’s minimum wage increase.
  • Fox News repeatedly touted Donald Trump’s mention of Ruby Garcia, a 25 year-old woman who was allegedly killed by her undocumented immigrant boyfriend. But the network failed to mention that Trump never spoke to Garcia’s family.
  • As men grapple with increased feelings of loneliness, isolation, and depression, viral personalities from the “manosphere” are ridiculing chronic mental illness and dismissing the existence of depression.
  • Right-wing media used a Texas hail storm to bash solar power projects.
  • Media Matters’ Ari Drennen wrote this great piece analyzing the right’s yearlong war on Bud Light after it collaborated with trans social media personality Dylan Mulvaney.