Media Matters weekly newsletter, August 18

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 the ecosystem tick. Each Friday I'll go through all the main narratives, craziest clips, and dumbest moments from conservative media over the past week. If you want this delivered straight to your inbox, subscribe here.

A slightly askew portrait of Donald Trump with thin prison bars on either side, against a navy blue-to-black background

Citation Andrea Austria / Media Matters | Photo credit: Gage Skidmore

Disgraced former President Donald Trump and 18 of his allies were indicted in Fulton County, Georgia, this week for their efforts to overturn his 2020 election loss in the state. Following up on two federal indictments and another in New York, Trump is currently “facing 91 criminal charges across four jurisdictions.”

The conservative media playbook to shield Trump from accountability did not have much time to collect dust since the last indictment. Right-wing pundits quickly jumped to decry the most recent charges, called for the revenge prosecution of Democrats, escalated violent rhetoric around civil war, and defended their mobster leader with zeal. Here are just some of their responses:

  • Fox’s Mark Levin launched an unhinged rant, claiming, “Stalin would be proud.”
  • A Newsmax guest claimed Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis is charging Trump to appease the Black community.
  • Fox guest Mike Davis of conservative legal group the Article III Project said the Georgia legislature should pass a law giving Republican Gov. Brian Kemp the ability to pardon Trump; but actual reporting shows it would take an amendment to the state constitution.
  • Turning Point USA founder Charlie Kirk said the Georgia indictment is “an attempt to nullify the United States Constitution.”
  • Newsmax host Chris Plante said, “I guess that the only thing we have left is waiting for the Democrats to fire on Fort Sumter again.”
  • BlazeTV co-host Todd Erzen called Fulton County “an enemy state” that “will oppress you at every chance it gets.”
  • Fox contributor Jonathan Turley said, “Trump is being indicted for everything short of ripping a mattress label off.”
  • A Newsmax guest said, “There is nothing in the Constitution that prevents Donald Trump from serving as president of the United States from a jail cell.”
  • Fox’s Laura Ingraham tells “serious Republicans” that they “will be in the crosshairs next.”
  • Fox’s Sean Hannity predicted that Trump will be convicted “and then the trick is gonna be to overturn it.”

Besides decrying the legal merits of Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis’ indictment of Trump, conservative media are also attempting to brand the other state and federal indictments against him as a kind of cancel culture by claiming that Trump is being charged simply for using his free speech. This is patent nonsense. Trump is being indicted for his actions. His seditious efforts to overturn an election loss is unique in American history, and ultimately resulted in a failed putsch against the federal government on January 6, 2021.

Like special counsel Jack Smith’s most recent federal indictment, the Georgia charges against Trump were fueled by right-wing media lies. As Media Matters’ Matt Gertz explains, “Trump’s obsessive consumption of right-wing media’s lies and conspiracy theories about purported election fraud played an essential role in the effort to overturn the presidential election that ultimately triggered his indictment.” A vicious cycle is at play — conservative media pushed Trump to commit alleged crimes and then vocally defend his actions after he’s indicted.

While 18 other people were indicted along with Trump in Fulton County, the conservative media establishment as a whole is an unindicted co-conspirator in his alleged crimes.

Linda Yaccarino on CNBC

In previous newsletters, we’ve told you how X (previously known as Twitter) has remained a dangerous cesspool of content, especially for advertisers, after Elon Musk bought the company. Since Linda Yaccarino took over as CEO, things have not gotten better. After Yaccarino claimed in a CNBC interview that “X is a much healthier and safer platform than it was a year ago,” Media Matters’ Eric Hananoki found ads for major brands on a verified pro-Hitler account.

The account, New American Union, is a pro-fascist account that celebrates Hitler, the Nazi Party, and encourages antisemitic harassment. X has placed ads for major brands, such as The New York Times Co.’s The Athletic, MLB, the Atlanta Falcons, Sports Illustrated, USA Today, Amazon, and Office Depot on the account. CNN reporters dug in further and found other major ads on the account.

Following Eric’s exposé, X suspended the pro-Hitler account. This happened only after the platform had verified and monetized it.

Laura Ingraham warns of otter attacks

This week in stupid

  • Alex Jones said the Maui wildfires are “staged,” and went on to blame “globalists” and antifa.
  • Fox’s Laura Ingraham said the Maui wildfire was caused by renewable energy.
  • Fox Business host Jackie Deangelis said the Inflation Reduction Act is “chipping away at capitalism.”

This week in scary

  • BlazeTV’s Steve Deace called for hanging vaccine proponents, saying, “Let’s just skip the trials. Skip right to the hangings.”
  • Anti-civil rights activist Chris Rufo said, “What Nixon did to the Black Panther Party, the next president must do to the violent factions of our time.”

Excuse me?

  • Fox News’ Greg Gutfeld said Black people imitate bad behavior while protesting, leading to more violence than “largely white” riots such as Charlottesville and January 6.
  • A Newsmax guest said, “We need to be more homophobic.”

In case you missed it

  • Users on far-right message boards are targeting the Fulton County, Georgia, grand jurors who voted to indict Donald Trump, including doxxing their addresses, digging up their supposed online presences, and threatening them with violence.
  • Trump attorney Alina Habba snapped at Fox News’ Steve Doocy for asking about the seriousness of the Georgia charges, saying, “You used to love Trump.”
  • Alex Jones claimed that Republican presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy “sounds like a cross between Steven Crowder and Alex Jones.”
  • Charlie Kirk painted a lurid conspiracy theory in which he falsely claimed the federal government was deliberately failing to respond to the devastating wildfires in Hawaii.

Read more

  • Donald Trump is dominating on MAGA cable channels, getting nearly 3 times as much airtime as any other candidate on Newsmax and 17 times as much on OAN. For its part, Fox News has given Trump nearly 40% more airtime than the second most-covered candidate, Vivek Ramaswamy.
  • Right-wing media are slowly getting louder in declaring Florida Gov. Ron DeSantisflailing campaign is over.
  • Fox Sports has been broadcasting the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup as Fox Corp.’s OutKick brand has been belittling women’s soccer and attacking the United States women’s national soccer team.
  • Right-wing media were mad that Attorney General Merrick Garland hadn’t appointed a special counsel to investigate Hunter Biden, and then got mad that he did just that. Media Matters’ Matt Gertz argues that reporters should give no credence to the Republicans and conservative pundits currently complaining about David Weiss.
  • After Proterra, a supplier and manufacturer of electric buses, filed for bankruptcy, conservative media tried to make it a “Biden’s Solyndra,” claiming its failure is evidence that government investment in clean energy is a waste of money. Needless to say, this is an absurd talking point.
  • Trump-aligned Americano Media is running out of money and seeking a bailout.