Media Matters weekly newsletter, January 26

Welcome back to Media Matters’ weekly newsletter. In this week’s edition:

  • Right-wing media warn of a second American Civil War
  • Ron DeSantis gets hoisted on his Fox News petard
  • Right-wing media keep pushing the conspiracy theory that Michelle Obama is running for president

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Migrants crossing border

Citation Andrea Austria / Media Matters

On Monday, the Supreme Court issued a ruling allowing Border Patrol agents to cut razor wire Texas laid along the border with Mexico. Throughout the week, right-wing media pundits responded by claiming that the Biden administration has sparked a second American Civil War.

The issue stems from Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s decision to stretch razor wire over dozens of miles along the state’s southern border, a cruel policy that has failed in its stated objective of deterring unauthorized border crossings. The Biden administration opposes the measure, and has ordered the Border Patrol to remove the barriers. For his part, Abbott has pledged that Texas will continue to deploy razor wire.

Conservative media outlets generally ramp up attacks on migrants in election years, and conservatives have become increasingly comfortable calling for, threatening, or warning about a coming civil war in this country. Both streams of rhetoric are coalescing in this case, forging a dangerous pool of growing right-wing hostility to the rule of law and our republican traditions.

  • Conservative YouTuber Tim Pool said it “looks like a Fort Sumter-esque type scenario.”
  • War Room host Steve Bannon said there is “kind of a civil war between the federal government and the state of Texas.”
  • BlazeTV’s Steve Deace said, “Basically, the Supreme Court has told Texas your choices are: be invaded or secede.”
  • Fox’s Brian Kilmeade said, “It feels like almost a soft civil war.”
  • The Daily Wire's Candace Owens said, “We are edging very closely to a civil war.” 
Donald Trump Ron DeSantis Fox News

Citation Molly Butler / Media Matters

In 2021, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed legislation before cheering crowds in an exclusive appearance on Fox & Friends. It was the same show on which he had announced his candidacy for governor in 2018 and the place former President Donald Trump so often spent his mornings. Dreams must have soared high on that day. But those dreams came to a crashing end on Sunday when DeSantis suspended his presidential campaign and endorsed Trump for the Republican presidential primary.

DeSantis won the governorship in 2018 by running a “Fox first campaign.” He made more than 100 appearances on Fox News and Fox Business, winning the endorsement of Trump and Fox personalities. As governor, he mimicked the talking points and style of Fox hosts, including by downplaying the danger of COVID-19 and focusing his ire on “critical race theory.” His popularity with Fox hosts and other right-wing media personalities made him a plausible candidate for president after his reelection to governor in 2022.

And yet, DeSantis’ disastrous presidential announcement on Elon Musk’s glitchy Twitter Spaces was the high water mark of his campaign. His focus on right-wing grievances did not help to grow his national support, and the right-wing media pundits never broke from Trump, making it impossible for any other candidate to gain traction in the primary fight. As the first GOP primary votes were cast, Fox hosts were already preparing a return to their role as Trump’s personal propaganda outlet.

Media Matters’ Matt Gertz sums up the end of DeSantis’ campaign well:

“DeSantis spent the final days of his campaign complaining that Fox hadn’t been willing to take on Trump, and drawing attention to one of the few avenues for criticizing him the network hadn’t preempted — the former president’s role in ensuring the development of COVID-19 vaccines. It was a fitting conclusion for a presidential bid that rose and fell on its relationship with the right-wing media.”

Newsmax: "If they only had a brain..."

This week in stupid 

  • Newsmax’s Greg Kelly argued that Donald Trump intentionally confused the names of Nancy Pelosi and Nikki Haley.

This week in scary

  • Turning Point USA founder Charlie Kirk said there is a “border invasion,” adding “Native-born Americans, you better buy weapons, everybody. Have a lot of guns at your disposal.”
  • Warning of civil war, The Daily Wire’s Matt Walsh said, “Red state governors will need to ignore the Supreme Court and do what needs to be done to protect their citizens and the border.”
  • Using a slur, The Daily Wire’s Michael Knowles claimed “most Democrats want to genocide” babies with Down syndrome.
  • Alex Jones claimed “it’s our duty” to “have the states pull out of the union.”

Excuse me?

  • Fox’s Greg Gutfeld said Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) supports immigrants because she’s “horny” for “young, virile men who are coming here in droves.”
  • The Daily Wire’s Matt Walsh: “Nikki Haley is not really brown.”
  • Fox’s Jesse Watters: “Anyone who gets things done in Washington has to be a dictator.”
Michelle Obama over a red background with the word vote embedded

Citation Audrey Bowler / Media Matters

Right-wing media keep pushing a false conspiracy theory that former first lady Michelle Obama is planning a last-minute presidential campaign in 2024 in place of President Joe Biden. There is absolutely zero indication Obama is planning a campaign, and she has repeatedly denied having any interest in running for political office. Nevertheless, right-wing media are keeping the baseless buzz alive.

  • Newsmax host Eric Bolling speculated that “Michelle Obama is going to be that last-minute Trojan horse” nominated by the DNC.
  • Longtime Trump ally Roger Stone urged readers on X to “watch for Michelle Obama to be drafted by the Democrats to replace Joe Biden.”
  • Podcaster and serial plagiarist Benny Johnson suggested that “they’re going to kick Joe Biden out in the spring and they’re going to bring in Michelle, and they’re going to do this because all the states' primaries will be over and there won’t be any Democrat infighting.”

In case you missed it

  • Right-wing cesspools Rumble and Barstool Sports announce “wide ranging partnership.” 
  • Republicans are deliberately blocking bipartisan efforts to tighten border security for the explicit reason that passing such legislation would hurt Donald Trump’s presidential campaign - Media Matters Matt Gertz explains why journalists should place this fact front and center in their reports.
  • Right-wing media is escalating its DEI panic and embracing blatant racism against Black pilots and airline employees.
  • Fox’s Jeanine Pirro: “The Republican Party is now the Donald Trump party.”
  • Ahead of the 2024 election, Donald Trump is once again launching attacks on journalists.
  • Fox News host Brian Kilmeade instructed Republicans to avoid specifics when talking about their plans to restrict abortion.
  • Fox’s Sean Hannity spent years touting the stock market as a Donald Trump accomplishment. Now that Joe Biden is president, he doesn’t find a high stock market that impressive.
  • The Daily Wire’s Michael Knowles said the federal government should pay Donald Trump’s legal fees.
  • Fox News is escalating its attacks on Nikki Haley as the network rallies behind Donald Trump.
  • Ron DeSantis, Nikki Haley, and Donald Trump are all ending the Republican primary by attacking Fox News. Media Matters’ Matt Gertz explains why.
  • Media Matters’ Pam Vogel issues this chilling warning regarding Sinclair’s executive chairman personally purchasing The Baltimore Sun.
  • For-profit digital weight loss companies are targeting TikTok and Meta users.