Media Matters weekly newsletter, July 21

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.

Fox Trump Capitol


Molly Butler / Media Matters

Special Counsel Jack Smith sent a target letter to former President Donald Trump, indicating a potential indictment related to Trump's involvement in the attempted coup on January 6, 2021. This would be the third time the disgraced former president has been indicted this year.

As was the case with his preceding indictments and his multiple impeachments, right-wing media ran to his defense.

Here are some of the outrageous moments from this week:

  • Newsmax host Dick Morris said Republicans should shut the government down over Trump’s indictment.
  • Fox News’ Clay Travis said Trump’s alleged crimes are “comparatively minor offenses relative to what Hunter Biden did.”
  • On Newsmax, Megyn Kelly suggested that Trump could “sic the DOJ on somebody else, not on himself,” if he’s elected president.
  • Fox’s Jesse Watters asked House Speaker Kevin McCarthy if “the House of Representatives can do anything” about Trump’s indictments.
  • A Newsmax guest said Trump was being investigated because his poll numbers are “just blasting off into space.”
  • Fox’s Laura Ingraham called the Department of Justice letter to Trump a “publicity stunt.”
  • Fox's Mark Levin said Jack Smith “can destroy the election. He can destroy the Republican Party. He could destroy Donald Trump, and he's trying to do all that.”

Unlike the preceding indictments, this one is slightly different for Fox News. The network played a pivotal role in Trump’s efforts to subvert the 2020 election. Despite knowing that Trump’s claims of a stolen election were false, Fox hosts pushed this misinformation on their viewers, which contributed to an attempted coup on January 6, 2021, and continued Republican distrust of our democratic institutions.

As Media Matters’ Matt Gertz writes: “Fox itself played an essential role in laying the groundwork for Trump’s election subversion plot. The right-wing propaganda channel is essentially an unindicted co-conspirator to his allegedly criminal scheme.”

Fox should suffer consequences for helping to subvert our democracy. Instead, the network is trying to raise your cable bill. Don’t let them.

Sign up to to get tips on how to send a polite message to your provider and say, “Don’t let Fox News raise my bill.”

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. / Fox News


Andrea Austria / Media Matters

Last weekend, the New York Post reported that anti-vaccine conspiracy theorist Robert F. Kennedy Jr. claimed COVID-19 is “ethnically targeted.” Kennedy added that “COVID-19 is targeted to attack Caucasians and Black people.” After this report, Kennedy was denounced by Asian and Jewish organizations. Neo-Nazis and antisemites, however, praised Kennedy, calling him “based” and saying his comments were “100% correct.”

In addition, Media Matters’ Eric Hananoki reported this week that a Kennedy ally and campaign speaker, Sherri Tenpenny, had pushed antisemitic conspiracy theories and Holocaust denial.

Though Kennedy received some tepid defense from right-wing media, Fox News has largely stayed silent on his comments. It’s an odd turn of events, considering that Kennedy’s deranged statements were first reported in Fox’s corporate cousin, and that Fox has never shied away from attacking Democrats in the past. But it makes more sense in the context of Fox’s efforts to promote Kennedy’s fledgling campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination.

Fox is a Republican propaganda outfit, but it has treated Kennedy very differently from other Democrats. The conspiracy theorist has been praised by Fox hosts and promoted on the network’s airwaves. So far this year, Kennedy has appeared for at least 10 weekday interviews on Fox. Given that President Joe Biden can’t even eat ice cream without Fox attacking him, what’s going on here?

Along with other right-wing media pundits, Fox has decided that Kennedy is a useful weapon in trying to wedge Democratic voters away from Biden. As the old proverb says, the enemy of my enemy is my friend, and Fox has made friends with Kennedy, despite his connections to extremists, neo-Nazis, and Holocaust deniers. Whether this relationship lasts is an open question, but Sean Hannity is currently slated to host a townhall with Kennedy. 

Newsmax asks how old Nancy Pelosi is

This week in stupid

  • Fox News contributor Raymond Arroyo called the new Barbie movie “a Trojan horse” for the feminist agenda.
  • In response to extreme heatwaves, Ben Shapiro said: “It's hot outside. You know what I can do about that? Zero things. Thank God we have this thing called air conditioning. It's awesome. You know what's a great cure for it being super-duper hot outside? Being a first world country.”

This week in scary

  • The Daily Wire’s Matt Walsh praised Russia’s draconian proposed anti-trans law.
  • Turning Point USA’s Charlie Kirk said the 14th Amendment is “way too broadly written.”
  • At a TPUSA conference, Steve Bannon said, “This is a crusade, a jihad, a holy war against the deep state.”
  • Regarding pedophilia in the Catholic Church, Candace Owens said, “The issue is that we have homosexual men that have invaded institutions.”

Excuse me?

  • The Daily Wire’s Michael Knowles praised Spanish dictator Francisco Franco, saying that “Franco was, broadly speaking, pretty good.”
  • Fox News’ Jesse Watters attacked “the left” for “rushing to blame global warming for the dangerous heat wave.”
  • Phil “Dr. Phil” McGraw claimed the U.S. needs to stop “rewarding bad behavior” of single mothers and instead encourage them to get married.
  • Fox's Brian Kilmeade said shooting intruders is the “American dream.”

In case you missed it

  • White nationalist and Holocaust denier Nick Fuentes bragged that Turning Point USA founder Charlie Kirk has adopted some of his extremist views and messaging.
  • Fox News’ Mark Levin said the investigation into Donald Trump's fake elector scheme is “a war on the Constitution. It’s a war on the Republican Party.”
  • A Fox guest blamed the “deep state” for Trump failing to drain the swamp during his presidency.
  • Fox’s initial response to special counsel Jack Smith’s letter to Trump was to complain about Hunter Biden.
  • Fox’s Laura Ingraham said Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin should be fired for supporting reproductive rights.

Read more

  • Fox News’ Jesse Watters, who recently took over the 8 p.m. time slot at the network, has a long track record of demonizing and harassing homeless people. Beyond his bigotry, Watters is also using his new time slot to further a campaign of climate change denial, as outlined here.
  • YouTube is allowing right-wing and otherwise controversial streamers to use its platform to push audiences to their extreme content on Rumble.
  • Rumble, which is set to host the official livestream for the first Republican primary debate, is profiting from videos of a recent antisemitic rally held by the Holocaust-denying Christian nationalist Nick Fuentes.
  • Charlie Kirk and Turning Point USA, the organization he founded, have long histories of allying with extremists, hiring racists and bigots, and pushing far-right rhetoric. Media Matters’ John Knefel and Jacina Hollins-Borges wrote this fantastic piece detailing the whole sordid history of Kirk and his organization.
  • This summer has been marked by a series of record-breaking extreme weather events, demonstrating the severity of our planet's climate crisis. Fox News and other right-wing media platforms continue to deny the reality of climate change in the face of overwhelming evidence. 
  • Fox News has repeatedly hosted a right-wing writer and former “Students for Ye” organizer to complain about “anti-white hatred” on college campuses.
  • Christian nationalism continues to rise in the Republican Party. The Christian TV network Victory Channel’s FlashPoint has emerged as a show where pro-Trump “prophets'' warn of “spiritual war.”
  • Right-wing media have been throwing a tantrum over the upcoming Barbie movie.
  • After former basketball star and TV analyst Charles Barkley defended the right of LGBTQ people to exist, right-wing media personalities began attacking him.
  • As Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ presidential campaign continues to implode, the Murdochs are shifting their 2024 hopes to Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin.
  • Right-wing media are attacking President Joe Biden’s new plan to relieve over 800,000 people of roughly $39 billion in student loan debt.
  • After the Supreme Court ended race-conscious college admission practices last month, many critics contrasted the court’s ruling with its silence on legacy admissions. Fox News, however, significantly lacked this criticism.