Media Matters weekly newsletter, May 3

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

  • Trump appears to green light MAGA media hyping violence.
  • Fox News buries Arizona election interference indictments.
  • Tradwife influencers are spreading far-right conspiracy theories.

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Newsmax: "Kristi Noem defends decision to kill her dog"

Excuse me?

  • The Daily Wire’s Michael Knowles defended South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem for killing her puppy: “Noem didn’t do anything wrong.”
  • Fox’s Sean Hannity gave Kristi Noem a friendly interview to defend shooting her puppy. During the interview, Hanntiy said, “Is there a difference which way you put a dog down? I’m not really sure.”

This week in stupid

  • Newsmax’s Greg Kelly said it is “in a weird way, against the law” to not refer to Donald Trump as president.
  • Newsmax’s Eric Bolling complained about President Joe Biden eating a salad.

This week in scary

  • Fox News host Brian Kilmeade called for professors engaging in protests to be fired.
  • Rudy Giuliani suggested Republicans in Congress pressure Ukraine: “Somebody should lean on Zelensky. You want another penny? Give us your Biden — give us your Biden file.”
  • Turning Point USA founder Charlie Kirk: “Jews are experiencing the hate that we white people have been experiencing the last decade.”
  • Fox Business’ Larry Kudlow claimed Biden tax policy is “DEI” and “racial warfare against white folks.”
Donald Trump striped background

Citation Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

Right-wing media figures have spent the last year hyping the potential for mass political violence and baselessly asserting that the 2024 election will be stolen. In a new interview with Time magazine, disgraced former President Donald Trump appeared to give fuel to both of those trends.

In the interview, Trump refused to condemn or discourage any future violent actions by his supporters if he loses the general election in November. He claimed he thinks “there will be no violence” and that he will win but went on to add, “And if we don’t win, you know, it depends.”

Trump has long pushed election denialism and is currently facing charges for attempting to overturn the results of the 2020 election. He has also been open in his embrace of street vigilantism, and consumers of right-wing content have been fed a steady diet of commentary that normalizes political violence, making it appear inevitable. This content often takes the form of suggesting the United States is heading toward another civil war and has extolled the virtues of breaking the law on behalf of the MAGA movement.

Media Matters’ John Knefel sums this up: “Trump and right-wing media are in a feedback loop, each feeding the other’s fantasies about impending political violence and rigged elections. The Time interview makes clear that Trump will continue to pour fuel on this fire.”

I voted sticker and the outline of Arizona

Citation Molly Butler / Media Matters

On April 24, an Arizona grand jury indicted 18 individuals involved in a fake electors scheme during the 2020 election. Several allies of Donald Trump were named — including Rudy Giuliani, Mark Meadows, and Boris Epshteyn — for their role in the conspiracy. It was a major story regarding the consequences of the myriad crimes allegedly committed by allies of the twice impeached, four-times indicted former president during the 2020 election. If you were watching Fox News, though, the story barely made a blip as the network spent only 2 minutes covering it.

At the time, Fox hyped the scheme, both hosting the major public announcement in December 2020 and repeatedly pushing Trump’s false claims that the fake electors could be legitimate. Now that the chickens are coming home to roost, Fox has decided to stay mute on the topic.

The Arizona coverage is just the latest example of Fox ignoring damaging news, prosecution updates, and fact checks of his allies’ unlawful attempts to steal the 2020 presidential election as the network continues its push to help Trump get reelected in 2024.

tradwife tt

Citation Andrea Austria / Media Matters

In recent years, the “tradwife” movement has shifted from far-right internet subculture to mainstream social media trend, becoming particularly popular among young people. In case you haven’t heard this term before, a “tradwife” is someone who preaches the gospel of rigid gender roles and biblical submissiveness, glamorizing a 1950s housewife aesthetic while calling for some variation of a “return to tradition.” Online “tradwife” influencers have gained a large following on platforms like TikTok.

According to a fantastic new Media Matters study, TikTok’s “For You” page recommendation algorithm pushes users who interact with “tradwife” content down far-right conspiracy theory rabbit holes. This extremist content often expounds medical misinformation and anti-government content, specifically warning about a supposedly impending “civil war.” Other content fearmongers about a coming apocalypse and conspiracy theories.

It may seem strange that TikTok’s algorithm would push users from “tradwife” influencers to extremist far-right content. Media Matters’ Olivia Little explains the phenomenon:

“Nearly every tradwife influencer we identified pushed baseless right-wing conspiracy theories and right-wing talking points, often focusing on a general distrust of the government and modern medicine. These messages were positioned between soft visuals of baking, gardening, and modest fashion.”

This is yet another example of how social media platforms are pulling their users into an extremist abyss.

In case you missed it

  • Fox News host Jesse Watters told a QAnon influencer he loves and follows him on social media.
  • Fox News spent less than 1 minute covering Florida’s six-week abortion ban during the first full day of the restrictive new policy.
  • Deceptively altered videos of Joe Biden with audio added to depict him receiving profanity-filled jeers are spreading on TikTok without any labeling or disclosure, seemingly violating the platform’s policies.
  • Right-wing media have been suggesting that Donald Trump’s criminal trial in New York could actually help him win reelection in November. Media Matters’ Bobby Lewis explains why the reality for Trump is not quite so optimistic.
  • Steve Bannon said he would “force” Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) to launch a probe into Donald Trump’s New York prosecution. Just days later, Jordan announced that his House Judiciary Committee is launching such a probe.
  • Murdoch-owned media outlets are pushing a smear campaign to undermine President Joe Biden’s middle-out economic agenda, falsely claiming he is “going to raise taxes on the middle class” if re-elected this year.
  • Broadcast and cable television news have failed to mention news that some Trump economic advisers are planning to intentionally devalue the U.S. dollar if he is re-elected.
  • Media outlets, both mainstream and conservative, are warning that the U.S. may enter, is entering, or is already in a period of “stagflation.” However, multiple economists and other experts have explained that the definition of “stagflation” does not fit the current economic situation.