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Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

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Right-wing media repeat tired talking points to defend Trump after fourth indictment

Following former President Donald Trump’s latest indictment in Fulton County, Georgia, right-wing media predictably rushed to his defense with racist attacks on District Attorney Fani Willis, absurd attempts to justify Trump’s actions, conspiracy theories about Hunter Biden, suggestions that this means the end of American democracy, and more overused and nonsensical claims that Trump is a victim of political persecution and election interference.

  • After a two-year investigation, DA Fani Willis has indicted Trump on racketeering charges 

    • On August 14, a grand jury in Georgia charged Trump with felony racketeering and other conspiracy charges related to his efforts to overturn the 2020 election. The nearly 100-page indictment lists 41 charges and 19 defendants, all of whom were charged with racketeering.
    • As with Trump’s three previous indictments, right-wing media have jumped to defend him and insist that Trump is being unfairly attacked. After each of Trump’s previous three indictments, right-wing media outlets have repeatedly maligned the legal proceedings as election interference, a distraction from negative press about Joe and Hunter Biden, and an indication of the death of democracy. All the while, a steady drumbeat of calls for political retribution have come from Trump-aligned media outlets as his legal woes continue to pile up. 
  • Attacks on Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis

    • Newsmax contributor Dick Morris said that Willis indicted Trump because “she's African American, and she's basically doing what the community wants her to.” He told Newsmax’s Rob Schmitt that “she's responding to her constituency. She's African American and she's basically doing what the community wants her to do. This is not something that's based on law or on facts. It's based on politics.” [Newsmax, Rob Schmitt Tonight, 8/14/23]
    • Fox & Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade ranted about “the problem” with Willis, demanding, “Does anyone think she is an arbiter of justice?” He went on to question the timing of the announcement, adding, “Yet two and a half years [of investigating] and you’ve got to wait to 11 o’clock on a Monday to announce it? And then she puts out a meme – retweets a meme about Lindsey Graham. Does anyone think she is an arbiter of justice?” [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 8/15/23]
    • Mike Davis, founder of conservative legal group the Article III Project, wildly attacked Willis as a “knuckle-dragging, Democrat, buffoon prosecutor.” He went on to call district attorneys and the special counsel investigating Trump “partisan hitmen sent by Biden to take out Trump” before decrying “Democrat prosecutors and Democrat judges and Democrat juries in Democrat hell-holes like Washington, D.C., New York, and Atlanta.” [OAN, One America News, 8/11/23]
    • Anti-Muslim extremist Laura Loomer posted on Elon Musk’s X platform that Willis “is a straight up THOT” who “belongs in a Trap House.” Loomer wrote, “Damn. Atlanta DA, Fani Willis, who is targeting Donald Trump in Georgia is a straight up THOT. Turns out she failed to disclose a previous relationship she had with a gang banger she was supposed to be prosecuting. Baby girl belongs in a Trap House. Not a court house. #Ratchet” [Twitter/X, 8/4/23]
  • Attempts to whitewash Trump’s phone call asking Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to find more vote

    • Fox contributor Jonathan Turley claimed that the call “has been widely misrepresented” and asserted that Trump was merely saying that “further Georgia state recounts might not be necessary.” Turley reinterpreted the call as Trump supposedly stating, “Look, you only need to find 11,000 to turn the outcome of this election. I don’t need that many votes, thus a state recount is justified.” [Fox News, Hannity, 8/14/23]
    • Former Fox News senior judicial analyst Andrew Napolitano said on Newsmax that the “simple innocent phone call … standing by itself, is not proof of any criminal behavior that I can imagine.” Host Rob Schmitt added that “especially people like Fani Willis — you know, I mean you could put a gun to a kid’s head and take his wallet and not get charged, but they’re going to charge this kind of nonsense.” [Newsmax, Rob Schmitt Tonight, 8/14/23]  
    • Former Trump adviser Sebastian Gorka: “He said, ‘I just want to find 11,780 votes.’ That's like saying, ‘I just want to have vanilla ice cream for dessert.’ It’s not a crime to say I just want something.” [Newsmax, Rob Schmitt Tonight, 8/14/23]
    • Fox News contributor Leo Terrell downplayed the call by stating that “There is nothing wrong with saying over the phone, ‘Hey I need to find 11,000 votes.’ That's not criminal. That's just speech.” He also said that “the D.A. claims that there's 161 overt acts – like tweeting, like a phone call. So she has basically thrown the kitchen sink at Trump.” [Fox News, The Faulkner Focus, 8/15/23]
  • False equivalencies to Hunter Biden’s special counsel investigation

    • Turley claimed on Fox News that Hunter Biden can “fleece foreign figures for millions” while Trump “is being indicted for everything short of ripping a mattress label off.” He continued, “It's a very weird contrast, but, this is becoming so serious, I think it's going to be harder and harder for the media and the Justice Department to continue to deny this.” [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 8/15/23]
    • On Fox News’ Jesse Watters Primetime, guest host Pete Hegseth scoffed that “every time, and we mean every time, there’s a bombshell about Hunter, there’s immediate news about another Trump indictment.” He continued to chide that “the Bidens are not doing anything illegal, they say, look at Trump, he is the criminal! This might explain why they are fast-tracking the Georgia case, and they are.” [Fox News, Jesse Watters Primetime, 8/14/23]
    • On Newsmax, Gorka compared Trump’s fourth indictment to the GOP’s ongoing investigation into Hunter Biden, stating, “We’re talking about a phone call with a secretary of state saying, ‘Look, I would like to find these votes if they’re there,’ but we’re not talking about more than $50 million for the Bidens in offshore accounts?” He went on to deflect from other accusations of criminal conduct against Trump, adding, “We know where the crimes are occurring, and they’re not at Mar-a-Lago, and they’re not at Bedminster.” [Newsmax, Rob Schmitt Tonight, 8/14/23]
    • Frequent right-wing pundit and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee claimed that “every time there’s, you know, an issue where Hunter Biden sneezes, somebody goes and indicts Donald Trump for something just to cover up what Hunter and Joe, the big guy, are doing.” He went on to insinuate that the indictment was timed to be a coverup, asserting that “Fani Willis has had three years to bring this indictment. Why did she wait until she can get it timed so that it now becomes, really, I would say, the most blatant case of election interference I’ve ever seen.” [Newsmax, Wake Up America, 8/15/23]
  • Calls for civil war and declaring the end of American democracy

    • Far-right troll Mike Cernovich claimed the indictment was evidence that Democrats are forming “a totalitarian regime.” He posted, “We are occupied by the same totalitarian regime that we used to read about. It’s here. They are emboldened. Evil never stops. It’s going to get worse.” [Twitter/X, 8/14/23]
    • Right-wing radio host Mark Levin similarly claimed that “Stalin would be proud. I'm sure Putin’s proud. I’m sure enemies are celebrating.” He continued, “Congress is supposed to make all these final decisions, you're not supposed to criminalize the challenging of electors or dual electors or counting of votes and that sort of thing." [Fox News, Hannity, 8/14/23]
    • Fox News contributor Newt Gingrich stated on Hannity, “I think what you're seeing tonight is one tree in a forest and I think we are drifting towards the greatest constitutional crisis since the 1850s and the rise of secession and the Civil War.” He would go on to add that the indictments against Trump are “a desperate last ditch effort by a corrupt machine to destroy their most dangerous opponent, in a way which … breaks the Constitution, destroys the rule of law.” [Fox News, Hannity, 8/14/23]
    • Breitbart senior editor-at-large Joel Pollak claimed that the indictment is part of a “Democratic plot.” He complained on Twitter that “an indictment in the dead of night fits perfectly well with this Democratic plot against democracy and justice.” [Twitter/X, 8/14/23]
    • Right-wing podcaster Tim Pool responded to a post claiming that the “Fulton County DA went insane” with the comment “Civil war.” He later posted that “the only path forward is escalation. Either Trump is a cult leader trying to overthrow the US Or Democrats are engaged in seditious conspiracy to steal power.” [Twitter/X, 8/15/23, 8/15/23]
  • Claims the justice system is being weaponized to interfere with the 2024 election

    • Turning Point USA’s Charlie Kirk claimed, “The left’s plan is to have Trump in a prison cell by Labor Day 2024 Unable to campaign, debate, or run for office.” He also called for retribution, saying, “The only way this stops is if we start indicting criminal Democrats. There's plenty to choose from.” [Twitter/X, 8/15/23, 8/15/23]
    • During Fox News’ live coverage of the indictment announcement, Trump attorney Alina Habba claimed, “This is the fourth indictment in months, it's political, it's election interference, and it is obvious.” She added, “If you're not awake yet, I don't know what is going to take for you, I really don't.” [Fox News, Jesse Watters Primetime, 8/14/23
    • Loomer claimed that a video of Fulton County Sheriff Patrick Labat stating that Trump will have a mugshot taken is proof that the former president is being “arraigned in this latest WITCH HUNT out of Georgia.” She added, “Nothing more than ELECTION INTERFERENCE! #Trump2024” [Twitter/X, 8/14/23]
    • Right-wing comedian and podcaster Terrence K. Williams claimed in a social media post that “the Georgia prosecutor indicted President Trump because he caught and exposed them for helping Joe Biden steal the 2020 election.” He also asserted that “Georgians want Trump to be the next President and the prosecutor is interfering in the 2024 election. They love stealing elections. I stand with Trump.” [Twitter/X, 8/14/23]
    • Former acting Director of National Intelligence Richard Grenell claimed in a social media post that “Joe Biden is using his power to prosecute Donald Trump so he doesn’t run against him. This is Third World tactics.” [Twitter/X, 8/14/23]