Media Matters / Molly Butler

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Conservative media figures clash as another Republican-led government shutdown looms

Right-wing media infighting has persisted throughout the Republican shutdown crisis

As House Republicans fail to advance spending bills needed to fund the federal government and avert a government shutdown, right-wing media are at odds with one another over whether to cheer on the possibility of a shutdown or ridicule those Republicans leading the charge toward it. 

The federal government will enter a partial shutdown by the end of this week unless Republicans can agree to funding extensions, which would mark the sixth consecutive shutdown brought on by a Republican-controlled House of Representatives.

  • The Republican-led House is lurching closer to a government shutdown

    • The federal government will shut down unless Republicans agree to continued funding by September 30. The Republican-controlled House of Representatives is struggling to find 218 votes to support must-pass appropriations legislation before the end of the fiscal year on September 30. If legislation is not authorized in time, the federal government may face a shutdown. [The Washington Post, 9/12/23]
    • House Republicans have failed to advance multiple spending bills in recent days. The House has a series of yearlong spending bills to address, to fund the departments of Defense, State, Agriculture, and Homeland Security. CNN reported on September 25 that during the previous week, the GOP’s leadership team “failed twice to advance the defense bill” and that Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy “put the House GOP’s stopgap bill on ice amid a right-wing rebellion.” [CNN, 9/25/23]
  • “Take a stand”: Many in conservative media support a shutdown

    • National Pulse Editor-in-Chief Raheem Kassam: “Govt shutdown > public lockdown.” [Twitter/X, 9/9/23]
    • Right-wing Grabien founder Tom Elliott: “My only concern w/ a govt shutdown is that it will be temporary.” [Twitter/X, 9/11/23]
    • Right-wing economist Stephen Moore: “Shutdown Might Mean Gov't Gets Serious About Fiscal Ineptitude.” In a syndicated column posted by Newsmax, Moore mocked concern over the damage of a government shutdown, comparing it to the public health orders early in the COVID-19 pandemic under the Trump administration. Even though he wrote, “I'm NOT in favor of a government shutdown,” he added, “But they aren't the end of the world,” and continued to downplay their impacts. He contradicted himself again by concluding: “But if it takes a short-term shutdown of some government agencies to force Congress and the White House to get serious about our fiscal ineptitude, then do it. It's for the children.” [Newsmax, 9/13/23]
    • OAN host Dan Ball expressed support for a government shutdown. In an interview with Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-CO), Ball said, “If the Dems can shut us down over the flu, then you guys, the Freedom Caucus, should shut us down over overspending.” Ball also said that shutting down the government “for a few weeks or months” won’t “damage anybody, except some federal employees might not get paid for a bit.” [OAN, Real America with Dan Ball, 9/13/23]
    • Fox star Sean Hannity instructed Republicans to “take a stand” and shut down the government, then blame Democrats. After demanding that Republicans shut down the government, Hannity encouraged them to blame Democrats for their obstruction: “And whatever the Republicans pull off in the House, and they eventually agree to, which will itself be a compromise, the Senate needs to do their job, and then they need to be willing to let the government shut down and then blame –– put the blame where it belongs: on the people that are robbing our children and our grandchildren blind. It's time to take a stand, that's what you guys got elected for. You said you wanted to, you know, lead. This is a chance to lead.” [Premiere Radio Networks, The Sean Hannity Show, 9/19/23]
    • Newsmax host Eric Bolling: “Stop writing the checks. ... The American people don’t really care.” In an interview with Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), Bolling mocked Republicans for worrying about the political blowback of yet another federal government shutdown and added that Gaetz was right to oppose a funding deal, telling him to “stay strong.” [Newsmax, Eric Bolling The Balance, 9/19/23]
    • Former Trump strategist Steve Bannon: “Forcing the regime to shut down their own illegitimate government is a win.” Bannon asked his guest, far-right commentator Jack Posobiec, for his thoughts about “the meltdown of the uniparty,” and Posobiec argued that government shutdowns are nothing to fear even as he explained that intelligence personnel had to rotate days off during a shutdown when he worked for the government in 2013. [Real America’s Voice, War Room, 9/20/23]
    • Pro-Trump comics creator Scott Adams: “I back @RepMattGaetz on this. Avoiding a shutdown is a dumb goal. Fixing the budget approval process (as promised) is a winning system.” [Twitter/X, 9/24/23]
    • Ex-Fox Business host Lou Dobbs: “House RINOs are squealing at the prospect of actually shutting down this corrupt anti-citizen Federal government. End corruption—defund the Feds!” [Twitter/X, 9/24/23]
  • Other conservative media figures have disparaged Republicans for driving toward a shutdown

    • Fox contributor Karl Rove: Republicans get blamed for government shutdowns “generally because Republicans are responsible for the shutdown. They seem to eagerly want it.” Rove continued to criticize Republican lawmakers: “So yeah, there's a reason why they get blamed. And look, the American people demand that their government try and run itself in an appropriate fashion. And the fact that the biggest financial and business enterprise in the world, the U.S. government, cannot pass a budget in time and then ends up shutting itself down over things that are on the margin. … The Republicans are going to be shooting themselves in the foot in the run-up to the 2024 election if they continue to think that shutdowns are a great way to put themselves in front of the American people.” [Fox Broadcasting Co., Fox News Sunday, 9/17/23]
    • Fox News host Mark Levin on conservatives pushing for a shutdown: “You can’t be Pickett. … Even Pickett didn’t want to be in Pickett’s Charge.” On his radio show, Fox News host Mark Levin told conservatives, “if your goal is to bring down the government, let me tell you a little secret: They’re not going to be able to do it this way.” Levin acknowledged the reality that Senate Republicans will vote with Democrats to avoid some draconian spending cuts, then said: “And so, you know, you can't be Pickett. This can't be Pickett's Charge. Pickett's Charge, let's go get ‘em. Even Pickett didn't wanna be part of Pickett's Charge,” a reference to a disastrous Confederate attack during the Civil War. Levin added: “So if we have stupid people doing stupid things in the name of conservatism, that bothers me a lot. I'm never going to line up behind stupid.” [Westwood One, The Mark Levin Show, 9/18/23; Library of Congress, accessed 9/19/23]
    • Fox News Radio host Guy Benson: There are “Republicans saying, and not without reason, a shutdown is not a good idea.” In an interview with Rep. Chip Roy (R-TX), Benson said that Republicans are giving the appearance of unreasonably opposing everything, “but part of the job is like manning up and being adults and getting something done as opposed to being against everything, especially when you’re at least nominally in the majority in the chamber where this stuff has to originate.” [Fox News Radio, Guy Benson Show, 9/18/23]
    • Right-wing commentator Ben Shapiro argued that “the Republican Party, they are the stupid party, there is no question, and that stupidity is extending over into this government shutdown talk.” On his radio program, Shapiro attacked the so-called “stupid party” Republicans for missing an opportunity to use spending negotiations as leverage against Democratic Party priorities. He concluded by offering the GOP strategic advice going forward: “Whenever chaos is projected to no apparent end — because the Democrats run the Senate and Joe Biden is the president, and so they have a bit of a say in what exactly ends up becoming law here — Republicans, how about this? Be concerted in the issues that you attack. Focus for a moment in time. Otherwise, Democrats are going to have something to run on, and that is not what you want.” [The Daily Wire, The Ben Shapiro Show, 9/18/23]
    • Fox & Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade grilled Rep. Matt Rosendale (R-MT) about his pro-shutdown stance: “Congressman, you just know if the government gets shut down, Republicans get the blame.” After a testy exchange between Kilmeade and Rosendale over the latter’s refusal to support a short-term proposal to avoid a government shutdown, Kilmeade replied: “Congressman, you just know if the government gets shut down, Republicans get the blame because they are not even providing even a CR [continuing resolution], a pathway to a CR. You're saying I'm not going to go for 30 days, so the government shuts down. That means your investigations stop, that means the border funding doesn't happen, and that's OK?” [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 9/19/23]
    • On Hannity, Fox contributor and former Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich singled out “all the people in the Freedom Caucus who are cheerfully screwing things up.” Gingrich argued that Freedom Caucus shenanigans might endanger GOP House seats in 2024. “Sometimes I think we have some members who can’t not only play chess or checkers, they can't play tic-tac-toe,” Gingrich said. “You have to start from success and work back.” Coincidentally, Gingrich engineered two government shutdowns during his time as House speaker, in part over a petty personal grudge. [Fox News, Hannity, 9/22/23; Media Matters, 8/31/10]
    • Fox anchor Maria Bartiromo to Rep. Gaetz: “Are you not right now indirectly working with Democrats? ... That's what your actions are doing.” Bartiromo pressed the far-right congressman over his strategy and noted, “That’s why some people feel this is a personal vendetta you have against” McCarthy. When Gaetz defended himself, Bartiromo replied, “You’re enabling” Democrats. [Fox News, Sunday Morning Futures, 9/24/23]