Fighting back against critical race theory

Research/Study Research/Study

Fox News' obsession with critical race theory, by the numbers

Fox has mentioned “critical race theory” over 1,900 times in the past 3.5 months

  • Update (7/14/21): Following the publication of this study, Media Matters continued to track mentions of “critical race theory” on Fox News. In June, there were 901 mentions on the network, the highest number of any month and an increase from 537 mentions in May. In the past 3 ½ months there have been over 1,900 mentions of critical race theory on the network. 

    Fox monthly mentions of CRT with June

  • Original Study

  • Critical race theory, to those who can actually define it, is an academic and legal framework that examines the impact of systemic racism on American society. For conservatives however, it’s the latest boogeyman they can use to scare people into thinking America’s children are being “indoctrinated” by “woke” leftist teachers. And while that is not even remotely the case, this idea is exploding on Fox News and in Republican-run state legislatures, leading to legislative bans in many states and skyrocketing mentions of critical race theory on the network.

  • Monthly CRT mentions on Fox News
  • As Media Matters has previously noted, Fox News’ current obsession with “critical race theory” has been a year in making. What once was a slow trickle of monthly mentions has developed into a full blown assault. Since February, month over month mentions of the theory have more than doubled on Fox News as the network has begun to spin an illusion of what it is and where it’s being taught (in reality, critical race theory is not generally taught in K-12). Coverage of the theory sharply increased in March, with 107 mentions on the network according to data from Kinetiq media monitoring service. The following month, network figures and guests mentioned it 226 times, and by May, the number had increased to 537 mentions. Not even halfway through June, there’s already been 408 mentions on the network.  

    Just last week, Fox mentioned “critical race theory” a record 244 times -- an increase from the previous record high of 170 mentions the week before. 

  • Weekly critical race mentions on Fox News
  • Fox has admitted its reason for this souped-up coverage: the 2022 midterm elections. And in order to drum up outrage, the network has repeatedly amplified a lie that critical race theory teaches that one race is “inherently superior to another.” More recently, in its continued efforts to demonize it, Fox News has promoted a pamphlet that echoes the white nationalist “Great Replacement” conspiracy theory. 

    Fox’s obsession with what it defines as “critical race theory” has frequently crossed the threshold into the absurd and overly dramatic. Fox host Tucker Carlson called it “a cult,” while host Will Cain said it is “modern-day Jim Crow.” Fox contributor Miranda Devine claimed that teaching the theory would “warp the minds of American children'' and “is a recipe for social upheaval and mental illness.” Fox’s Newt Gingrich said it was being driven by “people who want to brainwash your child.” 

    By labeling everything that has to do with race “critical race theory,” Fox is attempting to shut down conversations about race and racism -- which is ironic given the network’s claims that it champions free speech. And even though many conservatives who lambast it don’t have a clue what the theory actually is, their efforts are working as 21 states are either introducing bans or have banned what they call “critical race theory.” Many educators in those states have argued that the bills and laws would essentially “whitewash history” and have criticized legislators for making it difficult to have necessary conversations about race. 

  • Methodology

  • Media Matters searched transcripts in the Kinetiq video database for all original programming on Fox News Channel for the key phrase “critical race theory” from June 2020 through June 13, 2021. We counted each instance of the phrase as a single mention.

    Methodology update (7/14/21): Data now includes midnight episodes of Fox News @ Night (which recently shifted its time slot) and all new programming from June 14 through July 11, 2021.