Welcome back to Media Matters' weekly email, which is in its fourth week back to a regular schedule after a lengthy break. 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 it 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 News reached a $787.5 million settlement with Dominion Voting Systems on Tuesday, in a rare moment of accountability for the network. Fox’s programming reacted to the settlement by burying the story, and word quickly broke that Fox would try to force cable companies to fork over half a billion more annually.
Overwhelming evidence demonstrated how Fox News lied to its viewers; how executives cracked down on so-called “news” side staffers attempting to report facts; how Rupert Murdoch and Tucker Carlson privately disparaged former President Donald Trump; and how Murdoch effectively used the network as a super PAC to help Republican candidates.
The Dominion settlement comes at an awkward time for Fox. As Media Matters president and CEO Angelo Carusone noted in a piece for MSNBC, the network is currently engaged in a massive renegotiating of its cable fees with companies like Comcast/Xfinity, Charter/Spectrum, and Cox. Most of Fox’s revenue comes from these cable affiliate fees, so much so that it doesn’t need a single advertisement to be profitable. These cable fees are vitally important to Fox’s business, and Fox Corp. CFO Steve Tomsic announced that 70% of the network’s cable and satellite contracts will be up for renewal in 2023 and 2024. With negotiations ongoing, Fox is pursuing an aggressive strategy to take more money from consumers.
As Carusone has noted, the key to Fox's aggressive strategies is how it weaponizes its audience. That's why we're expecting Fox News to be substantially worse coming out of this settlement; they need their audience as rabid as possible for leverage for their negotiations.
In this current set of negotiations, Brian Stelter reports that Fox is attempting to raise those cable fees to $3 per month per subscriber. This rate would be a massive hike, along with being significantly higher than Fox’s competitors; it could mean $500 million or more in additional annual revenue for the company.
If Fox gets its way, every cable subscriber in the country, regardless of whether they watch Fox or not, will be putting more money into the company’s pockets. Consumers can stop giving money to a network that pushed election lies leading to an attack on our democracy.
Sign up to NoFoxFee.com to get alerted when Fox is trying to jack up your cable bill and tell your cable provider, “Don’t let Fox News raise my bill."
This one case was just the beginning. Smartmatic's lawsuit against Fox is still proceeding. Additional lawsuits from Dominion and Smartmatic against Newsmax, One America News, and others like MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell are also still ongoing. For his part, Lindell says he will never settle and Newsmax is defending its abysmal 2020 election coverage. These lawsuits are providing a rare moment of reckoning for conservative media outlets as they come up against the legal limit of their pathological lying.
Watch this: Carusone was the guest of MSNBC host Chris Hayes on Wednesday evening. It's worth watching Hayes' monologue in full, as he explains how the Fox/Dominion case and the rise of Trump are both a result of conservative attacks on any independent source of knowledge.
This week in stupid
This week in scary
In case you missed it
- Elon Musk’s tenure as CEO of Twitter has been complete chaos. During Musk’s reign, he has personally interacted with QAnon accounts, allowed hate speech and misinformation to flourish, banned respected journalists, and even verified the Taliban’s accounts.
- YouTube confirmed to Media Matters that The Daily Wire’s Matt Walsh has been demonetized for violating the platform’s policies. Walsh claims he was generating more than $100,000 in revenue a month on YouTube while spewing an unmitigated stream of hatred against marginalized communities. The demonetization reportedly comes in response to Walsh’s increasingly vitriolic campaign against Dylan Mulvaney, which escalated after the transgender social media star announced a collaboration with Bud Light.
- Charlie Kirk joins other conservative hosts in calling for curtailing Social Security benefits, saying, “There need to be some adjustments for future retirees.”
- Former Fox News host Megyn Kelly said Fox CEO Suzanne Scott has “no control” over Sean Hannity, saying, “He’s way more powerful than her.”
- Truth Social CEO Devin Nunes appeared on a QAnon show and praised the host for “getting the truth out.”
- Tucker Carlson gave a passionate endorsement for anti-vaccine conspiracy theorist Robert Kennedy, Jr.’s presidential campaign.
- Arizona Senate candidate Mark Lamb has appeared on at least five shows hosted by QAnon conspiracy theorists.
- A Fox News host criticized media outlets that fact-check election lies.
- Far-right “Stop the Steal” organizer Ali Alexander was accused of grooming teenage boys by requesting explicit photos. Alexander issued a strange apology for his behavior as some far-right advocates distanced themselves from him. There is reportedly a police investigation ongoing.
- TV news has devoted just 20 seconds to covering the worst April heat wave in Asian history. This coverage has not even mentioned climate change.
- Fox News is largely ignoring the shooting of Ralph Yarl, who was shot after mistakenly going to the wrong address to pick up his siblings. Over multiple days, Fox devoted only 13 minutes to the case – while other cable outlets spent hours. Meanwhile, the shooter's grandson says that his grandfather was caught up in the “fear and paranoia” from watching Fox News.
- Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ) promoted a pro-Hitler and Holocaust-denying site after it praised him for attacking “Jewish warmongers.”
- Steven Crowder is knowingly violating YouTube’s terms of service by promoting Alex Jones’ ban-evasion links. Crowder himself has a long track record of being suspended on YouTube.
- Right-wing media figures called critics of a new draconian anti-LGBTQ law in Uganda “colonizers.” They failed to mention that the law was influenced by American organizations.
- Fox News is spreading misinformation and baselessly fearmongering over the new Biden administration’s vehicle tailpipe emissions proposal.
- Far-right Christian media figure Kirk Cameron is trying to sow conflict at local libraries with a line of conservative children’s books.
- Amid an ongoing legal battle over the widely used abortion medication mifepristone, anti-choice activists are doubling down on a scare campaign against misoprostol, a potential substitute should mifepristone get banned.
- Fox News pundits warned its viewers that expanded funding for the Internal Revenue Service passed by Democrats last year would create a dystopian armed force that would be “at war” with Republicans. In reality, the funding enabled the agency to hire workers to man its tax preparation hotline phones, dramatically reducing wait times this tax season.
- Over 75% of mainstream print articles failed to connect the attempted expulsion of the “Tennessee Three” to the Republican Party’s broader assault on democracy.