Media Matters weekly newsletter, August 11

Welcome back to Media Matters' weekly email. 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 the ecosystem 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 chart

After Tucker Carlson was abruptly fired from Fox News in April, ratings for the network nosedived. A new Media Matters analysis finds that Fox’s prime-time ratings have still not recovered, remaining dramatically down from where they were a year ago. According to the analysis, Fox has undergone a roughly 30% drop in total audience ratings and an over 45% drop among the 25-45-year-old demographic. It’s a substantial collapse.

Fox Corp. CEO Lachlan Murdoch sought to downplay Fox’s dire collapse in ratings during a fiscal quarterly earnings call on Tuesday. Murdoch touted a new prime-time lineup and claimed it is “over 35% in total viewers and up over 40% in the 25 to 54 demographic versus the June schedule.”

While Fox’s ratings did appear to rise between June and July, they are nowhere near where they were before Carlson’s departure — a fact that Murdoch conveniently left out.

During the call, Murdoch also made clear that Fox Corp. could seek “industry-leading” price increases on its properties. As Media Matters’ John Whitehouse explains, “It simply means that Fox Corp. will seek more money from cable and satellite providers (the ‘affiliates’) for all of its channels given the sports properties that it has exclusive rights to air.” In a nutshell, this means higher cable bills for consumers.

Media Matters’ President Angelo Carusone explained during a recent interview how Fox News is planning to raise your cable bill. Listen here.

If you want to fight back against Fox’s efforts to extort more money from you, sign up to to get tips on how to send a polite message to your provider and say, “Don’t let Fox News raise my bill.”

On Tuesday, President Joe Biden designated a new national monument near the Grand Canyon. The new monument covers nearly 1 million acres, protecting ancestrally significant places for Indigenous people and bans new mining in the area. It was a victory for tribal nations and conservationists who have been fighting to protect this land for years.

It’s difficult to see how anyone can find fault with Biden protecting America’s natural inheritance, particularly the Grand Canyon. Yet, right-wing media and Republican politicians were quick to do just that. The key point in this new conspiracy theory involves the banning of new uranium mining in the area.

  • Fox’s Jesse Watters claimed the new national monument is a scheme by Biden to funnel uranium money to foreign governments.
  • Fox’s Laura Ingraham elaborated further, claiming that the new national monument is a Biden scheme to funnel uranium money to Kazakhstan.
  • Benny Johnson said Biden is “promising away our uranium supply” to “the agents that paid his family.”

This brewing new conspiracy theory sounds very similar to the Uranium One pseudoscandal aimed at former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. That right-wing smear operation alleged that Clinton sold American uranium to Russia in exchange for a large donation to the Clinton Foundation. It was utter nonsense from its inception (and was demonstrably shown to be so after a Trump administration investigation).

History may not repeat, but it does rhyme.

Newsmax on the search for the Loch Ness Monster

This week in stupid 

  • Fox News’ Jesse Watters said climate change is a “psyop” to raise taxes and make people anxious.
  • The Daily Wire’s Matt Walsh said he’s frightened by the idea of someone being “attracted to anyone.”

This week in scary

  • In an unhinged white nationalist rant, The Daily Wire’s Matt Walsh warned that “whites are trending towards extinction in the United States.”
  • Turning Point USA’s Charlie Kirk said, “Either we start to embrace political prosecutorial power” or “the Democrats are going to keep on marching.” This week, Kirk also called on “local Republican DAs” to start selectively investigating and prosecuting Democrats. 
  • A Fox News guest advocated for jailing migrants on New York’s Rikers Island.
  • Fox News hosts on The Five endorsed rounding up and forcibly detaining homeless people.
  • An OAN host said, “There are definitely forces in the unseen realm attempting to orchestrate the demolition of America and the world as a whole.”

Excuse me?

  • Responding to Donald Trump’s most recent federal indictment, Fox News’ Julie Banderas said, “Being a narcissist is not a crime. Hatching schemes to stay in office is not a crime.”
  • Fox’s Greg Gutfeld claimed “98% of the accusations of racism are false.”
  • Fox’s Jesse Watters called the Department of Justice “Democrat Stormtroopers.”
  • Charlie Kirk said Democrats “want nothing to do with elections. They want this solved with handcuffs, subpoenas, rigged juries, and zip code justice.”
  • Fox’s Sean Hannity attacked the bottom 50% of income earners for taking from the rich.
  • Dennis Prager said, “The vast majority of your kids’ teachers lie about whites.”
  • Fox’s Laura Ingraham said special counsel Jack Smith is more dangerous “than any group of Capitol rioters.”
  • Fox’s Jesse Watters said Vice President Kamala Harris “gets more favorable treatment because of her race and gender.”
  • A Fox anchor said the separation of religion and education was “the beginning of us as parents losing our power.”

In case you missed it

  • During a Q&A on Rumble, Donald Trump Jr. gave fodder to QAnon conspiracy theorists, saying, “Maybe I know” who Q is “and I just can’t tell you.”
  • Newsmax’s Eric Bolling interviewed Donald Trump. As soon as the interview ended, Bolling clarified that Newsmax “has accepted the election results as legal and final.”
  • A Utah man was killed by the FBI following months of investigation into his threats against President Joe Biden and other public officials. Right-wing media figures are now spinning the incident to claim the federal government is willing to kill critics of Democrats. 
  • Fox's Jesse Watters endorsed a civics test requirement for voting. 
  • BlazeTV’s Steve Deace said Trump “helped them poison all of us” with vaccines, but added, “I’ll vote for him if he is the nominee.”
  • Fox’s Jesse Watters dismissed Trump’s take electors scheme as “politics.”
  • Fox’s Laura Ingraham said Republicans should brag to voters about overturning Roe v. Wade (61% of voters disapprove with the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn abortion protections).

Read more

  • This summer has brought the extent of our global climate crisis into clear view, with record-breaking heat waves, wildfires, and floods. Right-wing media, however, have continued to downplay the crisis. Media Matters’ Allison Fisher compiled this great roundup featuring some of the most nonsensical things conservative pundits have said about climate change during 2023’s extreme summer weather.
  • In response to a series of disruptive but nonviolent direct actions carried out by climate change activists, right-wing media have been calling for violence. Meanwhile, national news failed in covering these protests, focusing on the activists’ disruptive tactics instead of their urgent climate message.
  • Fox News has been claiming the House Republicans’ star witness, former Hunter Biden business partner Devon Archer, said exactly the opposite of what he actually said. Watch this clip of Fox’s The Five descend into chaos when confronted with Archer’s actual testimony.
  • Right-wing media has been spreading misleading and baseless myths about Donald Trump's most recent federal indictment. Media Matters' Jack Winstanley and Payton Armstrong wrote this great fact sheet debunking the misinformation. 
  • Some members of the conservative youth organization Turning Point USA’s roster of influencers are likely violating Federal Trade Commission rules by posting undisclosed sponsored content to Instagram.
  • After the U.S. women’s national team was eliminated from the FIFA World Cup Sunday morning, right-wing media celebrated.
  • Elon Musk and Linda Yaccarino are attempting to lure users back to X (formerly Twitter) with its recent rebranding. The platform is still a toxic cesspool. During a CNBC interview this week, Yaccarino falsely claimed the platform has become a safer place for advertisers. By all metrics, X remains a dangerous place for brands to place their advertisements.  
  • Despite posting child sex abuse imagery on X, a far-right conspiracy theorist is receiving money from the platform’s ad revenue sharing program.
  • Right-wing media continue to defend Donald Trump’s scheming to stay in office after losing the 2020 presidential election. John Eastman, one of Trump’s advisers, admitted in a recent interview that President Joe Biden’s 2020 victory justified an attempt to “abolish” the government.
  • Ohio residents received an eight-page mailer disguised as local news in the lead-up to the state’s referendum on whether to raise the amendment ratification threshold for the state’s constitution. The mailer came from a dark-money group creating “hyperlocal content” with a bias toward support of Issue 1.
  • Conservative media tried to make the Ohio ballot initiative a referendum on trans people. Their efforts ended in failure as Ohioans rejected the proposal.
  • Fox News has been desperately begging Donald Trump to participate in the network’s Republican primary debate.
  • Hateful bully Steven Crowder’s influence has cratered as his views on his shows collapse and right-wing media turn on him. Alex Jones announced this week that he is working with Crowder.
  • Despite 2023 being a blockbuster year for strikes, cable news’ coverage has been underwhelming.
  • Several misogynistic manosphere influencers are making antisemitic comments and pushing conspiracy theories about Jewish people.
  • TikTok users are being targeted with potentially harmful weight loss products as the company continues to expand its in-app shopping feature.
  • Spanish-speakers on TikTok are being targeted by climate change conspiracy theories.
  • Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s super PAC has been spending thousands of dollars to a fringe outlet that posts anti-Black, anti-LGBTQ, and election denial content.