Media Matters weekly newsletter, December 1

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 News invented a terrorist attack and used it to demonize Muslims

On November 22, a car accident on the Rainbow Bridge in Niagara, New York, instigated a Fox News panic about potential terrorism. From 11:30 a.m. through approximately 5:15 p.m. ET, Fox personalities and guests made at least 97 claims alleging or speculating that the crash was an act of terrorism or attack. By 9:40 p.m. that night, the FBI concluded its investigation, determining that “no terrorism nexus was identified.” The Niagara police chief went on to criticize media outlets for spreading misinformation about the crash.

Since the October 7 attacks by Hamas in Israel, Fox has consistently fearmongered about the purported threat of Muslims and Arabs seeking to cross into the United States to carry out violence. Incidents of anti-Muslim discrimination in the U.S. have also skryrocketed.

Much of Fox’s reporting regarding the November 22 incident was based on correspondent Alexis McAdams, who claimed law enforcement sources — later debunked — told her this was an attempted terrorist attack. Her reporting was used by Fox anchors to suggest Hamas, “jihadists,” Palestinians, or migrants may be to blame.

Even after McAdams retracted her initial claims, Fox personalities still weaponized the incident against Palestinians and migrants. By then, McAdams’ misinformation had spread beyond Fox and was being promoted by other right-wing media sources.

For Fox News, the fear, not truth, is the point.

Hillary clinton and Donald Trump on a green and blue background


Andrea Austria / Media Matters

While 2016 may feel like a lifetime ago, Media Matters researchers analyzed the coverage of two remarks made by presidential candidates then and now and found a disturbing trend.

In September 2016, then-Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton made a relatively mundane statement about supporters of Donald Trump, referring to some of them as a “basket of deplorables.” Fast forward to November 11, 2023, when Trump referred to his political opponents as “vermin” during a speech which echoed the rhetoric of fascist dictators. We found that major news media disproportionately covered Clinton’s comment when compared to Trump.

According to our analysis, the Big Three broadcast TV networks provided 18 times more coverage of Clinton’s comment than Trump’s remark. Print reports that mentioned Clinton’s statement outnumbered those that mentioned Trump’s 29-to-1 across the five highest-circulating U.S. newspapers.

You can see all the data in this fantastic piece, which I highly recommend you check out.

This is yet another example of how major news media are still failing to cover Trump. His abhorrent and incoherent commentary is receiving muted coverage in the news media. And when experts are sounding the alarm about the similarities between a likely U.S. presidential nominee’s rhetoric and that of genocidaires, it warrants much more significant attention from journalists and leading news outlets.

This week in stupid 

  • Fox News guest and former acting U.S. Attorney General Matt Whitaker argued that a public congressional hearing is actually bad for transparency.
  • Fox host Jesse Watters suggested “CRT,” an acronym for “critical race theory,” is responsible for deaths of high school students.

This week in scary

  • BlazeTV co-host Todd Erzen: “The Democrats are running on jabbing you with poison, trans-ing your kids, and kill the Jews.”
  • Turning Point USA co-founder Charlie Kirk: “Black crime is a major issue in our country.”

Excuse me?

  • Daily Wire host Michael Knowles: “There’s nothing inherently wrong with blackface.”
  • Daily Wire co-CEO Jeremy Boreing: “If 5 million people came out today and said the N-word — not recommending it — but no one would ever get fired for saying the N-word again.”
  • BlazeTV host Steve Deace: “The problem with the American church today is no one wants to kill its pastors anymore. No one wants to arrest its pastors anymore. And there’s a lot of truth to that.”

In case you missed it

  • Right-wing media figures reacted to anti-immigrant riots in Ireland by demonizing Muslims, falsely accusing migrants of being a risk to public safety and attacking the very idea of legal immigration. Read this fantastic piece by Media Matters’ John Knefel to find out more.
  • Fox’s Laura Ingraham demanded House Republicans defund and investigate Trump special counsel Jack Smith.
  • BlazeTV host Steve Deace defended anti-immigration rioters in Ireland, saying the “Irish Proud Boy wannabes … who have had enough” are “not the villain here.”
  • Media Matters’ Evlondo Cooper discussed a few issues national TV news should include in coverage of the United Nations’ COP28 climate summit.

Read more

  • Fox News misled its audience about its own reporter’s question to President Joe Biden. Read this piece by Media Matters’ Eric Kleefeld to find out more.
  • Donald Trump is promising to exact “retribution” on his enemies and come down hard on the free press. As opposed to the types of horse race coverage that Trump usually gets, Media Matters’ Matt Gertz delivers a powerful warning about the prospects of another Trump administration in this great piece.
  • Users on a conspiracy subreddit have been repeatedly posting content that spreads COVID-19 and anti-vaccine health misinformation, despite Reddit’s prohibition against harmful health misinformation.