Media Matters weekly newsletter, December 8

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.

The silhouette of pregnant person appears next to an image of an IVF embryo


Andrea Austria / Media Matters

Earlier this month, Fox News contributor Guy Benson announced the birth of his son via surrogate. Soon after, he and his husband’s use of surrogacy was attacked by anti-LGBTQ conservative figures as “disturbing” and “an abomination.” This is just the latest example of right-wing media figures launching homophobic and misogynistic attacks on IVF and surrogacy, which some have described as “morally horrific,” “terribly evil,” and “deeply demonic.”

The right’s war on surrogacy and IVF is more than just bluster. After Roe v Wade was overturned last summer, ending federal protections for abortion, reproductive rights activists have feared Republicans would try to legally restrict surrogacy and IVF.

Numerous conservative pundits have called for exactly that, attacking gay couples for using these practices and calling for them to be banned entirely. As the campaign against surrogacy and IVF has ramped up, conservatives have even begun to attack their own, expressing disgust and hatred toward gay conservative commentators like Benson and Dave Rubin, who used those practices to have children.

I asked Media Matters Jasmine Geonzon to explain this campaign against IVF and surrogacy. Here’s what she said:

“As legal confusion about reproductive health procedures abound in the post-Roe era, conservative media have set their eyes on a new target: surrogacy arrangements and in-vitro fertilization. In keeping with the right’s ongoing campaign against feminism and LGBTQ rights, anti-abortion activists and media figures are shaming single women and LGBTQ couples for starting families through surrogacy and IVF. Gay conservative hosts who have recently announced their use of surrogacy to have children have also been attacked by their right-wing contemporaries, suggesting the process is immoral and that children are entitled to both a mother and father.”

image of fingers pointed at Biden; TV with Fox News logo in background

Citation Molly Butler / Media Matters  

Fox News propagandists have spent years pushing unsubstantiated allegations that President Joe Biden benefited from his son Hunter’s financial dealings. So, this week, when House Oversight Committee chair James Comer (R-KY) unveiled his latest smear in the near year-long shambolic effort of this committee to baselessly attack Biden, Fox dutifully shoveled Comer’s slop to its audience.

Comer alleged that bank records show Hunter Biden’s business entity made direct payments to Joe Biden and that entity received payments from Chinese-linked companies. This, apparently, proves that Biden knew and benefited from his son’s business with Chinese clients.

It didn’t take long for journalists to expose this allegation as complete nonsense. The Washington Post reported that what had actually happened was that Joe Biden bought a truck for his son’s use in 2018 and Hunter Biden’s law firm made three monthly payments of $1,380 to repay that loan. Biden had taken on a number of expenses for his son and his son’s children at the time because Hunter was struggling financially due to his battle with drug addiction.

Existing within its own alternative reality, Fox packaged the smear as a bombshell revealing that the president had been corrupted by Chinese funds. The network weaponized the story by omitting crucial details from its reports, including the actual sum of Hunter’s payments to his father — which were comically small — and never mentioning the (relatively short) period over which Hunter made the loan payments.

By cobbling together a set of baseless allegations, House Republicans have apparently decided to impeach Biden, evidence of wrongdoing be damned. And thanks to the work of the Republican Party’s media arm, its base has come to expect it.

Fox News: "We shouldn't be giving robots guns"

This week in stupid

  • The Daily Wire released a remarkably stupid and bad movie mocking trans people in sports. While promoting the movie, Ben Shapiro admitted that “As it turns out, most ladies’ leagues don’t allow in actual men.”
  • War Room host Steve Bannon said former President Donald Trump will review a return to the gold standard if elected to a second term.

This week in scary

  • BlazeTV host Steve Deace warned of a “standing army” of Muslim immigrants in America.
  • Turning Point USA founder Charlie Kirk: “We have way too many legal immigrants coming into this country.”

Excuse me?

  • The Daily Wire’s Matt Walsh: “It’s far better for a child to be raised lacking one of his arms” than have gay parents.
  • Benny Johnson: “Voting should be hard.”

In case you missed it

  • Steve Bannon and Kash Patel touted Donald Trump’s second-term retribution plan, saying, “This is just not rhetoric,” and, “We’re absolutely dead serious.”
  • Fox’s Sean Hannity attacked “hacks and the media mob” warning about Trump’s plan for “retribution.” The next day, Hannity defended Trump's promise for “retribution.” 
  • After Taylor Swift was named Time magazine’s 2023 “Person of the Year,” right-wing media rushed to hurl sexist insults and suggest that she’s secretly a Democratic operative.
  • Podcast host Megyn Kelly used her role as a moderator in the December 6 Republican presidential primary debate to further push the GOP to adopt more extreme anti-trans positions.
  • At a Christian nationalist gala keynoted by Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA), right-wing media figures pushed anti-LGBTQ bigotry and claimed that trans people are “demonic.”
  • An Infowars host said, “When you turn on Fox News now, it sounds a lot more like Infowars than it did 10 years ago.”
  • Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-CO) promoted an X (formerly known as Twitter) post from a fan account of Holocaust-denying white supremacist Nick Fuentes.
  • Right-wing media have been comparing the essential medical care that trans people receive to lobotomies.
  • Fox News has been presenting an anti-vaccine activist as a “Democrat voter,” even though she has publicly admitted to voting for Libertarian presidential candidates and Republicans in other races, and has commented that Democratic candidates are “an automatic no-no.”
  • Steve Deace said Trump’s claim of presidential immunity is “incorrect and wrong and crazy.”

Read more

  • Fox News personalities and guests have a history of tolerating and trafficking in antisemitic rhetoric and conspiracy theories, excusing the use of Nazi symbols, and trivializing the Holocaust and Nazism to attack Democrats, immigrants, and progressive groups. Read this great study to find out more.
  • As Donald Trump continues to hold a dominant lead in the 2024 Republican presidential primary, Media Matters found that he has also dominated the race for candidate airtime on all three right-wing cable news networks — Fox News, Newsmax, and One America News Network.
  • Corporate broadcast networks have woefully failed to adequately cover the United Nations’ annual climate summit, dedicating just 11 minutes of airtime to the event in its first four days.
  • A seeming network of TikTok accounts is conning unsuspecting users by mass-uploading deepfake videos of famous entrepreneurs supposedly promoting “bitcoin giveaways” on fraudulent cryptocurrency websites.
  • A new Media Matters study found that right-leaning Facebook pages led the conversation about violence in Israel and Gaza from October 7 through November 26.
  • Meta has allowed — and apparently profited from — multiple ads pushing versions of the debunked conspiracy theory that Palestinians injured during the ongoing war in Gaza have faked their injuries or are crisis actors.
  • Republican members of the House Committee on Homeland Security published a report using wildly speculative numbers from a white nationalist-linked anti-immigration think tank to claim that migrant care and housing programs across the country could be costing taxpayers as much as $451 billion.
  • TV news coverage of Donald Trump's threat to “terminate” the Affordable Care Act if he’s elected to another term as president mostly failed to mention the impact repealing the law would have for millions of Americans.