Media Matters weekly newsletter, February 23

Welcome back to Media Matters’ weekly newsletter. In this week’s newsletter:

  • The chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court spread Christian nationalist rhetoric on a QAnon conspiracy theorist’s show.
  • Fox News pushed indicted FBI informant Alexander Smirnov’s dubious claims because he said what the network wanted to hear.
  • A right-wing media backlash against a trans-inclusive USA Boxing policy has fueled a proposed federal ban on trans athletics

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Tom Parker Johnny Enlow

On February 16, the Alabama Supreme Court ruled that frozen embryos are people, with the same rights as living children, and that a person can be held liable for destroying them, imperiling in vitro fertilization treatment in the state. On the same day, the self-proclaimed “prophet” and QAnon conspiracy theorist Johnny Enlow uploaded an interview he had with Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Tom Parker. During the interview, Parker indicated that he is a proponent of the “Seven Mountain Mandate,” a theological approach that calls on Christians to impose fundamentalist values on all aspects of American life.

During the interview, Parker claimed that God “is equipping me with something for the very specific situation that I’m facing.” He also claimed that “God created government” and said it’s “heartbreaking” that “we have let it go into the possession of others.”

In his concurring opinion claiming frozen embryos are people, Parker quoted the Bible and suggested that Alabama had adopted a “theologically based view of the sanctity of life,” and said that “human life cannot be wrongfully destroyed without incurring the wrath of a holy God.”

This is yet another example of how the cancer of Christian nationalism is spreading rapidly throughout American conservatism.

Ukraine Fox

Citation Andrea Austria / Media Matters

Right-wing media’s flagging effort to impeach President Joe Biden took another blow last week when the Justice Department said that Alexander Smirnov, an FBI informant, had made up his accusation that Biden and his son Hunter had each taken $5 million bribes from a Ukrainian oligarch and charged him with lying to the bureau. Fox News propagandists like Sean Hannity had relentlessly promoted Smirnov’s claims, touting his purported credibility while ignoring the flimsy, sensational nature of his Biden bribery allegations.

Naturally, Fox shills haven’t responded to Smirnov’s arrest by leveling with their viewers or reflecting on why they were taken in by unverified claims. Instead, they’ve been ignoring Smirnov’s arrest, claiming that the arrest actually makes Republicans look good, layering on more conspiracy theories, and diverting viewers to a different but similarly dubious Biden scandal.

Fox was so willing to run with Smirnov’s dubious claims because he said what the network wanted to hear: that Biden, as vice president, corruptly forced the Ukrainian government to fire its top prosecutor to benefit Hunter Biden’s business interests. Nevermind that Fox’s research department warned that this story was false back in December 2019. Nevermind that U.S. officials appointed by Democratic and Republican presidents, government documents, and reams of contemporaneous and more recent reporting all confirm this story was wildly wrong. Fox still ran with it.

Why? Media Matters’ Matt Gertz sums it up: “A legitimate news operation would question how it came to be promoting such disinformation and try to ensure it didn’t happen again — but Fox is a Republican propaganda operation.”

Newsmax: "Zombie Deer?"

This week in stupid

  • The Daily Wire’s Matt Walsh called for comedian John Oliver to be imprisoned.
  • A Fox News host fearmongered that the government is going through bank accounts to see where Donald Trump’s supporters shop.
  • Fox Corp.’s Outkick pushed the long-debunked claim that kids use litter boxes in schools.

This week in scary

  • Libs of TikTok creator Chaya Raichik celebrated being called a stochastic terrorist.
  • Fox News’ Jeanine Pirro compared immigrants to insects.
  • The Daily Wire’s Michael Knowles called for doctors performing IVF in Alabama to be prosecuted.

Excuse me?

  • A Fox News political analyst said the existence of immigrants is “the modern day Jim Crow.”
  • On Charlie Kirk’s radio show, Article II Project founder Mike Davis said: “I’m still scratching my head on what’s wrong with being a Christian nationalist.”
  • Fox correspondent Bill Melugin criticized migrants from wearing “clean clothes.”
USA Boxing

Citation Molly Butler / Media Matters

In late December, USA Boxing released a new set of guidelines for the inclusion of trans competitors. Though they are a departure from a trend of sports organizations banning trans participation, these guidelines are considered stringent. Nonetheless, right-wing media responded to the announcement by criticizing the regulations, relying on anti-trans tropes and misinformation. Republican members of Congress have since introduced twin legislation that promises to ban all trans competitors from the Olympic and amateur levels in any sport.

  • Fox News anchor Dana Perino referred to the eligibility requirements for trans female boxers as “nonsense.”
  • Former NCAA swimmer Riley Gaines claimed that “it will take a woman getting killed before these misogynistic fools wake up.”
  • Turning Point USA founder Charlie Kirk argued that “someone might get killed” under the new regulations.

The hatemongering of conservative media coupled with the draconian legislative response by Republicans in the case of USA Boxing is part of a larger trend to demonize trans people in this country. In addition to federal legislation targeting trans inclusion at the national and international level, state legislatures have already introduced 44 bans on trans student athletes in 2024.

In case you missed it

  • In a fantastic new video, Media Matters’ Alex Kaplan warns reporters that they shouldn’t fall for QAnon supporters pretending that QAnon doesn’t exist.
  • True the Vote’s claims about election fraud collapsed in court, but they’re still going strong in right-wing media. Media Matters’ Bobby Lewis explains in this great piece.
  • Right-wing media are promoting an anti-immigrant group’s misleading report to falsely suggest immigrants are stealing American jobs.
  • The Canadian-American influencer group the Nelk Boys are mainstreaming hate figures and using pranks to spread bigotry to their audience of millions.
  • In an attempt to reach a variety of voters and gain support for his beleaguered presidential run, anti-vaccine conspiracy theorist Robert F. Kennedy Jr. has appeared on numerous comedy, pop culture, and lifestyle podcasts.
  • Fox anchor John Roberts called out House Republicans for the lack of evidence in their impeachment efforts.
  • NBC Nightly News interviewed a CPAC attendee. There was no mention that she is a convicted January 6 rioter who threatened to murder Nancy Pelosi.
  • Fox News devoted less than 6 minutes of coverage to the Alabama Supreme Court’s IVF ruling.