Media Matters weekly newsletter, February 9

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

  • Fox News rails against border deal sponsors and spreads misinformation about the bill.
  • MAGA media say the failure of Donald Trump’s immunity argument will force them to conduct the political prosecutions they already want to do.
  • Fox News praised a vigilante group while it attacked a migrant “shoplifter.” Law enforcement said the victim was neither a shoplifter nor a recent migrant. 

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On Thursday, special counsel Robert Hur released his report regarding President Joe Biden’s handling of classified materials. Hur declined to prosecute Biden but the report raised questions about his memory. Former Justice Department officials criticized how Hur had put a “thumb on the scale” with his comments against Biden. 

We’ll have more on the media coverage of this story next week. In the meantime, there are a few points I wanted to share with you:

  • Hur’s report noted that there are “several material distinctions” between Biden’s and Donald Trump’s classified documents cases. Propagandists like Sean Hannity are arguing that the two cases are the same. They are not. Read this fantastic piece to learn more about how different these cases truly are.
  • Mainstream media outlets have long been obsessed with Biden’s age. They have not, however, given the same attention to Trump’s age or the gaffes and incoherent comments he makes.
  • There have been several recent examples of Trump demonstrating poor memory recall. Last night on Fox News, Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley brought up a recent example in which Trump confused her with former Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. Hannity cut to commercial as Haley drew this point home.
American flag with barbed wire

Citation Molly Butler / Media Matters

Last weekend, bipartisan congressional negotiations unveiled a border control bill that would toughen asylum standards, hire thousands of new officers to fast-track the case process, and likely impose an emergency shutdown of the U.S. border. The bill read like a right-wing policymakers’ wish list. Nonetheless, Fox News spread a false claim that one of the bill’s provisions would allow 5,000 migrants to cross the border each day. In reality, the provision in question would have forced federal authorities to automatically reject asylum applicants when border encounters reach certain levels.

Even after the bill’s sponsors actually went on Fox to explain this misconception, the network continued to repeat the falsehood and attacked them across its programming.

Fox and the rest of conservative media railed against Republican supporters of the bill, suggesting that such lawmakers are betraying their party and constituents.

  • Fox’s Mark Levin said “anybody who was involved in this must be defeated.”
  • Serial plagiarist Benny Johnson said any Republican involved in the immigration deal “needs to be criminally prosecuted.”
  • Conspiracy theorist Jack Posobiec wrote that Sen. James Lankford (R-OK), one of the bill’s key GOP negotiators, “should be locked up in Joe Exotic’s road zoo in Oklahoma City.”
  • Fox’s Laura Ingraham accused Republican Senate leadership of betraying their party to “help Biden and hurt Trump, which is a shared goal of 90% of the uniparty.”

With the full weight of this media assault leading up to a floor vote, Senate Republicans successfully blocked the bill’s passage.

Trump in court

Citation Media Matters

On Tuesday, a three-judge panel of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously affirmed that disgraced former President Donald Trump is not immune from criminal prosecution. It was an important affirmation of our nation’s separation of powers and our republican government. Trump, however, responded to the ruling by claiming absolute executive immunity was vital to the country’s survival because without it, future presidents (perhaps like himself) would attempt to prosecute past presidents of the other party. MAGA media, predictably, followed their Dear Leader’s spin.

  • Donald Trump Jr. asked, “If this becomes a norm would a Trump DOJ prosecute Obama for droning an American?”
  • Jack Posobiec posted, “This presidential immunity ruling means Biden can be indicted right now for treason by aiding an invasion.”
  • Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton said “Obama must be prosecuted” if Trump is prosecuted.
  • Newsmax guest and former Trump press secretary Hogan Gidley warned that “Democrats will reap the whirlwind” of the presidential immunity case.

As Media Matters’ Matt Gertz explains:

“The Trumpists’ thinly veiled threat of retribution, with its ‘look what you made us do’ insinuation, is preposterous given the longstanding, loud calls from Trump and his supporters to prosecute his political enemies, including former President Barack Obama and President Joe Biden.”

Greg Gutfeld on Fox

This week in stupid 

  • Fox News hosted Dr. Phil to give a psychological diagnosis of migrants.
  • Ben Shapiro admitted that Republicans alleged no high crime or misdemeanor against Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, but still said he would vote for impeachment.
  • Turning Point USA President Charlie Kirk speculated that Republicans who voted against impeaching Mayorkas are being blackmailed.
  • Fox Business’ Charles Payne blamed poor people buying Louis Vuitton items for the death of the American dream.

This week in scary

  • Fox’s Laura Ingraham said immigrants have inflicted “damage and strain” on America.
  • Fox’s Jesse Watters said immigrants will “metastasize, and you’re going to grow a small army of foreign national gang members.”
  • War Room host Steve Bannon: “The Democrats can’t win unless they steal.”

Excuse me?

  • Fox’s Greg Gufeld called a kindergarten program that teaches about racism a “terrorist training camp.”
  • Fox’s Harris Faulkner bemoaned the way “our country will change” if migrant children remain in America.
  • Fox’s Sean Hannity alleged that there were “no new” full-time jobs created in January.
  • Benny Johnson: Mitch McConnell “should be tried in Guantanamo Bay.”
Fox News praises a vigilante group while it attacks a migrant “shoplifter."

During a live interview with “Guardian Angels” founder Curtis Sliwa on February 6, Fox News host Sean Hannity directed his cameraperson to film Sliwa’s group engaged in a physical altercation with an unidentified individual in New York City’s Times Square. Sliwa claimed, without evidence, that the man being attacked was a migrant who had recently shopflited. With zero pushback from Hannity, Sliwa bragged that the individual was “sucking concrete” and that “cops scraped him off the asphalt.” He further complained that “these illegals think they own this street” but promised that his group, unlike the police, was not going to be “hands off” with migrants and would “liberate Times Square from them.”

After the incident, New York Police Department officials contradicted Sliwa’s claims that the individual was a migrant and shoplifting. Instead, the man was a 23-year-old from the Bronx who moved to the U.S. when he was 10 years old. He was merely attempting to get Sliwa’s attention while he was on air when the group confronted him. 

Fox completely failed to update its viewers on the reality of what took place. Dana Perino perpetuated Sliwa’s unsubstantiated narrative the next day during her so-called “straight news” program.

On Thursday, Hannity finally issued a correction.

Fox’s rush to elevate Sliwa’s shaky claims in order to demonize migrants is unsurprising. Still, it’s disturbing to watch a network livestream a brutal physical attack by a vigilante group.

In case you missed it

  • Fox News’ crusade against DEI ignores Fox Corp.’s corporate diversity programs.
  • Ronna McDaniel is resigning as Republican National Committee chair after years of pro-Trump media calling for her ouster.
  • Meta is running ads selling QAnon merchandise, despite banning QAnon content years ago.
  • Tucker Carlson’s interview with Russian President Vladimir Putin tracks with his long history of pro-Kremlin propaganda.
  • After pleading guilty to charges related to her involvement in Donald Trump’s scheme to overturn the 2020 presidential election in Georgia, radio host Jenna Ellis has become a vocal critic of Trump, his campaign and associates, and the right-wing media personalities who are supporting him in the 2024 election.
  • While Fox News wants Taylor Swift to stay out of politics, the network has spent years enlisting a set of D-list celebrities to do just that.
  • AI-generated fake and manipulated content about Black celebrities is spreading on YouTube.
  • New research estimates that states with rape exceptions written into abortion bans are still likely to see large numbers of pregnancies caused by rape being carried to term. Right-wing media figures are downplaying the findings while relying on anti-abortion researchers for evidence.
  • Reporting indicates that Donald Trump is using vice presidential speculation to play games with the media and generate positive campaign coverage. Media outlets should avoid sensationalizing his veepstakes.
  • Media Matters’ Justin Horowitz released this fantastic video explaining how Rumble uses “Power Slap” to bring Gen Z viewers into the right-wing fever swamp.
  • Fox News is aggressively pushing a false story that New York City is providing “credit cards” that migrant families can use for frivolous or illicit purposes. In fact, the city is trying to streamline the aid it has provided migrant families for food and baby supplies.
  • CNN was the only TV network that consistently connected the heavy storms in California this week to climate change.
  • Content creators claim users can make “thousands” off of AI-generated conspiracy theory content through TikTok’s Creativity Program. Media Matters’ Abbie Richards explains the platform’s conspiracy theory problem.
  • The Trump campaign touted a 2020 voter fraud report from James O’Keefe. It’s now the latest such claim to fall apart.