Media Matters weekly newsletter, July 14

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 recently reshuffled its prime-time lineup, elevating Jesse Watters and Greg Gutfeld to the coveted evening slots. A couple weeks ago, I explained how Watters and Gutfeld can only make the network’s rhetoric even more extreme. Media Matters’ Matt Gertz argues in an article this week that the new lineup also deepens Fox’s fealty to former President Donald Trump.

Following the abrupt firing of Tucker Carlson in April, Fox has been cudgeled by a ratings collapse and severe criticism from much of right-wing media. Would-be rivals like Elon Musk and the fledgling Newsmax attempted to position themselves as heirs to the supposedly dying network. Fox’s new prime-time lineup is, in many ways, an effort by the network to regroup and reassert its commanding position atop the conservative media ecosphere. The strategy they’ve chosen is to realign themselves with the former president.

With the addition of Gutfeld and Watters, Fox now has prime-time hosts exclusively loyal to Trump. Sean Hannity, whose position at 9 p.m. remains unchanged, has long been a shameless Trump sycophant. Watters, who took over Carlson’s 8 p.m. slot, has an extensive history of ingratiating himself to Trump, both on the air and in private. (Carlson, while a Trump partisan to a point, privately claimed “I hate [Trump] passionately.”). While Gutfeld began as a Trump critic in 2016, he quickly saw which way the wind was blowing and eventually kissed Trump’s ring.

All three of these men are propagandists with long records of toxic commentary, more associated with schoolyard bullies than thought leaders. Their prime-time position, though, clearly demonstrates the direction Fox News is moving. As Matt writes:

“What Fox’s new prime-time triumvirate demonstrates is that hardcore support for Trump remains the ingredient that unites the right. All three are Trump loyalists, albeit in somewhat different flavors, who have proved willing to defend the authoritarian former president across two impeachments, two indictments, an attempted coup, a series of attacks on the rule of law and constitutional order, and innumerable bigoted eruptions. And unlike Carlson, the three hosts are much more likely to fall in line with whatever Trump decides to do, no matter how abhorrent, rather than try to push him in any particular direction.”

Gal Luft on MSNBC

The Republican-led House Oversight Committee’s “informant” Gal Luft was recently indicted on federal charges of arms trafficking, sanctions violations, and acting as an unregistered agent for China. Right-wing media has touted Luft as a whistleblower who would expose President Joe Biden’s alleged corrupt ties to China. The fact that Luft himself has now been indicted for having corrupt ties to China is an illustrating example of how a conservative fever dream develops.

This is yet the latest example of a right-wing echo chamber in operation, with the final revelation of evidence detailing alleged corruption by Democrats always just on the horizon, yet never coming. We saw it with the text messages between FBI agent Peter Strzok and FBI lawyer Lisa Page. We saw it again with special counsel John Durham’s report on the investigation into Donald Trump’s connections with Russia during the 2016 election. And now we’re seeing it again with Luft.

Media Matters’ Matt Gertz explains the pattern:

“It goes like this: Republican politicians will trumpet some new document or witness, and their propagandists will puff it up as a game-changer, the final piece of the puzzle. But when the right’s heavily touted sources are finally revealed, they do not move — and then all the same players settle on a new Macguffin and restart the cycle.” With Luft’s indictment, conservative media will move on to something else, promising their viewers that all the evidence against their political enemies will soon be revealed. It’s always just one form, one text message, one special counsel report away.

"Can aliens turn us into charcoal?"

This week in stupid 

  • The Daily Wire’s Michael Knowles said, “science is mostly fake.”
  • Fox News’ Jesse Watters said, “Some people have told me that I have actually done more for women’s sports than Megan Rapinoe.”
  • Charlie Kirk said the left wants men to be “metrosexual betas” with “no muscle mass.”

This week in scary

  • A BlazeTV cohost defended Gov. Ron DeSantishomophobic ad, saying, “The LGBT community is hunting our children for grooming purposes and dismemberment. Apologize for nothing.”
  • Fox’s Laura Ingraham claimed Democrats are using immigration to “change the makeup of America.”

Excuse me?

  • While attacking the constitutional right to contraception, The Daily Wire’s Michael Knowles said, “condoms are kind of gay.”
  • With apparently no sense of irony, Fox’s Laura Ingraham said we need to defund “federal law enforcement.”
  • Fox’s Jesse Watters suggested President Joe Biden could have planted a bag of cocaine with Kamala Harris’ fingerprints on it.
  • Salem Media’s Eric Metaxas called for a boycott of Disney and accused the company of “siding with groomers.”
  • Fox Business host Charles Payne compared climate change activism to human sacrifice. 
Newsmax: "Is Satan winning?"

In case you missed it

  • Fox News is facing another defamation lawsuit just months after its historic $787 million settlement with Dominion Voting Systems. Ray Epps, who attended the January 6 insurrection, is suing the network for pushing allegedly defamatory conspiracy theories about him.
  • BlazeTV host Steve Deace said, “20 to 25 percent of the [Republican] primary electorate” are “in a cult.”
  • Fox’s Jesse Watters continues to push a bizarre conspiracy theory about President Joe Biden. This week he claimed Biden is doing the media’s bidding under the threat of blackmail.
  • “Stop the Steal” organizer Ali Alexander said, “I’m thinking about voting in the Democrat primary for RFK Jr.”
  • Fox’s Sean Hannity blamed Joe Biden and the Green New Deal for the PGA-LIV Golf merger.
  • A Fox anchor suggested the indictment of Gal Luft adds credibility to his claims against the Bidens.
  • The Daily Wire, has been employing deceptive recruiting tactics to hire local Nashville residents for production on an upcoming ant-LGBTQ movie. 
  • Newsmax hosts called for former President Donald Trump to counter the first Republican primary debate on Fox News with his own Newsmax townhall. 

Read more

  • The Supreme Court recently sided with a homophobic website developer in the 303 Creative LLC v. Elenis. Some right-wing media pundits have been admitting that this case is part of a larger conservative goal of eliminating civil rights protections for LGBTQ people.
  • July 6 may have been the planet’s hottest day in some 120,000 years. Right-wing media predictably downplayed this extreme heat with the help of Twitter’s community notes feature.
  • A small bag of cocaine was found in the White House on July 2. Fox News covered this story over twice as much as CNN and MSNBC combined.
  • Salem Media’s Eric Metaxas is a prominent voice on the evangelical right who uses his radio show to push the radical belief that far-right Christians must control the government and enforce religious-based policies. Media Matters’ Reed McMaster wrote this expansive primer on Metaxas.
  • The misogynistic podcast that describes itself as “the #1 men’s podcast in the world,” Fresh & Fit, hosted the white supremacist, Holocaust-denying Nick Fuentes for multiple hours-long streams.
  • During a Fox News appearance, the purported anti-trafficking activist Tim Ballard spewed anti-trans and anti-migrant rhetoric while promoting his new film Sound of Freedom. The film has been widely condemned for being QAnon adjacent.
  • On July 4, a Donald Trump-appointed federal judge issued a preliminary injunction restricting the Biden administration from “communicating with social media companies on content moderation.” Since then, right-wing media have been using this injunction to push the debunked claim that social media companies have an anti-conservative bias.
  • Clay Travis, the founder of Fox Corp.'s Outkick, has a long record of attacking diversity, equity, and inclusion policies. Ironically, his company's job listings all promote a commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion. 
  • On June 14, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed a law eliminating diversity, equity, and inclusion offices and programs at state-funded universities and colleges. TV broadcast news stations across the state collectively spent just 59 minutes on the story in the two weeks after the law was signed.
  • American newspapers did a poor job explaining the potential consequences of the Supreme Court’s decision to end affirmative action in higher education.
  • Multiple right-wing figures known for spreading misinformation and extremism have already collectively earned tens of thousands of dollars in ad revenue under a new Twitter program. 
  • Oklahoma’s MAGA superintendent of public schools recently evoked a common right-wing extremist myth in deflecting from the role that racial hatred played in the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre.