Media Matters weekly newsletter, June 23

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.

still of David Spunt; Chyron: Tax and firearm charges filed against presidential son

On Tuesday, the Department of Justice announced that President Joe Biden’s son, Hunter Biden, has agreed to plead guilty to two tax misdemeanors and reached a deal with federal prosecutors to resolve a felony gun charge. Conservative media quickly pounced, claiming the plea agreement is too lenient.

Ben Shapiro called it a “sweet sweet plea bargain.” New York Post columnist Miranda Devine said Biden got “this sweetheart deal from the DOJ.” And Fox’s Jesse Watters said, “Hunter Biden was never going to go to prison anyway. He was either going to get a sweetheart plea deal or get pardoned.”

Regardless of the conservative outcry, numerous legal experts rebutted these claims, with some even saying the deal is actually “harsh” for Biden’s circumstances as a first-time offender. This agreement comes amid an ongoing five-year probe into Hunter Biden’s business dealing and finances, illustrating that even the president’s son can be investigated and prosecuted. This is how a nation of laws is supposed to operate.

President Biden took extreme steps to maintain credibility during his son’s investigation. He retained the Trump-appointed Republican FBI director, Christopher Wray. Biden also retained the Trump-appointed Republican U.S. attorney in Delaware, David Weiss, who ultimately filed charges against Hunter Biden. None of this, however, was enough for conservatives. As Media Matters’ Matt Gertz argues, the aim of conservatives “is the destruction of the independence of federal law enforcement in favor of a weaponized justice system, and they will keep creating new pretexts until they get it.”

Former President Donald Trump has been indicted twice under serious charges, including allegedly violating the Espionage Act. Conservative media are maintaining a strict fealty to their dear leader during his ongoing legal peril, including by pushing to weaponize the American justice system against their opponents. The law and truth are irrelevant to right-wing media — they seek a system where people they like go free and people they don’t like go to prison.

"Udder disgrace"

This week in stupid

  • Newsmax host Eric Bolling suggested that we’re approaching the “end of times.”

This week in scary

  • BlazeTV host Steve Deace said, “They’ll go from trans-ing the kids to euthanizing them.”

Excuse me?

  • A Newsmax guest said, “The Democratic Party celebrating Juneteenth is like a Nazi celebrating Hanukkah.”
  • Fox’s Jesse Watters claimed that the FBI is “rigging elections.”
  • Fox’s Laura Ingraham defended Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito for receiving, and not disclosing, a luxury vacation from a billionaire with cases before the court.
End Times on Newsmax

In case you missed it

  • Steve Bannon criticized Donald Trump for agreeing to be interviewed on Fox News, saying, “It’s not an interview, it’s an interrogation, and it’s not acceptable.”
  • Referring to Trump’s Fox News interview, BlazeTV host Steve Deace said, “Donald Trump went on national television and admitted to a crime.”
  • Fox’s Mark Levin blamed Republican critics for a potential Trump loss in 2024, saying, “If we lose this election, I put it at the feet of these Republicans.”
  • Fox’s Harris Faulkner cut off feed of the Senate hearing discussing anti-LGBTQ violence to talk about anti-trans activist Riley Gaines.
  • Fox’s Jesse Watters said, “The Hunter Biden investigation was never about Hunter. It was always about Joe.” Watters also claimed that the FBI and the CIA are using Hunter Biden’s laptop to blackmail President Joe Biden.
  • A Fox News correspondent said the charges against Hunter Biden “do not implicate President Joe Biden or any larger web of corruption.”
  • Fox’s Mark Levin instructed Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis to avoid “challenging interviews” with “hostile media.”
  • A former FBI intelligence analyst from Kansas kept hundreds of classified documents at her home, including in the bathroom (like Donald Trump), was sentenced to nearly four years in prison
  • An Indiana chapter for the extremist parental rights group Mom's for Liberty used a quote from Adolf Hitler in a newsletter. The chapter leader released a statement condemning the genocidal fascist leader. Read more about Mom's for Liberty's anti-LGBTQ extremism here

Read more

  • Anti-vaccine conspiracy theorist Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and his organization, Children’s Health Defense, have repeatedly allied with QAnon conspiracy theorists.
  • Elon Musk-owned Twitter claims that advertisers are returning to the platform. In fact, most of these cited advertisers either never left the platform or still haven't returned.
  • Circumventing Meta’s rules, Turning Point USA influencers are promoting weapons and ammunition to their Instagram followers.
  • Social media companies Meta, YouTube, and Twitter are backsliding on their efforts to combat misinformation. This is paving the way to chaos in the upcoming 2024 election.
  • Advertisements for major brands including Dish, Samsung, and The Wall Street Journal have been appearing on the verified Twitter account of VDare, a leading white nationalist group.
  • Fox News' website is changing terms in articles from The Associated Press and Reuters, replacing the phrase “gender-affirming care” with the outdated “sex change” or “sex reassignment.” This is an Orwellian step in Fox's efforts to demonize and dehumanize trans people. 
  • Only a couple months after its historic settlement with Dominion Voting Systems, Fox News is returning to its old tactic of pushing election lies. Meanwhile, Fox has also conveniently failed to mention an investigative report from Georgia’s secretary of state thoroughly debunking the conspiracy theory pushed by the network in the wake of the 2020 election about Georgia election workers counting fraudulent ballots.
  • Right-wing media have made numerous misleading or false claims about the felony criminal charges against Donald Trump.
  • Cable news networks have been obsessing over President Joe Biden’s age while overwhelmingly ignoring Donald Trump’s age.
  • Local news outlets have increasingly turned to a dark money-funded conservative wire service called The Center Square. Outlets using this site are pushing right-wing talking points on their readers.