Media Matters weekly newsletter, June 7

Welcome back to Media Matters’ weekly newsletter. This week:

  • Project 2025 partners are sowing distrust in Americans elections.
  • Salem Media retracts bogus 2000 Mules “documentary.”
  • Right-wing media cancel children’s educator Ms. Rachel.

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This week in stupid

  • The Daily Wire’s Ben Shapiro: “Republicans don’t tend to riot in general.”
  • Fox’s Rachel Campos-Duffy falsely claimed there were Chinese bioweapons labs found in California.
  • Charlie Kirk said Turning Point USA’s age may be a “sign” for the 2024 election.

This week in scary

  • Trump ally Laura Loomer called for Judge Juan Merchan to be deported “back to the Third World hellhole he came from.”
  • Newsmax’s Greg Kelly dismissed death threats against Anthony Fauci as “life in the fast lane.”
  • Trump ally Roger Stone warned that Trump’s political opponents will be arrested if he becomes president.

Excuse me?

  • Fox’s Jesse Watters said fathers aren’t responsible for raising their daughters.
  • Fox host Rachel Campos-Duffy pushed a conspiracy theory that Anthony Fauci conspired with Democrats to use COVID-19 to normalize mail-in voting.
  • Fox host Kayleigh McEnany falsely claimed that Trump didn’t enact a Muslim ban as president.
  • A Newsmax guest falsely claimed Trump “has not been convicted.”
Project 2025 with an image of congress

Citation Andrea Austria / Media Matters

Project 2025 — a comprehensive transition plan for the next Republican presidential administration — has partnered with several organizations that have employed figures involved in efforts to overturn convicted felon Donald Trump’s 2020 loss. Other partners have already begun sowing distrust in American elections ahead of the 2024 presidential election, baselessly suggesting to their supporters that the 2024 election is being “rigged.” These efforts are setting the stage for Trump and his media allies to contest the legitimacy of November’s results.

Project 2025 has over 100 partners, ranging from extreme anti-LGBTQ groups to prominent conservative think tanks, many of which have employed individuals directly involved in attempts to overturn the 2020 election. These figures have included people who served as Trump’s “fake electors”; urged then-Vice President Mike Pence to delay the certification of the electoral count; and pushed disputed legal theories to keep Trump in power. Right-wing media have platformed these individuals, championing their schemes and validating their election lies.

At a more bizarre level, a Project 2025 partner claimed that Trump’s conviction was the result of witchcraft. The Family Research Council’s news outlet, The Washington Stand, posted a June 3 commentary claiming “the Left” used witchcraft and ancient spiritual tactics to secure 34 guilty verdicts in Trump’s New York hush money trial.

Whether profound or profane, Project 2025 partners are demonstrating a scary rot in the conservative movement, one that may have serious consequences for our republic in November.

2000 Mules movie poster with a red X over it and the Salem Media Group logo

Citation Molly Butler / Media Matters

Right-wing media conglomerate Salem Media has retracted and apologized for Dinesh D’Souza and True the Vote’s conspiracy theory-laden “documentary” 2000 Mules after settling a lawsuit with a Georgia voter whom the film falsely accused of committing fraud in the 2020 election. Before halting distribution of the film and removing it from its platforms, however, Salem provided a platform to widely circulate its misinformation.

In May 2022, D’Souza released 2000 Mules in partnership with True the Vote and Salem Media. The film relies heavily on the use of cellphone geotracking, a faulty approach that reportedly fails to prove claims of ballot trafficking. The film has repeatedly been debunked by law enforcement and the media, but right-wing media heavily promoted it as supposed evidence of widespread voter fraud.

Mark Andrews, a Georgia man the film falsely depicts as committing voter fraud, sued D’Souza and his company, Salem Media; True the Vote and its founders; and the book publisher. Salem Media recently settled the suit. True the Vote also admitted in a separate court case that it did not have evidence substantiating its claims.

Despite the eventual retraction, these bogus voter fraud claims circulated widely in right-wing media audiences — and that was the point.

If it’s June, it’s cancellation season in right-wing media.

While Pride 2023 featured a seemingly endless series of boycotts (Bud Light, Hershey’s, Target, Nike, Jack Daniel’s, The North Face — just to name a few), right-wing media personalities angry at corporations marketing their products to LGBTQ customers had seemed less restrained so far this year. But then they turned their ire on Rachel Accurso, a popular children’s YouTuber, after she posted a brief Pride message on TikTok.

What followed was a series of personalities — including Daily Wire hosts and the anti-LGBTQ account Libs of TikTok — condemning Accurso and telling parents to not allow their children to watch her show.

Accurso stood by her comments in a response to Fox News Digital, writing, “I am a Christian and in the Bible it says the greatest commandments are to love God and love your neighbor. I love all of my neighbors and that excludes no one.”

In case you missed it

  • On Tuesday, The Wall Street Journal published a 3,000-plus-word investigation concluding that President Joe Biden is showing signs of “slipping” behind closed doors. As Media Matters’ Matt Gertz points out, though, the story is comically weak. Furthermore, leading Democrats say the Journal ignored their on-the-record comments praising Biden’s mental acuity.
  • War Room host Steve Bannon was ordered to report to prison on July 1 to service his contempt of Congress conviction. TPUSA founder Charlie Kirk claimed “they’re trying to take Steve Bannon out of the election” and Jack Posobiec responded with “The patriot purge has begun.”
  • Over the course of Trump’s hush-money trial, MAGA media figures and top GOP vice presidential contenders have used similar rhetoric to undermine the case and criticize the jury’s guilty verdict.
  • Media Matters’ Matt Gertz wrote this great piece analyzing how right-wing media don't want to talk about Republican plans to curtail reproductive rights while working to get Republicans elected so they can curtail those rights.
  • Right-wing media baselessly suggest President Joe Biden and Jill Biden are engaging in witness and jury tampering at Hunter Biden’s trial.
  • Right-wing media figures are using a misleadingly edited clip from the Republican National Committee’s rapid response team to claim that during a D-Day commemoration event, Joe Biden is “pooping or sitting on an invisible chair.”
  • Since ProPublica published its June 3 report describing a possible scheme to influence witnesses in Trump’s various criminal trials, national news media coverage of the bombshell story has been sparse.
  • A pro-Trump event in Michigan this weekend will feature numerous speakers with histories of spreading anti-Muslim rhetoric.
  • Right-wing podcaster Patrick Bet-David interviewed Patriot Front founder Thomas Rousseau and perhaps inadvertently showed YouTube viewers how to join the white nationalist group.
  • Over Memorial Day weekend, a series of devastating extreme weather events across America continued a trend of escalating weather extremes. Media Matters’ Evlondo Cooper argues that the urgency of the situation demands a more comprehensive response from national TV news.
  • In the lead-up to the 2024 presidential election, right-wing media are doubling down on deceptive messaging around gas prices to attack Biden — in part promoting a campaign launched by Americans for Prosperity, the fossil fuel billionaire Koch brothers’ conservative political advocacy group.
  • Fox Business has been seemingly profiting from evangelical broadcaster Daystar’s paid programming, which has warned of the “End Times” and declared that there will be “very few survivors of the tribulation.”
  • Google and Apple’s app stores have been hosting an app for Scored, a message board site dedicated to hosting far-right forum TheDonald — which was previously banned on Reddit.