Media Matters weekly newsletter, March 31

Media Matters is relaunching its newsletter - this is the first edition. 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 it tick. Each Friday I'll go through all the main narratives, craziest clips, and dumbest moments from conservative over the last week. If you want this delivered straight to your inbox, subscribe here

Former President Donald Trump has reportedly been indicted in New York. While Trump’s indictment had been looming, conservative media swiftly closed ranks around the former president, scrambling to defend him in the face of a potential indictment. Now that Trump’s officially been indicted, right-wing media is out for blood.

Conservative pundits played the predictable role of Trump stooges and threatened retaliation. They called for revenge prosecutions. They decried an indictment obtained using due process as a “Stalinist, Maoist-type action” and a "legal Pearl Harbor" while also warning that the United States had fallen into a “police state.”

Media Matters’ Matt Gertz points out that Trump has in Fox News a “powerful propaganda apparatus” behind him, blindly supporting him through his personal legal difficulties.

Hypocrisies abound in this case: The movement of “law and order” and “family values” is going to the mat for a private individual charged with alleged business crimes who paid hush money to an adult actress.

Media Matters' Kat Abughazaleh captured Fox's response in less than one minute. Watch here.

As the nation reeled from yet another mass shooting, conservative media were quick to attack trans people in an ecstasy of hatred

Newsmax anti-trans

Monday’s school shooting in Nashville left three adults and three children dead. It is among the 130 mass shootings this nation has undergone so far in 2023. Conservative media are always valorize guns after a mass shooting, and this week was no different.

But right-wing pundits don't care about that. In fact, they're starting to suggest that trans people should not be able to purchase firearms. Like other dark periods in history, they are using the violent actions of a lone person to attack a marginalized community. This time, the fact that the shooter was reportedly transgender has fueled the right’s ongoing campaign to demonize trans people (both literally and figuratively).

Conservative media have been on a relentless and ruthless campaign of spreading hatred against trans people for a long time. And inside the bubble, it's only getting worse.

Fox News and vote ballot over American flag

Citation Andrea Austria / Media Matters

Media Matters has obtained a slide deck used at a recent hearing in Dominion Voting Systems’ defamation lawsuit against Fox News. The deck is full of bombshell evidence obtained in the lawsuit so far.

In one instance, in response to anchor Eric Shawn fact-checking one of Donald Trump's election lies, Fox News CEO Suzanne Scott said, “This has to stop now. ... This is bad business. ... The audience is furious and we are just feeding them material.”

Texts show Tucker Carlson calling former Trump attorney Sidney Powell a “crazy person” and “a psychopath” among various slurs.

Another instance shows a Fox “Brain Room” staffer sending fact checks from Dominion and The Associated Press debunking election fraud claims to production staff. (Click here to learn more about Fox's Brain Room, which was an internal research unit within the company that was often ignored. Longtime readers may remember when the Brain Room cited Media Matters.)

In a text chain, Carlson called election denier Mike Lindell “definitely crazy,” but conceded that he “has bailed us out loads of times when no one else would” with ads.

In an email to Fox executives, Jeanine Pirro’s executive producer said her pre-taped monologue “is rife w[ith] conspiracy theories and bs and is yet another example why this woman should never be on live television.” An internal review confirmed that parts of her monologue were incorrect or unconfirmed, and the network aired it anyway.

Fox Corp. is now kicking off the yearly effort to sell the majority of its advertising space on Fox News and other properties with a misleading pitch to buyers that features some of the top talent who pushed lies about the election and others who enabled them behind the scenes. And moreover, Fox makes most of its money through cable fees – so sign up at No Fox Fee to stay alert for when Fox tries to jack up your cable bill.

This week in scary

  • Newsmax’s Greg Kelly said trans people are “more of a threat” than white supremacists.

This week in Dumb

  • In OAN's latest attempt to impress Trump, the company's CEO dressed up as Elvis Presley.
  • Tucker Carlson said Donald Trump may be “a little bit autistic."

Excuse me?

  • The Daily Wire’s Michael Knowles said, “White people generally are the least racist people on earth. I mean that in a very technical way.”
  • Stew Peters, a pro-violence streamer who has hosted numerous GOP officeholders and Trump officials, says that Trump should “flee” to Russia “before EVER THINKING about peacefully surrendering” and calls for “a Bundy Ranch style defense of Mar A Lago.”

In case you missed it

  • Conservative calls for book banning continue as Fox host Mark Levin declared, “Some books need to be banned.” 
  • The Daily Wire’s Matt Walsh defended “conquest and colonization.”
  • Ben Shapiro said the U.S. retirement age needs to be raised.
  • Sean Hannity instructed Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) to include “defunding the hiring of the 87,000 IRS agents” in the debt ceiling negotiations.
  • Charlie Kirk compared trans people to “homeless encampments,” saying, “It depresses your mood. It brings down your spirit. It makes you feel as if we can't solve problems. We're not even able to issue care. I think it creates a bad standard for our children. It creates a messy society. I don't like any of it.”
  • Steve Bannon described Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine as a “regional border dispute between two Slavic peoples.”

Further reading

  • A 4chan anti-trans hoax about “Trans Day of Vengeance” spread from Twitter to several prominent right-wing pundits, including Tucker Carlson.
  • The Daily Dot reports that a Tucker Carlson staffer has a long history of liking tweets from a white nationalist publication.
  • A QAnon influencer reinstated on Elon Musk’s Twitter launched a conspiracy theory that left a diaper company facing false pedophilia accusations.
  • A transgender teacher was targeted with a bomb threat after being repeatedly featured in Fox News’ obsessive anti-transgender propaganda campaign.
  • Fox News hosted two retired FBI agents to promote their private security companies following the Nashville school shooting.
  • The No Jumper podcast built a following by covering hip-hop and Black culture. It is now mainstreaming neo-Nazis and hate figures to its audience of millions.