Media Matters weekly newsletter, May 10

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

  • Fox did not mention that its source who claimed that migrants displaced vets at New York hotels was charged with fraud.
  • Fox News is on a campaign to undermine the jury in Donald Trump's hush money trial. 
  • Far-right figures promote drinking raw milk.

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This week in stupid

  • Newsmax’s Eric Bolling asked South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem if her book editor was a “liberal plant.”

  • Fox's Jesse Watters gave Kristi Noem a friendly interview to respond to criticism that “you shot your dog and wrote a book about it.”

This week in scary

  • War Room host and former Trump adviser Steve Bannon said Senator Joseph McCarthy “did a fantastic job.” Later in the week, Bannon commented on Trump arresting his political opponents, saying, “The criminals and traitors around Biden, you should be very worried.”

  • Fox News guest Dennis Prager said “this new Ilhan Omar-type Muslim immigrant” has taken over the Democratic Party.

  • Newsmax’s Greg Kelly said Trump’s prosecutors deserve to be in jail.

Excuse me?

  • The Daily Wire’s Matt Walsh: “Should white men just build, maintain, and run their own airport? I’d be quite happy to use that airport, personally. I think most people would actually.”

  • Fox’s Mark Levin speculated that the judge in Trump’s trial is “a pervert.”

  • Fox contributor Sean Duffy said, “The real villain” in Trump’s trial is Judge Merchan.

Fox & Friends Weekend co-host Pete Hegseth holding up the front page of the fake New York Post story claiming homeless veterans were displaced from hotels for migrants

After Fox News promoted a hoax about homeless veterans being “evicted” from New York hotels to house migrants last year, some of the network’s anchors said they would provide more information “as we get it.” That promise was apparently disingenuous: Fox has yet to report that the originator of the bogus story now faces federal fraud charges.

On May 12, 2023, New York Post printed a story that claimed that nearly two dozen homeless veterans were kicked out of hotels in upstate New York to make room for migrants. The report cited Army veteran Sharon Toney-Finch, whose foundation claims to “help homeless and low-income military service veterans in need of living assistance,” as its source. The story became a cause celebre for right-wing commentators seeking to demonize migrants and Democratic politicians. But within days Toney-Smith’s tale collapsed when local news outlets reported that she had fabricated the entire story — the displaced homeless veterans never existed.

A few days ago, federal prosecutors charged Toney-Finch with multiple counts of fraud. They allege that she raised funds for her foundation by falsely claiming to have received a Purple Heart after surviving a terrorist attack and spent the group’s money on personal expenses. Prosecutors also allege that she received “hundreds of thousands of dollars in disability benefits” by falsifying her military discharge paperwork to match her story.

As Toney-Finch’s story unraveled last May, Fox personalities began backtracking on the bogus story, with some Fox figures admitting — in strikingly similar on-air statements — that they had been duped and promised to update viewers with more information “as we get it.”

Yet none of them have mentioned that the “veterans advocate” behind the story is facing criminal charges for fraud.

Disgraced former President Donald Trump is in the midst of his Manhattan criminal trial over accusations that he covered up a hush-money payment to porn star Stormy Daniels in a plot to buy her silence ahead of the 2016 presidential election. Fox News personalities have responded by launching a campaign against the jurors, claiming people are trying to “rig” the jury and that “stealth” potential jurors are hiding their backgrounds to get seated. In the first week after jury selection started, Fox guests and personalities made at least 89 such claims.

  • Fox host Jesse Watters claimed “they are trying to rig this jury” and “they keep throwing” “undercover liberal activists” at the jury selection, saying they’re “lying to the judge.”

  • Fox legal contributor Jonathan Turley fearmongered about “Trojan horse jurors” who are “so motivated by their dislike for Trump that they’re willing to lie on the stand.”

  • Fox’s Sean Hannity criticized Juror No. 2 because of her use of the New York Times and Google as news sources: “I don’t really trust anybody that gets their news from The New York Times or Google.”

  • Fox legal analyst Gregg Jarrett asked of the jurors who said they could be impartial, “How many of those are actually lying with a hidden agenda of getting on the jury to convict?”

One potential juror has already stepped down after media reports about her and other jurors, including from Jesse Watters.

Images of milk

Citation Andrea Austria / Media Matters

Far-right figures are promoting the purported health benefits of raw, unpasteurized milk. Some of the figures call it “real milk,” claiming it could “reverse serious health issues,” and accuse the government of attempting to keep it away from people.

  • Infowars host Owen Shroyer claimed that warnings against consuming raw milk were part of a ploy by the FDA and “Big milk.”

  • QAnon supporter and former Republican U.S. Senate candidate Lauren Witzke: “Imagine drinking delicious raw milk every day of your life and then entering society, only to be offered to pay for an overpriced glass of ‘cashew milk’ in a margarita glass.”

  • QAnon influencer Jordan Sather baselessly claimed that “Pasteurized Milk has never really been healthy to drink.”

Bottom line, don’t let right-wing media tell you what to drink, folks. The Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warn that raw milk could cause serious illness and even death.

In case you missed it

  • Right-wing media dog-pile on Gov. Kristi Noem after her disastrous attempts to clean up the revelations in her new book.

  • The social media and messaging platform Telegram is allowing numerous QAnon and far-right channels to monetize their content on the platform with revenue from its newly launched ads program.

  • The Washington Post fearmongered about the latest projections reported by the Social Security and Medicare trust funds, putting a negative spin on the trustee report despite it showing improved conditions from the previous year.

  • Steve Bannon promoted January 6 organizer Amy Kremer’s run for Georgia Republican National Committeewoman.

  • Right-wing media are attacking a series of new regulations the Environmental Protection Agency issued in an effort to cut planet-warming carbon emissions and other types of toxic pollution from coal plants and some natural gas plants.

  • Following an announced rebrand of Boy Scouts for America to “Scouting America,” right-wing pundits and outlets used the name change as a thinly veiled pretext to push anti-LGBTQ messaging.

  • In a new video, Media Matters’ Alex Novell explains why YouTube bans have backfired.

  • The Daily Wire is suggesting that its new supplement will boost sperm counts and fight “wokeness.”

Correction (5/10/24): Language in this piece has been revised to reflect that Infowars’ Owen Shroyer was not convicted but in fact pleaded guilty to one count of violating 18 U.S.C. 1752(a)(1): “Whoever— knowingly enters or remains in any restricted building or grounds without lawful authority to do so.”