Media Matters weekly newsletter, May 19

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 it tick. Each Friday I'll go through all the main narratives, craziest clips, and ridiculous moments from conservative media over the past week. If you want this delivered straight to your inbox, subscribe here.

Fox gave their upfront presentation on Monday in an effort to court advertisers for the upcoming calendar year. Protesters and striking writers gathered outside the event in midtown Manhattan. Inside the event the network’s identity crisis was exposed, as it tried to downplay its extremism while also highlighting its major right-wing propagandists. This messaging is as disingenuous as it seems. Even with Tucker Carlson’s recent ouster from the network, and rumors of a prime-time programming shakeup, there is no reason to think the network will change course from being a bastion of conspiracy theories and extremist rhetoric.

Media Matters’ Matt Gertz explained this point well, saying, “Carlson is gone, but Fox remains committed to the toxic propaganda that made him its biggest star.” Fox advertisers will be subsidizing the networks’ profit-motivated extremism.

It’s not just advertisers that Fox is trying to court. The network is also renegotiating its contract with cable carriers. These negotiations and the upfront presentation are coming at a terrible time for the network, as it’s experiencing a significant collapse in ratings following Carlson’s ouster. We’ve told you before how the network is trying to raise your cable bill through increased affiliate fees. This week, Lachlan Murdoch bragged about Fox Corp. demanding the “highest price increases” for these fees in cable. Don’t allow this network to force you into subsidizing its lies and bigotry.

Sign up to to get tips on how to send a polite message to your provider and say, “Don’t let Fox News raise my bill.” 

Sean Hannity hypes Durham report

On Monday, special counsel John Durham delivered the report on his investigation into the investigators of Trump-Russia collusion. The result of Durham’s investigation was two failed criminal prosecutions, one guilty plea, and a lengthy report with little new information. The investigation wildly underperformed the expectations Fox News had spent years inculcating in their viewers.

Sean Hannity, in particular, spent years creating a false narrative that former President Barack Obama orchestrated a criminal conspiracy to take Donald Trump down. Despite having none of his predictions proven true, Hannity still claimed victory on Monday night. Though Durham may have failed to achieve any tangible objective Hannity wanted, he did, as Media Matters’ Matt Gertz explained, “provide Hannity with fodder for hundreds of frothy segments. And for a Fox host who seems to think his viewers aren’t very smart, that’s apparently enough to declare a win.”

Other right-wing media hosts understood Durham’s failure to deliver the results they wanted. Fox host Jesse Watters called the report “a joke,” adding, “This isn’t a real investigation.” Newsmax’s Greg Kelly even suggested that Durham himself be investigated.

In the context of their increasingly right-wing pivot, CNN, however, managed to play directly into the hands of conservative media. The network delivered an exceptionally misleading framing of the Durham report, with host Jake Tapper absurdly claiming that the report “does exonerate Donald Trump.” This is patently false. Nonetheless, right-wing media pundits were ecstatic at CNN’s coverage and amplified it across various platforms.

Last week, we explained how CNN’s business model and ideology are pushing it in a right-wing direction. Between the network’s disgraceful Trump townhall and its shameful framing of the Durham report, the evidence of this warning is abounding.

This week in stupid

Jesse Watters asks "Why did the FBI try to entrap Hillary?"
  • Fox’s Brian Kilmeade claimed that Hillary Clinton “launched the Ukraine-Russia war.”
  • Fox’s Sean Hannity said, “Most Americans don’t want a woke military with electric vehicles.”
  • Fox’s Lisa Boothe complained about Martha Stewart’s Sports Illustrated swimsuit cover. "

This week in scary

  • Fox’s Mark Levin said Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas “should be arrested” and “removed from the public square.”
  • Fox’s Will Cain claimed that President Joe Biden is “seemingly pushing us toward a race war.”
  • Fox’s Jesse Watters said, “George Soros is a villain and the last election wasn’t that fair. Everybody knows it.”
  • Disgraced bully Steven Crowder said, “There is a concerted effort from teachers, and by that I mean Democrats, but I repeat myself, to groom your children today.”

Excuse me?

  • The Daily Wire’s Michael Knowles expressed support for disenfranchising Millennials.
  • Fox’s Jesse Watters floated the idea for a show where old men date young women, saying, “That, I would watch.”
  • The day after Mother’s Day, The Daily Wire’s Matt Walsh attacked single moms, saying, “It’s like an ego trip.”
  • Fox’s Greg Gutfeld said Democrats are lying about the threat of white supremacy to “keep Blacks angry.”
  • Michael Knowles said, “I should be able to discriminate against” polyamorous people. 
Will Cain says Biden is trying to start a race war

In case you missed it

  • Alex Jones said Twitter CEO Elon Musk is “more and more joining our team.”
  • After President Joe Biden delivered the commencement address at Howard University, Fox’s Rachel Campos-Duffy said those students are “pretty dumb college kids” if they believe the country is “full of white supremacists.”
  • Fox’s Jesse Watters said Black Americans should be more concerned about “absent fathers, education issues” than about white supremacist mass shooters.
  • The Daily Wire’s Matt Walsh called LGBTQ teachers “groomers,” adding, “There is no heterosexual person demanding this sort of thing on the other side.”
  • Fox’s Mark Levin said, “Nobody lives thinking the greatest danger to our country is white supremacy.”
  • The Daily Wire’s Candace Owens called “transgenderism” a “cancer,” adding, “We should fight it.”
  • Charlie Kirk said Republicans need to win the White House in 2024 “without the RNC.”

Further reading

  • An upsurge in bloodlust is occurring across the right-wing media landscape as pundits celebrate Florida’s expansion of the death penalty and try to justify extrajudicial executions of marginalized populations.
  • Alex Jones hosted Steven Crowder’s show, flagrantly flouting YouTube’s terms of service. After this, YouTube suspended Crowder’s channel.
  • Last week we reported how Eric Trump's appearance at the Trump National Doral resort with Hitler enthusiasts was canceled after massive criticism. It turns out that Trump’s co-organizer for his current media tour, Clay Clark, has promoted a bizarre conspiracy theory purporting that Jared Kushner was replaced by a clone created by the Chinese government.
  • Incoming Twitter CEO Linda Yaccarino follows and likes political content from an array of right-wing accounts on the platform. Despite the company's upcoming leadership transition, however, Elon Musk continues to tweet racist, antisemitic, anti-LGBTQ conspiracy theories, and to amplify QAnon-supporting figures. 
  • Local Florida broadcast outlets completely bungled their coverage of recently-passed draconian immigration laws championed by Gov. Ron DeSantis.
  • After President Joe Biden delivered the Howard University commencement address in which he classified white supremacy as the “most dangerous terrorist threat” in the country, right-wing media rushed to downplay the scale of this threat.
  • Fox News has been using the end of Title 42 to spread white nationalist “great replacement” theory rhetoric.
  • Arizona Republican lawmakers created a committee that will bring alleged experts to talk about COVID-19. One of their scheduled panelists is an Alex Jones follower who said that “9/11 was an inside job.”
  • Americano Media has been pushing dangerous misinformation about abortion in Spanish.
  • Unlike the other Sunday shows, CNN’s State of the Union failed to cover the jury verdict finding former President Donald Trump liable for sexual abuse and defamation.
  • Murdoch-owned media praised international right-wing politicians targeting George Soros, deploying antisemitic smears against the businessman.
  • On YouTube, anti-LGBTQ bigot Tim Pool baselessly accused an Illinois middle school teacher and an NBC News journalist of being pedophiles.