Media Matters weekly newsletter, May 24

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

  • Right-wing media concocted a Biden assassination plot against Trump.
  • On social media, news outlets gave more attention to Kamala Harris’ use of an expletive than to Trump’s corrupt promise to oil executives.

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Newsmax: "Popular Italian meals don't come from Italy"

This week in stupid

  • Turning Point USA founder Charlie Kirk speculated that “lobster flu” may “sweep over the nation” in the lead-up to the election.

This week in scary

  • Newsmax’s Sebastian Gorka called for political retribution: “We have to root out individuals like Miles Taylor.”
  • War Room host Steve Bannon said a Trump Department of Justice will bring felonies against the lawyers prosecuting him.
  • Newsmax’s Eric Bolling claimed the FBI search of Mar-a-Lago shows that the U.S. has a “tyrannical government that we need to be armed to protect ourselves from.”

Excuse me?

  • The Daily Wire’s Ben Shapiro: Republicans “do not abide by the stupidity that human beings are good as a general rule.”
  • BlazeTV’s Steve Deace: Decriminalizing sodomy “led to the redefinition of marriage and all the other rainbow jihad stuff.”
  • Charlie Kirk: The FBI is “doing the work that brownshirts would do. That’s how you get Auschwitz.”
Image of Trump and Biden on a blue background

Citation Andrea Austria / Media Matters

Over a handful of hours on Tuesday, the right’s conspiracy theory ecosystem concocted a sinister plot by President Joe Biden to assassinate disgraced former President Donald Trump. The fever dream originated from the banal fact that FBI agents received standard instructions on the use of force before conducting a court-ordered search of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence in 2022.

Hundreds of pages of filings were unsealed on Tuesday in Trump’s classified documents case. Some of these revealed that Trump had multiple documents marked “classified” in his bedroom that were discovered months after the 2022 search. While credible news outlets reviewed the documents and produced a wave of news stories detailing the evidence of Trump’s allegedly criminal acts, Trump’s MAGA media supporters ginned up a counternarrative about a credulous reading of a deceptive argument from Trump’s lawyers that was included in the unsealed documents.

The story right-wing media are telling themselves is that Biden schemed to assassinate Trump at the Mar-a-Lago raid. This is both a horrific accusation to make without evidence and is facially absurd. But it quickly spread through the ranks of MAGA influencers, to Trump himself, and then to the Fox News airwaves.

I invite you to read Media Matters’ Matt Gertz’s entire piece to see how this asinine conspiracy theory developed through the circuits of right-wing media. It’s a cautionary tale as we get closer to the election.

Last week we told you about a dinner at Mar-a-Lago in which Donald Trump apparently promised to reverse President Joe Biden’s actions on climate change as he asked oil executives to raise $1 billion for his presidential campaign. After The Washington Post reported on this corrupt offer, several mainstream news outlets failed to post on Facebook and/or TikTok about it. Days later, though, those same outlets posted about Vice President Kamala Harris’ use of an expletive during a health forum discussion.

From May 9 (when the story broke) through May 12, MSNBC was the only major broadcast or cable TV news network to cover Trump’s proposition to oil executives. Additional analysis found that from May 9 through May 16, top newspaper and TV outlets in the largest media markets to reach several battleground states did not bring the story to local audiences, with just one exception. This omission is part of a trend of mainstream news outlets failing to adequately report on Trump’s extreme position, particularly about climate change.

Media Matters then found that a number of mainstream outlets also failed to report on social media about Trump’s comments. What makes this even more offensive is that those same outlets posted about Harris saying, on May 13, that sometimes “you need to kick that fucking door down” when discussing the importance of breaking down barriers.

It’s both shocking and disheartening that nearly nine years after Trump descended the golden escalator at Trump Tower, news outlets are still failing to adequately cover him.

In case you missed it

  • Fox News personalities now claim that January 6 prosecutions are political even though, at the time, many condemned the attack as “deplorable, reprehensible, outright criminal.”
  • Fox News begged for Robert Costello’s testimony in Trump’s criminal hush money trial. It was a total disaster.
  • Trump has amplified QAnon-promoting accounts over 800 times during his first two years of actively posting on his social media platform Truth Social.
  • Russ Vought, a frequent guest on right-wing media shows and key figure in Project 2025, a broad effort to staff a future Republican administration, will have a top role in drafting the platform for the GOP’s convention this July, virtually ensuring the document will be a wishlist of MAGA priorities.
  • After Trump posted a video mentioning a “unified Reich,” his campaign blamed a “random account” but left out that the account is seemingly part of a pro-Trump “meme team” that has ties to the campaign.
  • Right-wing commentator Ed Martin, who was recently appointed to a senior position for the Republican National Convention, has complained about Spanish speakers in the United States and said he is a “big admirer” of leading white nationalist group VDare.
  • Minnesota Republicans endorsed the far-right podcaster Royce White as their candidate for a U.S. Senate seat. White has a history of pushing extreme rhetoric, including lobbing anti-LGBTQ and ableist slurs.
  • Right-wing media figures are twisting the new U.N. casualty reporting to mislead about the death toll in Gaza.