Media Matters weekly newsletter, May 31

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Newsmax compares Trump to Jesus

This week in stupid

  • Newsmax host Chris Plante: “I think Joe Biden is probably guilty of the decline in chocolate chip ice cream popularity.”
  • Turning Point USA founder Charlie Kirk: “Donald Trump is all that stands between a pagan regime basically permanently engulfing the country.”

This week in scary

  • Fox’s Jesse Watters attacked “DEI” jurors in Trump’s Manhattan criminal trial.
  • A Newsmax guest called for Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas to be publicly hanged.
  • Newsmax’s Eric Bolling said Judge Juan Merchan “should be tried for treason.”

Excuse me?

  • Newsmax’s Greg Kelly defended Trump’s “human scum” Memorial Day post: “What about when Obama said the N-word?”
  • After he was called a “prophet,” Rudy Giuliani said he feels “a great deal of responsibility as a result of it, and to try to fulfill it.”
  • War Room host Steve Bannon: Justice Alito’s wife “is now on my short list to be VP.”

On May 30, former President Donald Trump was convicted of 34 counts of falsifying business records in a Manhattan courtroom. After two impeachments and four indictments, Trump enters the history books once again, this time as the first former president to be convicted of felony crimes. While this is a sobering moment in the history of the republic, right-wing media responded to the conviction with seeming threats, apocalyptic claims about the future of the United States, and pronouncements that the conviction won’t make a difference to Trump’s electoral prospects.

  • Donald Trump Jr. promised that the GOP will “retaliate” for Trump’s conviction.
  • Newsmax guest Joe di Genova told the jurors in Trump’s trial to be “very careful.”
  • War Room host Steve Bannon: “This is not going to damage President Trump at all.”
  • Fox’s Jeanine Pirro said, “We have gone over a cliff in America,” and “Lawfare is far too soft. It’s far too benign. This is warfare.”
  • Newmax host Carl Higbie said the jurors in Trump’s trial “can never go anywhere without worry about being harassed.”

Right-wing media have spent months delegitimizing this trial. Following Trump’s conviction, they’re continuing their assault on our justice system.

Throughout the duration of convicted felon Donald Trump’s Manhattan criminal trial, figures on Fox News have lobbed at least 220 attacks on the integrity of the judge presiding over the case, Juan Merchan. These attacks have suggested that Merchan has an anti-Trump bias so the “fix is in,” attacked his handling of the case as “supremely biased” and “severely compromised,” and claimed the judge should have recused himself.

Prime-time host Sean Hannity led the charge against Merchan, making 34 attacks on Merchan’s impartiality. Host Laura Ingraham, host Jeanine Pirro, legal analyst Gregg Jarrett, host Mark Levin, and contributor Leo Terrell followed — and notably, five of those figures have legal degrees.

Merchan isn’t the only person involved in this case whom Fox has attacked. Media Matters previously documented the network’s campaign to undermine the jury, and Fox has smeared the lead prosecutor Matthew Colangelo as well. Beyond the scope of this case, many of the judges and prosecutors involved in Trump’s various legal battles have also faced abuse from right-wing media figures.

Bannon and Jones

Citation Andrea Austria / Media Matters

On Tuesday, Steve Bannon appeared on Alex Jones’ show, where he espoused a deranged conspiracy theory claiming that Donald Trump was the target of a planned “assassination attempt.” Bannon’s claim derives from the standard use-of-force authorization FBI agents were under during their August 2022 court-ordered search of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence.

In reality, the FBI agents reportedly picked a date for the search when Trump would not be president, contacted Secret Service in advance of their arrival, and wore white polo shirts and khakis rather than their usual FBI jackets to avoid attracting attention from guests at Trump’s club. None of that, though, mattered to MAGA media. Trump supporters had used the raid to compare FBI agents to the Nazi Gestapo. And when court filings in Trump’s classified documents case were unsealed last week, MAGA figures went further, claiming the FBI search had been part of a Biden plot to assassinate Trump.

This case provides a perfect window into the state of the MAGA movement. As Media Matters’ Matt Gertz writes: “It’s an unhinged echo chamber running on deranged conspiracy theories and wildly overheated rhetoric, aimed at fomenting grievance and seeking retribution, and it’s unwilling or unable to self-correct in the face of contrary facts.”

The fervor ignited by MAGA media’s unhinged claims can have serious consequences, measured in massacres and an insurrection, a shot-up pizza parlor and gym bomb threats, threatened legislators and an assault on an FBI office. And at the end of that yearslong drumbeat, a Trumpist plot to overturn the 2024 election results if Trump loses is looming.

In case you missed it

  • Trump, his family, and his close advisers have embraced influential right-wing prophetic Christian media, participating in interviews on a program that has asserted that Trump has “the anointing” from God and with a figure who has prophesied the deaths of his critics.
  • Tony Perkins of Project 2025 member the Family Research Council is pushing for an “inflexible” anti-abortion stance amid a fight over the Republican National Convention platform.
  • Fox News completely ignored Louisiana’s criminalization of abortion pills.
  • Trump’s plans to make inflation worse are still missing from nearly all inflation news coverage in top newspapers. A Media Matters study found that Trump’s inflationary policies were mentioned in just 3% of articles covering inflation from April 10 through May 14, 2024.
  • As the jury heard testimony and began deliberations in Trump’s Manhattan criminal trial, users on TikTok have been falsely suggesting he has already been found not guilty.
  • Lara Trump, co-chair of the Republican National Committee, invited neo-Nazi collaborator and conspiracy theorist Jack Posobiec onto her podcast to push election denial.