Media Matters weekly newsletter, November 17

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

Elon Musk Free Speech

Citation Molly Butler / Media Matters

On November 15, Elon Musk declared on X (formerly known as Twitter) that a paid X Premium (formerly Twitter Blue) user’s antisemitic conspiracy theory attacking Jewish people was the “actual truth.” This conspiracy theory proposed that Jewish populations are pushing “hatred against whites” and supporting “hordes of minorities” coming into the country. Holocaust denier Nick Fuentes and other figures linked to white nationalism are cheering on Musk.

This is not merely unhinged bigotry — it has potentially deadly consequences. As The Atlantic’s Yair Rosenberg noted, this conspiracy theory is the same one that motivated the 2018 Tree of Life shooter in Pittsburgh.

Musk has rebuilt X around extremists like these, making a concentrated effort to lift up extremism, and even providing financial incentives. For example, a verified X account that has drawn millions of views for posts lionizing Adolf Hitler and denying the Holocaust claims to have been paid $3,000 this year by X. We’ve also exposed how X has been placing ads for major brands like Apple, Bravo, Oracle, and Xfinity next to content that touts Hitler and his Nazi Party. Since that report, IBM announced that they are pulling ads. 

Musk has turned his platform into a friendly place for antisemites. And he has apparently done it because, as Media Matters’ Matt Gertz explains, he “seems to share the views of a garden-variety neo-Nazi.” 

The problem, though, isn’t purely with Musk or X. As Media Matters’ John Whitehouse points out, “It did not take long after the Tree of Life shooting for the conspiracy theory to pop up on Fox News.” Former Fox host Tucker Carlson pushed his own version of the replacement theory in 2021 and was given the green light to continue by Fox Corp. CEO Lachlan Murdoch personally. Carlson went on to push this conspiracy theory in more than 400 episodes.

Numerous Fox personalities and others have followed Carlson’s lead and made the conspiracy theory a core tenet in Republican politics.

Of course, now Carlson effectively works for Musk.

trump fox flag

Citation Molly Butler / Media Matters | Photo credit: Gage Skidmore via Creative Commons

With the 2024 presidential election still a year away, the institutional right is already preparing for a Republican victory. The vision they have outlined is of a more authoritarian Republican president wielding sweeping powers to bend the federal government to their will.

The Heritage Foundation-led Project 2025 government-in-waiting operation features an effort to screen would-be staffers to create, as Axios reported, a “pre-vetted, pro-Trump army of up to 54,000 loyalists across government to rip off the restraints imposed on the previous 46 presidents.” Should disgraced former President Donald Trump return to the presidency, he would use that force to carry out his top priorities of arresting his political enemies, deporting millions of immigrants, and purging the federal bureaucracy and military leadership.

During Trump’s first term, we saw many of his worst instincts — often fueled by what he watched on Fox News or was told privately by Fox personalities — curtailed by other government officials. The Heritage Foundation screening process would filter those officials out, leaving only those loyal to Trump personally and his dark vision of America.

In practice, this means that a second Trump administration would offload more authority and power onto the coterie of Fox News stars and fringe-right figures who surrounded Trump and served as his unofficial cabinet during his first term, with potentially dire potential consequences for the American public and the rule of law.

One thing is clear: The national news media needs to take this threat seriously.

Last Saturday, Trump pledged to “root out” his political opponents, who he claimed “live like vermin within the confines of our country” and want to “destroy America.” It’s a horrifying declaration — one that evokes the unhinged rhetoric of genocidal fascist dictators. The remarks, however, received muted coverage from several major newspapers and broadcast networks. Fox News, naturally, devoted only 4 minutes to the comments.

Newsmax shows lions at the White House

This week in stupid 

  • Newsmax’s Greg Kelly: “They say that Donald Trump is like Hitler, he’s using the same words that Hitler used. Well, Hitler used the word chair, OK?”
  • Fox & Friends freaked out about LGBTQ inclusion in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. This new outrage campaign is spreading across right-wing media.

This week in scary

  • Daily Wire host Michael Knowles said, “Fascism is much, much more progressive than anything that I believe in.”

Excuse me?

  • BlazeTV co-host said the 19th Amendment “should be repealed.”
  • Fox’s Jesse Watters suggested that looters and shoplifters not being arrested is “the establishment’s way of paying reparations without admitting it.”
  • Fox’s Brit Hume: “Worrying about climate change is almost a luxury.”
  • Benny Johnson defended physical fighting in the U.S. Capitol, saying, “Dueling is a good thing.”
  • The Daily Wire’s Matt Walsh: “We would be a better, healthier country if physical fights broke out in Congress every once in a while.”
  • Michael Knowles: “Two men cannot divorce one another because two men cannot marry one another.”

In case you missed it 

  • The Associated Press incorrectly reported that “QAnon Shaman” Jacob Chansley has “disavowed the QAnon movement” as he plans an Arizona congressional campaign.
  • David DePape, who was found guilty of assaulting Paul Pelosi (the husband of former Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi), admitted at trial that he consumed right-wing media produced by Tim Pool, Glenn Beck, anti-LGBTQ activist James Lindsay, and others.
  • Right-wing media are pushing former Fox News host Tucker Carlson as Donald Trump’s vice president.
  • Steve Bannon suggested that House Speaker Mike Johnson resign, saying, “The honorable thing for him to do is just resign if he’s not up to the task.”
  • BlazeTV host Steve Deace acknowledged that the videos of Sidney Powell being interviewed by Fulton County, Georgia, investigators “will be devastating Democratic ads next year.”
  • Laura Loomer said she will “gladly” serve as Donald Trump’s White House press secretary. She also wants Palestinian Americans purged from the government.
  • Jesse Watters suggested a Secret Service cover up at the shooting by agents protecting Naomi Biden.
  • Fox’s Sean Hannity instructed Republicans to shut down the government if they can’t get spending cuts.
  • A Turning Point Action member used a QAnon supporters’ podcast to recruit poll workers in Milwaukee.
  • Former Meta security expert Arturo Béjar detailed how executives at the company ignored warnings that the platform put teens in danger.

Read more

  • Since the October 7 attacks on Israel by Hamas, Fox News has revived its relentless fearmongering campaign suggesting that migrants crossing into the U.S. at the southern border are terrorists.
  • Right-wing media figures have been ramping up their Islamophobia, spreading paranoia about all Muslims.
  • Conservative media figures have been pushing baseless conspiracy theories claiming that President Joe Biden is taking revenge on New York City Mayor Eric Adams for speaking out about undocumented immigration into the city.
  • Conservative media is explaining away the Republican election losses last week by asserting a 15-week abortion ban isn’t extreme enough.
  • Right-wing media figures are attacking House Speaker Mike Johnson after the House passed a continuing resolution to fund the government through the beginning of 2024.
  • Fox Corp.’s Outkick is a hotbed for misinformation regarding COVID-19. Read this great piece by Media Matters’ Reed McMaster to find out more.
  • After two major wind projects that were set to be built off the coast of New Jersey were canceled, right-wing media figures and climate deniers have been making misleading claims about renewable energy as a whole.