Media Matters weekly newsletter, October 13

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.

Laura Ingraham on Israel and Biden

Misinformation, xenophobia, and grifting: How conservative media responded to Hamas’ attacks on Israel

Last weekend, the terrorist organization Hamas conducted surprise attacks on Israel, inaugurating a conflict that continues to rage. Conservative media responded to the attacks by pushing misinformation and bigotry, in addition to using it as an opportunity to hawk products.

Right-wing media spread the false claim that the Biden administration helped finance the attack by unfreezing previously sanctioned Iranian funds. The source of this lie is a prisoner exchange last month the Biden administration negotiated with Iran. This exchange freed five Americans from unjust captivity while making $6 billion in frozen Iranian funds accessible for humanitarian purchases in a restricted Qatar-based account. After Hamas’ attack, conservative pundits claimed the unfrozen funds were used to arm the terrorists assaulting Israel. And yet, Fox News’ own correspondent, Jennifer Griffin, explained that the $6 billion remains untouched. There is just no evidence for this misinformation campaign. News broke Thursday that the funds have been re-frozen – but that didn’t stop Fox’s Kellyanne Conway from continuing to push the lie.

Not content with spreading false narratives alone, conservative pundits exploited Hamas’ attack to fearmonger about immigrants in the United States. Several right-wing media figures have baselessly warned that Hamas or other “sleeper cells” are lying in wait to attack major American cities. This has long been used as a racist cudgel against Muslim immigrants to America, seen most clearly following the September 11 terrorist attacks. Following the Hamas attacks last weekend, conservative media figures are reviving this narrative. Media Matters’ Madeline Peltz wrote about how right-wing media are embracing 9/11-style Islamophobia in the wake of the attacks.

Using the baseless threat of violence in America, media personalities have also directed citizens to purchase ammo and artillery to protect themselves. Donald Trump Jr. told people to buy an AR-15 and Turning Point USA founder Charlie Kirk said, “Buy guns.” On his radio show, Sean Hannity promoted a self-defense weapon called “Byrna Launcher” to his listeners. Other conservative media pundits also used the attacks to hawk less explosive products. Steve Bannon, for example, used the attacks to hawk Birch Gold and Benny Johnson promoted the financial services group Allegiance Gold.

It’s been a scary week for the world. In the midst of that fear, right-wing media is doing what it does best — selling false narratives, bigotry, and products.

Sean Hannity interviews Robert F Kennedy Jr

On October 10, Fox News’ Sean Hannity hosted third-party independent presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. During the interview, Hannity ambushed Kennedy with an on-air list of Trump campaign talking points and called him “very liberal.” It was a stunning reversal for the network, which spent months praising the anti-vaccine conspiracy theorist.

Prior to announcing his independent candidacy on October 9, Kennedy used Fox and right-wing media at large to promote his Democratic candidacy. Fox personalities seemed happy to oblige. Fox’s Rachel Campos-Duffy called him a “truth-teller,” and then-host Tucker Carlson commended Kennedy, saying he “is one of the most remarkable people we have ever met.” In September, Hannity himself even begged Kennedy to run as a third-party candidate in the general election.

All this praise came to a crashing halt this week as Fox News ended its love affair with Kennedy.

You can find the whole exchange between Hannity and Kennedy here — it’s really worth a watch.

Newsmax on high candy prices

This week in stupid

  • The Daily Wire’s Matt Walsh went on a bizarre rant about the sexuality of babies.

This week in scary

  • Charlie Kirk told his audience to keep firearms to use on “activated” terrorist immigrants and to "bring a gun with you" in public. Kirk also claimed the “vast majority of Muslims” live “in the 1300s” and hold a “medieval worldview.”

Excuse me?

  • Fox’s Laura Ingraham used Hamas’ atrocities in Israel to call for the end of prosecutions of Donald Trump.
  • The Daily Wire’s Michael Knowles fantasized about Trump serving as speaker of the House and then chief justice of the Supreme Court.
  • Matt Walsh: “Everybody promoting decolonization wants to murder civilians.”

In case you missed it

  • Charlie Kirk hosted white supremacist and proponent of scientific racism Steve Sailer to attack Black and trans people.
  • Fox News contributor and former acting director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement during the Trump administration, Tom Homan, appeared on an Adolf Hitler-praising antisemite’s show.
  • Eric Trump is scheduled to appear at a Trump Doral event with a Hitler-promoting antisemite who killed someone. This will be at least the fourth Hitler-promoting antisemite who’s toured with Trump.
  • CNN hosted warmonger John Bolton to discuss Hamas’ attack on Israel. During the interview, Bolton repeatedly asserted, without evidence, that Iran had directed Hamas to carry out the attack and lambasted the Biden administration for its supposed weakness toward Iran.
  • David Gregory on the GOP speaker mess: “How long are Democrats going to stand by in the world of identity politics, and zero-sum politics, and not be part of any solution?”

Read more

  • Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) has spent the last decades functioning as Fox News’ man in Congress. Now, it’s possible he may become the speaker of the House. Read this great piece by Media Matters’ Matt Gertz explaining Jordan’s relationship with Fox.
  • Republican actions in the Senate, especially those of Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-AL) have resulted in many key diplomatic and military vacancies. Naturally, Fox News is blaming the Biden administration.
  • Misinformation widely proliferated on Elon Musk’s X (formerly known as Twitter) in the wake of Hamas’ attacks on Israel. The New York Times revealed that Hamas seeded violent content on X. Misinformation has so extremely proliferated the platform that numerous experts and journalists warn that X is now useless as a reliable source of information in a crisis.
  • Since Hamas’ attack on Israel, X has placed ads for MLB, the NFL, and the Pittsburgh Steelers on verified antisemitic accounts.