Media Matters weekly newsletter, October 6

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.

On Tuesday, Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) was ousted from his job. Led by Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), the House of Representatives voted 216-210 to remove McCarthy from the speakership. It was a humiliating defeat for a speaker who began his tenure in disarray (it took 15 ballots for him to get the job back in January) and showed the power of extremist members inside the House Republican caucus.

After the coup, some notable pockets of pro-Gaetz sentiment sprouted. January 6 coup plotter and former Trump strategist Steve Bannon celebrated McCarthy's ouster and Newsmax's Greg Kelly said " I admire what Matt Gaetz did." Notwithstanding a few supporters, though, conservative media personalities, on the whole, launched an aggressive campaign condemning Gaetz and his fellow conspirators:

  • Fox News’ Newt Gingrich called those Republicans who voted against McCarthy “traitors” and demanded they be primaried in the next election.
  • Fox Business host Dagen McDowell compared Gaetz to a toddler “eating toilet paper, shoving Cheerios up his nose to get attention.”
  • Fox News contributor Trey Gowdy called Gaetz “dangerous for the Republican Party.”
  • Wall Street Journal editorial board member Kimberley Strassel claimed Gaetz and his allies “are about to join with Democrats to torpedo the GOP.”

Shortly after the dust settled, a name began to emerge as a potential successor to McCarthy: disgraced former President Donald Trump. Though Trump's potential nomination was floated widely in conservative media and in the House Republican caucus, Trump himself endorsed Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) on Thursday. 

Whatever the eventual outcome, this week has shown a strained yet enduring relationship between right-wing media and Republican politicians. As McCarthy gave his farewell speech, Fox News gave Gaetz airtime to solicit donations.

Stew Peters on WJLA

Stew Peters appearing during a sponsored segment on the September 19, 2023, edition of WJLA's Good Morning Washington

At least 16 Sinclair Broadcasting Group television stations ran sponsored gold investment segments featuring white nationalist and antisemitic streamer Stew Peters from May through September this year. After discovering this, Media Matters’ Eric Hananoki reached out to a Sinclair spokesperson who told Media Matters: “We were not aware of the association and are reviewing our internal policies on sponsored content. The segment in question is no longer on our air.”

Peters hosts a show on Rumble and frequently pushes for the death of his perceived enemies, including advocating for the execution of people who have backed the COVID-19 vaccines, journalists, Taylor Swift, politicians, and LGBTQ advocates. He promotes bizarre conspiracy theories related to QAnon, Pizzagate, 9/11, the Maui wildfires, the Uvalde and Sandy Hook shootings, and is, additionally, a flat earther.

I asked Eric to explain this saga. This is what he told me:

“Sinclair viewers across the country, in places like Washington, D.C., and Las Vegas, Nevada, were shown a sponsored segment featuring Stew Peters as a supposed financial expert telling them they need to buy gold. There are a lot of problems with this: Peters is a white nationalist and antisemite. He also calls for the executions of journalists, LGBTQ advocates, and politicians. And he’s not a financial expert — far from it. He’s an extremist who pushes far-right conspiracy theories, including that the Earth is actually flat. The segment also touted his widely debunked COVID-19 conspiracy theory film Died Suddenly.”

It’s troubling, to say the least, that someone like Peters was allowed to infiltrate local news stations.

King Biden on Newsmax

This week in stupid

  • Fox’s Jesse Watters claimed President Joe Biden framed Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) for corruption in order to funnel F-16 fighter jets to Turkey and grant Sweden NATO membership.

This week in scary

  • Fox's Greg Gutfeld said “elections don't work” and called for civil war.
  • BlazeTV host Steve Deace claimed he is “disappointed” Donald Trump “wasn’t more of an authoritarian when he was president.”
  • Turning Point USA’s founder Charlie Kirk referred to Democrats as “maggots, vermin, and swine.”
  • The Daily Wire’s Michael Knowles: “Any elementary school teacher that foists this LGBT propaganda on little kids should be arrested.”

Excuse me?

  • Ben Shapiro complained that Sen. Laphonza Butler (D-CA), the former head of EMILY’s List who was appointed this week following the death of longtime Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), is “a lesbian Black woman who leads an organization devoted to abortion.”
  • Bigoted bully Steven Crowder insulted Butler’s name, saying, “Laphonza means nothing. It’s something that African Americans, Black Americans make up.”
  • Charlie Kirk called Butler “the high priestess of the oppression Olympics.”
  • Michael Knowles: “Trump should violate this gag order” in his New York civil fraud trial after he attacked members of the judge’s staff on social media.
  • Fox's Mark Levin defended Trump's claim that immigrants are poisoning the blood of this country. 

In case you missed it

  • Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-NY) blundered by pulling a fire alarm in a House office building last weekend. Right-wing media spun itself into an absurd campaign comparing him to January 6 insurrectionists.
  • The National Republican Congressional Committee shared a 4chan-style post on X (formerly known as Twitter) mocking Bowman.
  • A judge issued a gag order against Donald Trump after he posted a photo of the judge’s clerk and described her as Sen. Chuck Schumer’s (D-NY) “girlfriend.” Fox News hosts Jesse Watters and Jeanine Pirro responded by insinuating that it might be true.
  • MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell said his lawyers in defamation lawsuits have dropped him after he stopped paying them. 
  • An antisemitic right-wing personality used his Fox News appearance to promote his blog filled with misogynistic dating advice.
  • Fox anchor Martha MacCallum and anti-renewable energy activist Michael Shellenberger defended the widely debunked statements Trump made about whales and offshore wind farms at a recent campaign rally.
  • A Barstool Sports podcast launched a sexist attack on Taylor Swift.

Read more

  • Right-wing media are setting the stage for the next Republican president to commit mass atrocities against migrant families. As Media Matters’ John Knefel writes, “The anti-immigrant rhetoric in right-wing media has, if anything, become even more extreme since his [Donald Trump’s] first campaign.”
  • Right-wing media disgustingly smeared California Senate appointee Laphonza Butler with a litany of baseless and bigoted attacks.
  • Donald Trump’s Fox News propagandists have been rallying to his defense during the first week of New York State Attorney General Letitia James’ $250 million civil fraud suit against him.
  • After a judge ruled that Donald Trump defrauded the public for decades, Fox News personalities falsely claimed it's a victimless crime. 
  • Conspiracy theorist Alex Jones and his Infowars media network have spent years using rhetoric of religious warfare to build an audience, embracing a fusion of fringe, right-wing conspiracy theories with evangelical rhetoric. Read this great piece by Media Matters’ Noah Dowe.
  • Conservative media have been dismissing the notion of Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin entering the Republican presidential campaign as “nonsense.”
  • Fox Corp.’s OutKick hosts have rushed to defend Russell Brand and Mel Tucker from reports of sexual misconduct.
  • A conspiracy subreddit is full of anti-LGBTQ rhetoric, despite the fact that Reddit’s rules prohibit such content.
  • Oil giant Shell is working with creators of the popular video game Fortnite to promote its premium gas, seeking to humanize the products despite their impacts on driving climate change.
  • Right-wing media figures are aghast that the 14th Amendment might prevent Donald Trump from being put on ballots in 2024. They’ve also spent years defending a fringe and unconstitutional legal theory to keep Trump in power.