Media Matters weekly newsletter, September 15

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.

Joe Biden and the U.S. Capitol building


Andrea Austria / Media Matters

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy caved to Fox News and his extremist caucus on Tuesday by announcing an impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden. Nonpartisan experts and even some elected Republicans have commented that the inquiry lacks any evidence of presidential wrongdoing. Instead of actual evidence, the inquiry relies on resurrecting a discredited conspiracy theory about Biden’s role in the dismissal of a Ukrainian prosecutor during his vice presidency — a conspiracy theory that was thoroughly debunked during disgraced former President Donald Trump’s first impeachment.

As Media Matters’ Matt Gertz explains: “That conspiracy theory is that Joe Biden corruptly pushed the government of Ukraine to fire Viktor Shokin, the country’s general prosecutor, when he was vice president in 2016, in order to benefit his son Hunter, who served at that time on the board of Burisma Holdings, a Ukrainian energy company which they claim Shokin was investigating.”

This inquiry comes on the heels of a Fox News interview with Shokin — an interview riddled with lies and misinformation. Yet, it’s more importantly a zombie disinformation campaign that was first spun by Rudy Giuliani, John Solmon, and Sean Hannity in 2019. Trump regurgitated their conspiracy theories when he tried to condition military aid to Ukraine on Ukraine’s government announcing a probe of Biden. This attempted extortion triggered Trump’s first impeachment.

This disinformation campaign never made sense, and was thoroughly dismantled during Trump’s impeachment inquiry. Yet, like a zombie, it’s come back, now in the form of an impeachment inquiry into Biden.

Elon Musk and Linda Yaccarino


Andrea Austria / Media Matters

This week, Media Matters submitted several hateful posts to X’s (formerly Twitter) internal reporting system. These posts included claims that “Hitler was right” and that there needs to be a “final solution” regarding Jewish people. X told us that these posts don’t violate the platform’s safety policies. The Center for Countering Digital Hate, a social media watchdog, also released a report finding that X had failed to remove neo-Nazi content on its platform in numerous cases.

X CEO Linda Yacccarino has tried to mollify advertisers by claiming that her company, owned by Elon Musk, “opposes antisemitism in all its forms.” But X has repeatedly shown that it cares little about antisemitism and bigotry. In fact, Musk himself has repeatedly shared antisemitic content on X.

Beyond allowing antisemitism to flood the platform, Media Matters’ Eric Hananoki found that X has been placing ads for major brands like Major League Baseball, Bayer, Tyson Foods, and eBay on the account of a white nationalist streamer who uses the platform to endorse the killings of politicians and LGBTQ advocates. The streamer, Stew Peters, also uses his account to attack Jewish people. Eric also found that X has been placing ads for major brands like the NFL, MLB, T-Mobile, and eBay alongside content pushing unhinged conspiracy theories about Jewish people orchestrating the 9/11 attacks.

During the anniversary of 9/11 this week, Media Matters researchers found X accounts with blue check marks posting conspiracy theories about the tragedy. In some instances, those accounts used the anniversary as an excuse to lob hatred at Jewish people and Israelis.

All of this underscores a point we have been making a lot in this newsletter: under Elon Musk’s ownership and Yaccarino’s management, X is a hateful platform that is not safe for advertisers.

Aliens on Jesse Watters

This week in stupid

  • Fox News’ Mark Levin: “We’re making the Earth warmer – and, by the way, why is that so bad?”
  • Fox host Greg Gutfeld admitted there is “zero evidence” for a Biden impeachment.

This week in scary

  • Right wing radio host Jesse Kelly: “We are going to have to impeach every Democrat president when we have the House.”
  • Turning Point USA founder Charlie Kirk: “If you’re a Christian” or a “gun owner, they consider you a terrorist.”
  • Fox's Tyrus promised to assault any trans children he sees competing in athletic events. 

Excuse me?

  • Fox & Friends hosts claimed schools are using climate change and gender identity to control kids’ thoughts and actions.
  • The Daily Wire’s Matt Walsh endorsed deporting American-born children of undocumented immigrants, saying, “You deport everyone, including the kids.”
  • Fox News co-host Kayleigh McEnany accused Democrats of “erasing parents.”
  • Newsmax host Chris Plante: “Maybe we should deprive Democrats of the Second Amendment. That would probably save a lot of lives.”
  • Charlie Kirk: “The only reason to impeach Biden is just for the symbolism of it.”
  • Fox's Laura Ingraham said Joe Biden should be impeached for “changing our country” through immigration. 

In case you missed it

  • After New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham issued a temporary ban on carrying guns in public in certain parts of the state, users of a prominent conspiracy theory subreddit posted calls for violence.
  • Demonstrating its complete lack of journalistic ethics, Newsmax has hired Donald Trump’s daughter-in-law, Lara Trump, to fill in as a guest host on the network.
  • Newsmax host Eric Bolling urged Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) to impeach several members of Biden’s cabinet.
  • Fox host Jesse Watters pushed the great replacement theory, a cornerstone of white supremacist thought.
  • Mark Levin promoted Peter Navarro’s legal defense fund.
  • Charlie Kirk characterized Infowars’ Owen Shroyer as someone who “speaks the truth.”
  • Jenna Ellis, one of Donald Trump’s co-defendants, said that Trump has a “malignant narcissistic tendency to simply say that he’s never done anything wrong.”

Read more

  • Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-AL) has gone on a right-wing media tour to promote his single-handed blockade of hundreds of military promotions. These appearances reveal that Tuberville’s campaign has expanded to a full-throated attack on diversity, inclusion, and “wokeness” in the U.S. military.
  • Right-wing media have erupted in outrage over news that the Biden administration was advancing a deal with Iran to free five Americans unjustly held in that country. Their coverage has conveniently left out instances in which former President Donald Trump exchanged prisoners with Iran.
  • As a new coronavirus wave surges, conservative media are once again spewing COVID-19 misinformation and pushing the idea that Democrats will use the new wave as an excuse to rig the 2024 elections.
  • Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT) commented that some Republican leaders fear their Republican constituents will harm them or their family members if they defy former President Donald Trump. Media Matters’ Matt Gertz argues that this fear is justified and explains the growing threat of right-wing terrorism.
  • This week, as the nation commemorated the 22nd anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, fringe streaming platform Rumble promoted at least three 9/11 truther videos filled with debunked conspiracy theories about the attacks as “Editor Picks.”
  • Right-wing media figures are promoting Sean Feucht, a Christian nationalist singer who is bringing a “spiritual war” to state capitols. 
  • After weeks of squabbling over abortion messaging ahead of the 2024 election, right-wing media outlets are now shifting the narrative away from Republican infighting and toward supposed left-wing extremism on the issue.
  • Right-wing media are attacking the Biden administration for a rise in child poverty, while ignoring the role the administration’s child tax credit plan played in a previous decline — a tax credit Republicans voted to end.