Media Matters weekly newsletter, September 22

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.

Rupert and Lachlan Murdoch

Rupert Murdoch is retiring as chairman of Fox Corp. and News Corp. The company announced on Thursday that he will be named “chairman emeritus.” Lachlan Murdoch, his son, will assume his father’s position as chairman of News Corp. and will continue as CEO of Fox Corp.

As Media Matters President Angelo Carusone pointed out, Rupert Murdoch leaves a disastrous legacy, one of “deceit, destruction, and death.” Over decades, he made billions of dollars through an empire that empowered authoritarians and sowed hatred and fear in the population. There is no doubt that he actively made the world a worse place.

I invite you to read Angelo’s full statement regarding Murdoch’s legacy.

There is no reason to think that Fox’s programming will improve with this change in management. Lachlan Murdoch has held a leadership role at Fox News since 2014. During that time, the network has embraced white supremacist rhetoric, made its toxic (now former) star Tucker Carlson the face of the network, and pushed dangerous election lies and conspiracy theories. Fox’s election denial culminated on January 6, 2021, as Trump supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol in an act fueled by the network’s programming.

Lachlan Murdoch played a massive role in all of this. In his testimony for Dominion Voting Systems’ lawsuit against Fox, Lachlan admitted he weighed in on the “specific direction on both the tone and narrative of Fox’s news coverage” during and after the 2020 election. He further delivered pro-Trump editorial instructions to the network, attempting to keep on the outgoing president’s good side.

After Carlson was fired in April, there was an opportunity for the network to tone down its dangerous rhetoric. Instead, Lachlan said on an earnings call that “programming strategy at Fox News” would not change. He had also lied to investors about partners about the effects of advertiser boycotts of Carlson’s program.

We can continue to expect Fox to prioritize promoting bigotry and conspiracy theories. The new boss is most certainly no better than the old one.

Three fingered alien found

This week in stupid

  • Turning Point USA founder Charlie Kirk said, “I don’t think retirement is biblical,” while calling for cuts to Social Security.
  • Fox’s Jeanine Pirro blamed participation trophies for nationwide violence and murders.

This week in scary

  • Fox’s Laura Ingraham: “There is nothing more damaging to the future of this country” than immigrants.
  • The Daily Wire’s Michael Knowles called for mass arrests at Pride parades and drag events if Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-CO) is prosecuted for public indecency.
  • Charlie Kirk: “If you are in a red state, you should defund every single one of your colleges and universities if they are teaching DEI” or “CRT.”
  • War Room podcaster and Trump ally Steve Bannon called Attorney General Merrick Garland a “purely evil individual” who “will pay for that evilness” in prison.
  • Fox’s Jesse Watters said the intelligence agencies are plotting to steal the 2024 election for Joe Biden.
  • The Daily Wire’s Matt Walsh: “It’s not fundamental to your human nature that you automatically are entitled to have a say over the political system in your country.”

Excuse me?

  • Michael Knowles: “Every single abortion clinic in the United States has a satanic coven attached to it.”
  • Fox’s Greg Gutfeld whined about what he claimed is preferential treatment in the media for Black criminals over white criminals.
  • Fox’s Sean Hannity: “The climate crisis is just a virtuous Trojan Horse for global collectivism.”
  • Newsmax’s Greg Kelly called automatic voter registration “un-American.”
  • The Daily Wire’s Ben Shapiro: Russell “Brand was 30, and she was apparently 16. OK, now, in the United States, crime. In the U.K., not crime. The age of consent in the U.K. is 16. … Scuzzy, scumbaggy behavior? Sure. Criminal behavior? No, if you're, again, in the U.K.”

In case you missed it

  • Fox’s Sean Hannity instructed Republicans to “take a stand” and shut down the government.
  • Fox’s Brian Kilmeade squabbled with House Freedom Caucus member Rep. Matt Rosendale (R-MT) over a potential government shutdown.
  • Steve Bannon called the impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden a “clown show.”
  • Fox’s Tom Shillue suggested that Bob Odenkirk’s heart attack was caused by the COVID-19 vaccine.
  • Newsmax’s Eric Bolling said he ‘personally would welcome” an effort to remove Kevin McCarthy from the speakership.
  • Dennis Prager and the Oklahoma education superintendent defended PragerU Kids after many Oklahoma public schools declined to use the right-wing propaganda.
  • Fox spent more than an hour railing against a Senate dress code change to attack Sen. John Fetterman (D-PA).
  • BlazeTV host Steve Deace railed against rape exceptions for abortion bans, saying “If you put these exceptions in, then any woman can just go in and claim, I was raped, and they’ll abort her kid right away.”

Read more

  • Some right-wing media pundits are condemning hard-line House Republicans for pushing the country toward a government shutdown.
  • In 2016, conservative media argued that being criminally investigated was disqualifying for presidential candidates. They were referring to Hillary Clinton at the time. Now that Donald Trump is facing multiple indictments, they’ve changed their tune.
  • After four women reported that Rumble streamer Russell Brand had sexually assaulted them, several prominent right-wing media figures rushed to his defense, claiming he is being attacked for his political views.
  • After Donald Trump announced that he would institute a 10% tariff on all imported goods if elected president, a proposal that experts say would be disastrous for the U.S. economy, major TV news outlets largely ignored it.
  • Conservative media spent years calling for criminal charges against Hunter Biden. After Biden was indicted on September 14, conservative pundits began moving the goal posts, claiming the charges are part of a cover-up by the Biden administration.
  • Todd Bensman, a prominent anti-immigrant pundit and senior fellow at the xenophobic think tank the Center for Immigration Studies, has appeared on a white nationalist program and at least three QAnon-promoting platforms.
  • Right-wing conspiracy theorist John Solomon inadvertently debunked a prominent pillar in the Republican House impeachment inquiry into Joe Biden.
  • Newmsax has promoted its Rudy Giuliani legal defense fund, which the network runs, at least 50 times
  • Users on a conspiracy subreddit have repeatedly posted antisemitic content, despite Reddit’s rules prohibiting “hate based on identity or vulnerability” and “violent content.”
  • Wide Awake Media, an anti-vax clothing website, is using climate change denial to sell merchandise and spread conspiracy theories on Elon Musk’s X (formerly Twitter).
  • Media Matters researchers compiled this fantastic piece detailing common myths and facts regarding Viktor Shokin, the former Ukrainian prosecutor who accused Joe Biden of corruption.
  • Rumble is widely available on smart TVs and mobile phones through app stores even though the platform hosts content that seemingly violates those app stores’ policies.
  • Kristen Welker, the new host of Meet the Press, failed to set a new tone for the program during her interview with Donald Trump by allowing him to broadcast false claims without pushback.