Andrea Austria / Media Matters

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Right-wing media defend Trump’s harassment of judge’s daughter

Following Judge Juan Merchan’s decision to put former President Donald Trump under a gag order ahead of his hush money trial, right-wing reactionary Laura Loomer claimed to have unearthed the judge’s daughter Loren Merchan’s X account, attacking her for supposed anti-Trump content.

Seemingly in response to Loomer’s claims, Trump took to Truth Social to lash out at the Merchans, claiming without evidence that the judge is beholden to his daughter's Democratic political interests.

Now, right-wing media are following Trump’s lead, defending his harassment and pushing their own attacks and smears against the judge’s family.

  • Trump is once again trying to get Juan Merchan to recuse himself from the case, this time by attacking the judge’s daughter

    • Trump pushed claims that Loren Merchan’s X account had a profile picture of Trump behind bars, though a court spokesperson later clarified that the account is no longer hers.  According to The New York Times, court spokesperson Al Baker said that the account “is not linked to her email address, nor has she posted under that screen name since she deleted the account. Rather, it represents the reconstitution, last April, and manipulation of an account she long ago abandoned.” [The New York Times, 3/27/24]
    • Trump has previously sought to get Juan Merchan to recuse himself, but the request was denied — in fact, the New York State Advisory Committee on Judicial Ethics ruled that there was no conflict of interest before Trump had even requested the judge’s recusal. The committee opinion stated: “We see nothing in the inquiry to suggest that the outcome of the case could have any effect on the judge’s relative, the relative’s business, or any of their interests.” [Politico, 8/14/23]
    • Right-wing media have fed into the chain of misinformation regarding Loren Merchan in support of Trump’s attempt to get her father to recuse himself from the case. [Media Matters, 4/3/24]
  • Right-wing media downplayed and defended Trump’s actions

  • Right-wing media downplayed Trump’s attacks on Loren Merchan and her father, saying the former president was “exposing” the judge’s bias in a “perfectly appropriate” way and exercising his “First Amendment right." Conservative figures also drew false parallels to Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and his wife Ginni Thomas, who helped organize the “Stop the Steal” campaign to overturn the 2020 election, which legal experts say poses a conflict of interest.

    • Fox News contributor Andy McCarthy argued that Trump has “a First Amendment right” to claim the trial is a political prosecution. McCarthy stated, “Trump is running for president. He has got a First Amendment right to campaign and he has a right to make his defense. And he may be right or wrong but it is perfectly appropriate to make a defense that this is a politicized prosecution against him and that the judge is biased. He didn't pick any member of the judge's family out of the sky. He chose the one who is a Democratic political operative which is undeniable even if the judge doesn't want to talk about it.” [Fox News, America’s Newsroom, 4/2/24]
    • Newsmax host Greg Kelly argued that Trump is entitled to criticize Merchan’s daughter. He stated, “He is totally entitled to say whatever he wants about the judge, about his daughter, about anything. This is still America, right?” [Newsmax, Greg Kelly Reports, 4/1/24]
    • Newsmax host Rob Schmitt supported Trump, claiming that he is merely “exposing Merchan’s obvious conflicts of interest.” Schmitt stated, “The president has been relentlessly exposing Merchan’s obvious conflicts of interest. To state the obvious, it is simply insane that Juan Merchan is the judge in Trump's criminal case, and it is just the latest departure from blind justice here in the United States.” [Newsmax, Rob Schmitt Tonight, 4/2/24]
    • Laura Loomer downplayed Trump’s comments and argued that Trump wouldn’t have to attack Merchan’s daughter if she simply acted ethically. Loomer stated, “President Trump wouldn't need to attack … the family members of these judges if they actually were ethical and they stopped posting about Trump going to jail … like the daughter Loren Merchan of Judge Merchan has done. … He talked about an article that used screenshots. Yeah. That's really an attack. And they're so overdramatic, these people.” [Rumble, Loomer Unleashed, 3/28/24]
    • Conservative commentator Julie Kelly posted: “Shorter Judge Merchan in expanding gag order to include his Democratic operative daughter: I don't want Trump to use his massive platform to expose the truth about my daughter's lucrative business contracts with Democrats.” [Twitter/X, 4/1/24]
    • Fox host Sean Hannity said on his radio show that there’s a “double standard” between what Trump and Democrats are allowed to say about judges’ relatives. Hannity asked, “Does anybody remember all the threats? I mean, we've had to recently remind people, Chuck Schumer to justices, you know, ‘You pay attention, Kavanaugh, Gorsuch. You won't know what hit you.’ Was that a threat? Sounds like a threat.” Hannity later stated, “Anyway, we'll deal with the double standard.” [Premiere Radio Network, The Sean Hannity Show, 4/2/24]
    • Fox News contributor Jonathan Turley implied that the mainstream media was hypocritical for criticizing Trump’s attacks on Merchan’s daughter when they also criticized Ginni Thomas. Turley stated, “You have this imposition of a gag order, that's not very fair. It is also ironic to see these other channels, because for months they've been attacking the family members, for example, of Supreme Court justices who are involved in political activities. And they’re aghast at the potential for a conflict.” [Fox News, The Story with Martha MacCallum, 4/2/24]
    • Turley later used leftist criticism of Supreme Court justices’ biases to demonstrate that Trump’s criticism of Juan Merchan’s daughter is normal. Turley stated, “Attorneys all the time raise not just conflicts but the appearance of conflicts. Some involve family members. Indeed, many on the left have attacked Supreme Court justices over their family members and their activities.” [Fox News, America’s Newsroom, 4/3/24]
    • Fox host Laura Ingraham outright claimed that it “sure looks like an apparent conflict of interest that the daughter has” while calling the trial a “fraud.” She said, “In Trump's hush money trial, another fraud, Judge Juan Merchan expanded a gag order barring him from talking about family members of the court and of D.A. Alvin Bragg. Now, this comes after Trump complained about what sure looks like an apparent conflict of interest that the judge's daughter has. She is the president of something called Authentic Campaigns. It's a Democrat consulting firm.” [Fox News, The Ingraham Angle, 4/2/24]
  • Right-wing media also attacked, smeared, and criticized Juan Merchan and his daughter

  • Right-wing media misrepresented Loren Merchan’s profession while trying to highlight her father’s conflict of interest in Trump’s case and to push for the judge’s recusal.

    • Fox host Jesse Watters also supported the conflict of interest theory and claimed that “the judge’s family is getting rich off Trump trials” and that “the judge is gagging Trump for pointing out the conflict of interest.” He argued, “The judge’s family is getting rich off Trump trials. And he is presiding over one. And if Trump was convicted, his family financially benefits. And instead of recusing because of the glaring conflict of interest, the judge is gagging Trump for pointing out the conflict of interest.” [Fox News, Jesse Watters Primetime, 4/2/24]
    • Newsmax host Rob Schmitt accused Merchan and his daughter of being politically biased against Trump. Schmitt stated, “The people presiding over them and the people bringing these cases are clearly political. … And then you have a judge, in this case, whose daughter is, this is a part of her job is politicizing this case, and we're supposed to believe that this guy has no — it's supposed to be fair and balanced?” [Newsmax, Rob Schmitt Tonight, 4/1/24]
    • Conservative journalist Paul Sperry repeated claims that Loren Merchan’s firm used social media “to market its connections to Biden while deriding President Trump" and “has used this case to make money.” The post reads: “BREAKING: MSM won't report content of Trump letter unsealed earlier today demanding Judge Merchan recuse himself b/c his daughter's Dem strategy firm ‘has used social media to market its connections to Biden while deriding President Trump...[and] has used this case to make money.’” [Twitter/X, 4/2/24]
    • Fox News contributor Leo Terrell posted: “Attention 75 million Trump's Supporters: Please use social media to get the word out: Judge Merchan and his daughter are TRUMP'S HATERS!” [Twitter/X, 4/2/24]
    • Former federal prosecutor Andrew Cherkasky claimed on Fox News that Merchan’s daughter “is in some sort of feud” with Trump. Cherkasky stated, “Now the stakes here are much higher and the allegations are that the judge's daughter is deeply involved with the Democratic Party. … That feels like a conflict of interest.” He went on, saying, “With all the judges in New York, I don't understand why they can't find a judge who seems clearly unbiased against Donald Trump. They keep putting one up after another with deep issues with Donald Trump.” [Fox News, America’s Newsroom, 4/1/24]
    • Laura Loomer claimed that Democrats are lying that the X account that posted the anti-Trump photo does not belong to Merchan anymore. Loomer stated, “It's not a conspiracy theory, and it doesn't matter how many damn times you and your Democrat operatives want to lie. Your lies are not going to stand. It's a lie. Stop lying.” [Rumble, Loomer Unleashed, 3/28/24]