Right-wing media have seized on the FBI’s decision to execute a search warrant at former President Donald Trump’s private Mar-a-Lago estate as the latest focal point for their extensive attacks against the agency’s supposed persecution of conservatives. Far beyond a healthy skepticism of law enforcement, right-wing media figures are promoting a delusion that the FBI has become solely focused on targeting conservative ideology and politicians.
The FBI searched Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence in Florida on Monday, reportedly in search of classified material that he illegally removed from the White House in January 2021. This search follows the recent revelation that a criminal probe into Trump’s role in the January 6 insurrection has been launched by the Department of Justice. (Fox News ran defense for Trump then as well.) While it is unclear if these cases are connected, or if any criminal charges will be brought against the former president, Trump’s right-wing apologists are already manufacturing a narrative that the FBI is persecuting Trump.
This isn’t the first time right-wing media have made false accusations that the FBI was acting politically in favor of the Democrats, and their allegations against the FBI have become conspiratorial over the past few years. Conservative personalities have claimed the FBI is responsible for several mass shootings, politically motivated bomb threats, assaults on the civil rights, and a litany of conspiracies involving January 6.
Now, with the FBI taking action against the most dominant figure in the conservative movement, right-wing media are mainstreaming previously fringe calls for the agency to be defunded or abolished:
- On Monday night, Fox News host Jesse Watters attacked FBI Director Chris Wray, saying, “Well, Chris Wray has to be fired by the next Republican president. Got to be fired on day one. Don't even wait. Just fire him right off the jump because this guy is so corrupt.”
- Former Trump-appointed DOJ official Jeff Clark told Fox’s Will Cain that “we need to get control over” the FBI, calling it “more out of control than the CIA was when Sen. Church held his famous Church committee hearings. We need the incoming Congress … to do the same thing, to turn the FBI upside down.” Clark’s reference was to congressional hearings in the 1970s, which revealed the extent of inappropriate domestic surveillance operations like COINTELPRO by American law enforcement and intelligence agencies.
- Earlier on Fox, conservative radio host Gerry Callahan claimed that the FBI was working on behalf of the Biden administration, saying, “No one has any faith in the justice system. See, I think what we're dealing with today is, you know, ‘R.I.P. FBI.’ It feels like it's over, that everybody has to understand it’s — they're the partisan militant wing of the Biden administration.”
- Fox host Laura Ingraham focused on the Justice Department’s leadership, accusing them of being partisan actors. She told her audience: “We all see the Justice Department's leadership now for what it is. It's not the image of lady justice operating with a blindfold, but this is a praetorian guard that shields all of those who hold the real power in this town.”
- Later on Ingraham’s program, conservative pundit Victor Davis Hanson outlined a conspiracy theory about the FBI’s supposed role in targeting Trump and covering for Democrats before calling to break up the agency: “I think they should break up the FBI, disperse its bureaus throughout the federal government. It’s got too much power, it's a threat, and it's a danger to democracy.” He added, “This is something like the East German Stasi in the Cold War. It really is. It's an ideological investigative group that is hired out by the left for particular retrieval services.”
- Conservative radio host Jesse Kelly called for the FBI to be “scattered into a thousand pieces and taken into the winds” when Republicans next take power in Washington.
- Right-wing podcaster Steven Crowder called for all Republicans to support getting rid of the FBI: “Any Republican — right now in office or running for office — who does not actively champion the defunding, the dismantling of our intelligence agencies — I will not vote for.”
- Far-right pundit Jack Posobiec: “Do not donate one cent to the RNC until they commit to FBI reform”
- Right-wing influencer Terrence Williams: “What happened to President Trump today is disgraceful and Un-American! The FBI is now officially a corrupt & criminal organization. Defund The FBI, Actually the FBI should be dissolved! Raise your hand if you Agree!”
- Townhall writer Scott Morefield: “Defund the FBI!”
- Federalist co-founder Sean Davis: “After you impeach and remove Garland, you need to eliminate the FBI in its entirety, root and branch, and salt the earth where it stood. It is a corrupt, criminal enterprise that exists to terrorize anyone and everyone deemed a political enemy of the current regime.”
- Federalist editor Christopher Bedford: “The FBI just handed the next president the popular, political justification to disband the FBI and hold its leaders accountable.”
- Right-wing radio host Todd Starnes: “The FBI has been weaponized. Defund and Dismantle.”