How an attack on Trump's trial judge spread to right-wing cable news

One America News spread an unsubstantiated claim about the judge’s daughter to attack the “weaponized justice system,” and Newsmax suggested the judge should recuse himself or “make sure that the case goes Donald Trump’s way”

After Judge Juan Merchan put former President Donald Trump under a gag order ahead of Trump’s hush money trial, unvetted claims from far-right activist Laura Loomer regarding Merchan’s daughter Loren made their way from Loomer’s social media and podcast to Trump and then right-wing cable news outlets Newsmax and One America News.

On March 26, Judge Juan Merchan issued a gag order on Trump ahead of the April 15 trial for his hush money payment case, barring Trump from commenting publicly about witnesses, prosecutors, court staff, and jurors. That same day, Loomer posted an attack on Merchan’s daughter Loren and claimed her X (formerly Twitter) account featured a photo of Trump behind bars; according to the court, the account has not been hers for a year. Trump repeated the attack, and then the judge extended the gag order to include attacks on Merchan’s family members. 

Trump and Loomer’s attacks echoed those made by right-wing media figures including Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump a year ago, when they posted photos of Loren Merchan and claimed that her work for Kamala Harris’ 2020 campaign implied that her father was politically biased against Trump and therefore unfit to oversee Trump’s case. 

Trump’s legal team also tried last year to get Judge Merchan to recuse himself because Loren Merchan is an executive at a digital marketing and fundraising agency that works with Democratic candidates. But the judge declined, citing the determination of a state advisory committee on judicial ethics that Merchan’s impartiality could not “reasonably be questioned.” 

Loomer has been attacking Loren Merchan and claiming to have unearthed her X account, and Trump repeated her attacks

Starting the day the initial gag order was issued, right-wing podcaster Laura Loomer began posting numerous attacks about Loren Merchan to Loomer’s almost 900,000 followers. Along with targeting work she has done for Democrats including Harris and Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), Loomer also claimed Loren has an X account whose profile picture is Trump behind bars; that account turns out to no longer be hers.

Laura Loomer 3/26/24
Laura Loomer 3/26/24

On March 27, Trump repeated the smears about Loren Merchan’s social media account, claiming she “represents Crooked Joe Biden, Kamala Harris, Adam ‘Shifty’ Schiff, and other Radical Liberals.” He also repeated Loomer’s claim about Merchan’s social media account, saying she posted a “picture of me behind bars.”

Donald Trump Truth Social 3/27/24

A spokesperson for New York’s state court system said that the social media account he mentioned “is not linked to her [Loren Marchan’s] email address, nor has she posted under that screenname since she deleted the account” about a year ago, noting that the account “represents the reconstitution, last April, and manipulation of an account she long ago abandoned.”

Newsmax and One America News continued the chain of misinformation by spreading Trump’s and Loomer’s smear on their networks

One America News anchor Stella Escobedo claimed that Loren Merchan posted a photo of Trump behind bars, calling it the “weaponized justice system we’re dealing with” and asking, “Can you believe this?”

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Citation From the March 27, 2024, edition of One America News' Real America with Dan Ball

On Newsmax, host Greg Kelly said Merchan’s “daughter works for a firm that has done extensive work for Kalama Harris and more, and there’s all kinds of interesting online activity that we’ve been talking about.” 

He then suggested the judge should recuse himself or decide the case for Trump, saying: “You have to find a judge that is conspicuously fair, but a conspicuously fair judge would throw this case out in a minute or make sure that the case goes Donald Trump’s way.”

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Citation From the March 28, 2024, edition of Newsmax' Greg Kelly Reports