Angelo Carusone: After FBI search for top-secret documents at Mar-a-Lago, right-wing media have been preparing their audience for a call to action

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Citation From the August 13, 2022, edition of MSNBC's Yasmin Vossoughian Reports

LINDSEY REISER (GUEST ANCHOR): It didn't take long after Donald Trump's intense reaction to the FBI search of his home for his base and right-wing media to echo his outrage and stand behind him.


REISER: Let's bring in Angelo Carusone, political media expert and president and CEO of Media Matters for America. What did you see in the reaction on right-wing media that struck out to you the most this week?

ANGELO CARUSONE: Two things. One, that they immediately started by poisoning the well, right? Which is to delegitimize the entire operation itself and to tap into that sort of cauldron of conspiracy and concern and venom that the right has sort of manufactured around the FBI, that sort of deep state conspiracy. That was the first thing.

And the second thing that stuck out at me is actually kind of really disturbing and scary. And that's that, they were using the word tyranny a lot. And that's not unusual, you know, to generalize it. But they kept pointing to the FBI specifically as the tip of the spear of bringing about tyranny.

And when you think about one of the big narratives, if you're a right-wing media consumer – part of the reason why they push this idea that, oh, the Second Amendment is so important, you need to get as many guns as you can is that it's the one way that you defend yourself against tyranny.

And those are the things that stuck out – poisoned the well, tap into that cauldron of deep state venom. But that second thing, that tyranny argument was kind of like a preparation to a call to action. And that's the thing I think that I'm pretty concerned with.

REISER: One thing that stuck out to me was these calls for the releasing of the documents, even though Trump and his lawyers had them and could have done that at any time. And there was so much, so many questions about how legit this could be. And we need more information. Do you get the sense, though, that the rhetoric cooled at all after AG Garland came out? Nobody thought he would come out and have that press conference, but he did. Did the rhetoric cool at all after that?

CARUSONE: No, it got hotter, actually. They sort of used that – they used his own presence, as now they put him front and center. So that allowed them to keep playing that clip on a loop. And then to your point, just taking all the questions that they had initially and just now pushing them back on him, saying that he was running damage control, that he was the face of all of this. In fact, one of the things that was disturbing is that they started to use that press conference as a proof point, which wasn't really, for their original claims that this was sort of a Joe Biden, Merrick Garland operating in cahoots to take out Donald Trump in a political way. So they've actually attacked Merrick Garland more. And by extension, they've sort of made the argument that he's really got his hands on the reins here in a much more intense way. So they've ratcheted it up, not down.

REISER: What have we seen in terms of information that was released about the FBI agents involved in the search, the judge who signed off on this search — what was covered about them in the media? And did that have a direct impact on threats that were out there?

CARUSONE: Definitely. One of the things that the right exploited was this sort of like extremely loose connection to Epstein, which a lot of figures do. Of course, what they didn't talk about is that that judge was also a frequent guest on Newsmax that often criticized Hillary Clinton. You know, that never got mentioned as an example.

But instead, they actually tried to make the argument that somehow this was, again, another data point to prove into this deep state conspiracy. Fox News even went so far as to air a doctored image of the judge on Jeffrey Epstein's plane. Totally fabricated. It was a complete hoax, it was pretty obvious, but they aired it anyway, sort of throwing more gasoline onto that fire.

And that's all they need to do. And I think that's the thing I would just impress on everyone is that if you are a right-wing media consumer, you're looking through these events through a pretty foggy lens, but you have a fairly large amount of narrative to back up behind that. And that narrative is that there is a deep state plot to take out Donald Trump. All of these people are corrupt. So all these little touchstones are they're going to use to reinforce that.