Right-wing media have sprung into action following the FBI’s reported seizure of top secret documents from former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort, with Fox News and other right-wing outlets defaming public officials and spreading lies about the legal basis of the search, while painting a lurid picture of government conspiracies and looming totalitarianism. Having whipped their audience into a frenzy, the next step in this propaganda campaign now resembles a mafia protection racket to scare people out of any further investigations.
FoxNews.com ran an article featuring direct comments from Donald Trump responding to the fallout of the FBI search of his residence. The title of the piece was, “Trump ‘will do whatever’ he can to ‘help the country’ after FBI raid: ‘Temperature has to be brought down.’” Far from helping to bring down the “temperature” of the public debate, Fox has just promoted Trump’s veiled threats that his supporters will carry out more political violence against federal law enforcement — as he simultaneously worked to stir them up to even more bedlam — unless the Justice Department stops investigating him.
The story was also given prominent placement on the front page of the Fox News website, with an additional tagline noting that the country is now in a “very dangerous time.”
Last week, an armed Trump supporter attacked the FBI field office in Cincinnati, Ohio, before he was eventually killed in a shootout with police. The assailant was reportedly an active poster on Trump’s Truth Social platform, where he called for federal agents to be killed “on sight” after the Mar-a-Lago news broke. In addition to that direct attack on the FBI, over the weekend a crowd of heavily armed Trump supporters held a protest outside another FBI field office in Phoenix, Arizona, with their weapons clearly visible.
The FBI and Department of Homeland Security have issued an internal intelligence bulletin to law enforcement agencies noting “an increase in violent threats posted on social media against federal officials and facilities.”
Against this backdrop, Trump announced via FoxNews.com that the country “is in a very dangerous position,” blaming not only the Mar-a-Lago search but also previous investigations against him for the situation. “There is tremendous anger, like I’ve never seen before, over all of the scams, and this new one — years of scams and witch hunts, and now this.”
Trump also repeatedly referred to the warranted search of his home as a “break in,” as well as a “sneak attack,” all of which he said has caused “tremendous anger in the country — at a level that has never been seen before, other than during very perilous times.” (In fact, the FBI agents showed up with a warrant, following a drawn-out process of negotiations that had involved an initial subpoena, as well as false statements by Trump’s legal team that all relevant materials being sought by the FBI had already been returned.)
Obviously, this is not a man who is trying to lower the “temperature” of the discourse. Instead, the Fox article spread his barely-veiled threats of what might happen next. “People are so angry at what is taking place,” Trump is quoted. “Whatever we can do to help — because the temperature has to be brought down in the country. If it isn’t, terrible things are going to happen.”
He then added: “The people of this country are not going to stand for another scam.”
The article also received TV coverage on Fox News, with Trump’s former Acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker appearing on The Faulkner Focus to offer the classically disingenuous phrasing that “obviously” political violence is wrong. “But I want to remind everyone,” he said, this was really the FBI’s fault for searching Mar-a-Lago.
Trump’s current rhetoric must also be viewed in context alongside his long history of legitimizing violence by his supporters, and blaming the targets of said violence for supposedly having provoked their grievances. Most notably, in the days leading up to the January 6 insurrection, Trump publicly urged then-Vice President Mike Pence to unilaterally refuse to count the Electoral College votes for Joe Biden. At a rally in Georgia, Trump issued a vague threat against Pence, “Of course, if he doesn’t come through, I won’t like him as much.” (After Pence refused to follow this unconstitutional order, Trump privately approved of the rioters who were then chanting to “Hang Mike Pence,” and has since publicly defended them.)
Following the failure of his coup attempt, Trump continued to justify his supporters who had attacked the Capitol. As the Capitol was still being cleared out following the attack, Trump sent a tweet at 6:01 p.m., reasserting his lies about the election and praising the insurrectionists: “These are the things and events that happen when a sacred landslide election victory is so unceremoniously & viciously stripped away from great patriots who have been badly & unfairly treated for so long. Go home with love & in peace. Remember this day forever!”
Everyone should indeed remember what Trump has done before, and in turn recognize what Trump and Fox News are doing now.