Media Matters weekly newsletter, March 8

Welcome back to Media Matters’ weekly newsletter. This week:

  • President Joe Biden delivered his State of the Union address to Congress last night. Conservative media’s reaction was, predictably, unhinged. After endless accusations that Biden is senile, they’re now complaining he was too energetic, with Fox's Sean Hannity calling him “Jacked Up Joe.”
  • North Carolina Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson’s hatred and extremism is being downplayed in mainstream outlets.
  • MAGA media are framing the election as a referendum on mass deportations.
  • Right-wing media are spreading a conspiracy theory that Democrats are importing undocumented immigrants for their votes.

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Mark Robinson

Citation Andrea Austria / Media Matters

On Tuesday, North Carolina Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson won the state’s Republican gubernatorial primary, setting up an election match between him and the Democratic Party candidate Josh Stein, the state’s attorney general. After rising to fame in 2018 for a viral video of him delivering a pro-gun diatribe, right-wing media embraced Robinson. The bigoted and extremist comments Robinson made both before and after his ascent to state political office are radical even by current standards in right-wing media.

Robinson is a bona fide bigot with extensively documented hatred against the LGBTQ community, Jewish people, and women. He’s referred to “transgenderism” and homosexuality as “filth” and called LGBTQ people “devil worshiping child molesters.” He has called for trans women to be arrested for using women’s bathrooms and argued that accepting gay people will lead to pedophilia. He’s an antisemite who has engaged in Holocaust denialism (calling it “hogwash”) and favorably quoted Adolf Hitler. And he defended Harvey Weinstein and Bill Cosby as victims of a left-wing “plot” while also calling for a total ban on abortion.

While several far-right figures are now celebrating Robinson’s win, mainstream media outlets have been downplaying the lieutenant governor’s extremism.

  • In a recent article, The New York Times completely omitted Robinson’s antisemitism and Holocaust denial and buried his anti-LGBTQ comments at the end of the piece.
  • The Washington Post also omitted Robinson’s Holocaust denial and his comments about homosexuality and pedophilia in a recent piece.
  • The Los Angeles Times, which recently announced layoffs of at least 115 newsroom employees, did not cover the race at all.

Robinson’s views and rhetoric are increasingly becoming the norm rather than the exception in today’s conservative politics. As we approach this year’s election, mainstream media outlets must do a better job of informing their readers about the candidates seeking elected office.

Former president Donald Trump pointing at the camera, offset from center against a grainy red background

Citation Molly Butler / Media Matters | Photo credit: Gage Skidmore via Creative Commons

As the twice impeached, four-times indicted former President Donald Trump becomes the GOP’s presumptive nominee for president, his allies in MAGA media are framing the upcoming general election as a referendum on mass deportations of undocumented immigrants.

It’s no secret that Trump favors a draconian deportation policy. Since his Super Tuesday wins, Trump’s media allies have been echoing this position. Former Trump administration advisor Stephen Miller, for example, tweeted, “Tonight, Republican primary voters sent a clear message to the millions of illegal aliens Biden has resettled across America: you are going back home.” Legal commentator Mike Davis retweeted the post.

War Room host and former Trump administration adviser Steve Bannon said, “We are going to deport 10 million illegal alien invaders, have no right to be in this country, no right.” Days earlier, Bannon declared, “Mass deportations are going to start, if you don’t like that, then don’t vote for President Trump.”

On Gettr, Bannon reiterated that the general election would be a referendum on mass deportations. One user comment in his replies stood out, suggesting deportations won’t go far enough for some MAGA audiences: “If we start shooting them they will leave on their own, cheaper and quicker.”

Newsmax on Cookie Monster

This week in stupid

  • Newsmax host Rob Schmitt criticized Cookie Monster for “spewing Joe Biden’s political talking points.”
  • Lara Trump: “We are the counterculture now. It is cool now to be a conservative.”

This week in scary

  • War Room host Steve Bannon: Migrants have “zero rights.”
  • Article III Project’s Mike Davis said there will be “Hamas riots to scare the hell out of Republican voters” on Election Day.
  • Fox’s Laura Ingraham claimed Democrats are preparing to fabricate “just enough votes” to steal the presidential election.

Excuse me?

  • A Fox & Friends diner guest said she’d never vote for a woman and that Nikki Haley is “probably menopausal.”
  • Fox’s Sean Hannity suggested that Democrats support “amnesty” for migrants in exchange for electoral support.
  • Fox’s Mark Levin: “You’re gonna have an abortion. Is it that much of a burden to go to another state?”

Citation Media Matters / Andrea Austria

Always on the search for enemies, right-wing media took aim at Cookie Monster this week (yes, you read that right). Though the beloved educational program Sesame Street has often been the subject of right-wing media ire, their focus on the comical overeating puppet this week was particularly strange.

The saga began on March 4, when the official X account for everyone’s favorite gluttonous children’s character complained about shrinkflation. The White House’s own official account responded later in the afternoon. Then at a White House event the next day, President Joe Biden further chimed in on shrinking product sizes, citing Cookie Monster’s observation that cookies are getting smaller.

While a reasonable person may see this as a light way of pointing out the serious reality of corporate price gouging, right-wing media took to their battle stations, warning of a conspiracy between Biden and Sesame Street.

  • On Newsmax, CPAC Now host Mercedes Schlapp said Cookie Monster is “now a Democrat.”
  • Fox News anchor Dana Perino said Fox host Jesse Watters should do “an investigation” into who operates, and is “being political” with, the Cookie Monster X account.
  • Fox anchor Maria Bartiromo accused the Biden administration of coordinating with Cookie Monster’s X account, declaring that “I’m not buying that the Cookie Monster is an independent.”

In case you missed it

  • The most recent episode of 60 Minutes features an interview with Moms for Liberty co-founders. It was such a disaster that the organization’s allies are scrambling to do damage control.
  • Most TV news networks failed to mention the role of climate change in Texas’ largest wildfire on record.
  • Fox News spent just 12 minutes covering the “flour massacre” in Gaza while CNN and MSNBC spent a combined four hours.
  • Tens of millions of Americans are inundated by credit card junk fees. Right-wing media are now rallying to defend this price gouging.
  • Donald Trump has continued to lie that the 2020 election was rigged.
  • Fox News lobbied for elements of a recent bipartisan border bill. After Trump issued his marching orders, the network went into overdrive to kill it.
  • Bills protecting IVF have overwhelmingly passed the Alabama legislature following the state’s supreme court ruling on frozen embryos. Mainstream news outlets have repeatedly omitted crucial details in their coverage of this legislation, including that the bills seem to conflict with the Alabama Constitution.
  • Conspiracy theorists and right-wing influencers are attributing unprecedented wildfires in Texas to a government attack using so-called directed energy weapons, while others say the fires were an act of “retaliation” from the federal government motivated by an ongoing stand-off over migration at the state’s southern border.
  • In a new Media Matters video, Abbie Richards explains why TikTok is becoming a playground for absurd AI-generated conspiracy theories.
  • Fox News has been spreading a false claim that President Joe Biden is making the U.S. “energy dependent” on foreign countries. In reality, the U.S. is producing more energy than ever before.
  • Media Matters’ Matt Gertz wrote this great piece arguing that Trump’s takeover of Fox News is complete.
  • YouTube is allowing right-wing creators with millions of subscribers to misgender and deadname trans people on its platform — and monetizing that content through advertising.
  • Right-wing media made sure Nikki Haley never stood a chance. Media Matters’ Bobby Lewis wrote this fantastic piece explaining how.