President Donald Trump’s media diet is posing a frightening threat to American democracy in the final days of his administration.
The president is reportedly seeking advice and comfort from unhinged conspiracy theorists who are urging him on as he tries to overturn the election he lost, while raging at those who warn against those actions.
In Oval Office meetings over the last few days, he has pushed for state legislatures and congressional Republicans to vote to hand him the election, discussed having the Department of Homeland Security seize voting machines, and even contemplated declaring martial law and using the U.S. armed forces to “rerun” the election.
Trump is listening to the voices from his television set. In the weeks following Election Day, Fox News and its fringe-right competitors, OAN and Newsmax, filled their airwaves with unhinged lies and conspiracy theories casting Trump as the victim of massive voter fraud, refused to admit that President-elect Joe Biden won, and urged him to take action in response.
Hosts from those networks, competing for Trumpist viewers who are unwilling to admit that the president lost, abdicated all responsibility and dove into the fever swamps. They willingly provided a credulous platform for the lunatic rantings of conspiracy theorists like right-wing lawyer Sidney Powell and former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn.
Trump has eagerly trumpeted reports from those networks that supported his lie that the election was rigged. And now Powell and Flynn are being welcomed to the White House, and the president is entertaining their calls for drastic, unprecedented action to keep him in power after he lost the election.
Trump’s media diet has caused harm throughout his tenure as president. The right-wing propagandists he prefers are constantly stoking his grievances and urging him toward his worst impulses. And now, as his tenure in office comes to a close, the options they are bringing to his attention risk shattering our fragile democracy.