On One America News Network, three champions of right-wing media -- former Trump strategist Steve Bannon, Project Veritas founder James O’Keefe, and acquitted vigilante gunman Kyle Rittenhouse -- have become focal points of OAN’s take on a traditional conservative victim complex.
Conservative media have inculcated deep fear of persecution in millions of people, claiming social media companies enforcing their policies against misinformation and calls for violence is like the Holocaust, an antisemitic mass shooting by a far-right conspiracy theorist is a generic attack on all “people of faith,” the FBI investigating threats against school board members is a sign that parents who oppose critical race theory will be treated as “domestic terrorists,” and (an annual favorite) there's a war on Christmas and those who celebrate.
Now, OAN wants the same audience to know that if the Democrats can politically persecute Bannon, O’Keefe, and Rittenhouse, they will get you next.
Bannon surrendered himself to an arrest warrant for contempt of Congress after refusing to comply with a subpoena from the House’s January 6 investigation. O’Keefe’s home was searched by the FBI as part of an investigation into a diary allegedly stolen from President Joe Biden’s daughter. And Rittenhouse was acquitted of multiple murder charges at trial after he shot three Black Lives Matter protesters, killing two and alleging self-defense.
On OAN, all three men are simply conservative patriots being politically persecuted by Democrats.
OAN’s attitude toward the legal predicaments of these three men mirrors a common refrain from right-wing media during the many investigations of the Trump administration: If they can do this to him, they can do this to you. And like with Donald Trump before them, there’s infinitesimally little to suggest that Bannon, O’Keefe, and Rittenhouse are simply being persecuted for their conservative politics, and even less to suggest that random conservatives should fear government persecution simply because of their beliefs.
The conservative media industry runs on grievance, fear, and victimhood, and OAN is using these three men to churn up even more resentment.
- On the November 16 edition of OAN’s The Real Story, host Natalie Harp accused the federal “Injustice Department” of prosecuting Bannon as part of “yet another witch hunt.” Harp’s guest, Bannon’s War Room co-host Raheem Kassam, warned Republican officials that “if you don’t think that after they’re done with somebody like Bannon that they’re coming after you, you’ve got another thing coming.”
- Bannon attorney David Schoen told Real America that “every American citizen ought to be scared to death by” his client’s prosecution, and OAN host Dan Ball claimed the former Trump strategist was the victim of “a politically motivated witch hunt.” According to Schoen, Bannon did not comply with the subpoena because he thought he had to follow Trump’s invocation of executive privilege. Schoen claimed that the Department of Justice chose to criminally prosecute Bannon “vindictively, out of revenge, to punish” him. Ball concurred that the Biden “regime” is using the Justice Department “to go after political enemies to get payback.”
- Tipping Point host Kara McKinney linked the murder conviction of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin for the killing of George Floyd to other “prosecutorial attacks” on conservatives like Bannon. McKinney’s disorganized rant, which also touched on O’Keefe, Rittenhouse, and anti-critical race theory parents as victims, posited that these cases are “all related” as examples of “political persecution.” The relation appeared to be that two members of the House January 6 commission, Reps. Bennie Thompson (D-MS) and Bobby Rush (D-IL), were formerly involved in Black radical politics. “So bring this up anytime someone tries to tell you that what's happening to Bannon, and to really the rest of us, is anything less than political persecution,” McKinney concluded.
- On Tipping Point, far-right podcaster Millie Weaver said the Bannon indictment “is the left-wing regime going after their political opponents and weaponizing the American justice system to do so.” Weaver also added O’Keefe to her list of victims, claiming both cases are actually about unnamed enemies seeking “the media hit pieces and the psyops that can result” from their arrests. After extensively lying that left-wing agitators were responsible for January 6, Weaver complained “only the political opponents of the Biden administration” are being subpoenaed for the attack on the Capitol. McKinney complained that the “January 6 political prisoners,” including “military veterans” and “MAGA grandmas,” are being held on “heinous charges” and “force-fed critical race theory,” asking if their plight was “just part of the re-education really that the left is using against you and I, the patriots of America?”
- In Focus host Stephanie Hamill: “It might be James O’Keefe today, but it could easily be me or somebody else tomorrow.” Hamill was speaking to far-right commentator Dinesh D’Souza, a staunch Trump ally who pleaded guilty to campaign finance fraud in 2014 but was pardoned by Trump in 2020. D’Souza dishonestly added that “Republicans would never dream of doing [this] to their critics. It would be unthinkable for example of Trump, or earlier Reagan or Bush, to go after left-wing journalists in this manner,” an obvious omission of Trump’s extensive war on the press.
- Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) told OAN the O’Keefe raid “shows the FBI has been weaponized by the Biden administration, and this gives every American reason to fear the government” and signals the rise of communism in the U.S. Greene said the investigation was evidence that “the Democrat Party is the Communist Party of America” because “this is what communists do in many other countries. They want to silence their enemies, anyone that’s going to reveal the truth,” such as O’Keefe. The GOP representative warned viewers that they will “see these tactics over and over and this is why Americans, you need to get ready. You need to be able to stand up firm against these fear tactics from the Democrat Communist Party, and not allow them to rear this head of communism.”
- Real America’s Dan Ball on O’Keefe investigation: “If we don’t stand up to the tyrants currently running this administration, it could be you or me they target next.” Ball concluded the segment by telling viewers to “remember what 45 always said. ‘They’re not coming for me, they’re coming for you.’ [O’Keefe] was just in the way.”
- Ball: “This is an example of what’s to come. … Like Trump used to say, they’re not coming after him, they’re coming after you.” Ball continued, “Don’t think they won’t come for other journalists, and you, next. They’re willing to literally tear down everything our institutions stand for and use the DOJ and the FBI as a political weapon.” Guest Harmeet Dhillon, who is an attorney for Project Veritas, claimed that “this is an existential threat to the First Amendment and to our liberties and to our future, and every American … should recognize that. It’s loud and clear.”
- OAN guest: “Today it's Kyle Rittenhouse. Tomorrow it’s you." Defense witness and Real America’s Voice employee Drew Hernandez warned OAN viewers that “what they're clearly doing, especially in the mainstream media, is not only are they trying to paint responsible gun owners as the villains, but they're probably even trying to discourage future gun owners from even attempting to buy a firearm to defend themselves, because, hey, we did this to Kyle. We can do this to you.” OAN’s Stephanie Hamill agreed, adding that Americans were watching the trial’s outcome to see if they “have the right to defend themselves” from “Black Lives Matter rioters and looters.”
- Larry Klayman: The “reverse racism” against Rittenhouse was “maybe a lesson for the American people at large too.” Klayman, a right-wing conspiracy theorist, explained that the apparent lesson was “if somebody shoves a gun in your face, don’t take it lightly. Kyle [Rittenhouse] did not.” Klayman suggested that the Biden administration and the mainstream media would only make society more hostile to gun owners, advising people “to exercise their Second Amendment rights, their right to bear arms, because it’s only going to get worse” under the Biden administration.
- Tipping Point’s Kara McKinney: The Rittenhouse trial shows that “the left can set your city on fire” and “have convicted pedos chase you down,” but “if you try to defend yourself against it, you’re still somehow the bad guy.” McKinney continued, complaining to Dinesh D’Souza that “the idea that they can destroy your life and everything with it and you have to sit there and take it and you’re not allowed to have self-defense” is “almost setting the stage” for Black Lives Matter to “destroy our cities and you and I, we’re not allowed to fight back.”
- Revolver News’ Darren Beattie asked OAN viewers to “consider the larger context” of a “vindictive and politically motivated” prosecution and “how fragile this justice system is in the United States and how weaponized it is politically,” despite Rittenhouse’s acquittal. Beattie, a former Trump White House aide fired (and later rehired) for his ties to white supremacist groups, claimed that a conviction would have “destroyed” Rittenhouse’s “entire life over nothing for doing something that, frankly, any upstanding citizen would do, and that is protect his community from rioters and looters,” suggesting that any viewer who would do the same could also face a murder trial.
- OAN host Stephanie Hamill: According to the media, “if you’re happy about Kyle Rittenhouse’s acquittal, you’re apparently a white supremacist too.”