Media Matters weekly newsletter, March 29

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

  • The Republican nominee running for North Carolina’s superintendent of public schools worked for a group that promoted school shooting, 9/11, and Hitler conspiracy theories.
  • Ronna McDaniel’s swift ouster from NBC illustrates a crisis in Republican politics.
  • Right-wing figures spread conspiracy theories about the Francis Scott Key Bridge collapse.

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Michele Morrow, the Republican nominee to be North Carolina’s superintendent of public schools, is a QAnon conspiracy theorist with an extensive history of making far-right remarks. According to a new Media Matters report, though, she also spent years working for a group that has spread extreme conspiracy theories.

Morrow was the spokesperson for Liberty First Grassroots, a North Carolina-based political action committee. This group has spread conspiracy theories claiming that the “deep state” is behind school shootings; 9/11 was an inside job; former President Barack Obama has a “Hitler blood line” because “allegedly Hitler is Obama’s grandfather”; elites drink the blood of children; and public schools are part of a “plan set up by the Illuminati to mold the brains of our children.”

Morrow has credited the group with being an integral part of her political journey and has touted her work with Liberty First Grassroots in media interviews as a candidate. Moreover, the group has endorsed Morrow and organized support for her campaign.

The far-right and extremist views of Liberty First Grassroots have so far gone largely unreported in the media. I invite you to read Media Matters’ entire report here.

Ronna McDaniel

Citation Andrea Austria / Media Matters

A bizarre saga unfolded last week as NBC hired and then swiftly fired former Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel over the course of just a few days. It was a complete embarrassment for the network, but the incident also points to an important political crisis the Republican Party has caused.

News outlets that historically host commentators to present views of both parties have faced a problem ever since the now-twice-impeached, four-times-indicted former President Donald Trump descended a golden escalator to announce his first campaign in 2015. His dishonesty, bigotry, corruption, and authoritarianism were unique in recent American politics, meaning that networks or newspapers which wanted a pro-Trump voice had to make their peace with hiring someone who would inevitably deceive their audiences. This crisis reached a new level with Trump’s attempted coup following his 2020 election loss.

Trumpian networks have no problem with this — in fact, it’s a necessary part of success in today’s Republican politics to pledge complete fealty to Trump’s lie that the 2020 election was rigged and support his efforts to overturn the result. For outlets that attempt to deliver actual news, however, this is an inherent paradox: Anyone they hire who would accurately represent the views of the GOP is by definition someone who will lie to their viewers about the 2020 election — and they will inevitably support a future Trump attempt to overturn the results of the 2024 vote.

NBC learned this lesson the hard way this week. And despite faux outrage from Fox News over McDaniel’s swift ouster, more credible news outlets must make a choice. As Media Matters’ Matt Gertz writes:

“They must decide whether they want to prioritize paying to air the views of the Republican Party or supporting democracy. A world where you could do both because both major political parties support democracy would be preferable. But thanks to the choices Republicans and their Fox propagandists made, that isn’t the world we live in.”

Newsmax: "Woke Weed"

This week in stupid

  • Turning Point USA founder Charlie Kirk tried to link P. Diddy’s arrest to the crimes of Jeffrey Epstein and the recent resignations of two Republican members of Congress.
  • Fox’s Greg Gutfeld suggested that China is sending people to South America to sneak through the border and become squatters in America.

This week in scary

  • Fox’s Mark Levin: “We’re facing the second Muslim crusade.”
  • War Room host Steve Bannon said they will jail “demonic” Democrats if Trump wins a second term.
  • Trump insider Mike Davis: “I’m going to be Trump’s viceroy of D.C. because I don’t like democracy.”

Excuse me?

  • The Daily Wire’s Matt Walsh: “I honestly believe that we should legally bring back medieval-style torture methods for certain criminals.”
  • Newsmax host Rob Schmitt: “There’s so many people in this economy that, when it comes down to it, are probably not worth $20 an hour.”
  • The Daily Wire’s Michael Knowles: “I think divorce should basically be outlawed.”
Ship crashing into the Francis Scott Key Bridge

Citation Andrea Austria / Media Matters

On March 26, a cargo ship struck the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore, causing the bridge to collapse. Following the tragedy, right-wing media figures baselessly claimed that the incident was a terrorist or cyber attack.

  • Infowars host and prolific conspiracy theorist Alex Jones claimed the collision “looks deliberate” and that “WW3 has already started.”
  • Conspiracy theorist Lara Logan suggested the bridge collapse was a “cyber attack” and claimed that “they are going to have a hard time selling this one as an accident to those who know how these things are done.”
  • Right-wing podcaster Benny Johnson suggested the bridge may have collapsed due to terrorism.

Other right-wing media figures used the bridge collapse to continue their crusade against diversity initiatives and “open borders.”

  • Fox News anchor Maria Bartiromo suggested the collapse could be due to a “wide open border.”
  • Right-wing conspiracy theorist and MAGA troll Jack Posobiec shared a meme suggesting the collapse was caused by DEI.
  • On Newsmax, Victor Davis Hanson blamed the bridge collapse on diversity hires.

In case you missed it

  • Right-wing media have relentlessly been pushing a panic over a purported nationwide squatting pandemic. Media Matters Matt Gertz analyzes the issue and explains how this freakout shows how the conservative media ecosystem operates.
  • Right-wing and far-right media are throwing their support behind Candace Owens amid her antisemitism and departure from The Daily Wire.
  • The American Conservative, a right-wing blog and Project 2025 partner, published an article advocating to repeal the 22nd Amendment so that Trump would be able to serve a third term.
  • Fox News has mostly ignored Trump’s plan for mass deportations, airing just two segments about the plan since his February 29 trip to the border.
  • In the week since the House Republican Study Committee released the latest version of its extremist budget proposal, cable news coverage largely dropped the ball in addressing the most dangerous elements of what the GOP’s legislative agenda will be if the party retakes control of both Congress and the White House next year.
  • Right-wing media misled viewers about a new Biden administration rule to curb tailpipe pollution from cars.
  • A new Media Matters study shows how Trump’ inflationary policies were almost totally ignored in the top five U.S. newspapers’ early 2024 inflation coverage.
  • The Heritage Foundation quietly released draconian new IVF policy recommendations for the next Republican president.
  • The New York Times excluded the perspectives of trans people from two-thirds of its stories about anti-trans legislation during a one-year period.
  • Sister networks Fox News and Fox Business had a strange deviation in their coverage this week regarding the ballooning stock valuation of Trump’s media company, Truth Social.
  • MSNBC host Joe Scarborough once again misrepresented polling to attack trans athletes.