Media Matters weekly newsletter, February 16

Welcome back to Media Matters’ weekly newsletter. In this week’s newsletter:

  • How Sean Hannity helped build the GOP’s collapsing Hunter Biden impeachment case.
  • Fox News’ primetime lineup pushes white nationalism during immigration segments.
  • Taylor Swift conspiracy theories continue to swirl.

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Hunter Biden with Sean Hannity

Citation Andrea Austria / Media Matters

For years, Fox News host Sean Hannity has weaved a spider web of misinformation alleging a corrupt business relationship between President Joe Biden and his son Hunter. Central to his campaign is that Biden took bribes from Ukrainians while serving as vice president during the Obama administration. The sole source of this dubious and unproven claim was an FBI informant who was charged last night with lying by special counsel David Weiss.

Bogus Hunter Biden claims and conspiracy theories have been a fixture on Fox and throughout the broader right-wing media — but Hannity has made them part of his program’s core mission since 2018. A Media Matters study found that in 2023, Sean Hannity’s Fox News show aired at least 325 segments about Hunter Biden in a desperate effort to manufacture impeachable offenses against President Joe Biden. Of those segments, 220 (or 68% of the total 325) featured at least one false or misleading claim.

Even though no substantive evidence ever emerged linking Joe Biden to Hunter Biden’s foreign business dealings, calls for the president’s impeachment went from right-wing media to the halls of Congress. Now that several House Oversight Committee witnesses have told investigators they had no knowledge of wrongdoing by the president, and the FBI informant was indicted, the fuel for Hannity’s misinformation campaign may finally have run out.

Naturally, none of Fox’s prime-time hosts mentioned the informant’s arrest last night.


Exacerbated by the upcoming presidential election, a constitutional fight over security measures in Texas, and right-wing opposition to a bipartisan border security deal, issues related to immigration received significant media coverage in January. Media Matters found that Fox News’ three highest rated evening shows spread white nationalist rhetoric in nearly half of their immigration segments that month.

One prong of Fox’s white nationalist primetime rhetoric involves pushing the “great replacement” conspiracy theory, which warns of a nefarious plot to “replace” white citizens with nonwhite immigrants. Though this theory has led to multiple acts of violence, Fox has a long history of spreading this rhetoric. In one such instance, The Five co-host Jesse Watters claimed that Democrats were “literally replacing American kids” after migrants were sheltered at a New York City public school.

Fox hosts and guests also push the white nationalist grievance that migrants entering the country constitute an “invasion” of national sovereignty. In January, Jesse Watters — who replaced Fox’s previous top white nationalist Tucker Carlson — aired at least 11 segments that contained this type of white nationalist discourse. Sean Hannity followed close behind with 10 segments.

Fox’s rhetoric is getting increasingly more bloodthirsty in its bigotry. It’s a disturbing trend as our nation draws closer to a presidential election in which immigration is certain to be a major policy issue.

Jesse Watters: Steroid Olympics

This week in stupid

  • A Fox News panel tore into Taylor Swift for drinking beer and having fun.
  • Fox’s Jeanine Pirro claimed that immigrants are causing inflation because they need to eat.
  • The Daily Wire’s Matt Walsh: “You don’t need a higher minimum wage. You just need to not be on minimum wage anymore.”

This week in scary

  • Fox’s Tyrus suggested running over protesters with a monster truck.

Excuse me?

  • The Daily Wire’s Michael Knowles: “To be pro-white is not necessarily to be anti-Black.”
  • Candace Owens railed at “D.C. Jew[s],” telling Jewish people there is a “rot” in their community.
  • War Room host Steve Bannon claimed that “globalists” are trying to “set an apartheid state here in the United States for the MAGA movement.”
  • Fox’s Laura Ingraham praised companies for contributing to “shrinkflation.”
  • Fox guest Jack Brewer blamed the Chiefs Super Bowl parade shooting on fatherlessness and sin.
Taylor Swift holds a sign saying she would like to be excluded from this narrative


Andrea Austria / Taylor Swift

For months, right-wing figures have spewed baseless conspiracy theories about singer Taylor Swift, including claims that she is a Democratic operative or part of a “psyop.” The hysteria reached such heights that some right-wing media figures begged fellow conservatives to stop attacking Swift. Not to be deterred, far-right social media accounts continued to push conspiracy theories about Swift and the Super Bowl in the lead up to the game.

  • QAnon figures and far-right accounts accused Swift’s Super Bowl guest Ice Spice of being a “satanist” and “summoning demons.”
  • QAnon figures have continued the trend of labeling Swift a “psyop.”
  • Some far-right figures claimed that the Super Bowl was “rigged” and the NFL is a “scam.”

In case you missed it

  • Conservative media figures are expressing regret over the expulsion of disgraced former Rep. George Santos (R-NY) following the Democratic victory in this week’s special election to fill his seat.
  • Fox News’ Sean Hannity is touting as a “bombshell” the latest desperate salvo from the House Republicans trying to impeach President Joe Biden. The latest effort involves bringing back a disgruntled former business partner of Hunter Biden’s to repeat the same dubious claims he made on television 40 months ago.
  • Days before Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny died in prison, Tucker Carlson gushed over Vladimir Putin, saying “Leadership requires killing people.”
  • Fox News is helping the Republican Party defend the interests of tax cheats as it plays its traditional role of converting fearmongering about immigrants into votes for plutocracy.
  • Right-wing figures are sounding the alarm that Republicans must mobilize their supporters to embrace early voting.
  • A narrative in both right-wing and mainstream media drawing from early police reports has incorrectly identified the alleged armed assailant at a Texas megachurch as a transgender woman. However, the initial police reports about the shooter's identity appear to be inaccurate.
  • Rumble promoted a baseless anti-trans conspiracy theory video about Michelle Obama among its “editor picks.”
  • The annual inflation rate declined in January, but major news organizations chose to put a negative spin on the data by emphasizing that the reported annual rate was slightly higher than economic forecasts had predicted.
  • YouTube has allowed Keith Woods — a known white nationalist who has openly described himself as a “raging antisemite” — to stream on the platform and monetize his content.
  • Viral streamer Sneako — an extreme misogynist associated with white nationalist figures — recently appeared at an event for Donald Trump where he interviewed Nevada Lt. Gov. Stavros Anthony.