Welcome back to Media Matters' weekly email. As a senior researcher with Media Matters, I monitor and analyze right-wing content across a wide variety of platforms, trying to understand what makes the ecosystem tick. Each Friday I'll go through all the main narratives, craziest clips, and dumbest moments from conservative media over the past week. If you want this delivered straight to your inbox, subscribe here.
On Tuesday, Democrats scored a series of election victories throughout the country. Abortion was a major factor in these elections, especially in Ohio where voters enshrined a right to abortion in the state’s constitution. Conservative pundits largely agreed with this assessment, including Fox News’ Sean Hannity, who blamed the string of GOP defeats on the party’s unpopular opposition to abortion rights.
During his Tuesday night meltdown, Hannity and his guests urged Republicans to coalesce around banning abortion beginning at 15 weeks, which he said would be less risky politically, and claiming Democrats are extreme on the issue. Though Hannity says he’s “pro-life,” he has also repeatedly sought to limit the political damage caused to the Republican Party when its Supreme Court nominees overturned Roe v. Wade in 2022, including by urging candidates to dodge questions and downplay the issue. It’s a canny reticence on his part as the GOP heads into the 2024 election cycle with the majority of Americans saying the party’s stance on abortion is “too extreme.”
Of course, Americans are right to be distrustful of Republican efforts to minimize their anti-abortion extremism. The text of the party’s most recent platform calls for a constitutional amendment that would ban all abortions. Florida Republicans passed a six-week abortion ban after Roe was overturned. And some of the right-wing movement’s lawyers, with the aid of Trump-appointed judges, are trying to overturn the Food and Drug Administration's approval of the abortion medication mifepristone. Examples of Republican extremism on abortion abound.
Media Matters’ Matt Gertz explains the conundrum facing Republicans: “Voters have not been somehow fooled by Democrats into believing that Republicans support banning abortion. Voters rightfully don’t trust Republican intentions because Republicans say they want to ban abortion, and they generally use whatever political power they obtain to prevent as many abortions as they can.”
Other conservative pundits had their own spin on Tuesday’s GOP losses:
- The Daily Wire’s Matt Walsh said he “wouldn’t compromise on abortion even if it really did mean losing every election from now to kingdom come.”
- Newsmax host Rob Finnerty said Republicans need to “run for the hills from abortion.”
- Ben Shapiro said voters “have to be unindoctrinated about … what abortion is.”
- Fox’s Laura Ingraham said, “No getting around it, Republicans were once again disappointed last night.”
At the very least, journalists should continuously ask Republican candidates for office, especially candidates for president, what their stance on abortion rights are. The American people deserve to have clarity on this fundamental issue.
The ebb and flow of the Republican presidential primary so far this year has played out similarly to the candidates’ varied coverage from conservative propaganda outlets. The pattern is this: An alternative to Donald Trump briefly emerges, only to inevitably lose momentum and fade away. And yet at no time have any of them come close to capturing the amount of right-wing cable news attention Trump commands.
Media Matters published a study this week focusing on three candidates — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, businessman Vivek Ramaswamy, and former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley — showing that Ramaswamy led DeSantis and Haley in candidate airtime across Fox News, Newsmax, and One America News Network for most of the summer and early fall. Haley, meanwhile, has had a relatively consistent share of airtime, though it’s been slowly declining over the course of the year.
Yet overall, none of these candidates managed to threaten Trump’s media dominance.
For nearly every month from June to October, Trump piled up nearly three times as much candidate airtime on right-wing cable as DeSantis, Ramaswamy, and Haley combined. Overall, Trump amassed nearly 69 hours of total candidate airtime from June to October, while the other three candidates had only 26 hours of airtime combined.
This week in stupid
- Fox’s Jesse Watters suggested President Joe Biden is installing kill switches to disable cars on Election Day to keep people from voting.
This week in scary
- Newsmax’s Rick Santorum complained that “very sexy things like abortion and marijuana” were on the ballot in Ohio this week, adding that “pure democracies are not the way to run a country.”
- During a meltdown about this week’s election results, Charlie Kirk attacked Taylor Swift, saying: “All the Swifties want is swift abortion.”
- On Newsmax, Dinesh D’Souza criticized Bernie Sanders, saying that for him, “the ideology is far more important than his Jewish identity.”
- The Daily Wire’s Michael Knowles called for abortion to be completely banned, saying “The conservative argument on abortion, the conservative desire, the conservative goal is not merely to leave the issue to the states.”
In case you missed it
- Donald Trump said he would consider former Fox host Tucker Carlson for vice president.
- During Wednesday night’s third GOP presidential primary debate, moderators made no mention of Donald Trump’s dangerous and unconstitutional plans to transform the federal government into an authoritarian regime should he win the 2024 presidential election. They should have.
- Former Trump advisor Steve Bannon’s podcast is the media home of a sprawling right-wing effort, known as Project 2025, that’s designed to prepare policy papers and staffing assignments should a Republican win the presidency in next year’s election. Read Media Matters’ John Knefel’s great piece to find out all about it.
- Jesse Watters said “there will be voter fraud” in every election outside of Florida.
- Rumble hosted the Republican National Committee’s official livestream for the third presidential primary debate. Mainstream media outlets have failed to mention the platform’s extremism in their reporting on the debates.
- Christian nationalists and several conservative media extremists have embraced the war between Israel and Hamas as a sign of the “End Times.” Read this great piece by Payton Armstrong to learn more about this disturbing trend.
- Last week, we told you about Rumble host and X influencer Stew Peters’ repeated calls to murder numerous people in the United States. Well, apparently this isn’t a red line for Rumble and X (formerly Twitter), as neither platform has banned him.
- Fox’s Greg Gutfeld regularly spreads the network’s brand of hateful attacks against marginalized communities, but disguised as “comedy.” Read this piece going through some of Gutfed’s most recent “jokes.”
- X owner Elon Musk reinstated two far-right British Islamophobes to the platform as X CEO Linda Yaccarino visited London to woo U.K. advertisers.
- TV news networks are giving Donald Trump a pass on his recent extreme and alarming statements, giving minimal coverage to recent comments about migrants, “liberal Jews,” and the terrorist group Hezbollah.