Media Matters weekly newsletter, October 20

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.

Sean Hannity and Jim Jordan

Citation Molly Butler / Media Matters

Rep. Jim Jordan’s (R-OH) candidacy to become Speaker of the House lies in ruins after multiple failed attempts to get the job. It was a humiliating defeat not only for Jordan, but for Fox News host Sean Hannity, who had long championed Jordan’s ascension to the speakership. The slow-motion collapse of Jordan's campaign can be chronicled through Hannity's commentary, which went from making bellicose demands for Republicans to support Jordan to desperately pleading for them to rally behind someone.

Earlier this month, Hannity endorsed Jordan for speaker following the ouster of Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA). It was a likely endorsement, considering that Hannity helped build Jordan’s national profile, granting him more than 150 interviews since August 2017. During the last few days, Hannity whipped votes for Jordan, scolded and insulted Republican members who opposed him, and instructed his audience to call their members of Congress and urge them to support the Ohio Republican.

As it became clear that Jordan would not be elected speaker, Hannity apparently threw in the towel. Hannity’s Fox show on Tuesday night featured none of his threats or exhortations to viewers that had characterized his output over the previous days. After Jordan still couldn't clinch the speakership on Wednesday and then on Thursday, Hannity devolved to the point of barely mentioning the speaker contest. The die had been cast, and Hannity lost.

It wasn’t just Hannity who felt the humiliation. Other conservative media personalities felt the sting of defeat:

  • Turning Point USA founder Charlie Kirk attacked Republicans over the chaotic House speaker vote, saying, “This is a total disaster.” He also said, “The Republican party is completely incapable of governing right now.”
  • Fox’s Raymond Arroyo said House Republicans were “denying the people a branch of government” with the speaker fiasco.
  • Fox’s Newt Gingrich warned that unless Jordan is elected speaker, the Republican Party will be perceived as “childish, silly, and in disarray.”

On October 12, Turning Point USA founder and Salem radio host Charlie Kirk appeared on the PBD Podcast. During his appearance, Kirk suggested that the Israeli government may have issued a “stand down order” or otherwise deliberately chosen not to intervene against Hamas in a timely fashion before the attacks of October 7. Kirk’s comments received harsh criticism from other right-wing media personalities, accusing him of antisemitism.

Beyond the accusation of bigotry, right-wing media personalities also accused Kirk of running a “grifting” operation with TPUSA. These accusations came on the heels of an October 10 Associated Press report breaking down TPUSA’s profligate spending that has turned Kirk into a millionaire.

Kirk has certainly trafficked in antisemitic rhetoric before, attacking Jewish donors to universities, blaming them for “funding the suicide of the Jewish people.” He also engaged in the common antisemitic trope equating the interests and identities of all Jews with the government of Israel. This is all part of Kirk’s broader pattern of pushing hateful rhetoric and Christian nationalist talking points.

The problems extend beyond Kirk. This week, Media Matters revealed that TPUSA ambassador Morgan Ariel has frequently pushed antisemitism in her response to Hamas’ terrorist attacks on Israel. I invite you to read the deranged and wicked rhetoric she engaged with here.

TPUSA has a history of racism and white nationalist ties. The organization’s recent nakedly antisemitic messaging is just another step in a long and hateful saga.

Newsmax: "Woke from the womb"

This week in stupid

  • During an anti-birth control segment, a host on Fox Corp.’s Outkick claimed tap water is “effectively birth control.”

This week in scary

  • While defending his dangerous rhetoric and the potential violence against trans people it may lead to, The Daily Wire’s Matt Walsh said, “It’s a risk worth taking.”
  • One Heritage Foundation fellow spread conspiracy theories on Infowars while another spread anti-Palestinian bigotry on social media. 

Excuse me?

  • Steve Bannon described the House speakership fight as a “spiritual war.”
  • Fox’s Jesse Waters: “I don’t like how people try to differentiate between the Palestinians and Hamas.”
  • Roger Stone: “We do not deify or worship Donald Trump. We worship the Lord, but we recognize Donald Trump as his apostle.”

In case you missed it

  • Last weekend, Trump Doral welcomed a Hitler-promoting antisemite who killed a person to speak alongside Eric Trump and other members of Donald Trump’s inner circle. For those keeping count, this is at least the fourth time Eric Trump has appeared alongside Hitler-promoters.
  • After protesters legally entered the Cannon House Office Building on October 18 to urge congressional support for a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, right-wing media absurdly compared the demonstration to the January 6 riot.
  • Top American newspapers mentioned President Joe Biden's age significantly more than disgraced former President Donald Trump's similarly advanced age. Read this fantastic study by Media Matters' Rob Savillo
  • The Daily Wire launched a new streaming service for kids, Bentkey, which the company is billing as a conservative alternative to Disney+. Potential customers may be disappointed to find that the service's catalog is filled primarily with relicensed and redubbed European and Asian cartoons, along with a few (un)orginal programs. 
  • Alex Jones praised Steve Bannon: “You have the best analysis of anybody out there.”
  • Serial plagiarist Benny Johnson said Donald Trump would still be president if Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) had been the speaker of the House.

Read more

  • The Republican National Committee is partnering with the Republican Jewish Coalition and right-wing video-sharing platform Rumble for the third debate of the presidential primary, even as Rumble remains overrun with virulently antisemitic content.
  • Rumble is profiting from advertisements on content from far-right figures who have histories of spreading antisemitism and conspiracy theories about Jewish people.
  • Media Matters found that only 35% of newspaper articles and 32% of broadcast TV news coverage mentioned Rep. Jim Jordan's (R-OH) efforts to overturn the 2020 election while covering the race for Speaker of the House. What's even more disturbing is that none of the print articles or TV news segments mentioned the risk that a Republican-led House under Jordan's leadership could lead to in the certification process for the 2024 election. 
  • Right-wing media spent days fearmongering about potential mass violence last Friday after a former Hamas political leader was reportedly mistranslated as advocating for a “day of jihad.” Predictably, this violence did not occur, though there was a reported anti-Muslim attack in Illinois in which a 6-year-old Palestinian American boy was killed.
  • Right-wing influencers Riley Gaines and Chaya Raichik are fueling harassment against LGBTQ youth. Read this great piece by Media Matters’ Mia Gingrich outlining their hate-fueled careers.