Right-wing media gin up fears of protest violence surrounding Supreme Court nomination

Conservative media figures are seizing on tweets and innocuous comments about election reforms to suggest there is “a real threat of violence” from Democrats over Trump’s nominee

Tucker Carlson and Laura Ingraham

As President Donald Trump and Senate Republicans rush to push through a Supreme Court justice appointment following the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, their allies in conservative media are attempting to scare audiences into believing the left will respond with violence if a Republican nominee like Trump pick Amy Coney Barrett is confirmed.

In reality, many of these predictions rest almost entirely on a few scattered tweets and distorted interpretations of comments from public figures. For example, conservative media pointed to tweets by writers Reza Aslan and Laura Bassett as evidence that “radical left-wing activists are now planning” to engage in violence. Right-wing media also seized on a comment from CNN anchor Don Lemon that “we're going to have to blow up the entire system” — even though these remarks were made in reference to reforming the Electoral College, and Lemon later clarified his comments. And after Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) argued that the political moment following Ginsburg’s death should “radicalize” supporters to vote in November’s election, critics assailed her comments as supposedly calling for violence.

Right-wing media figures have also cited Black Lives Matter protests — which have been largely peaceful, ongoing nationwide demonstrations against police brutality and systemic racism — as an example of the type of violence the left will supposedly resort to if the Senate confirms Trump’s nominee.

These scare tactics are not new. Conservative media figures have been hyping potential political violence for weeks, and the battle over the Supreme Court vacancy simply provides another venue for this right-wing fearmongering ahead of Election Day.

  • While discussing ongoing racial justice protests on the September 22 edition of Fox News’ America’s Newsroom, former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer claimed, “This is radicalism,” adding: Second point, it’s about to get worse. Just wait till the Supreme Court hearing on whoever President Trump names.” Fleischer continued, “Remember the violence, the radicalism in the halls of the Congress when Brett Kavanaugh was named? This is now going to happen even more so unfolding throughout October as those hearings are underway in the Senate. So we’re into a totally new world with totally new tactics by the far left.”
  • The same day, Ohio radio host Bob Frantz claimed that Ocasio-Cortez’s comments following Ginsburg’s death constitute a literal “call for violence in the streets.” Frantz argued that if Democrats “give tacit approval to the violence over the police brutality issue, … what do you think they are going to say about replacing Ginsburg just 40, now what, 43 days or so before the election? They are going to not only give tacit approval, they are going to call for violence in the streets.”

Bob Frantz: AOC's comments constitute "call for violence in the streets"

Audio file

Citation From the September 22, 2020, edition of AM 1420 The Answer's The Bob Frantz Authority

  • Podcast host and Turning Point USA co-founder Charlie Kirk claimed that Senate Democrats are engaging in “quasi-metaphorical terroristic behavior” over the Supreme Court vacancy and argued, “When they say they are going to engage in violence, court packing, and impeachment, that is a reason to show them ‘Go ahead, we do not respond to your threats.’” Kirk continued, “It is a dark day in America when a party does not get what they want, they will resort to physical violence.”
  • On Fox News’ The Ingraham Angle on September 21, host Laura Ingraham claimed that there is “a real threat of violence” from the left in response to a potential Trump Supreme Court nominee. Ingraham continued, “I mean, they're preparing for civil unrest in Washington. They're preparing for it in New York and they're preparing for it in L.A.”
Video file

Citation From the September 21, 2020, edition of Fox News' The Ingraham Angle

  • Earlier that night, Fox prime-time host Sean Hannity opened his show by criticizing Democrats for “throwing a collective temper tantrum of unprecedented and historic proportions by threatening the most extreme and radical retribution against the Constitution and the country if President Trump simply does his job” by appointing Ginsburg’s replacement. Hannity later claimed that “others on the radical left are even threatening violence if they don't get their way tonight.”
  • In a discussion with Ingraham on Tucker Carlson Tonight, Fox host Tucker Carlson suggested Democrats would use “direct force” and denounced protests that took place outside of the homes of Senate Republicans, asking, “Why don't Democratic leaders say unequivocally out loud tonight, tomorrow, now, tell their voters to don't do this anymore. No more quote ‘direct action,’ no more violence, no more threats.” Ingraham replied that party leaders could not make such a statement because “they've made an unholy alliance, Tucker, with the far left.” Tucker later declared, “We can see where this is going. This is moving toward violence.”
Video file

Citation From the September 21, 2020, edition of Fox News' Tucker Carlson Tonight

  • Fox Business host Lou Dobbs, during an interview with Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), claimed that Democrats are “threatening anarchy, street violence, riots if they don’t win the election, if this president proceeds to do what is, as he pointed out, his constitutional obligation, which is to name a successor to the late Justice Ginsburg, and wins confirmation for her replacement and does so before Election Day.” Dobbs continued, arguing Democrats are “acting like agents of insurrection.”
  • Fox’s The Five discussed Ocasio-Cortez’s comments and co-host Greg Gutfeld tied them to protests against Senate Republicans, claiming, “This is intimidation.” Gutfeld continued, “If the government doesn't step up and deal with this violence, it's going to be up to the public. Cause this is truly taxation without representation. Right? If you're not being protected but you're paying your taxes, that Second Amendment starts looking miraculous.”
  • Judicial Watch’s Tom Fitton tweeted on September 19:
  • Fox host Mark Levin complained on his September 21 radio show that Democrats are upset with Trump for following precedent to nominate Supreme Court justices when a vacancy arises. Levin argued, “The Democrat Party doesn’t get to make threats and intimidate and encourage violence and inflame riots, which is exactly what they and their surrogates are doing, because they wish to change the Constitution without an amendment. That’s unacceptable.”
  • Responding to Aslan on September 18, Fox News contributor Dan Bongino tweeted:
  • On September 27, The Daily Caller published an article titled “Here Are The People With Large Platforms Who’ve Warned Of Violence If The GOP Replaces Ruth Bader Ginsburg,” which simply showed Aslan and Bassett’s comments along with one tweet from a playwright and screenwriter and another one from a Canadian political science professor.
  • On September 18, The Federalist published an article titled “After RBG’s Death, Left-Wing Activists Promise Violence If Trump Appoints Her Replacement.” The piece pointed to many of the same tweets later referenced in The Daily Caller as evidence of a nefarious plot by “radical left-wing activists.”

After erupting into a historic outbreak of civil unrest this summer that claimed the lives of more than 30 people while trashing minority businesses, launching violent assaults on state and federal police officers, and carrying out more than $1 billion in property damage in the name of social justice, radical left-wing activists are now planning to do it all again if the president executes his mandated White House authority to appoint a new Supreme Court justice.