Right-wing media have been issuing dire warnings about an impending civil war for years

Trump’s media allies and accused Coast Guard terrorist agree that a second civil war could be coming soon

Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

Joseph diGenova, a former attorney on President Donald Trump’s legal defense team, appeared on Laura Ingraham’s podcast on January 21 to warn listeners that “we are in a civil war in this country.” DiGenova also claimed that he does not anticipate seeing  any “civil discourse in this country for the foreseeable future,” adding, “It’s going to be total war.” He suggested that the solution for the current situation is partly for people to “buy guns.”  

DiGenova’s comments were irresponsible and dangerous, but they’re also nothing new within the right-wing media echo chamber. And the conservative media trope that widespread political violence is imminent has real consequences. The Coast Guard lieutenant and self-admitted white nationalist who was recently arrested for allegedly plotting terrorist attacks against Democrats and some media figures searched online for the phrase “civil war if Trump impeached.” 

Right-wing media figures have spent years fearmongering about an impending civil war, saying that “the left in America is becoming increasingly radicalized,” highlighting the Democrats' supposed “hatred for Normal Americans,” and claiming that colleges are “literally destroying the country” and pushing us toward a “real civil war.” Here are just a few examples:

Fox’s Sean Hannity told his radio listeners that “this country is headed towards a civil war” depending on the outcome of special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into the Trump campaign's possible collusion with Russia during the 2016 presidential elections. While Hannity insisted that he was “not talking about a war,” he claimed, “There’s going to be two sides of this that are fighting and dividing this country at a level we’ve never seen.” 

Fox’s Tucker Carlson and a show guest agreed on the idea that colleges are “literally destroying the country” and pushing us toward a “real civil war.” In 2017, Carlson said that striving for diversity “gets you to civil war.”

In 2017, Fox contributor Newt Gingrich told Sean Hannity that “we are in a clear-cut cultural civil war” and expressed disappointment in Republicans who “don’t get it.” 

Radio host and Trump ally Michael Savage asserted in 2017 that “there’s going to be a civil war” because of “what this left-wing is becoming in this country.” 

Two days after the 2016 elections, then-Fox host Bill O’Reilly claimed that anti-Trump protests were proof of “a civil war brewing.” In 2015, O’Reilly also suggested that the divide over an anti-gay Indiana law is emblematic of a “cultural civil war.” 

After a Maryland sheriff made headlines in 2014 warning of “all-out civil war” if President Barack Obama tried to overturn the Second Amendment, the media arm of the National Rifle Association downplayed the inflammatory nature of his comments, arguing that his threat of violence constituted a real threat only if Obama was actually planning to seize citizens’ firearms. In 2015, the NRA promoted an article by conservative gun blogger Bob Owens in which he fantasized about the prospect of Democrats starting a civil war over gun rights that ended with “survivors of the Democrat rebellion” being hanged. 

Ever since Trump was elected to office, disgraced radio host and conspiracy theorist Alex Jones has been obsessed with the idea of an impending civil war or other violence if Trump is removed from the presidency. In June 2017, Jones’ outlet Infowars declared that the “first shots” of the second civil war had already been fired, asking its audience, “What will you do?” Former Infowars "journalist" Roger Stone, a Jones and Trump ally, even taped a segment at a gun range in which he and Jones prepare for a civil war “if there’s a coup d’etat.”

An April 10 article in The Federalist explicitly called for the political dissolution of the United States“before things get dangerous,” claiming, “This idea of breaking up the country may seem a bit outlandish now, but you won’t think so once real domestic unrest comes to your town.” 

Notorious online troll Kurt Schlichter wrote a piece in Townhall titled “Why Democrats would lose the second Civil War, too.” The column extensively detailed Schlichter's violent fantasies of a war with Democrats, including an imagined scene in which a “bunch of hunters in Wisconsin” ambush a company of tanks: “They ambush the fuel and ammo trucks. Oh, and they wait until the gunner pops the hatch to take a leak and put a .30-06 round in his back from 300 meters.”

A September 11, 2018, op-ed in The American Conservative discussed “the Civil War on America’s horizon,” saying it has been primed by “Trump and his critics despis[ing] each other. All that's needed now is a spark.”

Paleoconservative commentator Pat Buchanan said that the United States is “approaching something of a civil war where the capital city seeks the overthrow of the sovereign and its own restoration.” Buchanan also wrote that it was time for Trump to “burn down the Bastille.” 

In 2015, then-Fox contributor Erick Erickson said that the jailing of Kentucky county clerk Kim Davis for violating a federal court order to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples could lead to “another civil war.” 

Cliven Bundy, a rancher who attained fame in conservative circles for a 2014 standoff with federal authorities, told Alex Jones that there would be civil war if local sheriffs did not disarm the federal government’s “bureaucratic armies.”

A 2013 Fox News column claimed that “when the economy tanks and the government checks have to shrink,” the “takers” dependent on government assistance and resentful of financially successful “makers” will “take to the streets.” 

In 2010, then-Fox host Glenn Beck suggested on his radio show that Obama was “trying to destroy the country” and “going for fundamental transformation.” About a month later, Beck repeated his claim, saying, “I think we're headed for a civil war.” 

Anti-Muslim conspiracy theorist Pamela Geller wrote in 2010 that Obama “is itching for a civil war. And at the rate he is going, he is going to get one.”

In 2008, Michael Savage declared that Obama was “hand-picked by some very powerful forces ... to drag this country into a hell that it has not seen since the Civil War.”

In 2006, Beck warned about the potential for Europe’s “political correctness” to start “a global religious civil war.” 

In 2004, Pat Buchanan said on MSNBC that the South “wouldn’t lose” a civil war “the next time out.”