Following President Joe Biden’s Saturday speech to Howard University’s graduating class calling white supremacy the “most dangerous terrorist threat,” conservative media figures rushed to dismiss white supremacy, continuing a long-held tradition of right-wing media downplaying the threat of extremism.
For decades, right-wing media outlets have been friendly platforms to white supremacy, with multiple conservative programs hosting white nationalist guests and some prominent personalities espousing such rhetoric directly. Following acts of violence committed by white supremacists in Allen, Texas, Buffalo, New York, and El Paso, Texas, that targeted communities of color, conservative media quickly tried to reframe each story, brushing off the right-wing ecosystem’s incendiary and racist commentary. And even though law enforcement agencies have identified white supremacy as a clear threat to the country, right-wing media have continued to ignore such warnings.
Among conservative personalities, recently ousted Fox News host Tucker Carlson has been the largest cheerleader for and most staunch defender of white nationalism. As his Fox career progressed, Carlson increasingly espoused white supremacist rhetoric, which seemingly had no negative effect on his meteoric rise as the face of the network. Carlson’s steady supply of extremist rhetoric even led some to conclude that Tucker Carlson Tonight “may be the most racist show in the history of cable news.”
Though Carlson’s show is no longer airing on Fox, right-wing media are following in his footsteps in the wake of Biden’s commencement speech at Howard University, a historically Black institution, by continuing to assure their audience that white supremacy is no threat at all:
- On Fox & Friends Sunday, co-host Rachel Campos-Duffy insulted Howard students, arguing that Biden “understands the only way he can win is to convince some pretty dumb college kids at that university” that white supremacy exists and that “it's a disservice if they believe that this country is full of white supremacists and that’s our number one threat”
- Speaking on the expiration of Title 42 on Fox & Friends, co-host Will Cain suggested there’s a fallacy in Biden’s reasoning because “the vast majority of people want to make their way to the United States of America — almost all of whom are brown and Black — and yet they come to this place that is described by the president as a land of white supremacy.”
- Fox host Guy Benson, speaking on Fox’s Outnumbered, called it “laughable” and showing a “lack of self-awareness” that Biden would say white supremacy is the “biggest threat to anyone” in Washington, D.C.
- Daily Wire host Ben Shapiro argued that “you’d be hard-pressed to find a group of people for whom” white supremacy is their greatest threat. He later stated that Biden’s definition of white supremacy is “the Ibram X. Kendi version of white supremacy in which everyone who does not mirror the political priorities of Joe Biden is a white supremacist.”
- The Media Research Center’s MRCTV published an article that sarcastically wrote, “Don’t worry - he [Biden] definitely didn’t say that just because he was talking to a bunch of black folks.” The article later defined the real threat to the country as the “porous border that's allowing dangerous people on the terror watch list to slip into the country” as well as Russia, China, the “implosion of the family,” and “skyrocketing debt.”
- CNS News, an offshoot of the Media Research Center, complained that Biden was spreading the “white supremacy myth,” calling him “Divider in Chief.”
- Right-wing political commentator and Republican presidential hopeful Larry Elder tweeted: “Q: How many blacks were murdered by ‘white supremacists'?”
- OutKick TV host Clay Travis undermined the threat of white supremacy, tweeting, “Joe Biden says the most dangerous threat to America is white supremacy. I mean, this is completely bonkers. Did anyone talk like this in the 1980’s, 1990’s, 2000’s or even 2010’s? Of course not. Yet suddenly white supremacy is the BIGGEST THREAT in America? I don’t even think it’s one of the 50 biggest threats.”
- Podcast host Elijah Schaffer tweeted: “Biden just told a bunch of black people that white supremacy is the greatest threat to America.”