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Fox News Virtually Ignores Walker Abortion Payment Bombshell

Fox News heavily promoted the U.S. Senate candidacy of former football star Herschel Walker from its earliest stages, despite Walker’s seeming lack of qualifications and well-known personal history that included multiple reports of domestic violence. Now, the network has been almost silent on the biggest story of the race so far, after The Daily Beast reported Monday night that Walker had paid for a girlfriend’s abortion in 2009, despite his current hardline anti-abortion stance.

Walker appeared Monday night to address the reporting with Fox News prime-time host Sean Hannity, a longtime Trump adviser and perhaps Walker’s earliest and most prominent endorser on the network. The interview went badly, as Walker failed to refute that he had sent a $700 check and a get-well card to the unnamed woman, who said it was to reimburse her total expenses from receiving an abortion. (The woman also provided The Daily Beast with a $575 receipt from a clinic for the procedure.)

Tuesday morning’s edition of Fox & Friends featured only a short news headline delivered by Fox & Friends First co-host Carley Shimkus, lasting a little over 30 seconds. This paltry coverage was despite the fact that the show’s co-host Brian Kilmeade has personally boosted Walker’s campaign with puff pieces featuring the candidate, and could be seen on the couch with his co-hosts following Shimkus’ news reading. None of the Fox & Friends co-hosts had anything to say about the story.

Fox’s next program, America's Newsroom, also offered the story nothing more than a single headline read despite purporting to be one of the network's “straight news” daytime programs. In addition, Fox News chief Washington correspondent Mike Emanuel highlighted some of the tweets by one of Walker’s children, right-wing social media personality Christian Walker, who called out his father both for womanizing and for having threatened to kill his family.

Emanuel effectively let Herschel Walker get the last word in, however, by citing a tweet in which the candidate “says he loves his son, no matter what.” Emanuel failed to note, however, that Christian Walker had already responded to that message by citing his father’s failure to raise multiple children he is now known to have conceived.

Christian Walker had deleted his rebuttal Monday night, but it was captured in screen grabs by multiple journalists, including HuffPost senior politics reporter Igor Bobic.

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.

Tucker Carlson Serves Up Kremlin Propaganda On Pipeline Explosion

Fox News host Tucker Carlson’s dubious allegation that the United States sabotaged a natural gas pipeline between Russia and Germany as part of a sinister “escalation” of Russia’s war with Ukraine echoed the Kremlin’s own propagandists. Carlson’s report is now getting substantial attention from Russian state TV, which is promoting his theory — and his suggestion for how Russia could strike back at U.S. interests in light of the supposed attack.

On Monday, “two powerful underwater explosions” damaged the Nord Stream 1 and Nord Stream 2 pipelines. While the former had been shut down by Russia in August and the latter never became operational, both contained pressurized gas which is now leaking into the Baltic Sea. The international consensus is that the pipelines were sabotaged, with U.S. and European Union officials suggesting Russia is behind the explosions.

But the Kremlin, in turn, is suggesting that the U.S. sabotaged the pipelines, latching on to a since-deleted Tuesday tweet from Radek Sikorski, a Polish E.U. parliamentarian, which stated, “Thank you, USA,” alongside a photo of the leak. On social media, a Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson immediately questioned whether Sikorski’s tweet was an “official statement that this was a terrorist attack,” while another Russian official likewise thanked Sikorski for “making it crystal clear who stands behind this terrorist-style targeting of civilian infrastructure!” Russian state media outlet RT quickly amplified their theorizing under the headline “U.S. praised for Nord Stream explosion.”

Carlson’s coverage of the crisis created by Russia’s February invasion of Ukraine generally aligns with the Kremlin’s preferred narratives, to the point where Russian state media outlets, following their government’s explicit instructions, regularly air clips from his program.

That is what happened following the apparent sabotage of the Nord Stream pipelines.

Just hours after Russian officials floated the narrative that the U.S. was responsible for damaging the pipelines, Carlson adopted it as his own.

Describing the ruptures as an “act of industrial terrorism,” Carlson quickly dispatched with the notion that Russia or its dictator, Vladimir Putin, might be involved. According to Carlson, Putin “would not do that” and would have to be “a suicidal moron to blow up your own energy pipeline.”

Instead, Carlson strongly suggested that the U.S. had sabotaged the pipelines. “If they did this, this will be one of the craziest, most destructive things any American administration has ever done,” he said. “But it would also be totally consistent with what they do. What do they do? They destroy.”

Carlson’s comically weak case revolved around two main pieces of evidence – Sikorski’s tweet, and a February statement from President Joe Biden that if Russia were to invade Ukraine, “there will be no longer a Nord Stream 2. We will bring an end to it.” That seems to very obviously reference what happened after Russia invaded – Germany froze the pipeline project, which has yet to become operational. But in Carlson’s typically dishonest translation, Biden “said ‘there won't be a Nord Stream 2. We'll put an end to it. Will take it out. Will blow it up.’”

On that scanty evidence, Carlson suggested that the U.S. had blown up an ally’s energy infrastructure. While on-screen text stated “Today’s escalation will have huge consequences,” Carlson asserted that “we've entered a new phase, one in which the United States is directly at war with the largest nuclear power in the world.” He added: “If we actually blew up the Nord Stream pipelines, why wouldn't Russia sever undersea internet cables? What would happen if they did that?"

It was inevitable that Carlson’s theory would spread through the right-wing media, given his influential role in that ecosystem. But it isn’t just the likes of Charlie Kirk rushing to follow him in blaming America.

Carlson’s monologue “entered heavy rotation” on Russian state TV, as The Washington Post’s Philip Bump noted on Thursday. Bump highlighted 12 different times that Russia’s Channel One, Russia1, and Russia24 networks had aired clips of Carlson highlighting his theory.

Julia Davis, a Russian media monitor and Daily Beast columnist, compiled and translated some of the segments. She noted that the Russian commentators seemed particularly interested in Carlson’s suggestion for how their state might retaliate for the supposed U.S. attack.

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.

Carlson Eulogizes Hell’s Angel Sonny Barger, Violent Criminal And Drug Smuggler

Fox News star Tucker Carlson eulogized Ralph “Sonny” Barger over the weekend, effusively praising the founder of the vigilante biker gang Hells Angels just one month after telling Republicans to run on crime policies. Barger spent around 13 years in prison following convictions for assault with a deadly weapon and kidnapping, among other charges.

Carlson celebrated Barger in his remarks, presenting him as the type of person Carlson aspires to be. “Stand tall, stay loyal, remain free, and always value honor,” Carlson said in a clip shared to Twitter by right-wing conspiracy theorist Jack Posobiec. Quoting Barger’s supposed philosophy, Carlson remarked, “If there is a phrase that sums up more perfectly what I want to be, what I aspire to be, and the kind of man I respect, I can’t think of a phrase.”

The Department of Justice considers the Hells Angels to be linked to organized criminal activities, including cross-border drug smuggling, as well as “assault, extortion, [and] homicide.”

Barger himself had a long history of criminal charges and convictions stemming from drug distribution and violence. In 1988, he and another member “were convicted of conspiracy to transport and receive explosives in interstate commerce with intent to kill and damage buildings” belonging to a rival motorcycle club, The Associated Press reported at the time. He was charged in 2002 with aggravated assault after allegedly breaking his wife’s ribs and lacerating her spleen, according to Tom Barker, a professor and expert on outlaw motorcycle gangs.

Carlson’s kind words for Barger come just weeks after he hyped a supposed increase in crime nationwide and instructed Republicans to campaign on it. “If every Republican office-seeker, every Republican candidate in the United States focused on law and order and equality under the law, there would be a red wave” in the November midterms, Carlson said in his August 19 monologue. The next day, Carlson stated that “suddenly, there is a huge amount of stealing in the United States. It’s everywhere.” He offered no evidence for his claim.

Carlson’s simultaneous endorsement of Barger and the Hells Angels on the one hand, and propagandizing about a supposed crime wave on the other, is obviously superficially hypocritical. But beneath the hypocrisy lies a consistent political ideology. For reactionaries like Carlson, criminal activity isn’t — and can’t be — an objective, neutrally applied description of behavior.

The classical music composer Frank Wilhoit offered a pithy summary of conservatism that aptly resolves Carlson’s seemingly contradictory positions. “Conservatism consists of exactly one proposition, to wit: There must be in-groups whom the law protects but does not bind, alongside out-groups whom the law binds but does not protect,” Wilhoit wrote in 2018.

For Carlson, shoplifting is a crime, but conspiring to overturn the 2020 election and engaging in an attempted fascist insurrection isn’t. In his analysis, whether someone counts as a criminal is a post hoc determination based on the identity of the person in question. Poor people, Black people, and immigrants can all be criminals, whereas conservatives who rioted on January 6 are being persecuted by a tyrannical government for their political beliefs.

For all of his supposed outlaw status, Barger had an alternately antagonistic and cooperative relationship with law enforcement, which typifies the symbiotic relationship between vigilante gangs and cops throughout the 20th century in the United States. In the late 1960s and early ‘70s, Barger regularly served as an informant to Oakland police, offering tips about weapons caches in exchange for leniency for arrested Angels, according to testimony Sgt. Ted Hilliard offered at the time.

“Mr. Barger would load them in the back of my car—automatic rifles and dynamite, for example,” Hilliard said, according to The New York Times. The Oakland police preferred to work with the Angels and “let the Angels operate,” as Rolling Stone reported at the time, rather than risk the weapons falling into the hands of leftist groups like the Weathermen or the Black Panthers.

That’s the history that Carlson was embracing at Barger’s service. While the hypocrisy on the surface is glaring, the underlying belief structure is entirely coherent. The law is a tool to punish out-groups that have been criminalized, while vigilante gangs that reinforce the dominant social order — whether Hells Angels or the Oathkeepers — must be celebrated and defended.

“I’m honored to be here,” Carlson concluded his weekend remarks. “Thank you for having me.” The applause from the assembled Hells Angels made clear that the admiration was mutual.

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.

Lachlan Murdoch Suing Tiny Australian News Site Over 'Defamation'

Sydney (AFP) - A high-stakes defamation battle between News Corp co-chairman Lachlan Murdoch and small Australian news outlet Crikey will go to trial beginning March 27 in Sydney.

Rupert Murdoch's eldest son -- who is also chief executive of Fox News parent Fox Corporation -- is suing Crikey over an opinion piece that linked his family's media empire to the January 6, 2021 storming of the US Capitol by supporters of then-President Donald Trump.

The media scion's lawyers claimed their client was defamed over a dozen times in the article, which accused "the Murdochs and their slew of poisonous Fox News commentators" of being "unindicted co-conspirators" in the Capitol riot.

On Friday, Murdoch's barrister -- top defamation litigator Sue Chrysanthou -- pushed in the preliminary hearing for the earliest possible trial date, arguing Crikey had been "directing ridicule and hatred" towards her client.

Crikey was "publicly claiming martyrdom", she told the largely administrative case management hearing, pointing to the outlet running billboard advertisements about the case and fundraising online for its defense.

In the past month, Crikey's GoFundMe campaign has raised nearly S$333,000, and garnered support from two former Australian Prime Ministers, Kevin Rudd and Malcolm Turnbull.

"Lachlan Murdoch owns boats that are worth more than Crikey," Turnbull commented alongside his $3,400 donation.

A Very Public Fight

The legal scuffle over the opinion piece burst into international headlines last month, when Crikey ran an advertisement in The New York Times daring Murdoch to sue.

The often pugilistic website said it welcomed the opportunity to "test this important issue of freedom of public interest journalism in a courtroom".

Murdoch filed his lawsuit the next day.

The tussle pits an upstart website, with subscriber numbers in the low tens of thousands, against one of the world's largest media empires.

Defamation expert David Rolph from the University of Sydney told AFP that Murdoch's case could be the first test of recent attempts to reform Australia's notoriously tough defamation laws.

Australia has gained a reputation as "the defamation capital of the world" after a slew of lawsuits launched by high-profile figures, including actors and politicians.

Crikey's defense, filed with the Federal Court Tuesday, denied it defamed Murdoch and flagged it would lean on two new defenses created by the reforms.

"One is a serious harm threshold... the plaintiff now has to prove that they not only suffered some harm to reputation, but that it was serious harm to reputation," Rolph explained.

Crikey will also seek to argue that the opinion piece, by writer Bernard Keane, was in the public interest.

"I suppose the difficulty here is that defense is entirely untested. This will be a test case of that," Rolph said.

'Fundamental Public Importance'

In a statement issued Thursday, Crikey chief executive Will Hayward said his company was fighting the case because "there is an issue of fundamental public importance at stake".

"We think it is important in an open, well-functioning society that the rich and powerful can be critiqued."

While Murdoch has stayed quiet since launching the case, his statement of claim accused Crikey of using the legal saga to drive subscriptions.

He has asked the court to permanently ban Crikey from publishing anything suggesting he "illegally conspired with Donald Trump" around the events of January 6.

The case will be heard by Justice Wigney, who has overseen several closely-watched defamation trials -- including actor Geoffrey Rush's successful suit against another Australian media outlet.

Wigney said Friday that before the trial begins, he would seek to have the parties enter mediation where "cool commercial minds may prevail".

Fox Executives And Anchor Tried To Subvert 2020 Election Night Reporting

Top Fox News executives interfered with the election projections of the network’s vaunted “decision desk” due to blowback from then-President Donald Trump, according to a new book. The reports — and the actions Fox took with regard to its decision desk following the 2020 election — demolish the network’s argument that its “news side” is a credible journalistic operation walled off from the “opinion side’s” Republican Party propaganda machine.

In The Divider: Trump in the White House, 2017-2021, Peter Baker and Susan Glasser report that while Fox’s decision desk had been comfortable with its election night call that Joe Biden had won Arizona, “Fox executives were freaking out” that week as the network came “under tremendous pressure from Trump and his allies.” Fox’s call made it more difficult for Trump to subvert the election after declaring victory on election night, and he responded by successfully encouraging Fox viewers to switch to its competitors.

Jay Wallace, Fox’s president and executive editor, took a direct action overriding the decision desk in hopes of avoiding further criticism from Trump supporters on the Friday after election day, according to Baker and Glasser.

Wallace “overruled the Decision Desk team including Bill Sammon, Arnon Miskin, and Chris Stirewalt, refusing to let them call Nevada for Biden even after other networks did, a level of interference that had been unheard of in past elections,” they write. “The reason had little to do with Nevada. Because of the Arizona projection, calling Nevada would give Biden enough electoral votes for victory. Wallace did not want Fox to be the first to call the election and declare Biden president-elect.”

Wallace’s act followed two other proposals from senior Fox employees to interfere with the decision desk for Trump’s benefit, according to the book.

First, “at 8:30 the morning after the election, Suzanne Scott, the chief executive officer, even suggested that Fox should not call any more states until they were officially certified,” they reported. As Baker and Glasser noted, “official state certifications typically took days or even weeks and no network had ever waited until then before telling their viewers who had won.”

“A couple other top executives backed up Scott,” while Sammon, the Washington managing editor who directed the decision desk, advised against the move, according to the book. (That Sammon, who slanted Fox’s reporting to the right and bragged about falsely portraying Barack Obama as a socialist during the 2008 election, was the voice of reason here shows how far the network had gone.)

But two days later, they report that Fox chief political anchor Bret Baier sent Wallace an email arguing that Fox should reverse its Arizona call and instead project that Trump had won the state — even though he trailed at the time by more than 10,000 votes.

“The Trump campaign was really pissed,” he wrote in an email to Jay Wallace, the president and executive editor at Fox. “This situation is getting uncomfortable. Really uncomfortable. I keep having to defend this on air.” He accused the Decision Desk of “holding on for pride” and added: “It’s hurting us. The sooner we pull it—even if it gives us major egg [on our faces]—and we put it back in his column the better we are in my opinion.

Fox executives sell ads by touting the purported firewall between the network’s right-wing “opinion side” and its respectable “news side.” But here we have the network’s top “news side” anchor imploring the head of “news side” programming to make the “news side” decision desk fraudulently award a state to Trump because his campaign was demanding it. That says more about Fox’s role as GOP propaganda than any “opinion side” monologue. (In a statement, Baier denied writing that the Trump campaign “was really pissed,” claiming that the quote was “from an external email that I referenced,” but complained only of the “context” of the remainder of the quotes.)

Wallace didn’t follow through on Baier’s proposal, but according to Baker and Glasser he blocked the decision desk’s Nevada call the following day. The day after that, Fox saw the writing on the wall and followed CNN, ABC, CBS, and The Associated Press in declaring that Biden had won the election.

But that wasn’t the end of it. The network’s brass subsequently established an incentive structure that would dissuade similar “news side” threats to Fox’s bottom line.

Baker and Glasser report that Sammon and Stirewalt were then “summarily fired,” with the announcement delayed until January and described as a “retirement” and part of a “restructuring,” respectively.

Over the months that followed, “opinion side” hosts Greg Gutfeld and Jesse Watters, who had both questioned the network’s Arizona call, were given their own weeknight shows. They each took over time slots that had previously been occupied by “news side” programs. Other prominent election deniers were also promoted and given increased prominence at the network.

Everyone who works at Fox now knows that if they help Republicans try to steal an election, they’ll be richly rewarded. If they try to interfere with that effort by accurately stating that the Democrats won, the network’s top executives may overrule them and they will find themselves looking for a new job.

Fox’s decision desk is now just another piece of the right’s election subversion machine — one its executives can deploy at will — and its projections should be treated as such. Any future Fox election calls that diverge from other networks to the benefit of the GOP should be treated with extreme skepticism.

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.

Graham Says 15-Week Abortion Limit Is Step Toward Total National Ban

Sen. Lindsey Graham is not letting up on his national abortion ban, even though many of his fellow Senate Republicans wish he’d be quiet about that until after the election. Graham’s plan may help fire up the Republican base, but he clearly thinks it’s going to win swing voters despite all the available evidence that it will do the opposite.

Graham is out with an op-ed at Fox News (of course) trying to sell his abortion ban as the loving and compassionate and extremely moderate thing to do. Written with Marjorie Dannenfelser, the president of Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America, the piece opens with a lie and ends with an acknowledgment that a national 15-week abortion ban is just the beginning.

“Pain is part of the human experience, and so is compassion for those who suffer pain,” they write at the outset, selling a policy devoid of compassion for the pregnant people it would affect. “For too long, our nation’s laws have excluded unborn children from this compassion even when growing evidence shows they can feel pain at least by 15 weeks in their development.”

In reality, “The science conclusively establishes that a human fetus does not have the capacity to experience pain until after at least 24–25 weeks. Every major medical organization that has examined this issue and peer-reviewed studies on the matter have consistently reached the conclusion that abortion before this point does not result in the perception of pain in a fetus,” according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

Why would that be? “Rigorous scientific studies have found that the connections necessary to transmit signals from peripheral sensory nerves to the brain, as well as the brain structures necessary to process those signals, do not develop until at or after 24 weeks of gestation. Because it lacks these connections and structures, a fetus or embryo does not have the physiological capacity to perceive pain until at least this gestational age.”

Following that lie, Graham and Dannenfelser tell a truth: Graham’s national abortion ban would establish a ceiling, but not a floor, on abortion rights. It would limit abortion rights in states that allow abortion past 15 weeks (as was the national policy until the Trump Supreme Court went to work), but states that wanted to entirely ban abortion could do so.

Next, Graham and Dannenfelser move on to a misleading comparison between the national abortion ban they’re pushing and European laws. “Most of our European allies already limit abortion by at least 15 weeks. Developed nations like Switzerland, Denmark, and Norway allow abortion up to 12 weeks while France, Germany, Belgium, and Spain allow abortion up to 14 weeks,” they write. Here’s the thing: That may be true on paper, but most European countries have broader exceptions than Graham is proposing after those gestational limits.

“We see earlier gestational limits in Europe,” Katherine Mayall of the Center for Reproductive Rights told The Atlantic’s Adam Serwer, but “in practice, if somebody hits a gestational limit of 12 weeks, they’re still able to access abortion care, because the broad grounds after that limit option include things like mental health or the woman’s economic circumstances.” Economic circumstances!

Here’s maybe the best part, though. “For almost 50 years, the American people were denied a voice on abortion,” Graham and Dannenfelser lament, as they push a bill that would deny a voice to many states. And a bill that is, according to post-Dobbs polling, opposed by the public 57% to 30%, a 27-point margin.

It’s lie after lie in a piece intended to sell a policy that lowers the ceiling on medical freedom for pregnant people. And yes, it’s terrible politics for Republicans. The Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision put the U.S. on notice that Republicans do want to take away your rights, and Graham’s bill emphasizes that. That’s why so many Republicans who will gladly vote for it after the midterm elections are running scared right now. But he’s just being honest about his party’s goals—and toward the end of his piece with Dannenfelser, Graham acknowledges that this 15-week abortion ban is not the final step.

”There’s a lot more work to be done to ensure that one day every child is protected under the law, and we believe, over time, life will win,” they write. “But this is a reasonable starting place for a debate worthy of the United States Senate and our nation.”

Got that? A national 15-week abortion ban is just the starting point. The only answer is to make sure they don’t get started.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

Fox-Inspired Durham Probe Of Russia Investigation Fizzles Out

Fox News spent years smearing the Justice Department investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election as a criminal conspiracy by Obama administration officials and the “deep state” against Donald Trump. The network’s campaign ultimately spawned a sprawling probe by special counsel John Durham that followed up on Fox’s call to “investigate the investigators.” But now that investigation is reportedly coming to an end, with little to show for itself other than additional Fox content.

Durham “appears to be winding down his three-year inquiry,” The New York Times reported Wednesday, noting that the grand jury he “has recently used to hear evidence has expired, and while he could convene another, there are currently no plans to do so.”

The special counsel ultimately developed cases against three individuals, but as the Times noted, “he has not charged any conspiracy or put any high-level officials on trial.” Former FBI lawyer Kevin Clinesmith pleaded guilty for altering a document used to justify the surveillance of a Trump campaign aide and was sentenced to probation. Durham charged former Clinton campaign lawyer Michael Sussmann with a single count of lying to an FBI agent, but he was found not guilty by a unanimous jury in May. The last remaining person on Durham’s public docket is Igor Danchenko, a Russian national who contributed to the Steele dossier and goes on trial next month on charges of making false statements to the FBI.

That’s a poor result for a probe that Fox hosts such as Sean Hannity had declared was necessary to target an anti-Trump conspiracy that featured an array of high-ranking public officials, including former President Barack Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. At one point, Hannity argued that if the investigation did not result in high-level convictions, “the great American republic will disintegrate before your eyes.”

But at the same time, the probe wasn’t a total loss — it provided Hannity and his ilk with a steady stream of content. I noted after the jury found Sussmann not guilty that Fox had aired more than 2,000 weekday segments that discussed Durham’s investigation or the origins of the Russia probe since his May 2019 appointment, with more than 500 coming after he was named special counsel in October 2020.

The network’s coverage has dwindled since then, but the damage has been done. Durham’s probe fit neatly into Hannity’s counternarrative, in which Trump and his associates were victims of a witch hunt and the real crimes were all committed by overzealous anti-Trump investigators. That conspiracy theory has foundered in court, and the Justice Department’s inspector general concluded in December 2019 that the Russia probe was properly predicated.

Its legacy, however, will be in solidifying the GOP’s turn against the FBI and the Justice Department and setting the stage for the current vein of demagoguery against the various federal probes of Trump and his allies. Hannity sought to put Trump above the law, and, at least for Republicans, he succeeded.

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.

Warning Of 'War On Republicans," Fox Stokes Next Insurrection

On Monday evening, Fox News stars Tucker Carlson and Jesse Watters each used the 21st anniversary of 9/11 to tell their millions of viewers that the Biden administration has declared war on conservatives for their political beliefs.

Carlson and Watters argued, as the network has for months, that President Joe Biden’s Department of Justice is a tyrannical force bent on persecuting Fox News viewers, and that it’s only a matter of time before Democrats criminalize all political dissent.

Both defended the election denialism that has become core to the Republican Party after Trump’s loss in 2020, reinforcing the idea not only that the election was stolen, but also that those who say the election wasn’t rigged are jackbooted authoritarians.

Carlson approached the topic by playing a clip of Chuck Todd’s interview of Vice President Kamala Harris, in which she described how dangerous it is to have at least 11 election deniers running for secretary of state positions throughout the country. Typically the top statewide election official, the office is incredibly powerful, and those races have been flooded with cash as Republicans seek to install denialists to oversee upcoming elections.

Todd framed the interview, which was pegged to the anniversary of 9/11, as a discussion of how national security issues had evolved from external dangers to “the threat within.”

“Who is this threat?” Carlson responded. “Well, of course, it's you and anyone else in the way of the Biden administration.”

“And especially, as the vice president just said, and you saw it, anyone who questions the legitimacy of the last election,” he continued.

Carlson then added his own election conspiracism, arguing without evidence that “there are reasons not to believe” the final vote count, and that if a conservative voices that belief, under Biden, “you need to be pursued by law enforcement.”

Minutes later, Carlson brought up the Department of Justice issuance of roughly 40 subpoenas to top aides to former President Donald Trump, including white nationalist Stephen Miller.

Carlson argued that the Biden Department of Justice was trying to “suppress political dissent, to hobble an entire political party and to keep these people from ever participating in American politics again.”

One hour earlier, Watters had made a similar point. “This war on Republicans -- it's a war of choice,” he said. “It's a preemptive war so the Republican Party never wins another election. And that is the real threat to democracy.”

Fox News’ business model relies on stoking its viewers’ fears, and Monday’s segments come on the heels of months of similar coverage.

In late June, Carlson devoted an entire opening monologue to a lengthy mischaracterization of the legal cases of 14 conservatives, nearly all of whom were involved in some effort to overturn the 2020 election. “The signature tactic of the Biden administration … has been the criminalizing of American politics,” Carlson said at the time.

Carlson and others at Fox also spent part of the summer pushing a preposterous theory that Biden was hiring 87,000 new IRS agents to act as a paramilitary force against conservatives. A Media Matters study found that the network had pushed the bogus theory more than 200 times by the end of August.

Following the search of Trump’s residence and golf resort at Mar-a-Lago, Fox and other right-wing outlets and pundits characterized the DOJ’s actions as additional evidence that Biden was persecuting regular conservatives. “But the real target of this investigation isn't Trump,” Laura Ingraham said. “The real target of this investigation is you or anyone who dares to call out and take on the rank corruption of the D.C. establishment.”

Watters responded to the search by arguing that any attempt to hold Trump accountable was in reality an attack on Fox viewers. “These are bloodthirsty savages who want to see you humiliated and violated,” he said. “This is a threat to anybody who opposes them. Look what we can do to you. We can even storm into your president's home and take whatever we want.”

“They don’t need evidence,” Watters said in July, speaking broadly about various DOJ investigations into Trump. “Their goal is to scare you into submission.”

The overall implication of these arguments — that conservatives are being persecuted, and that the January 6 insurrection was really just about asking questions about vote totals — is not hard to understand. Fox News is laying the groundwork for future fascist violence, including but not limited to violence in response to elections won by Democrats.

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.