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Tag: right wing media

Even After Abortion Ruling, Right-Wing Media Scoff At Threat To Privacy Rights

In reaction to clear signs that the Supreme Court may take aim at marriage equality after overturning Roe v. Wade, right-wing media outlets are employing the same tactics they previously deployed against Roe by denying that the precedent protecting gay marriage is at risk while simultaneously calling for it to be repealed.

On June 24, the Supreme Court issued a ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson, overturning Roe v. Wade, Planned Parenthood v. Casey, and the long-held precedent guaranteeing federal protection for abortion rights nationwide. As part of the ruling, Justice Clarence Thomas released a concurring opinion calling for the court to “reconsider” several other cases, namely those protecting same-sex sexual activity, access to contraception, and gay marriage. Both Thomas and Justice Samuel Alito have also previously expressed an interest in overturning Obergefell v. Hodges (the case establishing protections for same-sex marriages). Conservatives have already seized on the ruling to attack LGBTQ rights, with Alabama citing Dobbs 14 times in a recent court filing presented in support of the state’s ban on gender-affirming care for trans youth.

Yet in the aftermath of the ruling, right-wing media have attempted to dismiss the genuine possibility that Obergefell could face the same fate as Roe, reflecting their earlier push to downplay the risks to Roe. Meanwhile, many right-wing outlets, including some of the same ones denying gay marriage is under threat, have called for Obergefell to be repealed.

Right-wing Media Claim Roe Ruling Doesn't Put Marriage Equality At Risk

The majority decision in Dobbs stated that the ruling did not set precedent for other cases unrelated to abortion. However, Thomas used the ruling to push for reconsideration of three other cases — Lawrence v. Texas, which struck down any remaining laws against same-sex sexual activity; Griswold v. Connecticut, which set the precedent protecting access to contraceptives; and Obergefell. Despite Thomas’ opinion and Alito’s previous statement suggesting support for overturning marriage equality, right-wing media argued that the precedent in the Dobbs ruling does not jeopardize Obergefell.

On June 24, Fox News guest Carrie Severino accused Democrats of “fearmongering” about the threat to marriage equality, adding, “Please don't pretend that it's going to have an impact on every other case in our society because it simply doesn't.” That night, Fox News’ Tucker Carlson similarly called the threat to marriage equality a “fearmongering talking point” and claimed President Joe Biden is “a liar” for noting the threat the ruling poses to the Obergefell.

Other Fox News personalities continued to push the claim that the Dobbs ruling exists in a vacuum and would not effect rights like gay marriage or contraception. They were joined by Newsmax’s show American Agenda, during which host Heather Childers called warnings by protesters and activists “fear-mongering” and guest Erin Elmore of Turning Point USA claimed that “the left is using fear in saying what’s going to happen to gay marriage or interracial marriage or the right to contraception.”

The Wall Street Journal’s editorial board also said on June 24 that the “political left is making much of Justice Clarence Thomas’ argument.” The editorial asserted that Obergefell relied on stronger precedent than Roe because it made possible myriad marriage contracts across the United States, suggesting that Thomas had shown he would not approach the case in the same fashion. Also, during the June 24 episode of the Journal’s podcast Potomac Watch, members of the editorial board Kimberley Strassel and Kyle Peterson argued gay marriage was not put at risk by the ruling. Peterson said, “I am very skeptical that the Supreme Court would say those people can be married today and not married tomorrow in the United States” — which is in fact what the court had done that very same day for more than 33 million people’s ability to exercise their reproductive autonomy.

Adding a degree of cognitive dissonance, some of those adamantly asserting that Roe’s overturning did not endanger LGBTQ rights simultaneously called for Obergefell to be overturned. On the June 24 edition of his radio show, Fox News’ Sean Hannity called fear that Dobbs will be used against the gay community “left-wing lunacy” and cited the majority opinion to claim the ruling “applies to this case and this case alone.” However, on his show on June 27, Hannity discussed Thomas’ opinion, noting how it said “striking down Roe should open up the high court to review other precedents” before suggesting that striking down “Griswold, Lawrence, and some [other cases]” would be “the most democratic for this democratic republic that we live in.” The Daily Wire’s Ben Shapiro likewise tweeted on June 27 that the court “explicitly said they would NOT touch Obergefell or Griswold” but on June 24, a Daily Wire article had quoted him lamenting that, unlike Thomas, the other justices did not “have the actual stones” to attack cases like Obergefell.

Former Trump campaign adviser Steve Cortes also called for the court to evaluate “what constitutes a marriage,” BlazeTV’s Steven Crowder argued that “states should have the right to regulate same-sex marriage,” and far-right grifter Mike Cernovich falsely claimed Obergefell resulted from “SCOTUS discover[ing] it hidden in a 200 year old text” and suggested it was “anti-democratic.” Following the ruling, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton also stated his support for removing protections for gay marriage, same-sex relations, and contraceptives, calling them “legislative issues.”

Conservative Pundits Made Same False Claims About Roe

In the years leading up to the Dobbs decision, right-wing media were equally adamant about Roe not being in jeopardy. During confirmation hearings for Justices Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett, many of those now accusing people of fearmongering over the fate of Obergefell said the same about Roe.

Leading up to the confirmation hearings for Barrett in 2020, Shapiro said the possibility of Roe being overturned was “basically zero” and said, “Roe v. Wade is not going to be overturned.” Hannity defended Barrett, saying, “In spite of the lies the left will tell you, Judge Barrett has been described as personally pro-life but has expressed doubts that Roe v. Wade will ever be overturned.”

Two years before that, during Kavanaugh’s confirmation, those on the right said the same. Severino said a “head-on challenge to Roe” was “unlikely.” The Wall Street Journal’s editorial board argued that the strength of “stare decisis” meant the court was unlikely to overrule Roe — the exact same doctrine it cited in its June 24 editorial to dismiss concern for Obergefell.

As with the current round of rhetoric, Fox News was a major player in denying Roe would be overturned, often while making flawed arguments for why it should be.

Like Abortion Access, LGBTQ Rights Are Known To Enjoy Broad Public Support

As with their tactic on Roe, right-wing media outlets are intent on gaslighting their audiences into believing that the right to gay marriage is safe. They'll push that claim just long enough for the same powerful conservative organizations responsible for overturning federal abortion protections to overturn marriage equality. Two of the organizations that filed briefs in support of Dobbs, Concerned Women for America and the Family Research Council, are both vocal critics of Obergefell and have leadership that is frequently featured on right-wing outlets like Fox News.

However, those in conservative media understand that fundamental rights like access to abortion and marriage have broad public support — 61% of Americans believe access to abortion should be legal in all or most cases, and support for gay marriage is at an all-time high, with 71 percent of Americans supporting it. The ability of right-wing actors to distract from and obfuscate the extreme policy they support is essential in their mission to make inroads with a broader audience.

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.

Right-Wing Media Spurred Racist Death Threats Against Election Workers

Wandrea “Shaye” Moss, a former Georgia election worker, testified today about the harassment and threats she received after she was targeted in a right-wing media-driven conspiracy theory about Democrats stealing the 2020 presidential election in the state. Moss spoke to the January 6 congressional committee today about the racist threats against her which followed the widespread coverage.

Moss said she wanted to work in election administration because her grandmother emphasized that voting was not always a right that Black people had in the United States. Due to the threats and harassment she received, she's been forced to leave her job.

Moss also detailed a break-in at her grandmother’s house in which people “knocked on her door” and “just started pushing their way through, claiming that they were coming in to make a citizen’s arrest.” The committee also played footage from the testimony that her mother and fellow election worker, Ruby Freeman, gave prior to the hearing, in which she described how her life had been turned upside down by right-wing conspiracy theories.

Moss and Freeman were targeted following the release of footage that the Trump campaign claimed provided evidence of voter fraud. The footage provoked a false conspiracy theory that the Georgia poll workers unloaded ballots from a concealed suitcase in order to sway the election results. The conspiracy theory has been repeatedly debunked. By the beginning of January, Freeman had evacuated her home after the FBI concluded she was no longer safe in the days preceding January 6.

Moss and Freeman have sued The Gateway Pundit and One America News Network for their coverage of the footage that spurred the false conspiracy theory. OAN was later dismissed from the suit. Fox News and other right-wing outlets repeatedly covered the footage of Moss and Freeman, though the network never explicitly named the two workers.

  • On the December 3, 2020, edition of The Five, co-host Jesse Watters played the video and asked Fox News “straight news” host Martha MacCallum whether then-Attorney General Bill Barr would look into the footage.
  • Fox host Tucker Carlson also aired the footage on his December 3, 2020, show and called it “pretty unbelievable” that the video showed “poll workers pulling ballots out of suitcases.”
  • During Sean Hannity’s hour on the same night, the Fox host also aired the footage and singled out Moss by spot shadowing her and saying, “Look at her right there.” A Trump campaign representative, Jacki Pick, repeatedly referred to Moss as “the lady with the blonde braids.”
  • On the December 7, 2020, edition of his show, Hannity again played the footage and claimed Moss and other election workers pulled out suitcases “apparently filled with thousands and thousands of ballots, which were then counted by the workers that were allowed to remain in the room that pulled them out of the suitcases they conveniently had there, without partisan observers, without the media.”
  • Right-wing news site The Federalist also published an article on December 7, 2020, attempting to refute verified debunkings of the conspiracy theory. It claimed “Big Tech” did not even come “close” to debunking the election fraud theories.
  • At the end of December 2020, Fox began airing advertisements paid for by the Trump campaign that included the footage and repeated the debunked claims that the containers shown in the video were filled with somehow fraudulent Democratic ballots.

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.

Greene Hires Pedo-Promoting Alt-Right Agitator Milo Yiannopoulos

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) has hired a far right-wing agitator and activist who appeared to support sexual “relationships” between boys as young as 13 and older men.

In 2016 Milo Yiannopoulos said, “I think in the gay world some of the most important, enriching, and incredibly life-affirming, important shaping relationships very often between younger boys and older men.”

Those remarks were part of a video in which “Yiannopoulos discussed romantic relationships between teenage boys and adult men while being interviewed for the Drunken Peasants podcast in early 2016,” NBC News reported in 2017. “Asked whether he was advocating for ‘cross-generational relationships,’ Yiannopoulos said: ‘Yeah, I don’t mind admitting that.'”

At that time, Heavy also reported: “In the video, Yiannopoulos describes how he feels sexual relationships between boys and older men can be positive. He denies he was defending pedophilia in the video, saying that term refers to younger children, not ‘someone who is 13-years old, who is sexually mature.’ He also says, ‘We get hung up on this sort of child abuse stuff to the point where we are heavily policing consensual adults.'”

Yiannopoulos said in an apology, “I do not advocate for illegal behavior,” and, “I do not support child abuse. It’s a disgusting crime of which I have been a victim.”

On Monday afternoon The Hill reported: “Right-wing provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos is working as an unpaid intern in the Congressional office of Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene..”

“Yiannopoulos, 37, announced the job on his Telegram account Monday with a photo of his official intern congressional badge,” The Hill added, noting “Greene’s office confirmed to The Hill that Yiannopoulos is indeed their intern.”

“At the end of April,” The Daily Beast also reports, “the hate-spewing ideologue—once a ubiquitous MAGA figure until he appeared to defend pedophilia in a YouTube video—attended a Greene press conference and, after it wrapped, was escorted with the congresswoman into the Capitol building through a ‘members only’ entrance.”

Rep. Greene has repeatedly attacked the LGBTQ community, and expanded her attacks to the larger liberal voting bloc, suggesting Democrats and anyone who supports LGBTQ people is a pedophile or supports pedophilia. Earlier Monday she posted this, one of several of her tweets calling people “groomer” or using the term “grooming.”

In April, Greene accused Democrats of being “pro-pedophile.”


Reprinted with permission from Alternet.

How The Supreme Court Became A Corporate Rubber Stamp

Today's six-member supermajority on the Supreme Court has surrendered all claim to being an impartial moral force for blind justice. Instead, the GOP's small network of corporate and right-wing operatives has painstakingly fabricated and weaponized the court as its own political oligarchy. In only a couple of decades, backed by a few billionaires, these anti-democracy zealots have incrementally been imposing on America an extremist political agenda that they could not win at the ballot box.

Their "Eureka!" moment — the startling development that opened the eyes of the moneyed elites and ideologues to the raw power they could grab by politicizing the judiciary — was the Supreme Court's illegitimate Bush v. Gore ruling. In December 2000, that five-person GOP majority abruptly crashed Florida's presidential vote count, storming over both democracy and judicial propriety to install George W. in the White House. Appalled, dissenting Justice John Paul Stevens mocked the five, pointing out that while their trumped-up ruling didn't really establish whether Bush or Gore won, it did make the loser "pellucidly clear: It is the Nation's confidence in the judge as an impartial guardian of the rule of law."

One of those who helped run the court's blatant political power play over the Florida vote was an obscure corporate lawyer who had long been an aggressive, behind-the-scenes Republican monkey-wrencher pushing to restrict voting by people of color, poor people and other Democratic constituencies: John Roberts. Shortly thereafter — surprise! — Bush elevated Roberts to a top federal judgeship, and just two years later moved him on up to America's ultimate judicial power spot, chief justice of the Supremes.

From this lofty roost, Roberts has orchestrated an expansive political docket for the court, handpicking cases created and advanced by far-right interests. He then has manipulated precedents and procedures to produce convoluted decisions that impose plutocratic, autocratic and theocratic domination over the American people's democratic rights and aspirations.

To date, Chief Justice Roberts has cobbled together slim, all-Republican majorities to hand down more than 80 blatantly partisan rulings, fabricating law that We the People have never voted for and don't support.

It's bizarre to have the Supreme Court, the least democratic branch of government, professing to speak in the name of The People. Even as its right-wing core is grinding out an unprecedented level of partisan judgments that We the People clearly do not want — and will not support. Take that abortion right, for example, that the court — now freshly packed with former President Donald Trump's trio of Amy Coney Barrett, Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh — will likely move this year to nullify. If they do, it will be a pricey "victory" for those politicos, because they are imperiously thrusting their own agenda over the overwhelming will of the people.

Helloooo, your honors: Some six in 10 Americans have consistently and passionately affirmed that these deeply personal and emotional decisions belong to the women affected, not to unelected ideologues and political opportunists. A court so far out of touch with the people is marching forth with no cloak of legitimacy, squandering its authority to be taken seriously, much less obeyed.

Not only has this band of self-righteous judges been punching their reactionary social biases into court-made law, but they've also been rubber-stamping cases to enthrone corporate supremacy over us and our environment. Throughout Roberts' reign, the court has sided with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce (the chief front group for U.S. corporate giants) a staggering 70 percent of the time! Indeed, three members — Roberts, Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas — now rank among the five most corporate-friendly justices of the past 75 years.

This aggressive corporatization and partisanship has lifted the Supremes to a new level of public awareness — much to their chagrin. In a Quinnipiac survey last November, more than six in 10 Americans said they believe Supreme Court decisions are motivated primarily by politics, not by unbiased readings of the law. Rather than instilling a modicum of humility, however, the bad reviews have stirred embarrassing outbursts of judicial pique and vitriol. Alito, for example, whined loudly last year that critics are engaged in "unprecedented efforts to intimidate the court or damage it as an independent institution." Likewise, Barrett was so stung that she felt it necessary to go public with a strained denial, pleading for the public to believe that "this court is not comprised of a bunch of partisan hacks."

Note to petulant judges: If you don't want to be called a partisan hack, stop being one. And, Brother Alito, it's not critics who're damaging the third branch "as an independent institution," it's your obsequious fealty to corporate interests and your knee-jerk allegiance to extremist ideologues. You can wear the robe, but you can't hide in it.

Reprinted with permission from Creators.

Trump Allies Scheme To 'Counterprogram' January 6 Panel Hearings

The bipartisan House select committee investigating the January 6 insurrection has scheduled prime-time hearings for next week, during which the committee is expected to lay out many of its findings regarding former President Donald Trump’s efforts to subvert the results of the 2020 election. Headed into that process, news outlets must prepare themselves to treat the response by Trump’s right-wing media allies as another component of that coup plot, which culminated in the storming of the Capitol by a mob of his supporters — not as mere political messaging.

Axios reported Thursday night, “Scoop: Trumpworld plots January 6 counterprogramming blitz,” outlining coordinated plans by Trump and his allies, including conservative groups and members of the House Republican leadership, for a real-time public relations effort to respond to the committee’s proceedings. This will include efforts to deploy misleading pro-Trump commentary on media platforms such as Fox News, Steve Bannon’s show, and Facebook, along with op-ed pieces written by members of Congress, and conservative influencers on social media.

But while Axios documented the coordinated messaging operation against an investigation into a major attack on America’s democratic process, the outlet also made a major mistake by focusing its coverage in terms of a political horse race — rather than in terms of an entire political party covering up a coup, as noted by Crooked Media editor-in-chief Brian Beutler.


That’s Not “Why It Matters”

This problem became especially obvious in the “Why it matters” section of Axios’ piece:

Why it matters: Republicans face a daunting challenge in the coming messaging war. The committee has been building toward this moment for months, hoping to use the blockbuster summer hearings to paint a vivid picture of how close Trump and his supporters came to subverting democracy.

Further bullet points added that Republicans would argue the committee is “a partisan fishing expedition,” and that this framing “will be central to their hopes of defanging whatever negative revelations come to light during the hearings.” Axios left unremarked, however, the idea that a political party’s leadership in a functioning constitutional republic should not want to “defang” revelations about an actual coup attempt.

Axios also reported that one of the point people on this media operation will be Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), who will “seek to hammer the message that the committee ‘lacks merit and legitimacy’ and is hyperpartisan.” The article failed to note, however, that Jordan was also an active participant in the plot to overturn the election, having met with Trump in late December 2020 to discuss efforts to reject the counting of the Electoral College votes. He was also revealed months ago to have advocated for then-Vice President Mike Pence to unilaterally refuse to count electoral votes in text messages with then-White House chief of staff Mark Meadows during the days before the Capitol insurrection. (In texts from the morning of January 6 released yesterday by CNN, Meadows replied to Jordan, “I have pushed for this. Not sure it is going to happen.”)

Fox News Pushing GOP Talking Points To Undermine Hearings

The right-wing media campaign against next week’s hearings has already started on Fox News, the network that helped to foment Trump’s efforts to subvert the election results and has since attacked the committee’s previous hearings, painting an alternate reality about the attack on the Capitol.

Fox News anchor Harris Faulkner hosted Jordan on Tuesday’s edition of The Faulkner Focus, providing him with a platform to attack the committee as allegedly being “political” — as if Jordan’s previous attempt to subvert a national election, and the wider House Republican efforts to obstruct any investigation into the events, were somehow apolitical.

Later in the interview, Jordan complained that the committee’s attempt to subpoena him was really an effort to “play the politics.” Faulkner seemingly agreed, saying that “if they’re serious, they’ll respond” to Jordan’s concerns, “and then you’re actually having a conversation. Right now, it’s just running around.”

Then, in a truly outrageous moment on Wednesday, Faulkner opined to House Minority Leader McCarthy (R-CA) about the need for a 9/11 Commission-style inquiry, “where everybody had a voice.”

“Everybody would want to participate in that, I would think,” Faulkner said. “Is it too late?”

“Remember, Republicans and myself came out right after January asking for that type of situation,” McCarthy said, falsely claiming that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) had “said no.”

In fact, McCarthy opposed a bipartisan commission to investigate the Capitol attack, following public opposition by Trump, and then Senate Republicans blocked the Democrats’ proposal to establish such a committee.

Mainstream media outlets have an important job ahead of them. The coming right-wing media blitz against next week’s January 6 committee hearings is not merely part of some political horse race, but an active effort by conspirators to justify themselves and discredit anyone trying to expose them.

In the face of such an onslaught, media outlets should treat this “counterprogramming” not as a matter of partisan messaging, but as an intrinsic component of an attack against democracy in America — both by Trump and his allies in Congress, as well as from any other media outlets that gladly play host to it.

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.

Desperate Culture Warriors Try To Seize 'Top Gun: Maverick' Success

Right-wing culture warriors are constantly finding new things to get mad about, turn into content, and, if possible, monetize — from the supposed cancellation of Dr. Seuss to the purported wokeness of Mr. Potato Head. But that machine doesn’t only concoct culture war defeats to rail against — its cogs also need to identify successes.

Enter Top Gun: Maverick, which broke Memorial Day box office records with a $156 million gross over the four-day weekend. A simple but logical explanation for this large audience would be that it is a well-made, critically acclaimed sequel to a beloved property that stars a major movie star flying fighter jets and opened on a holiday weekend opposite no competition. But right-wing culture warriors saw the Tom Cruise vehicle as a nail, whipped out their hammer, and declared that its success is due to its supposedly “anti-woke,” “pro-America” politics. Their implicit argument is that films that don’t share their political views shouldn’t be made in the first place.

The right-wing content mills have all tossed out versions of the same point. Breitbart’s headline was “Masculine, pro-American ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ blasts to $146M opening, towers over woke flops.” Outkick.com went with “‘Top Gun: Maverick’ soars on pro-America, woke-free message.” At the Daily Caller, it was “‘Top Gun: Maverick’ crushes the box office as Americans crave non-woke content.”

By Monday, these arguments had moved from the right-wing digital space to Fox News. On Fox & Friends, guest co-host Rachel Campos-Duffy said the film’s success is because “they didn’t wokeify it. It’s unabashedly patriotic.” Outnumbered co-host Tomi Lahren responded to a quote from the Breitbart piece with “Amen,” adding, “Can we please bring back good movies like this, because the movies that we have had the last couple of years have not been great; they’ve been woke. They’re all about an empty virtue signal for those that make them.”

The right seems to think “wokeness” matters for audiences whenever it is useful for their argument. Breitbart’s John Nolte compared Top Gun: Maverick favorably to the Star Wars sequels, writing that the film “didn’t do what Star Wars did and pervert a romantic-adventure series into a shrill Womyn’s Studies lecture.”

But Top Gun: Maverick is likely to finish with a much smaller audience than those films: The Force Awakens currently holds the all-time domestic box office record, the other two films in the sequel trilogy come in at No. 10 and No. 15, and all three had bigger opening weekends, according to Box Office Mojo. By Nolte’s logic, Americans love “shrill Womyn’s Studies lectures,” though I think it’s more likely that they just love Star Wars films. (I did not personally enjoy any of those films for reasons unrelated to whatever Nolte is talking about.)

I was one of the millions of Americans who saw and enjoyed Top Gun: Maverick over the weekend. If you like well-executed films, fast planes doing cool things, dad vibes, and the theatrical experience, I’d recommend seeing it on the biggest screen possible.

Is the film “anti-woke”? The cast is significantly more diverse than in the original film, with a female naval aviator effectively serving as the next-generation Tom Cruise character. But this isn’t really interrogated — it’s a Hollywood blockbuster. If the film’s box office take had entered the danger zone, it’s easy to imagine the same culture warriors pointing to that diversity as the reason.

Is it “pro-America”? The heroes are U.S. naval aviators, and it’s assumed that their mission is a just one. But there’s no real discussion of America or why America is good – it’s a Hollywood blockbuster. It’s certainly no less patriotic than First Man, the 2018 moon landing film that right-wing culture warriors attacked on specious grounds.

I found Top Gun: Maverick to be an enjoyable movie. But while it’s certainly possible to read hidden depths into its script, it is fairly clear that any such depths are unintentional. As director Joseph Kosinski explained in an interview with Esquire, he saw the film as a character study meant to entertain broad audiences:

The first movie, is a boy becoming a man and I think this story is a man becoming a father. And that's what a Top Gun movie is. It's a rite of passage story that's character-driven but wrapped in this big action movie exterior.

Hopefully that entertains everybody. Regardless of whether or not you're into planes.

In fact, that does entertain everybody — or at least, enough people to break the Memorial Day box office record. The right seems driven to shoehorn its weird political concerns into the film, but the film’s success doesn’t require more complications than that.

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.

Right-Wing Media Join GOP Panic Over Kathy Barnette's Senate Campaign

Kathy Barnette, a candidate seeking the Republican nomination for the open U.S. Senate seat in Pennsylvania, seems like a natural fit for the MAGA media. Her campaign’s website plays up her role as a political commentator and is festooned with photos of her posing with Fox News personalities and appearing on the network’s sets. Indeed, Barnette built a public profile with regular appearances on Fox & Friends, the insipid morning show that also jump-started former President Donald Trump’s political career.

But with Republican leaders reportedly panicking in the wake of new polling that shows Barnette pulling even with the Trump-endorsed Dr. Mehmet Oz and former hedge fund CEO Dave McCormick in the primary, right-wing media figures like Fox’s Sean Hannity and Newsmax TV’s Greg Kelly are doing everything in their power to halt her rise. Both hosts ran lengthy segments on Wednesday night warning their viewers that her candidacy is too risky, armed with opposition research gleaned from her social media channels.

Hannity and Kelly are both backing Oz in the primary; Hannity brought on the candidate himself to discuss the oppo drop, while Kelly settled for a surrogate. They also might worry about the impact on Trump’s reputation if the candidate he endorsed falls short, especially Hannity, given his role in advising Trump to make that endorsement. Notably, their criticisms of Barnette run afoul of their own and their networks’ past promotions of the candidate.

Hannity argued Wednesday that Barnette puts the GOP’s chances of holding the seat at risk because she “has never been vetted.” After telling his viewers that she “has a very troubling history of attacking Donald J. Trump,” Hannity read from and displayed on-screen a series of her tweets from the 2016 presidential campaign criticizing the former president.

Adding that “more resurfaced tweets are even more disturbing,” he highlighted her past statement describing former President Barack Obama as “a Muslim” as well as an anti-gay remark. In those cases, Hannity appears to be condemning her for comments not too different from some of his own past commentary.

Hannity went on to praise Oz, whom he deemed “battle-tested,” saying he’s “been vetted and he can win in November” and adding that “Pennsylvania voters have a serious choice to make and the stakes could not be higher.” He then brought on Oz to respond, and the candidate used the opportunity to slam Barnette’s “homophobic comments” and called her “the best chance for Democrats to capture the Senate seat.”

The Fox host’s criticisms of Barnette are a stark reversal from his previous praise. He noted during the segment that he previously hosted Barnette, but that hardly does the appearance justice. When Hannity brought her on for a Fox interview after she announced her campaign in April 2021, he told her, “You would be the first African American woman as a Republican in the Senate. From all I could see, I hope that happens.”

Indeed, as late as April of this year, Hannity was saying on his radio show that while he was endorsing Oz in the race, he had “nothing bad to say” about Barnette. He went on to call her “a star,” adding: “I look forward to … supporting her in a future race. She's got a very bright future and I think the world of her.”

Hannity’s prime-time colleague Laura Ingraham seemed to allude to his broadside on Barnette on the next hour Wednesday night, when she commented, “Boy is the GOP oppo on her flowing.” She then interviewed McCormick, whose candidacy she appears to favor in the race.

Like Hannity, Newsmax’s Kelly also targeted Barnette’s MAGA bona fides on his Wednesday program, calling the candidate “a phony” who “was unvetted by the press.” But rather than arguing that she has made bigoted comments, his angle was that Barnette’s commentary on race shows that she is exessively left-wing.

Kelly aired video of Barnette, who is Black, highlighting the presence of slave cabins during a visit to George Washington’s Mount Vernon plantation and arguing for a “balanced view of history.” Kelly commented, “She sounds woke!”

During a second segment, Kelly said Barnette “sounds like woke liberal Mayor Bill deBlasio.” He then aired a video of her saying that “systemic racism is very important to me” because she has a Black son and wants him to be treated fairly by the U.S. justice system. Kelly also aired a video of her saying she wanted to ensure that “George Floyd received justice,” adding, “I would have been out there right along beside each and every one of you who were protesting in Minneapolis.” Kelly went on to comment that Minneapolis “was on fire” and “nearly destroyed,” before airing video of a fiery scene.

Kelly also interviewed former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, an Oz surrogate, to praise the Trump-endorsed candidate.

Kelly’s complaint that Barnette hasn’t been vetted might hold more water if his network hadn’t repeatedly hosted her and even sponsored a debate for the Pennsylvania Senate candidates she participated in.

Nothing Barnette did raised eyebrows for Hannity or Kelly until it became clear that her success could cost the Republican Party a Senate seat. But now that she’s in position to win a primary (and perhaps lose a general election), they are going to work.


Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.

The Right-Wing Scam Mafia Comes For Mickey Mouse

When Disney responded to internal dissent by publicly condemning Florida’s passage of its discriminatory Parental Rights in Education law, the company ran into a right-wing media buzzsaw following a familiar strategy.

Here’s how their approach works. The right-wing propagandists first aggressively smear an existing institution — in this case, Disney — as excessively liberal in order to drive conservatives away from it. That incentivizes the institution to move to the right to preserve its customer base and prevent political blowback from Republican politicians. The right-wingers pair their demagogic critique with the creation of new, explicitly ideological counter-institutions to capture the business — and money — of the wayward conservative customers.

The right has used the same set of tactics against a variety of institutions and companies, notably the press and social media platforms. As I’ve written before about this right-wing “con culture”:

Outlets and personalities use ideological, often paranoid, political coverage to build connections with their audiences. They convince those audience members that mainstream information sources that present contradictory narratives can’t be trusted. And then they bilk those marks for all they are worth.

Now, this right-wing apparatus has come for Disney. All this week, right-wing media outlets have overwhelmingly focused on the company as they try to extract a price for its call for the repeal of Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” legislation. While conservatives dishonestly portray the law as enacting a narrow ban on teaching “sex-stuff” in kindergarten through third grade, its deliberately vague language could implicate a wide array of discussions about sexual orientation and gender identity across grades. Groups like the Trevor Project have criticized the bill for its potential to silence teachers and have a chilling effect on LGBTQ youth.

Fox mentioned “Disney” more than 350 times and in over three hours of coverage this week. Its commentators claimed the company is “grooming” and “sexualizing children” in order to push a “progressive LGBT agenda.” Neither the bigoted anti-LGBTQ animosity nor the strategy was particularly subtle:



The second shoe dropped Thursday when The Daily Wire, the right-wing digital, streaming, and podcasting empire fronted by Ben Shapiro, announced that it was investing $100 million over three years in animated and live-action children’s entertainment. The announcement had been moved up in response to Disney’s criticism of the “Don’t Say Gay” law, Daily Wire co-CEO Jeremy Boreing told an employee town hall.

“Americans are tired of giving their money to woke corporations who hate them,” Boreing explained. “They’re tired of giving their money to woke media companies who want to indoctrinate their children with radical race and gender theory.”

Two things stand out about this move.

First, when right-wing media figures like Shapiro denounce Disney, they are building a potential audience of conservatives who will instead give their money to Shapiro’s employer. That creates an obvious incentive for those commentators to blow every perceived difference with Disney wildly out of proportion for profit.

Second, while the critique of Disney has little to do with its content, the new alternative is explicitly right-wing. Boreing isn’t saying there’s something wrong with features like Encanto or Moana; he’s trying to harness resentment over the company’s public statements to garner an audience for his competing product. The Daily Wire’s programming for children, however, promises deliberate right-wing messages.

Conservatives frequently deploy this strategy of tearing down a nominally nonpartisan institution as excessively liberal while offering up an explicitly right-wing alternative.

Republican activists, politicians, and conservative media outlets spent decades telling conservatives that the mainstream press is liberal and deceitful, with a particular inflection point during the civil rights era, when journalists were condemned for producing critical reporting about segregation. GOP political operative Roger Ailes took advantage of the opportunity created by the ensuing conservative distrust of the mainstream press when he co-founded Fox News and explicitly branded it as a “balance” to other, presumably leftist, outlets.

Fox and its political and media allies relentlessly highlight supposed excesses of the mainstream press. This is in part an often-successful effort to “work the refs,” criticizing those outlets in order to secure from them more favorable coverage of Republican and right-wing figures and causes. But it is also a business strategy: By presenting other media outlets as corrupt and liberal, explicitly right-wing outlets like Fox help secure a hammerlock on right-wing audiences. Indeed, the greatest threat to Fox’s market share comes from right-wing competitors who try to run the same strategy against it.

The right ran the same play against social media platforms. Right-wing commentators at Fox and elsewhere and Republican politicians baselessly claimed that Facebook and other platforms were biased against conservatives. By turning that lie into a universally held belief on the right, they were able to pressure those companies to take favorable actions. The Daily Wire in particular took advantage of that ref-working to get special dispensation to break Facebook’s rules and become much more influential than it otherwise would have been.

Meanwhile, right-wing entrepreneurs spun up explicitly right-wing alternatives to the major social media platforms, albeit with varying degrees of success. Twitter analogues like Trump’s Truth Social, Trump aide Jason Miller’s Gettr, and white nationalist hangout Gab have been failures to varying degrees. Rumble, a video-sharing platform that functions as a right-wing alternative to YouTube, has been much more successful, thanks in part to financing from the billionaire Peter Thiel and support from right-wing commentators like Fox’s Dan Bongino.

Right-wing media are creating a new type of consumer who builds their lifestyle around “lib-owning” by driving their audiences away from legacy brands and toward explicitly right-wing ones. These “lifestyle conservatives” favor Fox News over CNN and Rumble over YouTube. They buy right-wing razors and right-wing children’s books. Instead of listening to medical experts and taking COVID-19 vaccines, they take ivermectin; instead of making more traditional investments, they buy gold.

It’s all a con designed to channel culture war issues into Republican votes so the party can redistribute wealth upward, while also funneling cash to the party’s propagandists. And now that con is coming for Disney.

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters for America.