Joe Biden

Debate Over Impeachment Hearing Erupts In Right-Wing Media

On September 28, House Republicans held their first impeachment inquiry hearing into an alleged yearslong bribery scandal involving President Joe Biden and his family, and right-wing media were divided on whether it landed.

While House Democrats emphasized throughout the hearing that the evidence presented was flimsy, misleading, or nonexistent, some conservative media figures mocked or criticized those claims. But others admitted they were dissatisfied with the witnesses presented or with the effort overall.

Some right-wing media say the hearing was a dud

  • After the hearing concluded, former Trump adviser Steve Bannon said, “We didn’t bring our best.” Bannon complained, “If you're going to impeach a president of the United States, act like it's serious.” [Real America’s Voice, War Room, 9/28/23]
  • Though supportive of impeachment and the supposed evidence behind the inquiry, Turning Point USA founder Charlie Kirk complained the hearing was “taking too long. I mean, we’ve got people that are testifying that are saying, ‘We don’t know if we have the goods.’ This is exhausting.” Kirk later asked why Republicans are “wasting time with this impeachment inquiry. Why don’t they just go ahead with it?” [Salem Media Group, The Charlie Kirk Show, 9/28/23]
  • Fox anchor Neil Cavuto followed the hearing with disappointment: “I don’t know what was achieved over these last six-plus hours.” He continued, “When you begin to trumpet what you have as the beginning of an explosive inquiry into the president of the United States to potentially remove him from office, you would think you’d bring your A game.” Cavuto said that much of the evidence presented was either misleading or cut out important context, such as “references to Biden in these remarks as if they were Joe Biden” while they actually referred to Hunter. [Fox News, Your World with Neil Cavuto, 9/28/23]

Others attempted to defend Republicans against claims that there is no evidence to impeach

  • Conservative writer Stephen L. Miller mocked Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) asking law professor Jonathan Turley if he could present any “firsthand witness account of crimes committed by” Joe Biden. Miller wrote: “Mr. Turley, did you personally witness the president get handed a pillow sack with the word bribe written on it while dressed like the Hamburgler?” [Twitter, 9/28/23]
  • Miranda Devine wrote that Democrats relied on “flawed” Washington Post reports during the hearing “because they have no defense for the damning evidence against Joe Biden.” [Twitter, 9/28/23]
  • Fox contributor Mollie Hemingway also mocked Democrats and mainstream media. She wrote: “‘The successful and long-running international Trump real estate business made money despite our best efforts to destroy it so the wide ranging Biden family influence peddling and money laundering scheme is really nothing.’ -- corporate media and other Democrats.” [Twitter, 9/28/23]
  • Devine mocked Rep. Dan Goldman (D-NY) for introducing testimony from Hunter Biden’s former business partner Devin Archer, saying it “does immense damage to Joe Biden.” [Twitter, 9/28/23]
  • Fox host Jesse Watters argued that the “Democrat strategy” is to “ignore the evidence and create a circus.” He claimed that “ridicule and repetition — that’s the plan to deflect from the sleaziest D.C. scandal of our lifetime,” adding that “the press is complicit.” [Fox News, Jesse Watters Primetime, 9/28/23]
  • Fox host Sean Hannity claimed that the hearing “did not disappoint,” and even though “the mob and the media and all these Democrats” say “there’s no evidence,” there is “a mountain of evidence” that would “take us hours to play.” [Fox News, Hannity, 9/28/23]
  • Reps. Jim Jordan (R-OH), James Comer (R-KY), and Jason Smith (R-MO) appeared on Hannity to further present supposed evidence of Biden bribery schemes. According to Comer, “There is overwhelming evidence that Joe Biden was involved in all of these shady business schemes.” [Fox News, Hannity, 9/28/23; Media Matters, 9/29/23]
  • Hannity argued that Biden is attacking former President Donald Trump “to distract from the mountain of evidence” that was presented at the hearing. He was referring to Biden’s recent criticism of the MAGA movement. [Fox News, Hannity, 9/28/23; Politico, 9/28/23]
  • OutKick contributor Tomi Lahren claimed that “Democrats are actually very excited about the impeachment inquiry because the Republicans are doing the dirty work for them, and they are still grooming Gavin Newsom” to run for president in 2024 instead of Biden. [Fox News, Hannity, 9/28/23]

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.

Viktor Shokin

Fox News Promotes Crooked Ukraine Prosecutor To Smear Biden

On August 25, Fox News previewed an interview of former Ukrainian Prosecutor General Viktor Shokin by network host Brian Kilmeade that is set to air in full on August 26. In the preview segment, Shokin accused President Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden of “corruption” and “being bribed” to push for the prosecutor’s removal from office in 2016.

In fact, there was widespread agreement at the time across the political spectrum in the United States and the European Union that Shokin should be fired for being soft on corruption, including State Department allegations that Shokin himself was corrupt. Additionally, at the time of his removal, Shokin wasn’t actively investigating Hunter Biden or Burisma, an energy company that had hired Hunter Biden to serve on its board of directors. Hunter Biden’s former business partner Devon Archer recently testified that it would have been better for Burisma if the Ukrainian government had kept Shokin because he was unlikely to move against the company.

Shokin’s claims are part of a longstanding smear campaign led by Rudy Giuliani on behalf of former President Donald Trump, which ultimately led to Trump’s first impeachment. Fox News knew Shokin’s claims were baseless then and continues to know it now, but the network is airing Shokin’s baseless allegations regardless.

Pushing for Shokin to be fired was the policy of not only the United States, where it was supported by leading Republicans, but also the international community

  • European nations, the United States, and over 100 members of Ukrainian parliament had pressured the Ukrainian government for months to fire Shokin. The international community concluded that Shokin was “turning a blind eye to corrupt practices” and “defending the interests of a venal and entrenched elite.” [Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 2/11/16; The New York Times, 3/29/16]
  • In 2015, U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt called Shokin “an obstacle” to anti-corruption efforts. Ukraine’s refusal to act on anti-corruption measures, including keeping Shokin, resulted in the International Monetary Fund threatening to withhold $40 billion in aid. The European Union applauded his removal. [The Wall Street Journal, 9/22/19]
  • Protests in Ukraine demanded Shokin’s removal after he launched an investigation into an anti-corruption watchdog group and had fired various anti-corruption prosecutors. The group, Anti-Corruption Action Center, had publicly criticized Shokin. [Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 3/28/16; Kyiv Post, 3/25/16]
  • In 2016, Republican Sens. Rob Portman, Mark Kirk and Ron Johnson and Democratic colleagues addressed a letter to then-Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, calling for him to “press ahead with urgent reforms to the Prosecutor General’s office and judiciary.” The bipartisan letter was also signed by five Senate Democrats, underlining that removing Shokin was the consensus view in Washington, D.C. — not a pet project of the Biden family. [CNN, 10/3/2019]
  • Johnson would later lead a committee that investigated Hunter Biden’s role at Burisma and failed to uncover any evidence of wrongdoing. The New York Times noted, “In fact, investigators heard witness testimony that rebutted those charges,” and Johnson acknowledged there were no “massive smoking guns” in the report. [The New York Times, 9/23/20]
  • George Kent, the State Department’s expert on Ukraine, testified during Trump’s first impeachment trial that Shokin’s corruption led to his removal. Shokin was fired over corruption allegations and was not actively investigating Burisma when he was removed. The Washington Post reported in 2019 that Kent confirmed that Joe Biden called for the removal of “a corrupt prosecutor general … who had undermined a system of criminal investigation” into Ukrainian corruption cases, and “destroyed the entire ecosystem that we were trying to create.” Kent, who was the No. 2 official in the embassy at the time, explained that Biden was following the official U.S. government position that Shokin must be removed because he was “an impediment to the reform of the prosecutorial system, and he had directly undermined in repeated fashion U.S. efforts and U. S. assistance programs.” In fact, Kent testified that the idea to fire Shokin originated in the State Department before being pitched to others, including then-Vice President Biden. [The Washington Post, 11/19/19; Media Matters, 11/12/19]

At the time of his removal, Shokin was not actively investigating Burisma, and Hunter Biden was never the subject of an investigation into the company

  • Former Deputy Prosecutor General Vitaliy Kasko said in May 2019 that the investigation into Burisma had been “shelved by Ukrainian prosecutors in 2014 and through 2015.” Shokin had stalled investigations into Burisma and its co-founder Mykola Zlochevsky. In 2014, he undermined an attempt by British authorities to freeze $23 million worth of Zlochevsky’s assets. [Bloomberg, 5/7/19]
  • Devon Archer testified that he was not aware of any Shokin-led investigation into Burisma. He also testified that he had no reason to believe that then-Vice President Biden called for Shokin’s removal “was driven by anything other than the U.S. Government’s anticorruption policy in Ukraine,” and confirmed that firing Shokin “was bad for Burisma because he was under control.” [Media Matters, 8/3/23]
  • Investigations involving Burisma targeted Zlochevsky, who had been accused of “abuse of power, illegal enrichment and money laundering,” rather than the company itself. Shokin had allegedly “dragged his feet” on these investigations, and Hunter Biden, as a board member, was not a target. [The Wall Street Journal, 9/22/19]

Fox News knew its sourcing on the Ukraine conspiracy theory was unreliable

  • Conservative writer John Solomon was a key distributor of Rudy Giuliani’s conspiracy theories regarding Shokin’s firing. From March 20, 2019 — when Solomon published his first story on the Ukraine conspiracy theory — through October 2, 2019, Solomon appeared on Fox News or Fox Business at least 72 times, including 51 appearances on Sean Hannity’s prime-time show [Media Matters, 10/17/19]
  • During that period, Fox News senior political affairs specialist Bryan S. Murphy produced an internal “research briefing book” that “openly question[ed] Fox News contributor John Solomon’s credibility, accusing him of playing an ‘indispensable role’ in a Ukrainian ‘disinformation campaign,’” according to The Daily Beast. Murphy’s research came from what was known as Fox’s “Brain Room,” which the network later disbanded, and described Solomon as having “played an indispensable role in the collection and domestic publication of elements of this disinformation campaign.” [The Daily Beast, 2/6/20]
  • Murphy’s research book also advised that Giuliani had a “high susceptibility to disinformation” that was being fed to him by unreliable Ukrainian sources. [The Daily Beast, 2/6/20]
  • Fox News continues to accuse Joe Biden of taking bribes regarding Shokin’s firing even when confronted with contradictory evidence. On August 9, a panel discussion on The Five descended into chaos after co-host Jessica Tarlov attempted to get her co-panelists to acknowledge recent testimony from Hunter Biden business associate Devon Archer. Archer “was asked, if someone concluded … that Joe Biden was bribed, would you disagree with that? ‘Yeah, I would.’ Devon Archer said that,” Tarlov said to the panel. [Fox News, The Five, 8/9/23]

Giuliani, a Trump lawyer who would later be arrested for attempting to overturn the results of the 2020 election, was the lynchpin to the entire scheme

  • Solomon’s reporting laid the groundwork for Giuliani’s investigations in Ukraine, which ultimately led to Trump’s first impeachment. Some of Solomon’s key sources were “disgraced former Ukrainian prosecutor Yuriy Lutsenko and the allies of Dmytro Firtash, an indicted Ukrainian oligarch and accused high-level Russian mafia associate,” who “have been seen as forces driving Giuliani’s efforts in Ukraine to dig up dirt on Trump’s political enemies.” [Media Matters, 10/17/19; The Daily Beast, 2/6/20]
  • Giuliani ultimately sent his findings to then-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, complete with “with unproven allegations against former Vice President Joe Biden” with the goal of undermining a future Biden presidential run. Giuliani used his documents “to bolster unproven allegations that Biden pressured Ukraine in order to protect his son, Hunter Biden, who has been involved with a business interest there, and that the Obama administration was using Ukraine to help Hillary Clinton win the 2016 election.” [NBC News, 10/3/19]
  • After Trump’s phone call attempting to pressure Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was revealed, Giuliani engaged in a press strategy to redirect the focus back to the Bidens. Some mainstream outlets took the bait, with headlines like “Scrutiny over Trump’s Ukraine scandal may also complicate Biden’s campaign” and “Why Trump’s Ukraine scandal could backfire on Biden.” [Media Matters, 9/23/19]

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.

Jesse Watters

Advertisers Beware: Fox Slots Toxic Racist Watters Into Primetime Hour

Under immense pressure following a record defamation lawsuit, and with ratings down following the departure of Tucker Carlson, Fox News announced a new schedule with host Jesse Watters' show now airing at 8 p.m. ET. Advertisers should beware, given that the network appears to be lifting up the same extremism that led to its current crisis.

Starting in The O’Reilly Factor days with his “Watters’ World” segments, Jesse Watters honed his frat boy style with smug interviews mocking his subjects alongside blatant racism and sexism. In June 2015, Watters produced a cruel, dehumanizing segment shaming unhoused people in New York City’s Penn Station and stressing that they are breaking the law, juxtaposed against interviews with those who found homeless people to be a nuisance. He made a follow-up segment a month later, agreeing with host Bill O'Reilly at the end that people experiencing homelessness “shouldn't be allowed to destroy neighborhoods.” (Hosting his own Fox show in September 2022, Watters called homeless people “an invasive species.”)

In May 2016, it was made public that Watters had stalked and harassed journalist Amanda Terkel while she was on vacation seven years earlier, accusing her of “causing ‘pain and suffering’ to rape victims and their families” after she wrote a story that called out O’Reilly’s pattern of victim-blaming rape survivors. (O’Reilly was fired from Fox News in 2017 following years of sexual harassment reports against him, including at least $13 million in settlements.)

In October 2016, Watters produced a widely condemned, racist and stereotype-driven segment in New York City’s Chinatown, asking bystanders questions such as, “Am I supposed to bow to say hello?” “Tell me what’s not made in China?” and, “Do you know karate?” The song Kung Fu Fighting played in the background, and the segment included clips of Watters attempting to do karate.

Here is more of Watters’ despicable commentary on Fox News over the years:


  • On May 15, Watters said that Black Americans should be more concerned with “absent fathers” and” education issues” than with white supremacist mass shooters. “You know what the biggest domestic threat is to young Black men in this country? Other young Black men with guns.”
  • Discussing reparations for slavery during Black History Month, he argued that the people “who financed it” deserve credit for American infrastructure built by slaves, saying, “Labor's just a part of it.”
  • He said in January that Black history after the 1950s shouldn’t be taught because “it’s all activism. It’s all ideology. It’s no history.”
  • In October 2022, Watters said that Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) “went full taco” as she responded to hecklers at a town hall.
  • Watters said in January 2022 that a Black Supreme Court nominee would be “the result of a back room racial deal that was cut so a white Democrat could win the nomination, that's the truth.”
  • In October 2021, Watters blamed the plight of Native Americans in the United States on “alcoholism” and “government dependency.”
  • When Rep. Cori Bush (D-MO) tweeted that the United States is “stolen land,” Watters said, “We won this land on the battlefield and we bought it.”
  • In June 2020, Watters said that police were justified in killing Rayshard Brooks by shooting him in the back as he ran away.
  • Watters blamed the Black Lives Matter movement for protesters being shot and killed by Kyle Rittenhouse in Kenosha, Wisconsin, in August 2020: “Sadly, you’re going to have vigilante justice. … And things happen and it's horrible and that's not the way to handle it, but unfortunately this is what happens when a governor abdicates his responsibility to keep the safe streets.”
  • While guest hosting The O’Reilly Factor in June 2015, Watters asked if white supremacy causes “African American men to not get married to women that they have babies with?”

Sexism and misogyny

  • Following Republicans’ weak performance with single women in the 2022 midterm elections, Watters said “we need these ladies to get married.”
  • After the Dobbs Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v. Wade was leaked in May 2022, Watters attacked “women who are past their prime, who can't even get pregnant” and advocate for reproductive rights.
  • In July 2022, after discrediting a report on a 10-year-old Ohio girl needing an abortion, Watters then attacked the girl's Indiana doctor who provided it.
  • The following month, he voiced support for allowing teachers to spank students: “Can you paddle female students?”
  • Attacking Ocasio-Cortez in August 2022, Watters said she was “not ripe enough to run for president. First, she has to get married,” adding, “And then you have to get pregnant.”
  • In 2017, Jesse Watters made a lewd and sexually suggestive comment about the way Ivanka Trump was speaking into a microphone.
  • Watters suggested on Fox’s Outnumbered in June 2014 that statutory rape of an adolescent boy isn't as bad if the female perpetrator is attractive: “You usually get high-fives.”
  • Watters said in 2014 that then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton “is trying to overcompensate” on foreign policy because she is a woman.
  • In February 2011, Watters ambushed a Planned Parenthood official and pushed the falsehood that the organization was “excusing and covering up underage sex trafficking.”

Xenophobia and Islamophobia

  • On May 10, he pushed the white nationalist “great replacement” conspiracy theory in response to the end of Trump-era Title 42 immigration restrictions: “Imagine a generation from now. That's what they want to do here. They want to make Texas a Democrat state. And you'll never see another Republican in the White House after that.”
  • On May 2, Watters said “I can tell” when a person is undocumented just by looking at them. “I'm a city guy,” he claimed. “You don't want me to get into it, but I can tell.”
  • In April 2022, Watters used victims of rape and murder among asylum-seekers to justify former President Donald Trump’s “Remain in Mexico” policy.
  • In October 2021, Watters called the unification of migrants with their families or sponsors “taxpayer-funded human trafficking.”
  • Watters called a Muslim woman “a total fraud and a total nutcase” after she criticized conservative stereotypes about Islam in 2014, adding that “she might have been a plant, who knows who she’s communicating with?”
  • Watters defended Trump's anti-immigrant rhetoric in 2015, saying he wouldn't let “illegal aliens come to the country and murder our women.”
  • On The O’Reilly Factor in February 2017, Watters defended Trump’s Muslim ban and told an imam, “You have to admit there is a Muslim problem in the world.”

Anti-LGBTQ Hate

  • In March, Watters suggested that young transgender people are transitioning for internet fame.
  • In October 2022, Watters said “grooming teachers” are taking children’s gender away.
  • Watters and O’Reilly laughed while speculating on an interviewee's gender identity in October 2015.
  • In July 2013, he created a transphobic segment mocking attendees of New York’s Mermaid Parade, many of whom were dressed in drag. Watters asked one parade-goer, a teacher, if he thought he was “setting a good example” for children.
  • A year later, in 2014, he ridiculed attendees of San Francisco’s pride parade and played on hateful tropes about LGBTQ people. Watters assured O’Reilly at the end of the segment that “no one assaulted me.”

Election Denial

  • In March, he said that “Democrats can’t win elections fairly, they know they can't persuade voters their policies are better, so the only thing keeping them in power is collusion and censorship.”
  • In September 2022, he claimed that President Joe Biden and the FBI had “rigged the last election.”
  • Days before the Capitol riot, Watters falsely claimed that the 2020 presidential election was filled with voter fraud, said, “We used to storm the castle over abuses of power like this,” and told his audience, “In 2021, let's relight that great American spirit. Let's stand up to this den of thieves because they'll just keep robbing us blind until we actually do something about it.”

Climate Denial

  • In April 2022, Watters said “the logical conclusion” to climate activism is “human sacrifice.”
  • He said in July 2021, “You don't fight climate change. If it's getting warmer, you adapt to it.”
  • Watters criticized the Portland School Board in 2016 for banning classroom material that denied climate change.

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.

Young Women's Leadership Summit

Shady 'Police' Nonprofit Sponsors Far-Right Young Women's Conference

The weekend of June 9 brings the Turning Point USA Young Women’s Leadership Summit back to Texas. The three-day event, which promises to be a hotbed of transphobic, staunchly anti-feminist propaganda and fearmongering about contraceptives and trans women, is sponsored in part by a sketchy nonprofit that fundraises off deceptive, pro-police appeals to right-wing media audiences.

Last year’s YWLS event was billed as a “celebration of freedom and femininity” for “cuteservatives,” and speakers told attendees that their mission was to find a conservative husband to settle down and have children with.

This year, the event will be sponsored in part by the National Police Association, a shady nonprofit that seeks to bring “attention to the anti-police efforts challenging effective law enforcement.” But a 2019 investigative report from the IndyStar newspaper revealed that the organization does not have the support of local police departments, and local police chiefs call it a “scam.”

The IndyStar reported that the NPA fundraises based on the assumption that donations go directly toward supporting police officers, with letters sent to “vulnerable people” asking for donations to “give our law enforcement officers the crime prevention tools they need.” According to the IndyStar, these donations do not go to police agencies, and the outlet found that “only 25 percent of the group’s spending went to programming.” The letters the NPA sends paint “a dystopian picture of communities and police departments under attack,” even if the picture is plainly false:

The National Police Association's fundraising letters raise different issues depending on the city.

Fundraising letters in Germantown, Wisconsin, last year falsely warned that Germantown is a sanctuary city, a term that refers to states and municipalities that do not cooperate with federal immigration enforcement.

“Countless Americans have already been robbed, mugged, raped and even murdered as a direct result of Sanctuary policies of allowing known criminals to remain on the streets,” one copy of a National Police Association letter says, adding, “your gift of $15 is needed to reach citizens like you ... so they realize the kind of risks they're facing because their elected officials have allowed their communities to become sanctuaries for violent criminals.”

Germantown Police Chief Peter Hoell told IndyStar the group “must not have researched the demographics.”

“It’s so far-fetched, especially if you know Germantown,” Hoell said of the sanctuary city claim. “It’s a highly conservative community.”

Hoell told residents to disregard the letter. He also reported the National Police Association to the U.S. Postal Inspection Service over what he considered to be fraudulent mail.

“It’s a scam,” Hoel said. “It’s no different than any other scam — just a different angle.”

The IndyStar reported that the NPA’s three employees were volunteers who were not paid by the organization. According to the report, founder Eddie Hutchison — a full-time fraud investigator for the Indiana attorney general's office — worked just a few hours per week and received no income from the NPA in 2019. This appears to no longer be true, as the group’s 2021 tax filings show that Hutchison was paid $96,000 for an average of 100 hours of work per week. The other two executives listed on the form, Derek Peterson and Brad Shaw, reportedly work an average of 0.24 and 0.12 hours per week and receive $58,113 and $28,000, respectively.

Even the NPA’s website shows that not much of its donation income goes toward helping police departments directly — grants for training or gear, it says, are limited to $1,000 per year.

The NPA’s stances are standard pro-police talking points found across right-wing media. In 2021, the group also came out against the COVID-19 vaccine, even though the illness was the leading cause of police deaths. The same year, the NPA ran a campaign called “Stop Filming & Start Helping” in an effort to refocus attention from police violence to police being “assaulted on the job.” The NPA website also features a “Wall of Shame” with articles about people and policies the group sees as “coddling criminals.”

NPA spokesperson Betsy Brantner Smith, who is scheduled to speak at Young Women's Leadership Summit, uses her Twitter account primarily to spread awareness about anti-police violence but also to applaud anti-LGBTQ hate from Megyn Kelly and retweet attacks against Kohl’s and Target for selling Pride merch. Smith is a frequent guest on Newsmax, where she agrees with hosts that crime is out of control and that police need to be protected, offering little else.

The organization also thrives off of filing lawsuits seemingly intended primarily to generate right-wing media attention for the NPA itself.

In April, the group filed a lawsuit pressing Nashville police to release the manifesto of the Covenant School shooter, which the school and parents filed separate motions to counter, citing safety concerns and asking time to allow surviving students to “finish the school year in peace.” NPA responded by saying the parents’ lawsuit is an “obvious expression of anguish seeking sympathy,” and “they will experience even greater suffering if they obtain a denial of public access that results in more school children being murdered.”

In December 2022, the NPA sued an Ohio homeowners association for telling a resident to take down his “thin blue line” flag, a pro-police symbol that has been increasingly embraced by and associated with white supremacists.

Shortly after the original IndyStar report, the NPA also sued two officers who told the outlet that the organization was a scam.

Ahead of this year’s YWLS, Turning Point USA recently took a hit over another one of its event sponsors, Rightside Up, whose founder is a registered sex offender convicted in 2014 of “attempted ‘coercion and enticement’ after trying to persuade ‘a minor female’ to ‘engage in sexual activity.’”

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.

Timcast IRL

Right-Wing Media Reject Clear Evidence That Mall Shooter Was Neo-Nazi

Right-wing media figures responded to news that the gunman who committed a mass shooting at a mall in Allen, Texas, on Saturday had an account on a Russian social media website where he posted neo-Nazi material, calling the discovery a “psyop.”

Many conservative commentators attempted to discredit the information by claiming the researcher who found the account, Aric Toler, was acting as a cut-out for the CIA or other intelligence agencies attempting to control the U.S. population through disinformation. Toler is the director of training and research at Bellingcat, an award-winning open-source investigative organization widely cited in journalistic and academic publications.

These commentators argued that Toler’s investigation couldn’t be trusted because of Bellingcat’s supposed ties to the U.S. government — it is in fact an independent organization — and also because the shooter’s alleged account often shared content from right-wing media figures including Tim Pool and anti-LGBTQ activist Chaya Raichik, who runs Libs of TikTok. They claimed that some sort of conspiracy was responsible for the fact that the media found and reported on the Texas shooter’s posts quickly, while the supposed “manifesto” written by the perpetrator who committed a mass shooting in Nashville, Tennessee, on March 27 has yet to be released.

In fact, the head of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation said in mid-April that the Nashville shooter’s so-called manifesto was not a statement of political ideology and was closer to a collection of notes praising other school shooters. Regardless of its content, it bears no relation to Toler’s ability to find and post open-source information that is not controlled by law enforcement.

Toler posted his findings about the Texas gunman’s account in a May 8 Twitter thread which included a screenshot showing episodes of Timcast IRL, leading Toler to comment, “The Allen shooter was apparently a @timcast fan.” That news was widely shared online throughout the course of the afternoon.

That evening, Pool responded on his YouTube stream, saying the profile “does not seem to be real” without offering any evidence to support his claim.

“So there's a tragic story coming out of Texas, a mass shooting, and leftist researchers and the corporate press are running with this story that they've discovered the profile of this individual and lo, this Mexican man is actually a white supremacist,” Pool said. “Now the thing is, it seems like researchers have dug through this profile, it does not seem to be real. This person was posting weird things in the past couple of weeks to no followers and to no one, but of course the media's going to run with it.”

“On this profile, there are posts about Libs of TikTok and I believe it’s four clips from this show from one particular episode,” he continued.

“You see, here's where we get into the psyop: No one knows if this Russian social media profile is — actually belongs to this guy,” Pool said several minutes later. “A Bellingcat researcher named Aric Toler just said, ‘I found this profile that looks like it’s his.’ In fact, I’m pretty sure he even said, ‘I didn’t verify it, I don’t know.’”

Pool is incorrect. Toler did verify that the account belonged to the shooter, as he detailed in a Google doc to supplement his original thread. Pool may have been referring to a tweet Toler deleted about being unsure if a photo of Nazi tattoos showed the gunman; Toler clarified he deleted it because he had later verified the photo.

Pool’s unsubstantiated accusations that the social media account was a “psyop” were widespread in conservative media.

Steven Crowder echoed that line on the May 9 edition of his Rumble show, Louder With Crowder.

“We also have some information that's, I should say, curious regarding the Allen shooter,” he said. “We have more information now, and the more information that comes out, the more you don't believe said information because the purveyors of information are CIA plants.”

After incredulously listing off Toler’s findings, Crowder contrasted it with the relative lack of information about the Nashville shooter’s writings, clearly insinuating that a conspiracy is afoot.

“All of that, but still nothing on the Nashville shooter? Oh, it's for our safety,” Crowder said. “Alright. Let's just buy it wholesale. Curious coincidences, don't you think?”

Anti-LGBTQ right-wing pundit Allie Beth Stuckey made a similar argument on her Relatable podcast.

“The media believes that they have landed upon what the motive is for this — very quickly they turned out a narrative,” Stuckey said, before immediately discussing the “Nashville shooting” and subsequent delayed release of that shooter’s writings.

“The media hasn't even surmised why this person who went to Covenant Christian school grew up, decided they were the opposite sex, clearly rebelled against her Christian upbringing, went to this Christian school, shot it up, and killed nine people,” she added. “Like they can't even put those pieces together but they think they've landed on the clear motivation for the shooter who committed these acts of violence on Saturday, two days ago.”

Like Crowder and many other right-wing figures, Stuckey also suggested that the Texas gunman couldn’t hold white supremacist beliefs because he had a Hispanic surname.

“His name is equivalent to — and I'm sorry, this is just a fake name that I am making up, OK, this is not a real person, this is not the name of the shooter — his name though is equal to Pablo Rodriguez, OK?” Stuckey said. “So they're saying that someone apparently named something like Pablo Rodriguez, who looks like a Pablo Rodriguez, was a raging white supremacist.”

Fox Corp.’s Outkick Media founder Clay Travis also argued that the media has concocted a narrative that supporters of former President Donald Trump are uniquely violent, and when the evidence doesn’t support that, mainstream outlets will “manufacture” it.

“This guy is Hispanic, as you have mentioned, his parents do not speak English,” Travis told his co-host. “They have tried to turn him into a white supremacist.”

“All of the shootings that are happening, they don't really seem connected to Donald Trump and they certainly don't seem by and large connected to far-right-wing ideologues,” Travis later said. “So they're trying to manufacture them now. That’s what I see coming out of this coverage so far.”

These conspiracy theories spread far and wide on Twitter, in part from amplification by the site’s owner, Elon Musk. He responded to several posts claiming Toler’s work was a “psyop,” including at least three from Josie Tait, who works at Timcast and tweets under the handle “The Redheaded Libertarian.”

Right-wing troll account Catturd2 also said it was a psyop, somehow related to the authorities decision to delay releasing the Nashville shooter’s writings.

Misinformation activists Andy Ngo and Ian Miles Cheong similarly cast doubt on Toler’s findings without providing any counter evidence.

Toler’s findings have been corroborated by other researchers, and no one in conservative media has presented any evidence to counter them or to support their “psyop” theory. All available evidence shows that the Allen shooter was a neo-Nazi who consumed right-wing media, despite the baseless claims to the contrary.

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.

Charlie Kirk

Grifters Feuding: Inside The Rift Between Trump And Turning Point USA

Turning Point USA founder and right-wing radio host Charlie Kirk has been taking jabs at former President Donald Trump, despite his professed support for his candidacy in the 2024 presidential election. Reports in NBC News and The Washington Postdetail both a rift between the Trump camp and TPUSA’s organization as well as an internal divide at TPUSA over how to approach a potential presidential match-up with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.

According to NBC, close advisers to Trump say he has “‘been watching' Kirk’s relationship with DeSantis” as well as Kirk’s opposition to Trump’s handpicked Republican National Committee leader, Ronna McDaniel. This story came shortly after the Washington Postreported that Students for Trump, “a key asset” of TPUSA’s campaign work, has cut ties with the organization, further “raising questions about how closely Turning Point will be associated with Donald Trump’s 2024 campaign.”

The report details that TPUSA’s chief operating officer, Tyler Bowyer, tried and failed to negotiate a deal to remove Trump’s name from the organization’s accounts and rename them “as official Turning Point properties.” Bowyer’s plan also would have paid right-wing social media influencers to fundraise for Republican candidates via these accounts, which other Students for Trump leaders worried “would leave too little money for candidates.”

Kirk denied the NBC story on his February 10 show, calling it a “silly piece” and reiterating that he is “behind Trump, period.”

Donald Trump Jr. appeared on Kirk’s show on February 14 to deny the story: “I was unaware there was any rift between you and I, Charlie, whatsoever.” (The story detailed the division between the elder Trump and Kirk; Trump Jr. was not said to be involved.)

Yet on his radio show and at live events, Kirk has shown increased frustration with Trump’s decisions since late 2022, and he’s gotten only more detailed in his criticisms as the Republican primaries approach.

Criticizing Trump For Attacking DeSantis

Since late 2022, Kirk has criticized Trump’s attacks on DeSantis. At a TPUSA event in November, Kirk made it clear he is an “outspoken fan of Gov. DeSantis,” and that he “did not like it when Donald Trump attacked DeSantis,” and he said he hopes Trump will stop. On December 1, Kirk said that he is “very pro-DeSantis,” and does not “like any of the negative DeSantis stuff,” then brushed off a remark from a viewer that DeSantis should step back in 2024.

Kirk brought Trump’s DeSantis attacks up again on the February 2, 2023, edition of his radio show, saying that he told Trump during a visit to Mar-a-Lago that he “thought that this line of attack” against DeSantis “is not effective” and he doesn’t “think it actually helps him.” He then asked the opinion of his guest, Citizen Free Press writer Kane, who agreed that MAGA supporters “don’t want to see Trump reaching out and speaking ill of Gov. DeSantis.”

Kirk said the show asked his audience their views and the emailed response was “overwhelmingly negative on Trump attacking DeSantis” and that they believed “this is not the way that he should be running,” because DeSantis has proven himself as “a rock star conservative governor that has made Florida a freer place, a more prosperous place.”

During a February 7 segment praising DeSantis for his fascist-style takeover of New College of Florida, Kirk made sure to mention that Trump still does not like DeSantis, pointing out that Trump called him “a RINO globalist” who is “doing far worse than other Republican governors.” Kirk and his guest, conspiracy theorist Darren Beattie, then praised DeSantis for his “innovative and effective approach” to governance.

Kirk highlights rifts in the Trump-led MAGA base by periodically asking his audience about whom they plan to vote for in 2024. According to him, “the general consensus” is “I'm still behind Trump, but I have concerns.”

Criticizing Trump’s Decisions

On December 1, Kirk said that if DeSantis runs for president in 2024, “one of the sharpest critiques of President Trump will be the fact that Anthony Fauci stayed around as long as he did.”

On December 15, even as “the most pro-Trump guy in the world,” Kirk questioned why Trump pushed an NFT collection as a major announcement.

On January 30, Kirk said it was “really demoralizing" to find out that Trump supported Ronna McDaniel for RNC chair, calling it a “big mistake.”

Criticizing Trump's Alliance with Lindsey Graham

On January 30, Kirk said that, “as a Trump supporter,” it was “perplexing” that Trump accepted Sen. Lindsey Graham’s (R-SC) endorsement and asked his audience if they agreed.

Kirk said during his February 2 show that he would “rather see Donald Trump attack Lindsey Graham than Ron DeSantis.”

The next day, Kirk hosted conservative writer Pedro Gonzalez to talk about Trump’s apparent alliance with Graham. Kirk made clear that he is “disturbed and bothered at Lindsey Graham's proximity to Donald Trump.”

Gonzalez responded that “if Lindsey Graham is critical to your success, that's not a good sign for your campaign.” He continued, “I think Lindsey Graham fits this pattern of Trump making awful decisions when it comes to the people that he trusts around him.” Kirk did not push back.

Kirk’s criticism reflects the challenge right-wing media face during the 2024 presidential race: With DeSantis proving himself as the more effective fascist, can Trump supporters celebrate the governor without upsetting his main rival? Kirk is now learning that Trump will accept nothing less than blind, unquestioning loyalty.

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.

Far-Right Media Scorch Fox News Over Support For McCarthy

Far-Right Media Scorch Fox News Over Support For McCarthy

As the House of Representatives continues to struggle to elect a speaker, Fox News has received backlash from its further right-wing media counterparts over what those critics describe as the network’s general support for Rep.-elect Kevin McCarthy, (R-CA) who has so far lost the speaker vote eight times. Media figures from Real America’s Voice, One America News Network, and Newsmax, among others, claim that Fox News is engaging in a blind, embarrassing defense of the Republican establishment with its coverage of McCarthy.

The attacks against Fox intensified when Rep.-elect Lauren Boebert (R-CO) appeared on the January 4 edition of Fox host Sean Hannity’s show, where he pressed against her refusal to vote for McCarthy. (Boebert is one of the 20 House representatives-elect who are refusing to support McCarthy’s bid for speakership.) The network drew more criticism after Fox & Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade called House Republicans who oppose McCarthy “insurrectionists.”

    • Newsmax’s Benny Johnson said Hannity’s “schtick” is to be “the Praetorian Guard of the establishment,” and called his on-air disagreement with Boebert “embarrassing,” because Johnson said McCarthy can’t win. [Newsmax, The Benny Report, 1/5/23]
    • On former Trump aide Steve Bannon’s War Room podcast, right-wing radio host John Fredericks accused Fox News of being “a 24/7 shill for Kevin McCarthy. That’s all they are. They’re not even reporting the news.” [Real America’s Voice, War Room, 1/5/23]
    • Bannon said that Boebert “bench-pressed Hannity” during her interview and that “it was embarrassing.” [Real America’s Voice, War Room, 1/5/23]
    • Bannon also claimed that Fox News is “out to crush” and “destroy” members of Congress who do not support McCarthy for speakership. [Real America’s Voice, War Room, 1/5/23]
    • During his show Outside the Beltway, Fredericks said that Fox News is full of “fakers” who have been “lying to you forever” and that the network is “a money-making machine” which “was a shill for McCarthy.” [Real America’s Voice, Outside the Beltway with John Fredericks, 1/5/23]
    • On OAN, white nationalist podcasterStew Peters claimed that Fox News and its personalities are “melting down” over the speaker vote. [One America News Network, In Focus with Addison Smith, 1/4/23]
    • The Gateway Pundit’s Jim Hoft called out Fox’s “controlled opposition,” which he said “came completely unglued” following Tuesday’s votes, as McCarthy had been “hand-picked by failed former Speaker and FOX News board member Paul Ryan before he left office.” [The Gateway Pundit, 1/4/23]
    • Hoft also wrote that Hannity “jumped the shark” when he launched a “full frontal assault” on Boebert “for not supporting Kevin McCarthy.” [Twitter, 1/4/23]
    • Infowars host Owen Shroyer called Rep. Michael Lawler (R-NY) “a new swamp creature” and mocked him for “hemming and hawing” and “stumping for McCarthy on Fox News.” [Infowars, The Alex Jones Show, 1/4/23]
    • BlazeTV host Chad Prather complained that the “Fox News talking heads continue to shill for the GOP do-nothing establishment.” [Twitter, 1/5/23]
    • Michael Quinn Sullivan, publisher of right-wing blog Texas Scorecard, replied to Prather’s tweet, writing, “Fox News is now WORSE than CNN and MSNBC, because the Fox crew knows better.” [Twitter, 1/5/23]
    • Turning Point USA ambassador Alex Lorusso tweeted “Hannity is insufferable” following Boebert’s appearance on his show. [Twitter, 1/4/23]
    • Right-wing host Todd Starns described Fox as “the propaganda wing of the McCarthy team.” [Twitter, 1/4/23]
    • Anti-Muslim activist Brigitte Gabriel tweeted: “It’s pathetic to hear all the Fox News talking heads blaming and attacking the 20 Members of Congress opposing McCarthy.” [Twitter, 1/4/23]
    • Former Newsmax host Emerald Robinson called Fox & Friends hosts “uniparty swamp rats” over their support for McCarthy. [Twitter, 1/5/23]
    • Right-wing personalities the Hodgetwins also attacked Fox and Friends for “calling people INSURRECTIONISTS if they don’t support Kevin McCarthy for speaker.” [Twitter, 1/5/23]
    • Women for Trump co-founder Amy Kremer tweeted that it was “sad to see” how Hannity treated Boebert on Fox News and that “she should be shown some respect.” [Twitter, 1/4/23]
    • Hate preacher Greg Locke, who spoke at the January 5 “Rally for Revival” in Washington the night before the January 6 attack, tweeted, “The only difference between the corruption of CNN and Fox News is their logo.” [Twitter, 1/5/23]
    • Conspiracy hub National File called Hannity “a LYING BULLY. Just like Kevin McCarthy.” [Twitter, 1/5/23]
    • Right-wing podcaster Mike Crispi called Hannity “a hack” and a “sellout.” [Twitter, 1/4/23]

    Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.

    Trump's Agent John Solomon Is Lying About Mar-A-Lago Documents

    Trump's Agent John Solomon Is Lying About Mar-A-Lago Documents

    John Solomon, former President Donald Trump’s official representative to the National Archives and Records Administration, released a letter that reveals in plain detail that Trump and his legal team did not cooperate with the National Archives, and that the August 8 Mar-a-Lago search occurred only after they repeatedly sought to delay the FBI’s involvement. Despite these facts, Solomon has made numerous appearances in the right-wing media, including on Fox News, to spread misinformation and spin about the letter.

    Dated May 10, the letter from acting National Archivist Debra Wall to Trump lawyer Evan Corcoran details the back-and-forth between Trump’s lawyers and the National Archives in retrieving over 700 pages of classified material from Mar-a-Lago. It clearly lays out how Trump did not fully cooperate with the National Archives and the Department of Justice, outlining the five-month process to retrieve the documents.

    Solomon’s website Just the News was the first to publish the damning document late on August 22. The next morning, he appeared on Steve Bannon’s War Room: Pandemic to put a confusing pro-Trump spin on the story.

    In Solomon’s version, the FBI mysteriously heard that the National Archives retrieved documents from Mar-a-Lago and wanted to look through them. The bureau asked President Joe Biden, who told the DOJ and the FBI to go right ahead and look through the documents, completely ignoring that Trump maintains executive privilege over them.

    This is completely false. Here’s a breakdown:

    CLAIM: “The White House counsel's office authorized the National Archives to send information they had gotten in the boxes of Trump – voluntarily returned to the archives – and send it to the FBI. That launches a criminal investigation.”

    REALITY: Solomon conveniently leaves out that the Presidential Records Act not only allows, but requires this course of action. As Wall details in the letter, the National Archives’ initial review of the documents returned in January found “items marked as classified national security information, up to the level of Top Secret and including Sensitive Compartmented Information and Special Access Program materials” – a label given to the most sensitive secrets in government. This prompted the agency to inform the DOJ. The Presidential Records Act empowers the National Archives, the president, and the DOJ to oversee the handling of presidential documents, including the power of “the Archivist and the Attorney General [to] jointly investigate the unlawful removal or destruction of government and presidential records.”

    CLAIM: Next, Solomon says that “President Trump would have had the right … to go to court and say, I have executive privilege, I might have declassified these documents,” but “the current president waives the executive privilege of the past president.” He repeated this point again later on in the interview.

    REALITY: His argument that Biden and the DOJ should have allowed Trump to take his executive privilege claim to the courts is debunked by the letter itself. Wall consulted the Office of Legal Counsel, which advised her that “there is no precedent for an assertion of executive privilege by a former President against an incumbent President to prevent the latter from obtaining from NARA Presidential records belonging to the Federal Government where ‘such records contain information that is needed for the conduct of current business of the incumbent President’s office and that is not otherwise available.’”

    The precedent that Solomon and other Trump allies refer to when they argue this point applies only to congressional or judicial oversights, not executive branch examination and investigation. To be clear, a former president cannot exert executive privilege claims over a current president, the head of the executive branch itself, when the information pertains to the current business of the administration.

    Then, referring to the same case as Solomon, Wall laid out what it actually means for Trump:

    “To the contrary, the Supreme Court’s decision in Nixon v. Administrator of General Services, 433 U.S. 425 (1977), strongly suggests that a former President may not successfully assert executive privilege “against the very Executive Branch in whose name the privilege is invoked.” … The Court specifically noted that an “incumbent President should not be dependent on happenstance or the whim of a prior President when he seeks access to records of past decisions that define or channel current governmental obligations.”

    The Office of Legal Counsel advised that Trump had no privilege over these documents. There was no need to start a court fight to rehash the same issue; as Wall’s letter noted, “the question in this case is not a close one.”

    CLAIM: Solomon claims that on May 8, “the Biden White House says it's over, we're passing privilege. We're giving the documents to the FBI.”

    REALITY: This is false. Biden delegated the decision to Wall; he did not make it himself. From the letter:

    The Counsel to the President has informed me that, in light of the particular circumstances presented here, President Biden defers to my determination, in consultation with the Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Legal Counsel, regarding whether or not I should uphold the former President’s purported “protective assertion of executive privilege.”

    As Politico’s Kyle Cheney explains, “there was no way a former president's claim could override an incumbent administration's need for the review. … Trump allies touted portions of this letter that were revealed by Solomon earlier in the evening, saying it showed Biden had been involved in the process. That's a requirement of any NARA matter involving privilege.”

    CLAIM: Solomon argues that “there's an escalation driven by the Biden White House against its likely rival in 2024. … I think most Americans are going to be troubled to find out the current president [was] siccing the FBI on the former president, and I think that’s the way these documents read when you look at it. ”

    REALITY: The letter makes clear that the “escalation” came only after numerous attempts by the Trump legal team to delay an FBI investigation. After being granted an initial delay until April 29, the Trump team requested an additional delay based on executive privilege claims, which the National Archives and the Office of Legal Counsel found to be legally unfounded. As the letter painstakingly explains, “The Executive Branch here is seeking access to records belonging to, and in the custody of, the Federal Government itself, not only in order to investigate whether those records were handled in an unlawful manner but also, as the National Security Division explained, to ‘conduct an assessment of the potential damage resulting from the apparent manner in which these materials were stored and transported and take any necessary remedial steps.’”

    CLAIM: Solomon says that “in mid-April, there's a discussion – the FBI hears from the National Archives that they got the boxes. They want to see what's in the boxes.”

    REALITY: Solomon’s word choice is misleading. Rather than implying that a nosy FBI “want[s] to see what’s in the boxes,” it would be more accurate to say that the bureau needed to investigate the documents, as is procedure per the Presidential Records Act. Nonetheless, this is not what the letter says. It says that the National Archives informed the DOJ, “which prompted the Department to ask the President to request that NARA provide the FBI with access to the boxes at issue so that the FBI and others in the Intelligence Community could examine them.” The FBI heard “from the National Archives that they got the boxes,” because the National Archives and DOJ needed the bureau to investigate whether the boxes contained classified documents.

    Under federal law, “The Archivist is not authorized to independently investigate removal or recover records.” Engaging the FBI was a necessary step.

    CLAIM: Solomon claims that Trump’s team asked for time to sort out privileged materials and “within a few days of that, those conversations going on, the National Archives came back and said ‘We don’t care about your privilege claims.’”

    REALITY: He is putting a false spin on the timeline here. Trump’s lawyers were advised on April 12 that the National Archives would allow the FBI to examine the returned records. They sought and were granted a delay until April 29.

    The rejection he’s referring to is the second request for a delay on April 29, two and a half weeks after Trump’s lawyers were notified that the FBI needed to examine the documents. At the time of writing the May 10 letter, Wall noted, “It has now been four weeks since we first informed you of our intent to provide the FBI access to the boxes so that it and others in the Intelligence Community can conduct their reviews.”

    CLAIM: Solomon closes by arguing, “This is a chilling potential fact for not only former presidents, but any future president – if any future president knows that the guy who beats him at the polls or succeeds him at the polls can then turn around and release all the documents that a prior president might have considered privileged because he got important advice to do his job, who's going to put anything on paper? Who's going to want to get that advice knowing that could happen?”

    REALITY: Solomon ignores that the documents the FBI was sent to recover still legally belong to the federal government, not Trump. Rather than trying to “turn around and release all the documents that a prior president might have considered privileged,” Wall’s letter said that the classified documents in question would need to be reviewed by national security officials to assess “the potential damage resulting from the apparent manner in which these materials were stored and transported” by the former president.

    Responding to the Trump team’s objections, she explained that “there is no reason to believe such reviews could ‘adversely affect the ability of future Presidents to obtain the candid advice necessary for effective decisionmaking.’ … To the contrary: Ensuring that classified information is appropriately protected, and taking any necessary remedial action if it was not, are steps essential to preserving the ability of future Presidents to “receive the full and frank submissions of facts and opinions upon which effective discharge of [their] duties depends.”

    Further, what Solomon complains about has been possible since 1978; any president since the Presidential Records Act was put in place could release such documents. Trump does not hold executive privilege over the executive branch itself.

    Nonetheless, Solomon was not the only pro-Trump figure on War Room spinning the National Archives letter.

    Former Trump adviser Boris Ephsteyn also appeared on Bannon’s August 23 show and claimed that Politico’s coverage of the letter somehow exonerates Trump: “The only thing that matters in the Politico article is that it proves once and for all, fully proves that A) there was full cooperation and compliance, as we've been saying consistently, and B) that the Biden administration absolutely and fully participated in this plan to raid and attack Mar-A-Lago. There's no two ways about it.”

    The Trump team was not in “full cooperation and compliance.” They sought to delay the investigation at least twice and submitted challenges with no legal basis. The May 10 letter shows that the Biden administration, as Cheney again points out, was remarkably detached from the investigation: “The language about consultation with the White House shows Biden was *more hands off* with the Mar-a-Lago docs than he was with the Jan. 6 records held by NARA. In both cases, archivist consulted with OLC, but in latter Biden delegated privilege decisions to NARA.”

    The previous day, president of the Article III Project and regular War Room guest Mike Davis complained that before ordering the Mar-a-Lago search on August 8, Attorney General Merrick Garland did not “take the time to go to the Office of Legal Counsel within his own Justice Department,” whose opinions “are binding on the executive branch.” Davis asserted this meant that Garland knew the Mar-a-Lago search was “unlawful” and “unnecessary.”

    Of course, we now know that the Office of Legal Counsel was consulted by the National Archives before the May 10 letter, and its “binding” legal opinion rejected Trump’s defenses. But these facts haven’t stopped right-wing media from spreading other pro-Trump spin and misinformation around the Mar-a-Lago search.

    In an August 23 article, Fox News adopted the same false framework with the headline “Biden signed off on FBI review of Trump records, National Archives letter reveals.”

    And Solomon has introduced a dubious new line of attack blaming former President Barack Obama.

    JOHN SOLOMON (JUST THE NEWS): Joe Biden’s former boss, Barack Obama, actually managed to change the rules. After 9/11, George Bush had put a rule into place that a prior president got to protect his own privilege. If he and the president couldn’t – the sitting president – couldn’t agree on the release of records, that the prior president’s claim to executive privilege was predominant. Barack Obama came in in 2009 and he got rid of that and said, I, the incumbent president, I get the only say on this. … Barack Obama actually set in motion the raid that ultimately ended up in a raid at Mar-a-Lago on Donald Trump’s property.

    Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.

    Indiana Doctor Broke No Laws In Rape Victim's Abortion

    Smeared By Fox, Indiana Doctor Broke No Laws In Rape Victim's Abortion

    Following an Indy Star report about a 10-year-old rape victim traveling from Ohio to Indiana for an abortion, right-wing media have tried repeatedly to disprove the story or attack the individuals involved, even since the story was confirmed to be true.

    The source behind the story, Dr. Caitlin Bernard, has been under heavy scrutiny for being the sole source for the story. Washington Post columnist Glenn Kessler, while misspelling her name, dismissed her as an activist. Right-wing media figures were also quick to discredit Bernard, especially after President Joe Biden mentioned the story in a pro-abortion rights speech and the Ohio Attorney General said on Fox News that he was unaware of any report of the rape. After the story was further confirmed by the arrest of a suspect, right-wing media outlets continued unconfirmed attacks against Bernard, claiming that she had a history of not reporting underage rapes. Fox News’ Jesse Watters did not hesitate to pile on to the attacks, and he even invited on the Indiana attorney general, who declared that his office would be investigating Bernard.

    Right-wing media figures have continued to target Bernard, repeating claims that she should be investigated for not reporting the crime to authorities, in a clear attempt to discourage other health care providers from coming forward with similar stories. The claim that Bernard failed to report the procedure has been debunked by a local Fox affiliate, which obtained Indiana Department of Health documents showing that she reported the incident. Right-wing media continue to promote the Indiana attorney general’s claims of an investigation into Bernard’s actions, as well as general claims that Bernard acted outside the law.

    Following Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita’s appearance on Fox News’ Jesse Watters Primetime, cries for an investigation into Bernard’s response to the crime spread over right-wing news sites. The articles primarily quoted Rokita’s statements directly, with only one of them, from PJ Media, adding a later correction that Bernard had indeed complied with privacy laws.

    Fox News host Jesse Watters

    Watters, as part of his repeated attempts to undermine the story, claimed on the July 13 edition of Fox News’ Jesse Watters Primetime, that “this Indiana abortion doctor has covered this up,” and that “she has a history of failing to report child abuse cases.” Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita then appeared on the show to announce his investigation into Bernard, stating, “We have this abortion activist acting as a doctor with a history of failing to report. So, we're gathering the information. We're gathering the evidence as we speak, and we're going to fight this to the end, including looking at her licensure. If she failed to report it in Indiana, it's a crime for – to not report, to intentionally not report.”

    Newsmax Co-host Bianca de la Garza

    On the July 14 edition of Newsmax’s John Bachman Now, co-host Bianca de la Garza repeated that Indiana authorities are “not sure if she [Bernard] reported the rape, as required by law.” When asked why abortion providers allegedly sometimes fail to report rape, guest Abby Johnson claimed that “most abortion facilities do not report rape. They are a safe haven for abusers. The fact that she, from what we can tell, was not one of the people that reported this, is very very common. They protect abusers. We see that over and over again. We’ve seen that in undercover footage.”

    YouTuber Tim Pool

    Right-wing YouTuber Tim Pool repeated Watters’ claim that Bernard did not report the crime, stating on July 14 that “the people who were helping this little girl didn’t report it,” and claiming that “if they reported it, then maybe they would have gotten services, and that's where the hoax actually does come into play.”

    BlazeTV host Glenn Beck and PJ Media writer Megan Fox

    BlazeTV host Glenn Beck got the story wrong on his July 14 show as well, frequently mixing up Bernard and the Ohio doctor who referred the victim to her and claiming that “she instead reported it to the press. She's now also being investigated in Ohio for a violation of HIPAA. A 10-year-old – and tell me these people care.”. PJ Media writer Megan Fox, who has led the charge on Twitter in accusing those involved of protecting the girl’s rapist, later clarified that Bernard is being accused of failure to report rather than the Ohio doctor, but added that “I don't know if she reported to the Indianapolis police her mandated report.” She went on to say that Bernard “still won't answer directly what role she had in helping this investigation or not.”

    The Daily Wire's Ben Shapiro

    The Daily Wire founder Ben Shapiro claimed on his July 14 podcast that “it does not look as though we have any information about the doctor or who this girl saw making a police report, which is actually required by law.”

    Fox co-host Carley Shimkus

    Fox & Friends co-host Carley Shimkus reported on July 15 that Rokita’s investigation “comes after it is revealed that the 27-year-old alleged rapist was listed as a minor in the report sent to authorities. Rokita saying the doctor in question has a, quote, ‘history of failing to report criminal incidents.’”

    Fox co-hosts Kayleigh McEnany, Emily Compagno, and Fox contributor David Webb

    In a July 14 group discussion on Outnumbered, co-host Kayleigh McEnany falsely claimed Bernard did not report, asking, “Why did you report this to a newspaper and not authorities?” Co-host Emily Compagno responded that “it's a crime to intentionally not report. … There are HIPAA violation allegations now. That could lead to criminal and/or also civil penalties. That could lead up to jail time.” Later on, Fox contributor David Webb accused Bernard of using the child for political gain: “Why was she used as a political tool? Why was the doctor not acting on it? Why was she first a political tool?”

    One America News’ Kara McKinney

    One America News’ Kara McKinney stated on the July 14 edition of her show Tipping Point that “Todd Rokita told Fox News yesterday that his office is investigating the aforementioned Dr. Caitlin Bernard for not reporting the rape of a 10-year-old to authorities, as she is required to do. Bernard faces a possible loss of her license.”

    Babylon Bee Managing Editor Joel Berry

    Babylon Bee Managing Editor Joel Berry shared a screenshot of Bernard’s work phone number in a tweet and claimed if the story was true then Bernard “helped cover up the rape, failed to report it to authorities, and sent the victim back to her rapist to be raped again.”

    Townhall Media

    Townhall Media, owner of both Townhall and PJ Media news sites, published articles on the affiliated sites repeating the claims that Bernard is under investigation for possibly not reporting the rape to authorities. The July 14 article published to Townhall included a quote from Rokita declaring his intentions to remove Bernard’s license if she did not go to the authorities. PJ Media’s article was updated at 8:13 p.m. on July 14 with a statement from Bernard’s employer saying that “IU Health’s investigation found Dr. Bernard in compliance with privacy laws.”

    The Washington Times

    The Washington Times published an article repeating Rokita’s statement and noting, “An Indiana abortion provider is under investigation over whether she reported the rape of a 10-year-old Ohio girl as required by law.”

    Just the News

    Just the News, a website run by misinformer John Solomon, repeated the claims that Bernard had previously had complaints filed against her for not reporting underage rape. The site quoted from Rokita’s appearance on Fox, where he said, “We have the rape, and then we have this abortion activist acting as a doctor with a history of failing to report.”

    National Review

    National Review published a July 14 article that discussed Rokita’s intent to investigate Bernard and continued to cast doubt on the original story, saying, “Many pundits and representatives were skeptical of the story.” It also implied there was no evidence Bernard reported the attack to the authorities, saying the original article “did not make any mention of a law enforcement probe, which should have been immediately triggered after a medical professional learned of the rape.”

    Blaze Media

    Blaze media covered Rokita’s Fox News appearance in a July 14 piece, noting that “Rokita said his office will investigate Bernard because she purportedly failed to disclose the case to law enforcement.” The article also included Bernard’s statement following Rokita’s TV appearance.

    The Daily Caller

    The Daily Caller published a July 14 article outlining Rokita’s intent to investigate Bernard for “potentially failing to report the rape of a minor to law enforcement.” The article goes on to reference Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost, who earlier this week claimed there was no evidence of the rape taking place. The Daily Caller stated, “Yost said Monday his office had no evidence that the rape of the girl had occurred as prosecutors had not been able to identify a report to law enforcement.”

    Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.

    Right-Wing Pundits Blame Weed, Not Assault Weapons, For Mass Shootings

    Right-Wing Pundits Blame Weed, Not Assault Weapons, For Mass Shootings

    Amid the ongoing crisis of mass shootings in America, conservative media are trying to deflect blame for mass shootings onto anything but guns. One particularly misleading scapegoat for gun violence is marijuana, with Fox News hosts and other right-wing media denizens falsely claiming that mass shootings are the result of heavy pot use.

    The narrative has picked up in the aftermath of the July 4 mass shooting in Highland Park, Illinois, that left seven dead and 46 injured. The next day, Fox News host Laura Ingraham claimed that marijuana use is a plausible cause of mass shootings, saying regular pot use in young men can trigger “psychosis and other violent personality changes,” and went on to link other mass shooters’ marijuana use with the extreme violence they carried out.

    Fox host Tucker Carlson also blamed the shooting in Highland Park partially on a society full of young men “high on government-endorsed weed.”

    Right-wing radio host and PragerU founder Dennis Prager said on his July 5 show that “something is different today and it’s not guns,” suggesting, “I think marijuana, maybe other drugs, but excessive use of marijuana” and “recreational use of marijuana, especially in young people,” may be associated with mass shootings.

    Right-wing personalities have used research linking heavy marijuana use to psychosis and paranoia in some individuals to draw false conclusions about causality and dig in their heels to dismiss the role of firearms in gun violence, instead attributing mass shooters’ extreme violence to their marijuana use. In reality, a December 2021 literature review on the studies linking marijuana and violent behavior found that the link between violence and cannabis use is “strictly correlational, and the strength of this relationship varies depending on the population.”

    Since 2019, accusations of direct causation between marijuana use and mass shootings have spread through conservative media such as Fox News, One America News Network, the New York Post, The Wall Street Journal, and The Daily Wire. These outlets frequently cite “COVID contrarian” Alex Berenson, whose book on marijuana use, mental health, and violence has been accused of cherry-picking data and “attributing cause to mere associations.”

    Berenson appeared on Tucker Carlson Tonight in August 2019 after mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, to argue that “we know that mental illness accounts for an appreciable amount of the extreme violence, not just in the United States but all over the world. And we also know that cannabis can produce psychosis.”

    “I don't think it's going way out on a limb to draw that connection then between cannabis use, particularly I assume chronic use, and acts of violence,” Carlson responded.

    After the Uvalde shooting this past May, Ingraham reignited the idea of a purposefully hidden marijuana-to-mass-shooter pipeline. In reference to The New York Times removing an unproven reference to the Uvalde shooter’s marijuana use, Ingraham asked “was it bad information or is this the pro-marijuana bias that we've become accustomed to that's so powerful because billions are on the line with it nationwide?”

    “The American people are hearing a lot about AR-15s and background checks, but they also deserve to hear about this as well,” Ingraham continued. “Respected medical studies for years now have demonstrated that pot use, especially among teens, can trigger psychosis and increase the chance that the young person will develop violent behavior.”

    The next day, Ingraham hosted Dr. Eric Voth of the International Academy on the Science and Impact of Cannabis, who said, “The reality of it is, you know, legal AR-15 owners or handgun owners that are not stoned, that are not violent, are not killing people. If you look through the same information that the doctors are pointing out here, and you go case by case by case, you see a very clear pattern.”

    Ingraham’s commentary set off a flurry of clickbait on conservative news sites and blogs, including The Daily Wire, The Wall Street Journal, and Newsmax.

    The Daily Wire’s Ben Zeisloft also criticized attention given to gun control instead of marijuana and cited Ingraham’s segment, writing that “while the Left blames so-called ‘assault weapons’ and pushes for more gun control,” they “appear to be missing what could be a significant, yet underreported factor — the shooter’s marijuana use.”

    The Wall Street Journal’s Allysia Finley cited Berenson to suggest The New York Times had covered up the Uvalde shooter’s marijuana use and claimed that the Tucson, Aurora nightclub, Pulse nightclub, Sutherland Springs, and Parkland shooters all “were reported to be marijuana users. It could be a coincidence, but increasing evidence suggests a connection.”

    Writing for Newsmax, conservative author Ron Kessler criticized the attention given to gun control in the wake of mass shootings and pushed the claim that it should be put on marijuana instead. Kessler argued that “virtually everyone ignores the obvious reason for the dramatic increase in these tragedies: Democrats push legalizing marijuana, which has become three to four times more potent than it was only a few years ago,” and even quoted Ingraham directly: “Democrats who push stricter gun control measures as a solution to mass shootings are ‘completely oblivious to what the legalization of marijuana has done and is doing to an entire generation of Americans — with violent consequences,’ Ingraham said.”

    Kessler appeared on far-right cable outlet One America News on June 4 and asserted that “pot has become much more potent” and “18 states have legalized pot because of Democratic legislatures, so you have these two forces coming together, and that has led to a lot of these shootings.” Kessler went on to mislead viewers that “the active ingredient THC creates psychosis, it creates paranoia, it creates schizophrenia, and all these things lead to some of these shootings.”

    PolitiFactassessed these kinds of claims in 2019 and concluded that there is no clear causal relationship between marijuana use and mass shootings, writing that “for every study that’s declared a link between pot and violence, there are others that say the opposite.”

    James Knoll, director of forensic psychiatry at Syracuse University, told PolitiFact that “marijuana use is higher in young men, people with serious adverse childhood experiences, antisocial personality, low income, low education, use of other illicit substances,” which are all “well known risk factors for violence in their own right.” In other words, while research shows that there is a correlation between marijuana use and some forms of mental illness, there are too many other factors linked to potential violence to clearly establish the causal relationship that right-wing media are pushing. .

    While it’s “widely accepted that marijuana and psychosis are linked,” it’s unclear “whether the drug unmasks psychotic symptoms in predisposed people or whether it triggers the onset of psychosis entirely.” Further, PolitiFact noted that those with preexisting psychiatric disorders are more likely to use marijuana to self-medicate.

    Most importantly, cannabis use is exceedingly common. As PolitiFact points out, overlap is inevitable “between people who commit violent acts and people who smoke marijuana because of how popular marijuana is. According to the United Nations, 192 million people worldwide used marijuana at least once in 2016.” As legalization has spread, this number has likely increased even more.

    Blaming mass shootings on marijuana use is not only misleading and stigmatizing, but speaks to a larger effort to blame nearly unavoidable social and psychological phenomena rather than loosely controlled access to high-powered assault weapons in the United States. As these tragedies continue to happen, right-wing media will continue to use any excuse they can find to deflect attention from even the most minimal gun control measures, creating the opportunity for more mass shootings.

    Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.