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Coup Plotter Jeffrey Clark Praised Election Conspiracy Film

Jeffrey Clark, the former Justice Department official President Donald Trump sought to install as attorney general in the waning days of his administration to bolster his plot to subvert the 2020 election, is a fan of 2000 Mules, right-wing fraudster Dinesh D’Souza’s widely debunked, conspiracy-minded documentary purporting to uncover massive fraud in that election.

Trump wanted Clark, who supported the election subversion plan, to replace acting Attorney General Jeff Rosen, who did not, but backed down when senior DOJ leaders threatened to resign en masse, Rosen and other witnesses told the House select committee investigating the January 6 insurrection during a Thursday hearing. Their testimony came the day after federal law enforcement officers searched Clark’s house.

Clark’s social media postings indicate an extraordinary credulity with regard to election fraud allegations. The would-be attorney general has repeatedly praised D’Souza’s 2000 Mules film on his Twitter feed, which is unverified but which he identified during an interview with former Trump adviser Steve Bannon.

Clark urged University of Texas law professor Steve Vladeck to “see 2000 Mules this week or next if you’re so focused on 2020” in a May 2 tweet.

On May 7, he asked Democratic elections lawyer Marc Elias, “Do you have an attempted rebuttal to #2000MulesMovie? Were you part of the massive multi-State operation #TrueTheVote uncovered?”

Clark also highlighted an interview right-wing pundit Charlie Kirk did about the film by tweeting a write-up from the conspiracy theory website Gateway Pundit.

Clark has also alleged that the only reason to provide vote-by-mail, which was widely available during the 2020 election, is “to provide cover for elections to be stolen.”

2000 Mules' premise that geolocation data proves that widespread ballot box stuffing in key swing states swung the 2020 election has been debunked by an array of news outlets. The film has received heavy promotion on One America News but is apparently not credible enough for Fox News, which D’Souza has complained ignored it.

D’Souza pleaded guilty to campaign finance violations and lying to investigators and was sentenced to five years of probation in 2014. He was pardoned by Trump in 2018.

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.

Fox Hosts Who Destroyed Her Life Ignore Election Worker's Testimony

Georgia election worker Wandrea “Shaye” Moss was collateral damage in Fox News’ campaign to prop up Donald Trump’s false claims of election fraud following the 2020 presidential election.

In December 2020, the network’s prime-time hosts and “straight news” personnel alike baselessly suggested that Moss and her mother and fellow election worker, Ruby Freeman, had participated in a fraud scheme. The Fox personalities don’t seem to regret their actions: After Moss described the impact those conspiracy theories had on her life to the January 6 House select committee on Tuesday, the network devoted all of 14 seconds to her testimony.

Moss’ testimony showed the human cost of Trump’s sinister effort to subvert the 2020 election. His campaign seized upon video of Moss and Freeman engaged in normal ballot tabulation procedures, claiming it actually depicted them producing “suitcases filled with ballots” from underneath a table after ordering their Republican counterparts to leave. Fox hosts pointed out the mother-daughter pair while pushing Trump’s false framing, and other right-wing outlets identified them by name.

On Tuesday, Moss said she and Freeman had been suffering through a wave of harassment ever since. “This turned my life upside down. I no longer give out my business card. ... I don't want anyone knowing my name," Moss told the committee. "I don't go to the grocery store at all. I haven't been anywhere at all. I've gained about 60 pounds. I just don't do nothing anymore. I don't want to go anywhere. I second guess everything that I do. It's affected my life in a major way, in every way, all because of lies, for me doing my job -- same thing I've been doing forever.”

Moss’ gripping testimony spoke to the brutal impact the right-wing conspiracy theory pipeline had on individuals swept up in the Trumpist election subversion campaign. It is reminiscent of the trials the family of Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich was put through after Fox and other right-wing outlets tried to leverage his murder for political gain.

But Fox viewers who weren’t watching the hearing live in the middle of the afternoon almost certainly missed what Moss had to say. Almost immediately after she concluded her testimony and the committee adjourned, the network pivoted to covering new developments from the Uvalde mass shooting and never really returned to her story.

Here’s the sole coverage on Tuesday evening of Moss’ testimony – a brief clip during Special Report:

Fox hosts Jesse Watters, Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity, and Laura Ingraham — each of whom covered the false “suitcases of ballots” smear — all passed on mentioning Moss’ testimony on their Tuesday broadcasts.

Fox is more interested in covering fake attacks on U.S. democracy than real ones. The network provided only 17 minutes of total coverage of Tuesday’s hearing, from its adjournment through 9 a.m. ET Wednesday morning. By contrast, the network devoted 24 minutes over the same period to covering new developments related to the June 17 arrests of seven staff members of NBC’s Late Show with Stephen Colbert who were allegedly present unlawfully in a congressional office building where they were filming a segment about the hearings.

Fox has tried to use the arrests for unlawful entry of a handful of comedians, including the voice of Triumph the Insult Comic Dog puppet, to mock and downplay the January 6, 2021, insurrection, when a mob of enraged Trumpists stormed the U.S. Capitol, injuring roughly 140 police officers in an attempt to prevent Congress from certifying the election results. The network has spent at least 2 hours and 23 minutes total on the arrests since the story broke last Friday night.

Fox’s propagandists don’t want their viewers to know what these hearings have revealed about the events before, during, and after the insurrection — and above all, what the hearings show about the role the network played in Trump’s scheme to overturn the election. Instead, they’d prefer their audience treat the hearings as a big joke.

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.

The Only Fox Host Who Mentioned Eastman Coup Helped Conceive It

Fox News is burying Thursday’s revelations about the plot by then-President Donald Trump and Trump lawyer John Eastman to pressure then-Vice President Mike Pence to illegally reject electors from key states that supported Joe Biden and thus subvert the election to keep Trump in office, detailed during Thursday’s hearing of the House Select Committee investigating the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021.

The only mentions of that conspiracy during Fox’s prime-time block Thursday night came from Fox host Mark Levin – who apparently worked with Eastman to develop the plot and spoke out on Thursday in support of it.

Former Pence legal counsel Greg Jacob described at Thursday’s hearing Eastman’s scheme for Pence, during the January 6, 2021, joint session of Congress to count Electoral College votes, to either reject the votes from some states outright or send them back to their state legislatures for review. According to Jacob, during one meeting in which Eastman sought to pressure Pence to participate, the Trump lawyer acknowledged that the plot was illegal. The committee also aired video testimonies of other Trump aides saying that they had told Trump the plan was illegal, and produced an email from after the riot in which Eastman sought a presidential pardon.

J. Michael Luttig, a retired federal appeals judge and conservative icon who advised Pence with regard to the scheme, warned at the hearing’s conclusion that “Donald Trump and his allies and supporters are a clear and present danger to American democracy.”

“That’s not because of what happened on Jan. 6,” he added. “It’s because to this very day the former president, his allies and supporters pledge that in the presidential election of 2024 — if the former president or his anointed successor as the Republican Party presidential candidate were to lose that election — that they would attempt to overturn that 2024 election in the same way that they attempted to overturn the 2020 election. But succeed.”

Fox “news side” programs Your World and Special Report each ran news packages on the story that day, sandwiched around the “opinion side” panel show The Five, where discussion of January 6 was limited to sympathy for the perpetrators. Then at 7 p.m. ET, the real Fox came on, and the coverage of the hearing essentially vanished.

Eastman’s name was mentioned only once after that – by Levin, who in an appearance on Hannity criticized the select committee for not producing “professors on the left who actually agreed with John Eastman’s position before it was John Eastman’s position.” The Fox host, who has long publicly supported Eastman’s legal theory, went on to allege that “it is not clear under the 12th Amendment what the responsibilities of the vice president of the United States are and how they are limited.”

Neither Levin nor Sean Hannity noted that Levin was not just a commentator who supported Eastman’s plot, but apparently an active participant in its development.

In May, Eastman sought to prevent the release to the January 6 committee of a dozen emails he exchanged with a person matching Levin’s description. According to the filing, Eastman was communicating with Levin in order to collaborate with him on the litigation in Levin’s role as an attorney, and thus the emails should be protected by lawyer-client privilege. Notably, Eastman reportedly first caught Trump’s attention by expounding on a nearly limitless view of Trump’s legal authority during a 2019 appearance on Levin’s Fox program.

Levin’s comments on Hannity were the only meaningful discussion of the coup attempt on Fox’s evening “opinion” block. Jesse Watters, Tucker Carlson, and Laura Ingraham all ignored the substance of Thursday’s hearing on their programs (Ingraham did, however, host Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene [R-GA] to defend the rioters).

On Friday morning, the story was all but absent from Fox & Friends.

It’s not hard to figure out why Fox hosts aren’t covering Trump’s coup attempt – they regret that it didn’t succeed. And when Republicans attempt a similar scheme in the future, as Luttig suggested they would, the network’s propagandists will be actively supporting it.

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.

What Chris Stirewalt’s Testimony Revealed About His Former Fox Colleagues

Chris Stirewalt, who as Fox News’ politics editor helped lead the network’s decision desk during the 2020 election cycle, told the House select committee investigating the January 6 insurrection on Monday that it was evident almost immediately that President Donald Trump had lost his reelection bid.

Stirewalt’s testimony implicitly made the case that his former Fox colleagues spent months either lying to their viewers or revealing their own ignorance by trumpeting the former president’s election fraud conspiracy theories. But Fox is a GOP propaganda outlet that has little interest in informing its viewers, so the network ultimately sided with the fraudsters and fired Stirewalt for being correct about the election.

Monday’s hearing focused on how Trump’s “Big Lie” that the 2020 election had been rigged against him ended up fueling rioters, who sought to subvert the results by attacking the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021. The committee aired video clips of several former Trump administration and campaign officials who said that they had told Trump his “rigged election” claims were false.

Stirewalt explained that the collapse of Trump’s early lead in several states, which he seized upon as evidence of election fraud, is actually a well-known process known as the “red mirage” that “happens every time” because absentee ballots are usually counted later in the tabulation process, and more Democrats vote by mail than Republicans. He added that he and some of his colleagues had “gone to pains” before the election to stress to Fox viewers that this would happen “because the Trump campaign and the president had made it clear that they were going to try to exploit this anomaly.”

He further explained that as of November 7, 2020, when Fox and other networks called the presidential race for Joe Biden, Trump’s chances of winning were “none” and the odds of winning the Powerball were greater than the election being reversed.

Stirewalt did not directly address the role his network played after the election. But his remarks amounted to a condemnation of a wide swath of his former colleagues, including hosts Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham, and Maria Bartiromo, for their roles in bolstering Trump’s election fraud lies.

Fox questioned the election results or pushed conspiracy theories about it at least 774 times in the two weeks after Stirewalt’s decision desk called the race for Biden. In subsequent weeks, as Trump lashed out at Fox for being insufficiently supportive of his lies, and urged his followers to switch to its fringe-right competitors, the network’s claims became wilder, with hosts describing increasingly baroque methods by which some shadowy cabal had rigged the election.

Trump was watching Fox and its competitors during this period, and he tweeted in response to their election fraud reports dozens of times. He and his supporters also promoted those lies on the same networks, a fact the committee underlined by airing clips of Trump and his personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, doing so on Fox.

The Fox hosts’ refusal to clearly state that Trump had lost and that the “red mirage” had inevitably faded — as Stirewalt did in his testimony — helped bolster the feverish state of the Trumpist right in the days following the election, which culminated in the January 6 coup attempt.

While those who touted Trump’s election lies almost universally still have their jobs at the network, Stirewalt does not. He took the blame for Fox correctly calling the state of Arizona for Biden and was dismissed during a purge of Fox’s so-called “real journalists.” Their replacements, in many cases, were Republican political operatives and Trump administration apparatchiks; that’s what Fox executives want from their “news” personnel these days.

“No one ever gets fired from Fox for publishing a story that isn't true,” a network staffer bemoaned in 2017. As Stirewalt discovered, Fox staffers who tell the truth about Republicans risk their jobs.

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.

Russia ‘Witch Hunt’ Claims Collapse With Jury Decision And New Revelations

The Fox News-fueled Justice Department probes then-President Donald Trump demanded as rebuttals to special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation generated plenty of frothy Fox content. They also gave Republican partisans excuses to discount the obviously unethical and potentially illegal behavior of Trump and the crimes of his underlings. But efforts to turn the network’s conspiracy theories into federal cases have tended to diminish and fail under the scrutiny of prosecutors, judges, and juries.

Years of claims from Sean Hannity and others at Fox that a criminal probe had been needed to “investigate the investigators” received two body blows on Tuesday. First, a jury found former Clinton campaign lawyer Michael Sussmann not guilty of lying to the FBI in one of the few charges brought by special counsel John Durham’s three-year probe of the origins of Mueller’s investigation. And that night, newly released documents revealed that a Trump-appointed U.S. attorney assigned by then-Attorney General William Barr to review allegations regarding the purportedly sinister “unmaskings” of former Trump adviser Michael Flynn and other people associated with Trump’s transition team had concluded in September 2020 that those actions had been routine and that no criminal investigation into them was justified.

Hannity and his fellow travelers had responded to the initiation of Mueller’s probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election by furiously manufacturing a counternarrative in which Trump and his associates were victims of a witch hunt and the real crimes were all committed by overzealous, anti-Trump investigators. The Fox hosts’ coverage created incentives for Republican politicians to join in, and over the years, they together concocted a hodgepodge of slipshod allegations. The pseudoscandal’s shorthand quickly became impenetrable to anyone who wasn’t a regular viewer of the network, with adherents throwing around terms like Obamagate, #ReleaseTheMemo, Uranium One, and Operation Boomerang, to name a few. Hannity’s cabal claimed that a legal reckoning was coming for an array of high-ranking public officials, including former President Barack Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Hannity, for his part, described Durham’s appointment in 2019 as a “major, huge development” that would give “the deep state … every reason to be afraid, every reason to panic.” He later argued that if the investigation did not result in convictions, “the great American republic will disintegrate before your eyes.”

The Durham probe has provided Fox with years of content. The network has aired more than 2,000 weekday segments that discussed his investigation or the origins of the Mueller probe since his May 2019 appointment, more than 500 of which came after he was named special counsel in October 2020, according to Media Matters' internal database. And Trump eagerly watched the coverage — during a September 2020 presidential press conference, he reeled off half a dozen shows that had covered the investigation that day, calling it “the biggest political scandal in the history of our country” as he tried to use the cloud of the phony scandal to bolster his reelection campaign.

However, Durham’s investigation has proven less effective in court. His prosecutors secured a guilty plea from former FBI lawyer Kevin Clinesmith for altering a document used to justify the surveillance of a Trump campaign aide, but the judge believed Clinesmith’s argument that he had not intended to mislead his colleagues but had inserted words he believed were accurate and sentenced him to probation. Sussmann, charged with a single count of lying to an FBI agent over his role in an aspect of the Russia story so minor that Hannity had barely mentioned it, was found not guilty by a unanimous jury, with the forewoman stating that the government had wasted their time. The only person remaining on Durham’s public docket is Igor Danchenko, a Russian national who contributed to the Steele dossier and is charged with five counts of making false statements to the FBI.

Durham’s investigation has now dragged on for more than three years. During that time the Justice Department’s inspector general concluded that the Russia probe was properly predicated. It is reasonable to conclude both that Durham does not have the goods and that he has inadvertently debunked the conspiracy theory he was appointed to prove. By contrast, it took Mueller’s team less than two years to deliver a completed report detailing Russia’s “sweeping and systemic” interference on Trump’s behalf in the 2020 election and Trump’s own potential criminal actions, and his prosecutors secured guilty pleas or convictions against a lengthy list that included Trump’s 2016 campaign chair Paul Manafort, his deputy, Rick Gates, Trump’s longtime political consigliere, Roger Stone, and his first national security adviser, Michael Flynn.

But Fox narratives can never really fail, they can only be failed – the likes of Hannity will never admit they got it wrong. Instead, the Fox prime-time host opened Tuesday night’s show by claiming that “America's two-tiered system of justice is alive and well” and arguing that Sussmann’s jury was “tainted.”

“In my humble opinion, Durham likely knew exactly what he was up against in the D.C. courts knew the makeup of the jurisdiction and the D.C. swamp is leftist liberal and likely was not counting on a conviction as much as getting more important information out to the general public,” Hannity later added. “In other words, this is a preview of coming attractions. Forget about Sussmann. It's the system, what the system is.”

At around the same time Hannity was telling his audience that justice was right around the corner, another aspect of Fox’s counternarrative collapsed.

In May 2020, Richard Grenell, an unscrupulous political operative then ensconced as acting director of national intelligence, produced what he claimed was a list of senior Obama administration officials who “unmasked” Flynn, receiving his name after they followed the National Security Agency’s standard process and asked the agency to reveal the identity of an individual generically referenced in an NSA report. While it was always unclear that the unmasking had been inappropriate, Fox gave the story wall-to-wall coverage, running at least 250 weekday segments that touched on the “unmasking” story or the broader “Obamagate” conspiracy theory that month alone, according to Media Matters’ database.

But on Tuesday night, Buzzfeed’s Jason Leopold and Ken Bensinger produced a September 2020 report then-U.S. Attorney John Bash authored for Barr indicating that his review had found no predicate for a criminal investigation and concluding that senior Obama officials had not unmasked Flynn “for political purposes or other inappropriate reasons.” Indeed, Bash concluded that contrary to the overheated Fox rhetoric that flowed from Grenell’s document, "all but one of the requests that listed a senior official as an authorized recipient of General Flynn’s identity were made by an intelligence professional to prepare for a briefing of the official, not at the direction of the official.”

Over the years, Fox took its audience down a rabbit hole, and the Justice Department followed. But the lack of successful prosecutions does not mean that Fox’s effort was fruitless. The House select committee Fox demanded to investigate the 2012 Benghazi attacks found no illicit actions by Hillary Clinton, but it did uncover her use of a private email server, and while the FBI investigation into her activity ultimately cleared her, the resulting political damage likely cost her the 2016 presidential election.

Fox-fueled investigations may not put anyone in jail – but they can still stir up enough political controversy to help the GOP win elections. And for a propaganda organ that effectively runs that party, that may be enough.

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.” 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.

White Nationalists Praise Tucker Carlson For Mainstreaming Their Ideology

Fox News host Tucker Carlson is drawing praise from white nationalist outlets for mainstreaming their “great replacement” conspiracy theory after a white supremacist allegedly killed 10 people in Buffalo, New York, in a massacre apparently inspired by it. The Fox star has drawn compliments from the notorious former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke and been toasted by racist outlets like VDare and American Renaissance for bringing their message to his millions of viewers.

Carlson emerged over the last several years as the nation’s most prominent champion of the white supremacist “great replacement” conspiracy theory, which posits that a sinister elite cabal (often led by Jews) is trying to destroy the white race by using immigration policy to replace white Americans with nonwhite migrants. The Fox host kept the conspiracy theory’s superstructure intact while sanitizing it for mass consumption by swapping out key terms: Carlson describes “the great replacement” as a plot by President Joe Biden, the Democratic Party, and the Jewish financier George Soros to ensure permanent political dominance and destroy the country by using immigration policy to replace “legacy Americans with more obedient people from far-away countries.”

Both iterations are utterly false, with Carlson’s based on his typical practice of stripping videos of Democrats from context and lying about what they said. But Carlson’s bosses, Rupert and Lachlan Murdoch, have stood by him as his bigoted commentary drew controversy, with Lachlan at one point even claiming that the host had actually “rejected replacement theory” – a lie that Carlson correctly took as a green light to continue.

White nationalists, who praised Carlson’s show almost since its launch in 2016 and described him as “literally our greatest ally,” have lauded Carlson’s repackaging of replacement theory. They point out that the Fox host is bringing their precepts to a huge national audience, and indeed, several of Carlson’s colleagues and many Republican politicians have followed his lead, integrating the white supremacist conspiracy theory into right-wing dogma.

Carlson’s role promoting the “great replacement” theory drew new attention following the Buffalo mass shooting, but he and his employer remain undeterred. Carlson and his colleagues lashed out at the network’s critics, while his allies tried to draw distinctions between the purportedly non-racist version of great replacement theory he uses and its white supremacist source material.

Carlson, his supporters, and the Murdochs may play dumb about what the host is doing when he invokes “the great replacement.” But white nationalists understand that he is injecting their ideas into the heart of the Republican Party by airing their talking points in a more palatable, less explicitly racist form for a mass audience.

Duke: “Incredible” Carlson is “the only voice that gets out some of the information” but he “can't say there is a war on white people”

Duke highlighted Carlson’s “incredible” May 17 monologue, in which the Fox host again promoted the “great replacement” conspiracy theory, on his radio show the following day.

“I like Tucker Carlson,” Duke later added. “I'm thankful for many of the things that he says. I also disagree with him on a number of points, but I think overall, he's the only voice that gets out some of the information at all.”

The former Klansman – who has previously suggested that Carlson is using his own talking points in discussing “the replacement of legacy Americans” – went on to explain that Carlson puts forward the same ideas as white supremacists like him but “can’t really say it” using the same words.

“He himself is reluctant to use the word ‘white’ unless he quotes other people saying ‘white.’ You can talk about – we can talk about a ‘demographic war.’ But he can't really say it like we can,” Duke said of Carlson. “He can't say there is a war on white people, and there is – there is a war against the white race.”

Duke also bemoaned that Carlson never spells out what Duke claimed is the common thread between “people he mentions like” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, the heads of social media giants, and the “neocons that bring us into these terrible wars” (for Duke, a virulent antisemite who was in the middle of an anti-Jewish rant, the key commonality is obviously that they are all Jews).

White nationalists at and American Renaissance have also celebrated Carlson’s crucial role in spreading their message to Republican politicians and voters, and have praised everyone involved in mainstreaming their vile idea for refusing to buckle under criticism from Democrats and the press. Carlson is “heroic,” helped take “great replacement” from “fringes of the right” to “Republican consensus”

Peter Brimelow, the white nationalist founder and editor of, wrote in a May 16 piece for his virulent anti-immigrant site that the alleged Buffalo shooter (whose actions Brimelow says he deplores) was motivated by “serious racial concerns.” Brimelow goes on to state that “the Great Replacement is not a ‘theory’—it is a fact.”

“The Ruling Class’s problem is not that guerrilla Dissident Right websites, and the heroic Tucker Carlson, have Noticed the Great Replacement,” the sometime Murdoch employee wrote. “It is that the Great Replacement is undeniably happening—and that it is the result of Federal Government policy.”

Carlson’s role drew a more detailed analysis in a Sunday piece by Washington Watcher II, a pseudonymous “DC insider” who writes for the site and whose thesis is that “great replacement” rhetoric is now rampant throughout the Republican Party, thanks in part to Carlson.

Washington Watcher II wrote that Schumer and other Democrats are using the shooting to criticize the “great replacement” conspiracy theory and Carlson, who “talks about it regularly and influences Republican politicians.” But to the writer, that effort is doomed because “great replacement” is “not a fringe idea anymore, but instead part of mainstream discussion in GOP circles.”

After listing prominent Republicans who have used “great replacement” rhetoric, the writer credited Fox’s star host: “Ordinary Republicans—possibly and partly because of Carlson—believe the Great Replacement is real.”

Washington Watcher II praised Carlson and Republican leaders for “showing some backbone” following criticism from Democrats and the press, adding, “Several conservatives defend Carlson and others and say the Great Replacement is an obvious truth. … And many of the major figures accused of spreading this ‘dangerous’ theory—Carlson, [Ohio GOP Senate nominee J.D.] Vance, [Arizona GOP Senate candidate Blake] Masters, and [Texas Lt. Gov. Dan] Patrick—stayed on message through the last week.”

The piece concluded: “The Great Replacement is no longer an idea consigned to the fringes of the right. It’s part of the new Republican consensus on border security and immigration. As well it should be. Maybe the Historic American Nation stands a chance, after all.”

American Renaissance: Progressives don’t want Carlson to “inspire young whites to resist replacement”

Carlson also drew plaudits from writers at American Renaissance, another prominent white nationalist website, following the Buffalo shooting.

In a May 19 screed, D.F. Mulder responded to critics of the Fox host by vouching for Carlson’s non-racist credentials and suggesting that those critics want to thwart his ability to “inspire young whites” to take action against their purported replacement.

“Tucker Carlson carefully avoids anything racist. He denounces racism and insists that he judges individuals by their character,” Mulder wrote, adding that “America’s ruling class” is made up of “anti-white zealots.”

“The regime opposes Mr. Carlson, not because he is a ‘racist,’ but because he thwarts their plans. It cannot show that he has said anything probably untrue,” including about “replacement theory,” Mulder added. “The power structure’s opposition to Mr. Carlson is not about truth. It is about the effects of his words, which might inspire young whites to resist replacement rather than disappearing quietly.”

Mulder concluded that in the face of this “ruling class”: “Anyone with any virtue will resist. Some will protest with money, others with pens, and still others — alas, but inevitably — with guns. Resistance is inevitable.”

“Gregory Hood” similarly wrote in a May 18 piece for the site that “the greatest threats to European-Americans are people within our borders” and that “The Great Replacement” is occurring. He praised National Review editor Rich Lowry for defending Carlson’s version of replacement theory and warned that progressives “want more censorship, especially of Tucker Carlson.”

“Hood” further wrote that “leftists … openly celebrate The Great Replacement of whites,” which he suggests is a genocide, and demands that conservatives “fight it.” He concluded: “Whites deserve political representation and legal equality in the country we built. If we don’t get it, we can expect no place in this country. We need to start building a place of our own.”

The Southern Poverty Law Center reported in 2020 that “Gregory Hood” is a pseudonym for Kevin DeAnna, described as a “prolific white nationalist blogger” and “an early leader and ideological architect of the alt-right” who helped pioneer the insult “cuckservative.”

DeAenna’s piece about the Buffalo massacre is subtitled “Republicans need allies. They need us.”

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.

Fox Primes Viewers For ‘Election Fraud’ Chaos In Pennsylvania

Fox News prime-time host Sean Hannity is priming his audience to see election fraud in any defeat for Dr. Mehmet Oz, his favored candidate who currently leads the GOP primary for U.S. Senate in Pennsylvania with two percent of votes outstanding. If the fast-closing hedge funder Dave McCormick takes the lead and the Oz camp claims the election has been stolen, it could set up a potentially explosive proxy war with Hannity’s colleague Laura Ingraham, whose Fox program favors McCormick and has suggested he is likely to prevail when all the votes are counted.

The GOP primary was a chaotic slugfest that split Fox’s slate of pro-GOP hosts in an unusually public way. Hannity was Oz’s most prominent supporter, reportedly securing the support of former President Donald Trump and using his program to endorse the TV personality, give him a regular platform, and target the challenge from right-wing commentator and Fox & Friends regular Kathy Barnette. Ingraham, meanwhile, used her Fox program (which airs in the hour following Hannity’s) to promote McCormick, criticize Oz, and defend Barnette.

Tuesday’s election is currently too close to call, with Oz holding a roughly 1,200-vote lead over McCormick, 31. percent to 31.1 percent, according to the Associated Press. McCormick has gained ground as officials continue counting ballots, and the election appears headed to a recount.

Trump, Hannity, and the bulk of Hannity’s Fox and right-wing media colleagues dishonestly sought to delegitimize the 2020 election results when mail-in ballots helped President Joe Biden win key states. Their cynical attempt to subvert the vote and terminate the American republic led inexorably to January 6, 2021, when a riotous mob of Trump supporters sacked the U.S. Capitol as they sought to thwart the peaceful transition of power.

Hannity and Trump are now deploying the same playbook in Pennsylvania.

“Dr. Oz should declare victory,” Trump suggested on his social media site Wednesday morning. “It makes it much harder for them to cheat with the ballots that they ‘just happened to find.’”

A few hours later, Hannity similarly baselessly raised the prospect of election fraud on his nationally syndicated radio show.

Hannity similarly portrayed the election as a done deal on his Fox show that night.

“I've been crunching numbers all day. I've been talking to people all day. I've been checking county websites all day. And I have my belief that, worst case scenario, this comes out in Oz's favor,” Hannity told his guest, the pollster Matt Towery.

Towery agreed with Hannity’s analysis, saying, “There aren't enough votes here to make this a reversal in who's leading. It could take it down more, maybe even to 600, but I don't think it can change the lead."

And Oz himself appeared and took Trump’s advice, telling Hannity’s audience, “This election is ours.”

Hannity viewers who kept watching after the program ended received a very different message from Ingraham’s show.

The analyst Ingraham hosted to discuss the race, Washington Examiner’s Salena Zito, said that based on the outstanding ballots, “If you ask me tonight whose campaign I would want to be in, it would probably be McCormick’s.”

And then McCormick himself came on and, at Ingraham’s urging, disputed Oz’s claim that he had won.

As the midterm elections approach, Trump and Hannity have learned to expect no negative consequences for convincing their fans to believe outlandish lies about rigged elections. Trump remains the head of the Republican Party, while Hannity retains his dual role at Fox and as a GOP operative. Their impulse to treat any electoral defeat as fraudulent now risks chaos for the GOP in Pennsylvania and on Fox’s airwaves – and sets the stage for a similar, dangerous play for the White House in 2024.

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.

Fox Hate Propaganda Leaves Advertisers Without ‘Plausible Deniability’

Fox News is rubbing its bigotry and volatility in the faces of would-be and current advertisers, leaving them without a shred of plausible deniability as they consider a business relationship with a network that prioritizes the promotion of white supremacist conspiracy theories.

On Monday, Fox held its upfronts presentation, an industry tradition in which networks bring in advertisers and media buyers and pitch them on buying ads for the next year. It was the first time Fox has held the event in person since 2019. In the intervening years, the network has cemented its control over the Republican Party, helped to bring about and then justify the January 6, 2021, Trumpist attack on the U.S. Capitol, run a remarkably effective campaign to dissuade people from taking COVID-19 vaccines; and demolished its “news side” in favor of more propaganda.

Fox’s crucial event came at a particularly inopportune moment for the network. On Saturday, a white supremacist gunman killed 10 people at a supermarket in a predominantly Black neighborhood in Buffalo. The manifesto he allegedly posted online invokes the “great replacement” theory as his motivation, which posits that shadowy forces are masterminding nonwhite immigration in order to “replace” the white population. This blood-soaked conspiracy theory, once largely confined to Internet fever swamps and the political fringe, has in recent years been mainstreamed by Fox News hosts. The network – and in particular its biggest star and the theory’s most prominent supporter, Tucker Carlson – have received abominable press over the last few days, as the overlap between their commentary and that of the shooter have drawn scrutiny everywhere from the front pages of newspapers to the floor of the U.S. Senate.

While Carlson and his primetime colleagues went all but unmentioned during Fox’s pre-recorded presentation, their style of bigotry and mendacity was represented in the room by Pete Hegseth, a Fox & Friends weekend host who pitched advertisers on the network’s streaming service. Hegseth has repeatedly pushed the same “replacement” narrative on Fox, warning viewers of a “full-scale invasion” of Haitian immigrants “coming to your backyard” and arguing that Democrats are deliberately allowing unchecked immigration for political gain. He is one of the network’s staunchest supporters of the insurrectionists who sacked the U.S. Capitol, validating them the very next day as people who simply “love freedom” and want to “defend our republic.” A member of former President Donald Trump’s Fox cabinet of network advisers, Hegseth has refused to admit Trump lost the 2020 election.

Fox’s on-air programming had largely avoided talking about the Buffalo shooter’s “great replacement” motivation. But as prospective advertisers mingled with the Fox brass and presenters at the afterparty following the network’s pitch, Fox’s stars were on-air making clear that they not only have no intention of apologizing for promoting white supremacist conspiracy theories – but that they consider themselves among the victims of the massacre.

On his 7 PM. broadcast, Jesse Watters, who has accused Democrats of “breaking the border on purpose” to “overwhelm the system in order to achieve more political power,” described criticism linking the shooter’s manifesto to right-wing invocations of “replacement theory” as an attempt to “further divide this country by race and profit from that division politically” and as a “psy ops game.”

Carlson has accused President Joe Biden and the Jewish financier and philanthropist George Soros of trying to alter the “racial mix” of the U.S. through "’the great replacement,’" “the replacement of legacy Americans with more obedient people from far-away countries,” because they want to “destroy” the country, and even urged his viewers to take action in response.

On Monday night, he lashed out at his critics, arguing that they were using “race politics” in a manner that “always leads to violence and death,” and invoking the Rwandan genocide.

Sean Hannity, who has accused Democrats of engineering “a quid pro quo: We'll give you citizenship for free, we hope you vote Democrat,” said the following hour that “many on the left” were “exploiting” the shooting by “blaming Republicans and conservatives and talk show hosts and Fox News.”

And in the 10 p.m. hour, Laura Ingraham, who has told her viewers that Democrats “want to replace you, the American voters, with newly amnestied citizens and an ever-increasing number of chain migrants,” said that while some critics say that the shooter’s “accomplices” are Republican politicians parroting the same talking points, “the real accomplices are in the media” for trying to “censor opposing views.”

Fox is denying its advertisers any wiggle room whatsoever. Its biggest stars are clearly signaling that they will continue to use the same rhetoric that motivated the Buffalo shooter and an array of terrorists before him. The Fox brass, from the Murdochs on down, have no apparent qualms about what they are doing and no intention of getting them to stop. The only question for Fox’s advertisers is whether they are willing to continue their own complicit participation.

Fox News CEO Suzanne Scott closed the network’s presentation on Monday by highlighting its “loyal audience.” Advertisers should worry about whether Fox’s programming might be driving that audience to do something other than buy their products.

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.

Why The Buffalo Massacre Marks Decision Point For Fox Advertisers

On Monday, Fox executives pitched the nation’s media buyers on purchasing the network’s ads for the next year at their annual upfronts presentation. The Fox brass were bound to desperately try to ignore the elephant in the room: The event opened roughly 48 hours after a white supremacist gunman whose manifesto details the racist “great replacement” conspiracy theory popularized and mainstreamed by the network’s biggest star, Tucker Carlson, killed ten people in a supermarket in Buffalo, New York.

Those media buyers, like anyone else doing business with Fox, should recognize that the network’s highest priority is producing this brand of white nationalist propaganda. Their ongoing willingness to buy Fox’s ads is a crucial part of the network’s business strategy.

Rupert and Lachlan Murdoch and network CEO Suzanne Scott have ignored any number of warning signs and protests from inside and outside the network that Carlson’s white nationalist rants were dangerous, as The New York Times detailed earlier this month. They have an affinity for his views, appreciate his ratings and the money he generates — or both — and so have given him the green light to do as he pleases.

The only thing that could plausibly make them stop is if doing so stops being so profitable. Until that happens, Carlson knows they have his back, and he can laugh off people who point out that his show promotes the grievances and worldview of neo-Nazis.

I've been covering white supremacists' affinity for Tucker Carlson, and his eagerness to promote their depraved talking points, for more than five years. They consider him “our greatest ally,” as the neo-Nazi Andrew Anglin put it, because he brings their message to the masses. This is not the first time a white supremacist gunman has carried out a massacre because he shares the twisted ideology Carlson and his colleagues promote at the network — and it likely will not be the last.

As I wrote two weeks ago: “The Murdochs, Carlson, and their colleagues are not going to stop. They’re going to keep promoting white nationalism. And everyone in business with Fox should be clear-eyed that their ongoing participation is part of the network’s strategy.”

Media buyers and advertisers need to decide how comfortable they are with that. But at this point, there’s no denying it.

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.

Fox's Modest Proposal: Starve Migrant Babies To Save Formula

Fox News is responding to the major shortage of baby formula by focusing its viewers’ ire on a familiar scapegoat: undocumented immigrants. The right-wing network’s biggest stars are complaining that while American parents are struggling to find formula for their children, the Biden administration is lavishing the scarce resource on migrant babies in U.S. immigration detention facilities.

Let’s start from the beginning: There are infants, brought across the border to the United States through what is self-evidently no fault of their own, who are detained under the U.S. government’s control. Like all babies, they are helpless, entirely at the mercy of the adults around them. The babies need to eat. In some cases, they may be separated from their mothers; in others, their mothers may be unable to produce sufficient breast milk. Since the law and basic human decency require governments to feed people they have detained, the U.S. government makes formula available. The alternative is babies starving to death in U.S. custody.

Meanwhile, there is currently a major shortage of baby formula in the United States. There are many reasons for this shortage, including the consolidation of formula suppliers, supply chain issues caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, bacterial contamination that forced a recall of some formula stocks and the shuttering of a major manufacturing plant, U.S. trade policy, and the general disregard U.S. policy has for children. The shortage is a crisis for many parents, who are unable to find the food they need for their babies.

Republicans have put these two things together and decided to blame President Joe Biden for the formula shortage on the ground that his administration is providing formula to migrant infants in detention facilities. After Rep. Kat Cammack (R-FL) posted a photo of what she described as “shelves and pallets packed with baby formula” at a major border processing and detention center alongside another photo of an almost-empty formula shelf at a U.S. store, her party started running with the angle. “Our children deserve a president who puts their needs and survival first – not one who gives critical supplies to illegal immigrants before the very people he took an oath to serve,” Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said in a statement on Thursday.

Fox hosts, in their role as the GOP’s primary propagandists, are playing a key role in promoting this grotesque talking point. All of the network’s star hosts ran with the story on Thursday evening and Friday morning, demanding to know, as Jesse Watters put it, “Why are we feeding illegal babies ahead of American babies?" They described migrant babies getting formula when American babies can’t as something “humiliating” that should “infuriate” their viewers.

The most charitable way to look at this argument is that the Republican politicians and Fox hosts making it don’t really want Biden to starve migrant babies to death – they are just cynically using the specter of fed migrant babies to anger desperate American parents for political gain and ratings. But the direct logical extension of it, if it were carried out, would be the U.S. government starving to death the helpless infants it has in its custody.

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.

Bitter GOP Split Over Pennsylvania Senate Primary Erupts On Fox

Fox News’ role as an appendage of the Republican Party has made the network a battlefield for the U.S. Senate primary in Pennsylvania as two of its prime-time hosts rally behind different candidates.

Sean Hannity is supporting Dr. Mehmet Oz, a heart surgeon and TV personality notorious for promoting pseudoscience and medical misinformation. Hannity has hosted 19 of the 25 Fox weekday interviews Oz has done since declaring his candidacy, and he regularly invites him on his nationally syndicated radio show. He has vouched for Oz’s political bona fides, publicly endorsed him on his TV and radio shows, and used his influence with Donald Trump to secure the former president’s coveted support.

Laura Ingraham, meanwhile, appears to favor Dave McCormick, a former hedge fund CEO and Bush administration official. She has given McCormick 3 of his 9 total Fox weekday interviews during the primary and criticized Trump and Hannity for backing Oz.

Hannity and Ingraham are both GOP kingmakers, and their shows are among the party’s most influential platforms. Their colleague Tucker Carlson, meanwhile, has ignored the Pennsylvania race altogether as he focused on helping J.D. Vance to victory in the Ohio Senate primary.

Oz, who entered the public consciousness through broadcast TV as a guest on The Oprah Winfrey Show and on his own eponymous program, used regular appearances on Fox to rebrand as a right-wing commentator, much as Trump himself did a decade ago. Oz has appeared on Fox weekday programs at least 130 times since September 2017, according to the Media Matters guest database, including 75 interviews on Fox & Friends and 38 on Hannity.

Oz became a fixture on the network during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, which helped him cement his relationships with Hannity and Trump. The Fox host regularly hosted Oz for interviews on his TV and radio shows and repeatedly stressed that the two stay up talking until 2 o’clock or “3 in the morning now, late at night.” Oz’s Fox appearances attracted the Fox-obsessed president’s attention, particularly his constant support for the use of the anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine as treatment (studies show this drug is not effective). In response, Trump urged his administration officials to consult with Oz on their handling of COVID-19.

Those relationships proved crucial to Oz’s Senate run. As a first-time candidate with a long history of statements unpopular with his party’s base, Oz has benefited from the public approval of Hannity and Trump. “The best thing he has going for him is his relationship with Hannity,” a conservative operative told New York magazine’s Olivia Nuzzi for a December profile of Oz.

Hours after Oz announced his candidacy, Hannity gave him the opportunity to pitch himself to the Fox audience. Introducing Oz for that November 30 interview, Hannity stressed that Oz had “a lot of similarities” to Trump, and he highlighted their personal friendship and their “many conversations, too numerous to count, late into the night” at the start of the pandemic.

During the interview Hannity asked Oz some softball questions about why he was running and how he would respond to the criticism that he is new to the state. He then offered him a chance to assuage the concerns of conservatives who might doubt that he is one of them.

“I say I'm a conservative. I used to say I'm a Reagan conservative. I would say I'm an America First, Make America Great Again conservative,” Hannity said. “How would you describe, in just a sentence, your political ideology, philosophy? You are running as -- in a Republican primary. How would you sum it up?”

Oz replied, “I match yours.”

Oz used subsequent appearances on Hannity’s Fox show to push back against criticisms that he is insufficiently conservatives, lash out at right-wing targets like Dr. Anthony Fauci, and denounce President Joe Biden for firing him from the presidential fitness council.

Hannity has formally endorsed Oz’s campaign. While introducing him for a March 3 interview on his radio show, Hannity said: “I'm supporting his nomination to be the Republican candidate. I've known him for many, many years. Some people said, ‘How do I know he's a conservative, Hannity?’ I got the same questions about Donald Trump, and I think I was proven right.” On Fox, Hannity likewise said on March 23 that Oz will “make a great senator. I've known him for years. He is a solid America First, Make America Great Again conservative. That's why I'm supporting him, and a friend.”

Oz prominently displays Hannity’s support on his campaign website’s endorsements page.

Hannity’s role at Fox ensures Oz’s access to a large audience of Republican base voters — but his sidegig as a GOP political operative may have been even more valuable to Oz’s campaign. He spent the Trump administration moonlighting as one of the president’s most trusted advisers and reportedly used that influence on Oz’s behalf. Other key Trump allies denounced Oz as a latecomer to the movement and many conservative luminaries backed McCormick. But Hannity reportedly “actively lobbied for Trump to endorse the celebrity doctor” and his recommendation “played an outsized role in influencing Trump’s decision” to do so in an April 9 statement.

Two nights later on Fox, Hannity sought to lessen the blowback from Trump’s endorsement. “Dr. Oz is the America First candidate and running in Pennsylvania, which is why I have endorsed him,” Hannity said while introducing the candidate for yet another interview. “He's fully behind the America First, Make America Great Again agenda, strong on the border, strong on energy independence, tough on crime, believes in law and order, supports the right to life, he follows the science on COVID, wants to fire Fauci.”

But the next night on her own Fox show, Ingraham joined the critics of Trump’s endorsement — and highlighted Hannity’s influence on the decision.

After playing a video of Oz making comments about climate change, guns, and abortion that are anathema to conservatives, Ingraham asked her guest, former Trump White House official Kellyanne Conway, whether Trump had erred. When Conway refused to give a straight answer, Ingraham said, “Hannity, I think, I believe, endorsed Oz and … that’s probably not inconsequential for President Trump” before adding, “I think it was a mistake to endorse Oz. I'll say it. I'm not afraid to say it. It was a mistake to endorse Oz.”

While Ingraham has not formally endorsed Oz’s primary opponent McCormick, she has repeatedly offered him a platform and praised his background.

“All eyes are on the top two candidates, one of them served in the Turkish military, Dr. Oz, everyone knows him from TV,” she said while introducing McCormick for a February 22 interview. “And the other went to West Point and served as an Army Ranger in the Gulf War.”

McCormick received an opportunity to pitch his candidacy to Ingraham’s viewers and respond to criticism that he won’t be “tough on China” like Trump. His answers apparently satisfied her concerns. “You clarified a lot, Dave, tonight, and we really appreciate your joining us,” she said at the end of the interview.

Ingraham used subsequent interviews with McCormick to give him a chance to push back against Oz’s attacks on his position on tariffs with China and to levy his own salvos at Oz’s past statements on abortion.

She isn’t the only one at Fox who seems to prefer McCormick. Host Mark Levin told him he would make “an excellent senator” during an interview, while contributors Mike Huckabee and Mike Pompeo have endorsed and campaigned for him.

Fox will win the primary no matter which Republican emerges from the May 17 election, but it remains to be seen which Fox host has more sway with GOP voters in Pennsylvania.

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.

Craven: Hannity Obeyed Election Day Commands From Trump White House

Sean Hannity sought, received, and carried out marching orders from the Trump White House on what to say on Election Day 2020. At a normal news outlet, this would be cause for alarm and would trigger an internal investigation into how often such behavior was going on – but Hannity works for Fox News, which long ago accepted his sidegig as a Republican political operative whose primary loyalty is to Donald Trump.

Hannity’s communications with then-White House chief of staff Mark Meadows are included in a trove of 2,319 text messages Meadows sent or received between November 3, 2020, which was Election Day, and President Joe Biden’s inauguration on January 20, 2021. The texts were selectively provided by Meadows to the January 6 select committee and obtained by CNN, which reported on them on Monday.

The texts show Hannity reaching out to Meadows and receiving instructions on what to tell his audience on the afternoon of Election Day. After Hannity asked Meadows about whether Trump would win the chief of staff’s home state of North Carolina, Meadows told Hannity to use his radio show to “Stress every vote matters. Get out and vote.” Hannity responded, “Yes sir[.] On it. Any place in particular we need a push[?]” Meadows wrote back, “Pennsylvania. NC AZ,” then added “Nevada,” to which Hannity replied, “Got it. Everywhere[.]”

Hannity followed through on his pledge to Meadows to exhort his radio audience to the polls in those key states, as The Washington Post’s Philip Bump noted after reviewing that day’s edition of Hannity’s radio show, which airs from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. ET:

“I am acting as though and knowing that every single, solitary vote matters,” Hannity said near the top of the show. He added that he was sharing insights after having “been on the phone all day with people all over the country.”

A bit later: “Every single vote in every one of these states that I have just mentioned absolutely, positively matters.”

And later still: “If you’re going to be voting, you know, please, if you’re online, please don’t say, oh, this is going to take too long. Your vote is necessary. Every vote matters.”

Bump also noted that three states Hannity mentioned most frequently on that broadcast were Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and Arizona – the three states Meadows first indicated to Hannity as priorities.

In short, Hannity appears to have said what the Trump White House told him to say. And there’s no reason to think this was the first time that happened – the exchange between Meadows and Hannity is casual, with no indication from either party that anything untoward was happening.

Such behavior would generally be interpreted by a responsible news outlet as a massive ethical breach. But Fox is a Republican propaganda outlet that has completely given up on enforcing anything resembling rules or journalistic ethics for Hannity, allowing him to moonlight as a key Trump adviser.

Hannity appeared in a promotional video for Trump’s campaign, was revealed as a secret client of former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen and a back channel between Trump and his embattled associates, spoke at a Trump political rally, and reportedly wrote one of his campaign ads. News reports indicated he was providing the president with political advice and receiving notes on his show in near-nightly conversations, and was so influential at the White House that aides called him “the ‘shadow’ chief of staff.”

Through it all, while journalists noted that such behavior would constitute firing offenses at other outlets, Fox stood by their man. At this point, there’s no question that Hannity does Trump’s bidding because that’s what the network wants him to do.

Printed with permission from MediaMatters.

How Fox News Weaponized ‘Don’t Say Gay’ To Persecute Teachers

Republicans have long relied on right-wing media’s inflammatory rhetoric to mobilize their voters. But with Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” law, state Republicans have effectively deputized the most Fox-News-and-Facebook-addicted members of the party’s base to act on frenzied smears that LGBTQ teachers are “grooming” children.

Here’s the key legislative text from Florida’s “Parental Rights in Education” law:

Classroom instruction by school personnel or third parties on sexual orientation or gender identity may not occur in kindergarten through grade 3 or in a manner that is not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students in accordance with state standards.

Republicans seem to have drafted the law to be deliberately vague. It does not define key terms like “classroom instruction,” “age-appropriate,” or “developmentally appropriate.” While some conservatives have criticized the “Don’t Say Gay” moniker applied to the law by saying it merely bans discussion of “sex and sexuality” or “sexual topics,” there is no prohibition on such content in the text of the bill. In fact, as the bill moved through the Florida legislature, Republicans blocked a Democratic amendment to replace the phrase “sexual orientation or gender identity” with “human sexuality or sexual activity.”

This vagueness in the law’s text means a wide array of topics may or may not be banned, as Vox’s Ian Millhiser noted:

May a gay teacher display a picture of their spouse on their desk? May a straight teacher do so? Suppose that a third grade student asks a teacher who the highest-ranking openly gay official is in the US government. Is the teacher allowed to respond with the correct answer (Pete Buttigieg), or do they have to blow off the question? What if a book taught in a high school English class has a gay character? Or what if the book has no openly gay characters but a parent reads the book and concludes that it has homoerotic undertones? If a second grade student has two mothers, may a teacher casually mention this fact in the same way they might mention any other student’s parents, or is such a thing forbidden?

But it’s the law’s enforcement mechanism, combined with that vague text, that most empowers the GOP’s right-wing-media-loving base – and imperils Florida teachers. The law lets parents respond to purported violations of its strictures by suing their child’s school district when they think that “classroom instruction” on LGBTQ issues has not been “age-appropriate.” As Millhiser notes, this mechanism “effectively turns the most squeamish, anti-LGBTQ parent in any public school into the bill’s enforcer.” And Fox, other right-wing outlets, and social media platforms are currently priming those parents to assume that any discussion of LGBTQ issues in schools constitutes an effort to “groom” children.

The Florida law effectively weaponizes that right-wing media audience against teachers and schools.

Propagandists at Fox and other Trumpist outlets frequently warn their audiences of the apocalyptic threat they claim that progressives pose to the country and to the physical safety of their viewers. Over the last year, a sizable fraction of this demagoguery has revolved around U.S. public schools, with participants assailing the purportedly genocidal teaching of “critical race theory,” then lashing out over school policies for trans students and the teaching of “gender ideology,” and finally suggesting that critics of Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill wanted to “sexualize” and “groom” children and slandering LGBTQ teachers as pedophiles.

Fox prime-time hosts Laura Ingraham and Tucker Carlson, two of the most powerful figures at the network, with an outsized influence on both its viewers and the Republican Party, have led this disgusting charge. Ingraham defended Florida’s law by describing public schools as “grooming centers” that are pushing “sexual brainwashing.” Carlson argued that teachers who discuss gender identity with kindergartners have sexually abused them and should be not only arrested, but physically assaulted.

Elsewhere in the right-wing media, the mere existence of LGBTQ people is defined as inappropriate “grooming” behavior.

This narrative is reinforcing the anti-LGBTQ frenzy consuming social media spaces on the right. On Facebook, right-leaning news and politics pages are dominating the debate and garnering millions of interactions while making “groomer” language a key facet of their work. On Twitter, the viral troll account “Libs of TikTok” has become a sort of wire service for Fox hosts to source anti-transgender and homophobic content related to teachers and students. The account recently appended the comment “any teacher who comes out to their students should be fired on the spot” to video of a man who says he told his fifth-grade students that he is gay after they asked.

These baseless accusations that the right’s political opponents are actually pedophiles overlap with – and at times become indistinguishable from – the QAnon conspiracy theory, which posits that a global cabal of leftists is engaged in large-scale child rape and sex trafficking, and that at some point in the future they will be caught and executed.

QAnon has crept unnervingly close to mainstream Republicanism over the last few years, even electing devotees to Congress. At its most benign, QAnon inspires conservatives to wallow in a rich and hateful alternate reality. At times, its adherents have attempted to fight back against the leftist cabal in real life, through terroristic threats and acts of violence.

Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” law gives parents who are drunk on QAnon delusions or enflamed by Fox’s anti-LGBTQ obsessions a way to take action against the leftist “groomers” that Fox and Facebook have told them are threatening their children. And these extremists may soon be unleashed across the country in response to similar legislation in the works in other red states.

Printed 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.

Fox News Staff Keep Quitting — And Accusing Network Of ‘Propaganda’

Chris Wallace, the longtime host of Fox News Sunday, is the latest example of a curious phenomenon: Fox News veterans leaving the network and then telling the public that their former employer is a right-wing propaganda outlet.

“I’m fine with opinion: conservative opinion, liberal opinion,” Wallace told The New York Times in an interview published Sunday. “But when people start to question the truth — Who won the 2020 election? Was January 6 an insurrection? — I found that unsustainable.”

“Some people might have drawn the line earlier, or at a different point,” he added. “I think Fox has changed over the course of the last year and a half. But I can certainly understand where somebody would say, ‘Gee, you were a slow learner, Chris.’”

Indeed, Wallace learned more slowly than several of his former colleagues, who left Fox in recent years as its right-wing stars became more volatile, its “news side” atrophied, and the network as a whole remade itself as President Donald Trump’s propaganda channel. They all say more or less the same thing about their previous employer.

Carl Cameron, Fox’s chief political correspondent, left in 2017, explaining that “over the years, the right-wing hosts drowned out straight journalism with partisan misinformation.” Ralph Peters said after quitting his post as a strategic analyst in 2018 that “with the rise of Donald Trump, Fox did become a destructive propaganda machine.” Network anchor Shepard Smith, who abruptly resigned in 2019, said “that his presence on Fox became untenable as opinion shows on the network spread falsehoods that hosts knew were lies,” as CNN put it. Politics editor Chris Stirewalt said after he was fired in early 2021 that during the Trump years, Fox became “an arm of a political party.” The list goes on.

Patterns like this are atypical. Journalists and commentators do not routinely leave and decry their former employers as partisan hacks via other news outlets. On the rare instances when something like that does happen – when the likes of Lara Logan leave CBS News, claiming the network is biased – it becomes apparent that the problem was with the employee, not the employer.

But this keeps happening at Fox because its “news side” journalists have always been cogs in a right-wing propaganda machine. People like Wallace make a lot of money leasing their reputations to Fox, and they tell themselves that they make its coverage better than it would have been otherwise. But Fox’s executives and PR staff use their presence as evidence the network is a legitimate news source, boosting its standing with the public, politicians, other journalists, and advertisers.

These cogs are finding their breaking points as Fox gets more openly propagandistic, corrupt, dishonest, and dangerous. Wallace’s final straw came last December after the airing of Fox star Tucker Carlson’s Patriot Purge special, an obscene defense of the January 6 insurrectionists.

But morally abhorrent Fox content like that exists because it is exactly what Rupert and Lachlan Murdoch and the rest of the brass want from the network’s stars.

Cogs can be replaced, and Wallace surely will be. He says working at Fox became “unsustainable” for him after Patriot Purge. That means that while many of his longtime colleagues quit over previous Fox malfeasance, he was willing to bear everything up to that point. In the same way, whoever takes over Wallace’s Sunday show slot will, by definition, be someone who finds it sustainable to work at the network that produced Carlson’s conspiracy theory magnum opus.

That person will remain at their post until they make enough money, Fox reaches new depths of depravity, or both. And then they’ll be the ones dishing to reporters about how they regret that Fox’s standards recently became unacceptable.

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters