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Monday, December 09, 2019

Republicans Rely On Bad Journalism In Debt-Ceiling Extortion Bid

Republicans need the political press to do a lot of bad journalism in order to carry out their strategy of forcing through devastating spending cuts by leveraging the prospect of a calamitous default on U.S. debt. They need political journalists to produce wishy-washy “both sides” coverage that hides the party’s ultimate culpability and shields it from blame. And the latest coverage from The New York Times shows that their plan may already be working.

It shouldn’t be difficult to acknowledge that Republicans will be the ones at fault if the U.S. breaches the statutory limit on federal borrowing in June. Members of Congress of both parties routinely voted for clean debt limit hikes during Donald Trump’s presidency, which also saw record debt increases. But with Joe Biden in the White House, GOP leaders startedsaying last fall that they would require significant spending cuts – including to Social Security and Medicare – alongside further debt limit increases if their party won the House.

After they gained a narrow majority, Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) reportedly pledged “to not raise the debt limit without major cuts” to secure the speakership. The party’s right-wing media allies are loudly cheering them on. House Republicans could, at any time, vote to prevent a global economic catastrophe, but they are refusing to do so unless Democrats give them something else they want.

And yet, here’s how the Timeshandled the GOP’s ransom demand in Friday’s The Morning newsletter:

The bad news: Democrats and Republicans are divided. House Republicans say they want to use a debt-limit increase — and the threat of default — as leverage to cut government spending. Top Democrats have likened the Republican stance to a hostage-taking situation. The sides can’t agree even on whether to negotiate.

Both sides, per the Times, apparently share the blame: The Republicans who are taking the global economy hostage, and the Democrats who are saying that Republicans are taking the global economy hostage rather than just paying their price.

That’s not the only such false equivalency in the piece. The Times put Republican hostage-taking when it controls a house of Congress and Democrats are in the White House alongside a protest vote Biden took as a senator in 2006, when Republicans controlled both houses of Congress and the White House. From the piece:

But that has changed over the past three decades. Republicans, in particular, have used the passage of bills increasing the limit as leverage to try to force spending cuts on Democratic administrations. Democrats, too, have used it as a political tool: In 2006, Joe Biden, then a senator, joined his Democratic colleagues in opposing a debt ceiling increase to protest the cost of tax cuts and the Iraq war.

The Times added:

A crucial ingredient in this brinkmanship is divided government. Raising the debt ceiling is less of a problem when the same party holds power in both chambers of Congress and the White House. But when the government is divided, it makes the current scenario possible: A Republican-controlled House threatens to block a debt-limit increase that Democrats who control the Senate and White House would like to pass.

But the problem isn’t divided government per se – Democratic Congresses have no issue raising the debt ceiling when a Republican is in the White House, as was the case in 2007-2008 and 2019-2020. The problem is that when the government is divided with Republicans in control of Congress and a Democrat in the White House, the Republicans engage in this reckless behavior.

If Republicans really want to slash spending – including for Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid – that’s their right. There’s nothing preventing the party from spending the next two years talking about their plans in hopes of winning the White House and Senate and then executing them. Indeed, there’s nothing preventing them from spending the next two years talking about “critical race theory” and girls’ sports in hopes of winning the White House and Senate and then springing their plans on the public.

But they don’t seem interested in trying that, presumably for the same reason that unified Republican governments under Presidents Trump and George W. Bush didn’t lead to massive spending cuts – those cuts would be incredibly unpopular and would likely destroy the party’s political standing.

Instead, the GOP plan for cutting spending is to try to force the Democrats to agree to (maybe even propose) the cuts as the price to avert global economic catastrophe. That sounds insane when you write it out, so a big part of the strategy is trying to prevent the press from doing so. The party’s leaders and its propagandists are busy working the refs.


There’s no good reason for journalists to do their dirty work.

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.

Tucker Carlson Wants His Very Own RNC Chairwoman (VIDEO)

Fox News star Tucker Carlson responded to the GOP’s dismal showing in the midterm elections by pointing fingers elsewhere and demanding accountability. Two months later, his call for new House and Senate leadership has gone unfulfilled. But Carlson is still urging the party to replace Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel with Harmeet Dhillon, a GOP official and longtime presence on Fox who is seeking the position.

Dhillon is challenging McDaniel, the RNC’s chair since 2017, on largely technocratic rather than ideological grounds. Dhillon has no problem with the motley crew of extremists the GOP nominated in 2022 — in fact, she is very much part of that milieu. A 2020 election conspiracy theorist, Dhillon has described Fox host Laura Ingraham and right-wing troll Dinesh D’Souza as “long-time mentors,” and her law firm has represented Donald Trump, the RNC, and a host of Republican causes and far-right figures. McDaniel said in early December that she already had the votes to be reelected. But Dhillon has been working the right-wing press and appears to be making inroads with some state parties ahead of the RNC winter meetings later this month, where she and McDaniel will debate before the vote.

Carlson is among Dhillon’s most prominent supporters. He gave the challenger a platform to launch her bid in early December and has hosted her repeatedly over the past month. The Fox host uses his highly rated and influential program to praise her candidacy and to promote negative reporting about McDaniel, whom he’s suggested no one should support. Carlson’s pro-Dhillon campaign sets him apart from his prime-time colleagues, who have been more neutral, and Fox’s “news side” anchors, who have instead promoted McDaniel, while aligning him with the right’s insurgent wing.

While both have been Fox regulars for years, Dhillon has in recent months appeared more frequently and on higher-rated programs than has McDaniel. Dhillon has made 14 weekday appearances on Fox since the midterms; 13 of them came on the programs of Carlson or Ingraham. McDaniel, meanwhile, has made only 6 weekday appearances, all of which came on the network’s “news side” shows.

When Carlson hosted Dhillon on December 5, he left no doubt whom he supported for RNC chair. He introduced her as “our friend” and “frequent guest on the show” (she has made at least 66 appearances on Tucker Carlson Tonight since August 2017). After giving her the opportunity to announce her run for RNC chair and to go through her talking points, Carlson closed the interview by praising his guest and offering a testimonial on her behalf.

“I love it, I love it,” Carlson said. “I can vouch for your toughness. It's absolutely real and much needed. Godspeed. Harmeet Dhillon, we are rooting for you. Thank you.”

Carlson again promoted Dhillon’s candidacy when she returned to the program on January 5.

“I don't understand why Republicans seem to have this instinct to reward failure and mediocrity,” he said. “Nothing against the current occupant of that office, who seems like a fine person, but given the record, how could anybody, how could any RNC member for a moment consider supporting that person again? I don’t understand it.”

And in a third interview on January 11, Carlson praised Dhillon as someone who “plans to try and change” Washington, D.C.

Carlson also devoted a December segment to a report that McDaniel had overseen lavish expenditures for luxury clothing, private plane use, flowers, and staff retreats.

Carlson’s prime-time colleagues Ingraham and Sean Hannity, both powerful figures in the GOP in their own rights, have been more reticent. Ingraham has praised both candidates; while she has given Dhillon opportunities to make her case on her show, the Fox host has not weighed in on whom the party should pick. Hannity, meanwhile, has not mentioned either McDaniel or Dhillon on his Fox show since Dhillon launched her bid. While handing off to Ingraham on December 7, Hannity explicitly said he wasn’t going to take sides.

“I like Ronna McDaniel a lot. I've said that I like her. She's a great person and great, great woman,” Ingraham told Hannity. “But, I mean, you do have to make the case as to why you actually deserve to get reappointed.”

“I'm not getting involved in that match,” Hannity replied.

In addition to Carlson, Dhillon is a favorite of former Trump aide Steve Bannon, who has hosted her on his War Room show, and Turning Post USA founder Charlie Kirk, who has urged RNC members not to reelect McDaniel. Dhillon was “was promoted extensively” at TPUSA’s youth conference in December, where she “was featured on live broadcasts and conservative talk shows set up from the conference’s media row, culminating in a live podcast recording with commentator Tim Pool from the convention hall.”

She has also touted recent appearances with the likes of Glenn Beck, John Fredericks, Liz Wheeler, and Dave Rubin.

Under McDaniel’s tenure at the RNC, the party became deeply mired in the right-wing fever swamps. But Dhillon has no interest in pulling it out.

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.

Far Right Pundits Urge 'Game Of Chicken' On Debt Ceiling

Prominent right-wing media figures are encouraging House Republicans to use the debt ceiling as leverage to extract their political aims from a Democratic White House and Senate. Their hostage-taking approach courts an economic catastrophe and the unraveling of the constitutional order.

Fox News prime-time host and Republican propagandist Sean Hannity used a Tuesday night interview with Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) from the U.S. Capitol to urge him to ignore critics and play “a game of chicken” when the debt limit approaches later this year, without specifying what Republicans should demand as their price for raising it.

Hannity’s upmarket counterpart Hugh Hewitt, the Salem Radio host and Washington Post columnist, tweeted on Wednesday morning that House Republicans should “adopt the summary line: ‘We won't raise the debt limit until we close the border.’”

An hour later, he promotedNational Review writer Jim Geraghty’s suggestion that they instead demand “repeal of the authorization of 87,000 new IRS personnel.” (Republicans and right-wing media oppose IRS funding included in the Inflation Reduction Act that would increase revenue by targeting wealthy tax cheats.) Hewitt added: “That may even be better than border security. Both building the wall and repealing the 87,000 are key priorities. Pick one.”

It’s not a great sign that right-wing media decided to take a hostage before settling on their demands.

Congress passes laws that dictate how the federal government raises and spends money. Since the revenues brought in by those laws are insufficient to cover the outlays, the U.S. Treasury funds the deficit by selling debt. Congress created the debt ceiling through a 1917 law, setting a statutory limit on the total debt the government can accrue.

Some have argued that the law is unconstitutional because the government can’t run up debts and then refuse to pay them. But the question has largely been moot since Congress has regularly raised or suspended that limit ever since, most recently in December 2021, when it was set to “just under $31.4 trillion”; a figure that will be reached some time in 2023.

The debt ceiling has at times been a focus of intense political debate. Congressional Republicans used the threat of a debt ceiling breach during President Barack Obama’s tenure to push for deficit reduction. That tactic faded from use under President Donald Trump, who was happy to run up large federal deficits.

But with a Democrat back in the White House, Republicans divulged in late 2022 that they would use debt limit brinkmanship to force big cuts to social safety net spending if they took back the House in the midterm elections. And after they won a narrow majority, the party’s right flank reportedly demanded that McCarthy pledge “to not raise the debt limit without major cuts — including efforts to reduce spending on so-called mandatory programs, which include Social Security and Medicare,” as their price for supporting his speaker bid.

The results of a debt ceiling breach would be calamitous.

“Once the government hits the debt ceiling and exhausts all available extraordinary measures, it is no longer allowed to issue debt and soon after will run out of cash-on-hand,” the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget reports. “At that point, given annual deficits, incoming receipts would be insufficient to pay millions of daily obligations as they come due. Therefore, the federal government would have to at least temporarily default on many of its obligations, from Social Security payments and salaries for federal civilian employees and the military to veterans’ benefits and utility bills, among others.”

Hannity, in his comments to McCarthy, suggested that the impact would be negligible, but seems to be conflating a debt limit crisis with the sort of partial government shutdown that occurred most recently during the Trump administration. As CRFB notes, “many more parties are not paid in a default. … While a government shutdown would be disruptive, a government default could be disastrous.”

How disastrous? “An actual default would roil global financial markets and create chaos, since both domestic and international markets depend on the relative economic and political stability of U.S. debt instruments and the U.S. economy,” according to CRFB. “A Moody’s Analytics report released in September 2021 estimated that a default could have similar macroeconomic consequences to the Great Recession: a four percent Gross Domestic Product (GDP) decline, nearly six million lost jobs, and an unemployment rate of nine percent. In addition, Moody’s predicted a $15 trillion loss in household wealth, with stocks dropping by as much as one-third at the depths of the selloff.”

There are options available to avert such a disaster. The White House and House and Senate leaders could agree on some sort of deal that provides Republicans with a fig leaf. If the House GOP leadership remains intransigent, some of its members could sign onto a dispatch petition putting a clean debt limit increase on the floor. The Biden administration could also act unilaterally by using its authority to mint a $1 trillion platinum coin so the government can pay its expenses; or adopt Matt Yglesias’ plan of “swapping out old bonds with high face values and low interest rates for equivalent-yielding bonds with low face values and high interest rates”; or say that the debt limit is unconstitutional and that Biden will violate it rather than violating all the other laws that require him to spend money.

But Republican extremists and their right-wing media supporters are unlikely to take any of those options lying down. They want chaos and massive, unpopular spending cuts, and are already signaling that they will fight to get them.

And that means we may be looking at two years of a very chaotic Congress.

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.

Speaker Fight Shows Fox Shift From GOP Insurgent To Establishment

In September 2015, after then-House Speaker John Boehner announced that he would resign from Congress in the face of a coup from an intransigent caucus faction, half a dozen members of the group that had brought him down took a curtain call on Sean Hannity’s Fox News show. The host, who had called for a new speaker earlier that year, toasted the efforts of the House Freedom Caucus in securing Boehner’s political demise.

Seven-odd years later, some members of the House Freedom Caucus are again demonstrating their influence as they blocked Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) from securing the speakership. But this time, Hannity was among the most prominent media supporters of the GOP leadership, championing McCarthy’s ultimately (and narrowly) successful bid and hosting his opponents only to berate them for having no plan and making Democrats and the “media mob” happy.

Hannity’s shift reflects a larger evolution in Fox’s role within the Republican Party. Commentators who once served as champions of the GOP’s insurgent wing are now aligned with its establishment, denouncing the attempted “hijacking” of the party by ”insurrectionists” and “blackmailers.” And rival right-wing media figures are filling their old role as a megaphone for the rebels, savaging “CCP RINO” McCarthy – and Fox for supporting him.

The GOP factional divide dates back to the 2008 election, as The Washington Post’s Philip Bump noted, when Republican presidential nominee John McCain selected Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as his running mate, ushering in an era of “hard-right, media-adept politicians more interested in responding to the base’s whims than in directing them.” After their defeat to Barack Obama and Joe Biden, Palin decamped to Fox. From there, she joined Hannity, Glenn Beck, and others at the network in boosting the insurgent tea party movement, which the GOP harnessed to win sweeping gains in the 2010 midterms. Mitt Romney, formerly an establishment figure, moved to the right to garner tea party support and, with Fox founder Roger Ailes pulling the strings, Fox backed his 2012 presidential campaign.

But after Romney’s defeat, Fox again sided with the party’s outsider wing. Its personalities lashed out at Boehner (particularly over immigration reform), campaigned for his ousting, and celebrated his 2015 resignation. To Hannity, others at the network, and future hosts Laura Ingraham and Mark Levin, Boehner was a “failure” and a “tear factory” with “no one to blame but himself,” while his opponents were courageous patriots reminiscent of the American revolutionaries. This revolt was not anomalous – a year earlier, Ingraham had led a talk radio campaign that helped defeat House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA), while Boehner’s replacement, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), drew scorn from the same figures.

Then everything changed when a party outsider immersed in Fox talking points was elected president – thanks in no small part to support his candidacy received from the network. Donald Trump gave the network’s personalities real power; the former insurgents gained speaking slots at the Republican National Committee, meetings at the White House, and regular phone calls with the president in which he solicited their advice on politics and policy. And after Ryan suffered through a few years of factional fights, he retired and McCarthy stepped up.

McCarthy worked harder than Cantor and Ryan, his fellow members of the establishment-friendly troika known as the “Young Guns,” to stay in Fox’s good graces. While Ryan had no idea what was happening on Trump’s beloved Fox & Friends morning show, McCarthy launched his campaign for House Republican leader on the program. He’s worked to maintain his relationship with the network since gaining that role, making at least 259 weekday appearances on the network since January 3, 2019 – nearly half of which came on the prime-time shows of Hannity and Ingraham.

Now, with House Republicans gaining a slim majority in the 2022 midterms, McCarthy is trying to convert that effort into the speakership. But he’s been foiled by recalcitrant members of his caucus, losing vote after vote this week (until late Friday night). The fight seems to offer low stakes for policy; hardline conservatives are represented on both sides of the divide and the party’s agenda is unlikely to either deviate from the whims of the right-wing press or become law with Democrats in control of the Senate and White House. Right-wing media-friendly members of Congress are similarly split – Reps. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) and Lauren Boebert (R-CO) staunchly opposed McCarthy while Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) and Jim Jordan (R-OH) strongly supported him.

Instead, the main fault line seems to be between insiders who stand to benefit from McCarthy’s speakership and outsiders who are seeking more power. More moderate members of the House think McCarthy’s fundraising and mien will help them win reelection, while members like Greene and Jordan can expect plum committee assignments. The holdouts seem largely to want to boost their own internal power within the party, either by securing a deal that makes McCarthy speaker or by showing they can deny him the position, while garnering attention for themselves.

Fox’s right-wing stars are largely aligning with the GOP insiders. In addition to Hannity, who lauded McCarthy for supporting “the America First, MAGA agenda that so many of you I know like,” hosts Ingraham and Levin, who backed the insurgent revolt against Boehner, stood behind the would-be speaker. Levin has criticized the “kamikaze Republicans” opposing his bid, while Ingraham has argued that they are “playing with fire” and that “blocking McCarthy” doesn’t accomplish their aims. Others at the network have bemoaned the chaos on display as the party failed to appoint a speaker thanks to a “televised hijacking” by “selfish” people who “want the hostage dead.”

The primary holdout at the network was Tucker Carlson, a longtimeMcCarthy critic who called for new House Republican leadership after the midterms but has nonetheless straddled the divide. The Fox star criticized McCarthy after the first night of failed votes as “not especially conservative” and “ideologically agnostic,” while nonetheless calling him “perfectly suited’ for the role because he is “skilled at politics.” He offered up proposals McCarthy could make to secure more votes; the next night, after more failed votes, he hammered McCarthy’s congressional supporters for instead “using threats and fear to force people to support the candidate.” On Thursday night, he touted the debacle as “what democracy looks like.”

Carlson has positioned himself to either be a kingmaker or to fall in line with whichever Republican ascends to the role. That said, he seems less interested in who wins the speakership than he is in leveraging the televised collapse of an NFL player to convince his viewers that COVID-19 vaccines are dangerous or fomenting anger against trans people.

Fox’s near-total support for the GOP establishment has created an opening for competitors who are eagerly seeking influence and market share by backing the insurgents.

Hosts on the far-right One America News Network have savaged McCarthy as “a lying, cheating, good-for-nothing D.C. parasite, leeching off of globalist elites for money and influence” and “the court jester conservative for the kingdom of liberalism,” while demanding “a better-suited speaker that will be more in line with America First and the MAGA movement” – perhaps even Trump himself.

Other far-right media figures are taking a similar tack, with Infowars host Owen Shroyer declaring that “it makes no difference whether it’s McCarthy or Pelosi [as speaker] to me; it’s the uniparty,” Newsmax’s Benny Johnson chronicling“loser”McCarthy’s ongoing humiliation from Gaetz and Boebert going “Savage mode,” and The Gateway Pundit’s Jim Hoft authoring a slew of pieces taunting “RINO McCarthy.”

Fox’s rivals weren’t just pummeling McCarthy – they were also hitting Fox for supporting him. Fox has been deemed “controlled opposition” that is “out to crush” McCarthy’s critics and has been “lying to you forever,” while Hannity has been tarred as “the Praetorian Guard of the establishment,” “embarrassing,” and a “sellout.”

In short, they gave Fox the treatment it typically gives to the mainstream press, warning explicitly that the network can’t be trusted to tell the truth and implicitly that its viewers and the power they bring should go elsewhere. It’s a return to the situation Fox had to deal with following the 2020 election, as Trump slammed the network for being insufficiently supportive of his election theft claims and urged his supporters to switch to its competitors.

That’s the conundrum Fox will face for the next two years: how to maintain its right-wing audience and GOP influence amid a fractious media ecosystem filled with players interested in taking both of them away.

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.

The Deadly Anti-Vax Crusading Of Ron DeSantis And Fox News

Fox News founder Rupert Murdoch became one of the first people on Earth to be vaccinated against COVID-19 when he received his first jab in December 2020. He thanked “the amazing scientists who have made this vaccine possible,” in a statement at the time, adding, “I strongly encourage people around the world to get the vaccine as it becomes available.”

Two years later, such unqualified gratitude and support for the miraculous medicines are scarce among American conservatives, even as a new study found that COVID-19 vaccines have saved the lives of more than 3.2 million Americans and prevented more than 18.5 million hospitalizations. Instead, thanks in no small part to the paranoid rants of Murdoch’s employees, Republican anti-vaccine sentiment has spiraled to the point that former President Donald Trump’s role in their development may hurt his chances of gaining the party’s nomination in 2024.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis was on Murdoch’s Fox on Tuesday night talking up his call for the state’s supreme court to impanel a grand jury to investigate “any and all wrongdoing” related to the vaccines and “bring legal accountability to those who committed misconduct.” It’s unclear precisely what such a grand jury would target or the impact it might have. As a signaling effort, however, DeSantis’ announcement put him squarely on the side of the anti-vax kooks at Fox and the faction of the GOP they influence.

DeSantis fielded softball questions from primetime host Laura Ingraham, who praised him for having “fought relentlessly against [the] medical cartel’s silencing campaign.” As the governor spoke, on-screen text touted him as “still leading on COVID” and drawing mainstream press outrage for “challenging Covidians.”

DeSantis is likely to challenge Trump for the GOP presidential nomination. He enjoys broad support in recent primary polls and across the right-wing media spectrum, from Fox primetime hosts to anti-anti-Trumpers at publications like National Review to, reportedly, Murdoch himself. And it is clear to everyone – including Trump’s advisers – that in preparation for that run, he is staking out ground as the vaccine-skeptical candidate.

DeSantis is following the path blazed by Fox hosts like Ingraham and Tucker Carlson. Anti-vaccine sentiment would likely have become a problem for the vaccination campaign under any circumstances. But it took the network’s patented ability to manufacture grievances to turn it into a compelling primary issue for Republican politicians.

Fox spent the last two years sabotaging the U.S. vaccination effort. The network had a unique moral responsibility to try to convince their viewers to get vaccinated. Instead, its most prominent and trusted figures waged a nightly battle against the shots, stoking fears that they were useless or dangerous and that their distribution was part of a sinister plot to control Americans. The discourse was “great for ratings” – but deadly for Republicans, who were vaccinated against COVID-19 at lower rates and died from it at higher ones.

Some right-wing commentators, even at Fox, tried to push back against that narrative and encourage vaccination. But ultimately, they lost the argument within the movement.

DeSantis followed the shift in right-wing public opinion, choosing to preserve his political viability rather than the lives of his constituents. DeSantis once touted his own efforts to distribute the vaccines, which he credited with “saving lives.” But once he saw which way the wind was blowing on the right, he started trying to appeal to the anti-vaccine right. Meanwhile, Trump himself has been flummoxed, getting booed by a crowd for saying he got his booster and eschewing the word “vaccine” on the stump.

It is a testament to the power of Fox’s propaganda that the network was able to turn life-saving drugs into a poisoned chalice for Trump – and that perhaps his greatest rival adjusted his views on them to appeal to its viewers.

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.

Having A Laugh At Walker's Big Promoters, Sean Hannity And Lindsay Graham

Fox News host Sean Hannity pulled former NFL star Herschel Walker into the race for U.S. Senate in Georgia, served as his campaign’s biggest asset, and bears responsibility for Republicans ultimately failing to oust Sen. Raphael Warnock, who beat Walker in Tuesday’s runoff.

Walker’s loss is another embarrassing defeat for Fox. The network’s influential prime-time hosts heavily promoted four unorthodox first-time candidates for U.S. Senate in the midterm elections — Walker, Blake Masters in Arizona, Dr. Mehmet Oz in Pennsylvania, and J.D. Vance in Ohio — helping them secure the Republican nominations for those races. Vance, the sole victor of the group, ran well behind the rest of his party’s slate in a red state; the other three lost winnable races in swing states, ensuring historic Democratic victories rather than a GOP “red tsunami.”

Hannity is a GOP kingmaker with the ear of top party leaders who spent Donald Trump’s presidency advising the White House. He is a relentless propagandist whose singular goal is electing Republican candidates. But when Hannity gets to pick those candidates, the results can be disastrous for his party.

For the last month, Hannity has been laser-focused on helping Walker to victory in the Georgia runoff. The Fox host has preached the importance of the race to his viewers, shielded the candidate from criticism, promoted his political ads, bolstered his fundraising, and savaged his opponent.

Walker has been a fixture on Hannity’s program even as he has hidden from credible journalists. Of Walker’s 12 weekday appearances on Fox since Election Day, five came on the host’s show — often, bizarrely, accompanied by Hannity regular Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC). The odd couple returned to the program on the eve of the runoff, with Graham using the opportunity to thank Hannity’s audience for their donations and promising them “a return on investment tomorrow.”

It didn’t turn out that way. And Hannity, who was Walker’s most important press supporter throughout the race, is a big part of the reason why Democrats will have 51 seats in the Senate rather than 50 when it convenes in 2023.

Walker’s introduction to Republican politics came as a regular on Hannity’s show during the 2020 election cycle, when his pro-Trump takes made him a MAGA sensation. Then, after Trump lost and Hannity turned his attention to the 2022 midterms, the Fox host recruited Walker to run against Warnock. In a series of interviews, Hannity urged Walker to seek the Senate seat and pushed other Republicans to support his candidacy.

GOP leaders knew from the start that Walker was a terrible candidate whose nomination would make it harder to win the seat. As I noted on the day he announced his candidacy:

Republicans have plenty of reasons to worry about Walker’s chances of winning a general election in a swing state: He’s a first-time candidate who is moving to the state for the race, he’s a conspiracy theorist, and his wife is currently under investigation by state authorities for allegedly illegally voting in Georgia while living in Texas.

And last month, The Associated Press revealed that the candidate has “repeatedly threatened his ex-wife’s life, exaggerated claims of financial success and alarmed business associates with unpredictable behavior.”

Hannity endorsed Walker on-air that very night, and his show became ground zero for the campaign. The candidate made 38 weekday Fox News appearances between his August 25, 2021, launch date and Election Day; 19 of them came on Hannity, including a purported town hall that was functionally a televised rally for Walker. With Trump and Fox both behind Walker, the Georgia primary field cleared for him.

But as Hannity was propping up Walker’s candidacy, GOP fears that he hadn’t been fully vetted were being proved correct. Journalists detailed Walker’s history of domestic violence, his previously unrevealed children, reports that he had paid for abortions, his involvement in scams, and his false claims about his academic, business, and military background.

On Election Day, Republicans won every statewide election in Georgia with at least 51% of the vote — except for the Senate race. There, Warnock secured a narrow lead that threw the race into a runoff, which he ultimately won.

Walker’s defeat makes his campaign the latest case study to demonstrate the limits of Fox’s influence. Its hosts can get their chosen candidates through the party’s primaries. But the toxic extremists who attract Fox stars' interest are often deeply alienating to normal people, and that is making it harder for the GOP to win elections. Meanwhile, the Fox personalities who wield the most influence over the party are pointing fingers at everyone but themselves.

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.

Fox News Covered Trump's Call To Trash The Constitution For One Minute

Fox News is all but ignoring former President Donald Trump’s call for the “termination” of constitutional law and his restoration to the White House in order to keep its viewers focused on 26-month-old Twitter moderation decisions.

“Do you throw the Presidential Election Results of 2020 OUT and declare the RIGHTFUL WINNER, or do you have a NEW ELECTION?” Trump wrote in a Saturday Truth Social post in response to a new report on Twitter’s content moderation during the 2020 election. “A Massive Fraud of this type and magnitude allows for the termination of all rules, regulations, and articles, even those found in the Constitution.”

Trump’s nakedly authoritarian statement drew criticism from Democrats and even some Republicans. But Fox has spent just over one minute on the story as of posting on Monday, according to a Media Matters review.

Fox host Howard Kurtz first mentioned the story on the Sunday edition of his Media Buzz show. After reading Trump’s remark, he commented, “A lot of media criticism on that — you can make up your own mind.” Fox also devoted a pair of headline reads to the story on Sunday night. The network’s only reference thus far on Monday came when Fox & Friends co-host Steve Doocy mentioned in passing what he termed the former president’s “crazy” comment.

To reiterate, this is a former president of the United States and the front-runner to be the Republican Party’s nominee in 2024 calling for the overthrow of the democratic order to either somehow have himself named the “RIGHTFUL WINNER” and returned to office or to have a new election. And Fox, a network that regularly and falsely claims that various Democrats are destroying the Constitution, does not care.

What’s going on here? The Daily Wire’s Ben Shapiro provided a clue in a Monday morning Twitter thread. The anti-anti-Trump conservative argued that Trump’s call to suspend the Constitution was “a perfect example of jumping on a rake with both feet,” because the former president “allowed the Democrats and the media to avoid the #TwitterFiles story entirely by redirecting to Trump’s spoken authoritarianism.” Trump’s real sins, in this telling, are “strategic ineptitude” and “political malpractice.”

Fox’s right-wing propagandists are more disciplined than Trump. Rather than getting sidetracked into a discussion of the former president’s call to overturn the democratic election of his opponent, they all prefer to talk about content moderation that took place on a middle-tier social media platform more than two years ago. Unfortunately for them, there’s not much to their story.

Trump had been responding to “The Twitter Files,” journalist Matt Taibbi’s Friday report based on internal documents he obtained from right-wing icon Elon Musk about the company’s decision to suppress posts linking to an October 2020 New York Post story about Joe Biden’s adult son, Hunter Biden, in the weeks before the presidential election. The story was based on what the Post described as a copy of the hard drive of a laptop that had belonged to Hunter Biden and had been provided to the paper by Rudy Giuliani, at the time Trump’s personal lawyer. (This was after Giuliani collaborated with a pro-Russian Ukrainian oligarch, disgraced Ukrainian prosecutors, and con men on the disinformation campaign that led to Trump’s first impeachment, but before Giuliani’s recitation of numerous voter fraud conspiracy theories laid the groundwork for the January 6 insurrection and Trump’s second impeachment; the Post’s corporate cousins at The Wall Street Journal and Fox had already passed on the story “over credibility concerns.”)

Taibbi did not establish the involvement of any government entity in Twitter’s decision, though he did report that both the Trump White House and the Biden campaign had sent deletion requests the company had “honored.” Political campaigns frequently ask Twitter to take down posts that violate its rules; with regard to the Post story, the tweets the Biden campaign wanted removed — remember, at the time Donald Trump was president — included nude photos of Hunter Biden. From this thin gruel, the likes of Musk and Fox star Tucker Carlson have concocted what the latter described as “a systemic violation of the First Amendment, the largest example of that in modern history.”

Twitter’s decision to restrict the Post story is ultimately a sideshow. The platform’s content moderation decisions did not keep the story from public discussion. Anyone who was interested in Hunter Biden in October 2020 could find plenty of reporting in major newspapers, on TV, in digital news outlets, and on social media platforms — including Twitter. What frustrated Republicans who sought Trump’s reelection is that much of that reporting was properly skeptical and contextualized.

The right-wing press, from the Murdochs on down, had hoped that mainstream journalists would credulously run with their narrative, make the Hunter Biden story a central facet of the closing days of the election, and carry Trump to victory. They had reason to be optimistic — the very same strategy succeeded in 2016, when the mainstream press closed out the campaign by fixating on Hillary Clinton email pseudo-scandals. But their effort failed in 2020, Trump was turned out of office, and they’ve never been able to get over it.

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.

Uh-Oh: Carlson Hid Ye's Anti-Semitism -- And Now He's Exposed As A Nazi

Ye, the rapper previously known as Kanye West, has spent the last several weeks ranting about Jewish people on social media and in a series of interviews. On Thursday, he took his antisemitic campaign to arch-conspiracy theorist Alex Jones’ program, where he repeatedly praised Adolf Hitler and decried the purported Jewish control of media and government.

Fox News could have had the story of Ye’s recent full dive into antisemitism as a huge scoop – but the network preferred to mint him as a right-wing hero. It should be a major embarrassment for what is purportedly a news outlet, but because the network is actually a propaganda channel, no one there appears to care.

Ye made virulently antisemitic comments during an interview that aired in October with Fox star Tucker Carlson. He told the Fox host at one point, “I prefer my kids knew Hanukkah than Kwanzaa. At least it will come with some financial engineering.” Ye himself appeared to recognize he had gone too far after telling Carlson, “Think about us judging each other on how white we could talk would be like, you know, a Jewish person judging another Jewish person on how good they danced or something.”

But Carlson and his bosses apparently had no interest in exposing Ye as an antisemite. The story they wanted to tell was that Ye was being persecuted for supporting former President Donald Trump. So Ye’s explicitly anti-Jewish comments were excised when Fox aired the interview, as Motherboard subsequently revealed. And when he aired the interview on October 6 and 7, Carlson praised his guest for being willing to “speak so honestly and so movingly about what he believes” and said he is “not crazy at all” (Ye has extensively discussed his long struggle with mental health).

Carlson’s seal of approval helped fold Ye into the right-wing coalition. Fox hosts followed their colleague's lead and spent days lauding the rapper’s bravery and honesty. And some Republican politicians, who frequently take their messaging cues from the network, joined in. All the while, Carlson and everyone else at the network with knowledge of the full interview stayed silent about Ye’s antisemitism — it didn’t fit the narrative.

But that weekend, Ye accused the rapper Diddy of being controlled by Jews in an Instagram post. After that service suspended him, he tweeted that he planned to go “death con 3 On JEWISH PEOPLE,” who he claimed “have toyed with me and tried to black ball anyone whoever opposes your agenda.” And that’s what he’s done over the following weeks, as he careened from interview to interview preaching anti-Jewish conspiracy theories, with a sidetrip to dine with Trump and a virulent white supremacist.

Meanwhile, after initially ignoring Ye’s antisemitic descent and continuing to tout him, Carlson has gone silent on the man he once praised as a “big thinker.”

Fox could have broken the story, if only it were interested in the news.

Does Carlson care? Does Fox News CEO Suzanne Scott? How about the Murdochs?

Apparently not. That isn’t what Fox is for.

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.

Why Fox News Went Nearly Silent On Trump's Embrace Of Neo-Nazis

Fox News’ near-total silence on former President Donald Trump’s meeting with Nick Fuentes and the rapper Ye, formerly known as Kanye West, points to the inroads that white nationalism and virulent antisemitism have made at the network — and the difficulty the Republican Party would have in trying to remove that faction from its coalition.

The news that Fuentes and Ye had dined with Trump at his Mar-a-Lago home and resort last Tuesday triggered a stream of denunciations from civil rights groups and calls for Republicans to speak out. The friendly sitdown came in spite of a weekslong firestorm surrounding Ye’s increasingly open anti-Jewish rhetoric. Fuentes, meanwhile, is a white supremacist leader who attended the deadly 2017 Unite the Right white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, called for a “white uprising” to install Trump as a dictator, and has generated a lengthy list of bigoted statements, including his recent exhortation for Jews to “get the fuck out of America.”

Republican leaders are divided over whether bigots like Ye and Fuentes should be shunned and the former president condemned for meeting with them. Ultimately, this argument is a proxy fight over the question of whether the white supremacists, Proud Boys, antisemites, and other deplorables who made common cause with Trump should be ushered out of the party. Some, like former Vice President Mike Pence, have spoken out. Others have criticized Fuentes while letting Trump off the hook, like potential House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), or remained silent, like Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.

Fox’s propagandists have joined the side of the silent. The network devoted a mere seven minutes to the dinner from the time the story broke on Friday through the weekend, and ignored it altogether on Monday. Notably, influential prime-time hosts Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity, and Laura Ingraham have not mentioned the story at all. Fox is signaling to the viewers who trust it above all other news sources that the story is not important.

Fox’s quiet acquiescence points to a quandary for the network. It would apparently be a step too far for Fox to support Trump meeting with such despicable bigots – that could threaten its relations with advertisers and cable carriers. But the network is also too tightly intertwined with that world to criticize him for it. It has a Tucker Carlson problem.

Fox personalities condemning Trump for meeting with Ye would amount to a hairpin turn for the network. They were touting Ye’s bravery just weeks ago after Ye talked up Trump in Carlson’s fawning interview with him. But as they lavished praise on the rapper, the network was keeping under wraps some of the the anti-Jewish comments West made in the same discussion. When Ye started making similarly antisemitic remarks on social media, some at Fox criticized him – though not Carlson, who pretended that outburst hadn’t happened and continued to laud him.

Fuentes’ noxious racism and antisemitism are more explicit than what is typically found on Fox, and the network would seem to face less risk in condemning him. But Carlson in particular has made his show a clearinghouse for antisemitic tropes, white nationalist talking points, and fringe-rightbigots. All the while, he has denied the existence of the white supremacists who praise him for mainstreaming their worldview. How could Carlson plausibly berate Trump for meeting with a white supremacist when he’s spent years telling his viewers that white supremacists don’t exist? And how could anyone else at the network convincingly draw a line between Fuentes’ commentary and what viewers see in its 8 p.m. hour?

Fox’s problem mirrors that of the GOP. Republican leaders believe that it needs the extremists Trump ushered into the party in order to win elections. Fox hosts and executives likewise recognize that if they aim at such deplorables, they may hit their own viewers. The result is that rank and file Republicans may not hear that the meeting ever happened – and if they do, the source will be a mainstream outlet that Fox has relentlessly trained them to ignore. If Fox creates the context through which its viewers interpret news, the message it is sending is that Trump dining with bigots is not important.

The Fox mantra is to “respect the audience.” In practice, that means keeping them cosseted from information that may displease them, no matter how extreme they become or what conspiracy theories they end up believing.

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.

Tucker Carlson's Embarrassing Arizona Face-Plant

Fox News host Tucker Carlson’s favorite candidates have been shut out in Arizona. After days of counting – which Carlson insinuated could indicate fraud – news outlets, including Fox, project that Sen. Mark Kelly (D-AZ) won reelection over venture capital executive Blake Masters, while the state’s Democratic Secretary of State Katie Hobbs defeated former newscaster Kari Lake for the governor’s seat.

Carlson is a powerful GOP player who helps set the party’s strategy and choose its candidates. But the Arizona results are a case study in how his influence hurt the Republican effort in midterm elections: He is a weirdo and the candidates he likes best tend to share his bizarre fixations, which alienates voters.

Arizona’s races were very winnable for the state’s Republicans. In 2020, President Joe Biden won the state by 10,457 votes, the smallest vote margin of the cycle, while Kelly was narrowly elected to the U.S. Senate over then-Sen. Martha McSally, with just over 51 percent. With Kelly running for reelection in a more challenging midterm environment, Republicans should have had a good opportunity to take back the seat while holding the governorship, where Republicans Gov. Doug Ducey, who won by 14 points in 2018, was term-limited.

But Arizona’s Republican primary electorate demanded Carlson-style candidates, and they got them. The Fox host’s endorsement helped secure the nomination for Masters, the 35-year-old protege of fascist tech billionaire Peter Thiel. Masters went on to run a terminally online campaign against Kelly heavy on Fox-friendly culture war salvoes. And Carlson fawned overLake, an election-denier with ties to Nazi sympathizers and QAnon figures who campaigned against “monsters” in the press and promised journalists on Election Day to be “your worst fricking nightmare.” Each received both fulsome praise and regular airtime on Carlson’s show – Masters was even the beneficiary of a hagiographic Carlson documentary days before Election Day.

Lake and Masters’ schtick may have been attractive for Carlson and the Republican primary voters he influences, but in the general election, the state chose more normal people.

Carlson assured his viewers before the election that an Arizona annihilation would be part of the “humiliating repudiation” he predicted for Democrats – and that only election fraud could explain a different result. “If [the election] is fair, Kari Lake’s going to win,” he alleged on October 20. “It looks like Blake Masters is going to win,” he claimed on October 26. But Carlson dramatically misjudged the electorate’s support for a candidate like himself – their opponents, Hobbs and Kelly, took leads on election night and never relinquished them.

The Fox host responded by predicting eventual victory, then sowing doubt and distrust about the legitimacy of the election results as their odds of winning dissipated. He was on vacation on Monday, so we will have to wait for his return to assess which stage of grief he has made it to.

Wednesday, November 9: Denial

Carlson lashed out at Republican leaders when the promised “red tsunami” failed to materialize. But before he even started pointing fingers the night after Election Day, he assured his viewers of a silver lining in the Copper State.

“At this point, it seems likely that both Kari Lake and Blake Masters will win,” he said, as on-screen text stressed the same point.

Carlson then pivoted to criticizing Arizona election officials for the timetable they said would be necessary to finish counting the votes.

Later in the program, Carlson brought on Lake for an interview. “Where do you think you are in this?” he asked. “Well, I feel a hundred percent certain I'm going to win. The question is how big will that win be?” she replied.

That was not the question.

Thursday, November 10: Anger

For the second night in a row, Carlson opened his show by talking about the Arizona races. But this time he did not offer confidence that his candidates had triumphed, and instead lashed out at Arizona election officials for failing to report the results swiftly enough for him.

Carlson described Arizona’s tally as “beneath Third World,” insinuated that the similar delay in vote-counting in 2018 covered up fraud that led to McSally’s defeat, and called the failure to report the result on election night “an actual attack on democracy.”

Carlson returned to the subject later in the program. “Arizona election officials continue to claim updated vote totals any minute. They're obviously not embarrassed by how long this is taking tonight. They should be ashamed,” he claimed.

After airing a clip of Maricopa County Board of Supervisors chairman Bill Gates calling the count, “very standard,” Carlson ranted: “Where's the groveling? Where's the ‘I'm sorry, I can't believe I screwed up your democracy,’ which we all pretend to care so much about? We can't even count the votes on time. Despite the fact your county has a four and a half billion dollar annual budget, but we can't count votes.”

Carlson concluded by complaining about someone else’s lack of contrition: “Why don't you apologize? Let's start there. They never will, ever.”

Carlson then brought on Arizona political consultant Constantin Querard, a Republican, who argued that “Kari Lake is in a very strong position right now” and that state Republicans are “still pretty optimistic about Masters' chances.” But Carlson, unassuaged, pivoted back to the counting.

“If this were happening in Guinea Bissau, I can promise you the U.S. State Department would say this election is questionable. They would,” he said. “But it's not Guinea Bissau, it is Arizona.”

Friday, November 11: Bargaining And Depression

Yet again, Carlson started his show with the ongoing Arizona vote count, which he portrayed as inexplicably difficult to comprehend and perhaps illegitimate.

“There is still drama, confusion, really chaos in the state of Arizona tonight, stemming from Tuesday's elections,” he said. “How are the officials in charge of this ‘election’ responding? It's hard to know from afar.”

Carlson brought on Lake, who remained confident about the results, saying, “We're less than a point away from our opponent. And we think it's going to start turning and turning quickly, and we believe we're going to win … with a nice padding actually.”

But the Fox host had already turned to trying to delegitimize the election. “So your opponent is the secretary of state,” he said. “She didn't campaign much and she didn't seem like she needed to campaign a lot. She never debated you. And some are smirking online that well, of course, she was always confident in her victory. What's your view of that very common take on the race?”

Carlson went on to complain that Hobbs had failed to “recuse herself for appearance sake,” and suggested big changes were necessary to restore faith in elections. “My view is: eliminate absentee ballots, except for you know, the tiny percentage who really need them,” he said. “This is crazy. And it really is hurting people's view of democracy.”

Carlson then turned to the Senate election. “Blake Masters is running in the other big race in the State of Arizona, which like the Governor's race is still nowhere near being settled. Masters says he can still win his race,” he said.

He then introduced Masters to provide what on-screen text described as his “path to victory.” This involved a dubious claim that some Maricopa County ballots might have been counted twice and a lot of bleating about Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell failing to provide his campaign with enough support.

Roughly two hours later, Fox’s Decision Desk called the race for Kelly.

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.

After Midterm Flop, Furious Carlson Rages At GOP Leaders (Except Himself)

Fox News star Tucker Carlson used Wednesday night’s broadcast to demand accountability over the GOP’s lackluster showing in the midterm elections.

“Republicans swore they were going to sweep a red tsunami. That's what they told us and we, to be honest, cautiously believed them, but they did not sweep, not even close to sweeping,” he complained. “The people whose job it was to win but did not win should go do something else now. We're speaking specifically of the Republican leadership of the House and the Senate and of the RNC.”

The problem with Carlson’s analysis is that Carlson, himself, is an influential GOP leader who bears responsibility for the party’s failings. He remains a keyadviser to formerPresidentDonaldTrump. He endorsed Republican candidates in the midterms and helped them win the party’s nomination. He suggested the midterms communications strategy that the GOP ultimately adopted. He can get top Republicans on the phone with ease and the party’s political operatives fear the prospect of him attacking their clients. By his own account, he and his colleagues provided a platform during the elections where “Republicans can communicate their message unencumbered.” Tonight, he will give the keynote address at an event for a faction that constitutes the majority of House Republicans.

He is the party establishment.

Carlson’s outsized influence in the GOP is a problem for the party. Any TV political talking head is likely to be out-of-touch with the concerns of the median American voter. But even by that standard, Carlson is a weirdo.

The Fox host is a millionaire, raised by a former ambassador and an heiress, who does TV commentary for a living because billionaires like his takes. He is a blood-and-soil nationalist who rejects America’s credal inheritance of liberty, equality, and democracy. He is steeped in white nationalist conspiracy theories about global elites importing brown foreigners to replace “legacy Americans” and is deeply invested in the success of foreign authoritarians.

Carlson spends a lot of time on his show talking about children’s genitals; blames wokeness for everything from the U.S. retreat from Afghanistan to the green and brown M&Ms becoming insufficiently “sexy”; and capes for both the insurrectionists who stormed the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021, and the violent QAnon conspiracy theory movement.

Most Americans aren’t like this! There are clearly people who are interested in this sort of commentary – Carlson’s show averaged nearly 3.3 million viewers in October, making it the second-highest-rated cable news program. But audience tallies that are extremely impressive for cable news ultimately represent a drop in the bucket for the American electorate.

It is dangerous for a major party to move closer to Tucker Carlson’s views. Those views are also likely to alienate normal American voters and make it more difficult for that party to win elections.

The types of candidates Carlson likes and tries to elect mimic his bizarre fixations and blindspots. They describe their political opponents as “childless cat ladies,” pay consultant fees to a virulent anti-semite, and hang out with a “prophet,” run ads featuring themselves “smashing television sets playing newscasts with a sledgehammer,” and distribute lawn signs promising not to “ask your pronouns in the U.S. Senate.”

This behavior may be attractive to Carlson, and to a Republican base that has been trained to want candidates who act like a Fox host. But it seems likely to turn off people who don’t spend their free time immersed in the right-wing media fever swamps, and makes those candidates a harder sell with voters. They can still triumph when the electorate is favorable enough, or if their opponent is weak enough – but it makes the party’s fight more difficult.

And while Carlson may be Fox’s oddest duck, he isn’t the only one in the pond. The network’s roster is stocked with commentators who have an outsized influence on Republican politics and use their platforms to engage in bizarre conspiracy theories about murder victims and raped 10-year-old abortion patients, pick fights with NBA stars and high school students, and rant about everything from lifesaving vaccines to children’s schoolbooks.

The GOP has a Fox News problem. The network’s propaganda megaphone is a valuable asset that strengthens the party’s ability to quickly generate a unified message in response to any news event, and keeps its base from straying out of the right-wing information bubble. But the network’s employees are toxic extremists who are deeply out of touch with the concerns of average Americans, so are the candidates it directly or indirectly supports, and in a close election, that matters.

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.

Yes, Fox News Lost The 2022 Midterms -- But By How Much?

Fox News did everything in its power to help Republicans triumph in the midterm elections. But the “red tsunami” that the network hoped to create didn’t materialize, with Democrats pulling out unexpected victories in races across the country.

Fox’s coterie of disciplined propagandists helped select the GOP’s candidates, develop their messaging, tear down their opponents, and turn out the party's vote. The network’s campaign benefited from a political environment in which the president’s party had suffered major losses in the previous four midterm elections, as well as from high inflation. In the lead-up to the election, its commentators predicted Democrats would face what star host Tucker Carlson described as a “humiliating repudiation.”

Fox failed, and its partisans know it. Despite their best efforts, the Democrats pulled off the best midterms performance in 20 years (albeit one that could still result in them losing control in both houses of Congress). As results rolled in on Tuesday night and Wednesday morning, the recriminations came with them.

Republican politicians aren’t the only ones who need to look in the mirror. Fox’s pundits should do the same, as they bear substantial responsibility for the party’s failures. They had predicted that the stories they focused on — particularly the “crime crisis” and the “border crisis” — would help the GOP to victory. But the election unfolded differently from how they expected.

No Democratic candidate faced the Fox noise machine more than John Fetterman, the party’s nominee for U.S. Senate from Pennsylvania. Fox smeared the candidate, who suffered a stroke in May, as a “walking vegetable” and an “incompetent husk” and distorted his record on criminal justice reform. Dr. Mehmet Oz won the GOP nomination in the state with help from Fox prime-time host Sean Hannity and the network showered him with airtime in the closing weeks of the general election. The race was expected to be close, but Carlson assured his viewers that only fraud could explain a Fetterman win, and he and his allies baselessly suggested that if the counting went on past election night, it would point to a rigged result.

Fetterman was projected the winner on election night, and Oz called him to concede on Wednesday morning.

Oz isn’t the only Fox-selected Senate nominee to fare poorly. Carlson-supported Blake Masters appears to have fallen short in his bid against Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly in Arizona. Hannity-backed Herschel Walker narrowly trails Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock in Georgia, where the incumbent GOP governor won decisively (the race is headed for a runoff in December). J.D. Vance, whose Ohio campaign Carlson had endorsed, prevailed in his race -- but by a much smaller margin than the state's Republican governor, who was reelected in a landslide. Even if Republicans ultimately prevail in Arizona and Georgia, it’s clear that Fox’s biggest stars did a wretched job of choosing strong campaigners from among the party’s candidates.

Other extreme GOP election deniers Fox tried to sanitize, like New Hampshire Senate nominee Don Bolduc and gubernatorial nominees Doug Mastriano in Pennsylvania and Tudor Dixon in Michigan, were defeated, and Arizona’s Kari Lake, a network favorite, currently trails in her race for governor.

Fox hosts had sneered at the Democrats’ focus on abortion and the threat to democracy posed by Republican extremists. But on election night, voters supported abortion rights in all five states where measures were on the ballot, while Democrats won several races that were seen as key for preserving reproductive freedom. And several Republican election deniers seeking posts that would allow them to oversee elections came up short.

The silver lining for Fox came in Florida, where Gov. Ron DeSantis won reelection in a landslide. DeSantis first won the GOP nomination in 2018 with the support of Hannity, fellow Fox host Mark Levin, and a ton of Fox airtime, and since then his canny use of the network’s platform and eagerness to participate in the network’s culture wars have helped to make him a presidential contender. The network’s propagandists will likely turn to propping up a potential DeSantis run, perhaps triggering a Fox civil war if both he and Donald Trump ultimately seek the presidency.

Perhaps GOP leaders will learn their lesson about letting their talking heads have so much control over their operations. But it may be too late for them to change course – at this point, Fox is the Republican Party, with more influence than any other power center except, perhaps, Trump.

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.

To Aid Musk, Republicans Corruptly Threaten Major Firms Over Twitter Ad 'Pause'

Elon Musk and his right-wing supporters have portrayed his takeover of Twitter as a major victory for free speech. But the billionaire’s first week as its CEO was characterized by his erraticbehavior on the social media platform and lack of compelling answers off of it. Musk’s volatile leadership quickly resulted in wary corporations heeding the concerns of a coalition of organizations — including Media Matters — and exercising their own free speech rights by pausing their Twitter advertisements.

Republicans are not interested in supporting the free speech of those companies. They have a compelling partisan interest in securing Musk’s control of a leading communications hub for journalists, and have responded to the advertiser pause by threatening the firms with political retribution.

“This is a helpful list of brands who are begging to sit in front of a House panel next year to discuss their company’s participation in leftist corporate extortion,” political operative and podcaster Josh Holmes tweeted on Friday, linking to a story about companies pausing their advertisements. When critics pointed out that it was inappropriate for Republicans to use their power to threaten companies for not wanting to advertise on a particular platform, he responded that they were being “so dumb.”

Holmes is a major political player. A former chief of staff and campaign manager to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), he’s been described as “the mastermind of Team Mitch.” The communications firm he founded, Cavalry LLC, has repped the campaigns of a host of Senate Republicans, as well as the National Republican Senatorial Committee and various GOP political action committees. He’s not some Trumpist flunky shooting off his mouth, but someone with real influence to get Republicans to follow through on his threat if they win either house of Congress in the midterm elections.

Nor is he alone. Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) has repeatedlycriticized companies for not wanting to advertise with Musk, offering dark hints about what might happen if they continued “throwing in their lot with the far Left of the Democratic Party.” Other GOP leaders, including Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Arizona gubernatorial nominee Kari Lake, have also issued vague threats against the companies.

The Republican salvos on Musk’s behalf haven’t commanded much attention from the press.

But they represent the party’s ongoing institutionalization of the corrupt and authoritarian tactics Donald Trump wielded during his presidency.

Trump repeatedly used legitimate regulatory tools to punish companies that defied him and reward those that supported him. He didn’t just criticize reporting from CNN and The Washington Post, for example — he meddled with a proposed merger involving CNN’s parent company, and blocked a major contract that would have benefited the Post’s owner. Meanwhile, Rupert Murdoch, owner of Trump’s favorite propaganda outlet, Fox News, saw federal regulators repeatedly support his interests.

Republicans did not throw out this playbook after Trump left office.

Last year, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis drew plaudits from the right-wing press when he responded to Disney’s opposition to his “Don’t Say Gay” bill by stripping the company of its special self-governing status in the state.

When Musk first sought to buy Twitter in April, a group of House Republicans led by Judiciary Committee ranking member Jim Jordan (R-OH) sent a letter to the company’s board asking them to preserve all records related to the offer — a move that CNBC noted “signals that should Republicans take back the majority in the House in the 2022 midterm elections, they may launch an investigation into Twitter.”

And last week, Axios reported that House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) was trying to force the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to replace its leadership after the business lobby endorsed some Democratic candidate in the House during the 2020 election cycle rather than serving as a “functional campaign appendage of the Republican Party.”

The Republican threats against companies that don’t want to give their money to Musk are already paying off for the party. On Monday, Musk urged “independent-minded voters” to support Republican candidates for Congress on the purported grounds that “shared power curbs the worst excesses of both parties.” He is trying to ensure that the party that supports his control of Twitter also holds the levers of power in government — and can reward him in turn.

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.

How Tucker Carlson Sanitizes The Extreme Right For Fox Viewers

Tucker Carlson kicked off Tuesday’s interview with Doug Mastriano, the GOP nominee for governor in Pennsylvania, by declaring the candidate “one of those guys you're not allowed to talk about or like because he is absolutely beyond the pale somehow.” The Fox News host spent the next several minutes trying to convince his audience that his guest, a full-blown insurrectionist and the toast of Christian nationalists and virulent antisemites, is nothing of the sort.

Carlson has emerged as Fox’s primary sanitizer of elements of the GOP like Mastriano, Arizona gubernatorial nominee Kari Lake, and Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA). His role is to elevate these once-fringe elements by sneering at their critics and giving them a platform to stress their common ground with the party’s base. (In a similar vein, his colleague Sean Hannity parachutes in to help Republican politicians by allowing them to stave off political scandals with a softball interview.) In allowing for “no enemies to the right,” Carlson’s work seems aimed at making it impossible for the Republican Party to banish, abandon, or punish its extremists.

In Mastriano’s case, Carlson glossed over quite a lot. The Republican gubernatorial nominee is a Trumpist insurrectionist who tried to use his power as state senator to overturn the 2020 presidential election, led busloads of protestors to Washington, D.C., on January 6, 2021, breached the grounds of the U.S. Capitol, and all but promised to subvert the 2024 election in the event the GOP nominee loses Pennsylvania. He has ties to Christian nationalism and a fondness for the Confederacy, and he has trafficked in anti-Muslim bigotry. His political associates include campaign consultant Andrew Torba, the virulent antisemite who owns the white-nationalist-friendly social media site Gab; campaign “prophet” Julie Green, who promotes particularly deranged conspiracy theories, including that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi drinks “children’s blood”; and campaign surrogate Jack Posobiec, a conspiracy theorist who has collaborated with white nationalists and neo-Nazis and targeted Jewish people with antisemitic hate.

That’s at least a sampling of what Carlson is alluding to when he claims Mastriano has been unfairly branded “beyond the pale” — the sorts of things that have kept Mastriano from being fully embraced by the national party.

But Carlson detailed none of it. Instead, he described Mastriano as “pretty impressive,” touted his military service, said he was “honored” to host him, and told him that that an undefined but sinister “they” had “identified you early as someone who was a threat and tried to make you completely unacceptable even to talk about.”

After giving Mastriano the opportunity to talk up his credentials, run through his talking points, and attack his opponent, Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro, using Carlson’s favored issue of crime, the Fox host wished him well.

“You don’t seem radical to me,” he concluded, suggesting that it would be ludicrous for anyone to think otherwise.

Carlson wants Republicans to support the Pennsylvanian but doesn’t want to actually have to defend any of his conduct. So he simply conceals the details from his viewers, suggests Mastriano has been unfairly attacked, and lets the candidate connect with his viewers on a shared reverence for the military and distaste for violent crime. This encourages Republican leaders to similarly look past Mastriano’s conduct and get more firmly behind his candidacy.

Carlson’s promotion of Mastriano is not an anomaly. He regularly champions Republican politicians others might view as having disqualified themselves.

As the Fox host pointed out during his interview, Arizona GOP gubernatorial nominee “Kari Lake was” treated the same way as Mastriano until recently. As Media Matters has noted:

Lake is a prominent election denier linked to Nazi sympathizers and QAnon figures. The former local news anchor is a regular on far-right propaganda outlets like Steve Bannon’s War Room and One America News Network. She has aggressively promoted the debunked “Sharpiegate” conspiracy theory, called to replicate the bogus, QAnon-linked Maricopa County audit “in every county in Arizona,” and repeatedly called to “decertify” the 2020 election. Lake maintains she would not have certified Arizona’s presidential election results had she been Arizona’s governor at the time due to debunked conspiracy theories. (There is no legal pathway to decertify or change the results of a presidential election.)

Lake’s extreme views explain why the state and national GOP establishment had supported her primary opponent “in an attempt to push their party past the chaotic Trump era,” as The Associated Press put it. But when Carlson hosted Lake for the first time a month ago, he promoted her laughable claim that election denial is about free speech and claimed she had been smeared as “a big lie adherent.”

“Do you believe the media uses that slur to make certain people won't hear what you're saying about the issues?” he asked her.

Lake used the interview to hit on issues Carlson commonly focuses on, like immigration, fentanyl, and the perfidious mainstream media. After she commented that “we're not going to let Joe Biden drag the state of Arizona down while he is trying to destroy this country,” the host replied, “Amen. Boy, I can see where they're trying to stop you.”

Soon after, major Republican politicians flew to Arizona to appear alongside the would-be governor, while other Fox hosts gave her access to their viewers for the first time.

Then there’s Greene. She was a pariah within her party when she entered Congress in 2021 because she is a conspiracy theorist who has also promoted racist, anti-Muslim, antisemitic, and violent rhetoric. She had been exposed as an adherent to the violent Pizzagate and QAnon conspiracy theories, as well as numerous others. She had suggested that the U.S. government perpetrated the 9/11 attacks, that the Sandy Hook school shooting was staged, and that the Stoneman Douglas school shooting was a false flag. She suggested the Rothschild banking family controls a space laser used to start the deadly 2018 Camp Fire in California and that Ruth Bader Ginsburg had been replaced by a body double. She endorsed the wild notion that Hillary Clinton was implicated in the death of John F. Kennedy, Jr., and that the former secretary of state and her former aide Huma Abedin had sexually assaulted a child, filleted the child’s face, wore her face like a mask, and then drank her blood as part of a satanic ritual.

None of this gave Carlson the slightest pause. He has been her greatest champion, downplaying her extremism as merely unapproved opinions and “unauthorized questions,” praising her as a “Washington outsider,” promoting her in an hourlong soft-focus interview on his streaming podcast, making her a fixture on his Fox prime-time program, and even donating to her campaign. His support didn’t falter after revelations that she had given a speech to a convention of white nationalists and suggested following the January 6 insurrection that Trump be informed that other Republican members were urging him to implement martial law in order to “save our Republic.”

With Carlson firmly in her corner, Greene built a sizable power base within the Republican Party and was embraced by its leaders. A strong midterm showing will increase her stature, according to the AP: “If Republicans win the House majority in the November election, Greene is poised to become an influential player shaping the GOP agenda, an agitator with clout.”

Carlson’s support and eagerness to provide access to his platform was also crucial for J.D. Vance and Blake Masters as they sought the GOP nominations for U.S. Senate in Ohio and Arizona. Both are henchmen for the fascist tech billionaire Peter Thiel and have long records of toxicrhetoric and electiondenial.

Carlson’s treatment of once-fringe GOP politicians is of a piece with his dedication to mainstreaming extremist ideas. He has defended the QAnon movement, January 6 insurrectionists, the white nationalist “great replacement” conspiracy theory, and Russian propaganda about its invasion of Ukraine. He is eager to collapse any and all distinctions between right-wing extremists and mainstream Republicans, urging his viewers to treat policies targeting violent white supremacists and rhetoric warning of rising “semi-fascism” as attacks on themselves.

The Republican Party is walking through the door Carlson opens, cleaving toward the most extremist elements as they seek to subvert democracy, oppose the rule of law, and embrace political violence.

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.

Rupert Murdoch Empowering Son Lachlan, Who Turned Fox News Extreme Right

Lachlan Murdoch helped turn Fox News into a bastion of white supremacist talking points, election subversion, and anti-vaccine conspiracy theories while shredding its “news side” operation. Now he may be rewarded with even more power.

The eldest son of Rupert Murdoch has steadily accumulated influence within his father’s media empire since 2014, when he returned to the family business following a sojourn in Australia. He is now his father’s virtually unchallenged heir — having pushed aside the late Fox News co-founder Roger Ailes and his own brother, James — and reigns as the executive chairman and chief executive of Fox Corp., parent company of Fox News, and co-chairman of News Corp., which owns The Wall Street Journal and New York Post.

Rupert Murdoch has now reportedly proposed combining those two media companies into a single conglomerate. The move has baffled some media executives and financial analysts, who question its business logic. But it makes sense as an exercise in succession planning, one aimed at expanding Lachlan Murdoch’s responsibilities and securing his control of the firm after his father, age 91, passes on.

That should worry anyone who cares about the malevolent influence Fox has on the nation’s politics.

Lachlan Murdoch is viewed as far more personally conservative than his father, who at times prioritized the finances and political influence of his media outlets rather than their ideology. Speaking at an event to launch a right-wing think tank in Sydney earlier this year, the son offered “a monologue that could have fit in seamlessly with the lineup of right-wing commentary served up every night by Fox News’s prime-time opinion hosts — including an obscure jab at the 1619 Project,” The Washington Postreported. [Editor's note: Lachlan Murdoch is Australian and not an American citizen.]

Lachlan Murdoch’s malign influence over Fox News has been apparent since he took direct control over day-to-day operations at the right-wing propaganda network during the Trump administration.

Under Lachlan Murdoch’s leadership, Fox became the nation’s most prominent venue for white nationalist conspiracy theories. He made Tucker Carlson the face of the network and publicly defended the host’s “great replacement” screeds — amid a wave of killings by adherents spouting the same talking points. By the grace of Lachlan Murdoch, Carlson retains a massive platform which he uses to garner regular praise from white nationalists who celebrate his mainstreaming of their blood-soaked narratives. The Fox host is most recently notable for elevating and whitewashing the rantings of a devoted antisemite.

Under Lachlan Murdoch’s leadership, Fox became a clearinghouse for election fraud conspiracy theories following the 2020 election, helping to fuel the right-wing rage and subversion schemes which culminated in the January 6 insurrection. Rather than reflecting on the role his network had in the storming of the U.S. Capitol and changing its course, Lachlan Murdoch allowed it to become a major distributor of conspiracy theories about that attack on U.S. democracy.

Under Lachlan Murdoch’s leadership, Fox’s pandemic coverage consisted of downplaying the threat posed by the virus, touting the purportedly miraculous properties of drugs which are actually ineffective, and ultimately waging a sustained, Carlson-led effort to undermine the campaign to vaccinate Americans against it. Lachlan Murdoch publicly defended Carlson’s anti-vaccine propaganda even above the lives of his network’s viewers, who were vaccinated at lower rates than other cable news audiences — a likely factor in the higher COVID-19 death rates among Republicans.

And under Lachlan Murdoch’s leadership, Fox gutted its “news side” in favor of remaking the network as an even more egregiously partisan wrecking ball. The network conducted what insiders called a “purge” of the network’s “real journalists,” restaffed with GOP operatives, turned over some “news” hours to “opinion” hosts, and watched celebrated newsroom figures leave the network after losing power struggles with Carlson. It’s not difficult to imagine Lachlan Murdoch doing something similar to The Wall Street Journal if he is able to tighten his grip on News Corp.’s newspaper portfolio.

Lachlan Murdoch is “the most important actor” in Fox’s transformation from a right-wing network that supported the Republican Party to its current iteration as a slicker version of Alex Jones’ Infowars, Bloomberg’s Tim O’Brien noted earlier this year.

“Rupert Murdoch's son runs that network,” he explained. “The family controls the company. If they wanted that network to do something other than engage in propaganda and to delude people and to serve other goals, he could put anybody he wants in that anchor seat. Tucker Carlson exists because Lachlan Murdoch wants him to exist."

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.

GOP Plan: Either Gut The Social Safety Net Or Destroy The US Economy

Perhaps the single most consequential story of the midterms season broke this week, and there’s been virtually no coverage from major TV news shows, newspapers, and other mainstream outlets.

On Tuesday, Bloomberg Government produced a bombshell report that points to the massive economic consequences a Republican House would bring for Americans.

If Republicans gain a majority following next month’s elections, the outlet reported, they plan to use a future increase or suspension of the debt ceiling as leverage to force through “top priorities” like seismic cuts to Social Security, Medicare, and other social safety net spending. Failure to act on the debt ceiling would result in an economic catastrophe, experts say.

There has been shockingly little coverage of this development given its significance. It earned a scattering of mentions in publications including New York magazine. And Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and MSNBC’s Chris Hayes detailed the stakes on his show Wednesday night.

But the story hasn’t been referenced elsewhere this week on MSNBC, or on CNN, or on Fox News. The nationally broadcast morning and evening news shows on ABC, CBS, and NBC haven’t discussed it. It hasn’t been mentioned in the pages of major newspapers, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, the Los Angeles Times, and USA Today.

Republican leaders have been cagey about what they will do if they take control of the House of Representatives in November. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) produced a vague agenda last month that The New York Timesdescribed as an “an innocuous-sounding set of principles” that was “aimed at uniting members” but was “light on details,” particularly on issues where the party’s traditional positions are unpopular.

But the party’s real strategy is quite specific, and it covers ground far from the GOP’s culture war battlefield.

House Republicans will threaten to force the United States to default on its debt — setting off a global economic crisis — unless Democrats agree to such cuts, all four Republicans vying for the chairmanship of the House Budget Committee told Bloomberg Government:

“The debt limit is clearly one of those tools that Republicans — that a Republican-controlled Congress — will use to make sure that we do everything we can to make this economy strong,” said Rep. Jason Smith (R-Mo.) , the ranking member of the House Budget Committee. He’s seeking the top GOP spot on the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee but said if he doesn’t get it, he’ll remain in his Budget Committee position.

Reps. Jodey Arrington (R-Texas), Buddy Carter (R-Ga.), and Lloyd Smucker (R-Pa.) are seeking the top spot on the Budget Committee if Smith gets the Ways and Means role. Those three agreed Republicans must use the debt-limit deadline to enact fiscally conservative legislation.

The potential GOP committee leaders offered a variety of direct and indirect measures to carry out their vision, but the upshot for the American public is that a GOP House will try to slash the social safety net and plans to to capsize the economy if it doesn’t get its way.

Bloomberg Government’s story follows a September report from Axios stating that “GOP leaders, congressional aides and business groups are preparing for a potential ‘nightmare scenario’ next year if House Republicans take back the majority: a debt limit showdown reminiscent of the near-crisis in 2011.”

Social Security and Medicare are on the ballot next month. If the American public doesn’t know that, it’s in part because the press isn’t telling them.

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.

Why Carlson Hid Kanye's Anti-Semitism (And What That Shows About Fox)

Fox News host Tucker Carlson clearly hoped to use his interview with Kanye West (now known as Ye) to advance his own political agenda by highlighting the rapper’s “White Lives Matter” commentary and support for former President Donald Trump. But at the conclusion of their sit-down, Carlson had a problem: West peppered the interview with toxic anti-Semitic comments, as well as conspiracy-minded rants which suggested that he was in the throes of one of his well-documented manic phases.

Carlson responded to this conundrum by simply cutting the worst of West’s bigotry and paranoia from the version of the interview he aired last week, Vice’s Motherboard revealed on Tuesday, after obtaining original footage from the interview. The deceptive editing points to how much leeway the Fox host thinks he has from the network brass, as well as the deceitful way he handles his show.

Carlson knows where the line is for antisemitism on his show

Tucker Carlson Tonight revolves around an antisemitic conspiracy theory. The host posits that a cabal of global elites controls the heights of U.S. politics, media, culture, and business, and is using its power to corrupt American children, destroy western civilization, and replace its population with immigrants.

Carlson’s innovation is that he generally deracinates these familiar antisemitic tropes. While open white supremacists might argue, for example, that Jews are using immigration to replace the white population with a black and brown one, Carlson tells his viewers that elites like the financier George Soros (who is Jewish) arereplacing “legacy Americans” with people from “far-away countries” in the “third world.”

Carlson’s stated worldview is close enough that neo-Nazis regularlypraise his show for mainstreaming their blood-soaked positions. But Carlson’s careful use of language, and his furious denials that he is a racist, give the Fox brass just enough plausible deniability that they can continue to defend and support his program.

You can see this balance play out in what Carlson included from his interview with West and the clips Motherboard published that were left on the cutting room floor.

In: West’s suggestion that Jared Kushner, former President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and White House aide, worked on Middle East peace to “make money” and his comment about Jared and his brother Josh, “What they’re about is making money.” That language aligns with the antisemitic trope of the money-hungry Jew, but it’s apparently palatable to Fox because West did not specifically mention that the Kushners are Jewish (West even asked Carlson whether those comments had been “too heavy handed,” to which Carlson replied, “We're not in the censorship business”).

Out: Nakedly antisemitic comments in which West more explicitly mentioned Jews, including his statement, “Think about us judging each other on how white we could talk would be like, you know, a Jewish person judging another Jewish person on how good they danced or something” (which West himself told Carlson went too far and asked to have edited out) and his remark, “I prefer my kids knew Hanukkah than Kwanzaa. At least it will come with some financial engineering.” Those comments are so obviously bigoted that they apparently could not be aired on Fox in an interview meant to promote its subject.

Carlson could have responded to those comments by changing the way he intended to frame the interview; instead, he cut out the comments to preserve his narrative.

Carlson’s edits left his colleagues in an uncomfortable position, as they were apparently unaware that West’s interview had featured naked anti-Semitism. Many of them responded to the interview as it aired by praising West’s wisdom and authenticity, and promoting his support for right-wing ideas as a boon to their movement. They were then forced to make an abrupt about-face after West spent the weekend on a social media tirade against “JEWISH PEOPLE” he claimed had “tried to black ball anyone whoever opposes your agenda.”

For his part, Carlson simply pretended the anti-Semitic outburst had not happened when he ran another segment praising West on his Monday broadcast. He hid the anti-Semitic comments West made on social media from his viewers, just as he had hidden the anti-Semitic comments West made to his face.

Carlson Knowingly Lies About West’s Mental State

Carlson stressed to his viewers as he promoted his interview with West that the rapper’s well-documented mental health issues are a fabrication of journalists who want to shut him up — and he presented his sit-down as an antidote that would allow his audience to come to their own conclusions.

“The enemies of his ideas dismissed West as they have for years -- as mentally ill, too crazy to take seriously,” he alleged at the top of Thursday’s show. “But is West crazy? You can judge for yourself as you watch what we're about to show you.”

Carlson added that he did not find West to be “crazy,” adding, “In fact, we've rarely heard a man speak so honestly and so movingly about what he believes, but again, you can judge for yourself.”

Carlson returned to that theme later in the program.

“We told you at the top, you'd be able to assess for yourself whether West is crazy, as virtually every single media outlet on planet Earth claims every day, all year long,” he said. “Is he crazy. As you try to assess that, ask is what you just heard over the past 40 minutes any crazier than what you see on television every day? The lies, the lunacy presented to you with a straight face as reality?”

“No, he is not,” Carlson concluded. “He is not crazy at all. He is a big thinker, though."

It’s easy to see why Carlson is so defensive about West’s mental state. If West is “crazy,” in Carlson’s words, then the Fox host is a despicable hack taking advantage of a vulnerable person’s “lunacy” for ratings and political advantage.

But Carlson is being deceptive in two ways.

One is that West’s struggles with bipolar disorder are not a media creation, but something that he has publicly discussed in detail for years.

“When you’re in this state, you’re hyper-paranoid about everything, everyone,” West told David Letterman in a 2019 interview. “This is my experience, other people have different experiences. Everyone now is an actor. Everything’s a conspiracy. You feel the government is putting chips in your head. You feel you’re being recorded. You feel all these things.”

The second is that West reeled off several conspiracy theories during his interview with Carlson, as the Motherboard videos show. He suggested, for example, that “fake children” had been “placed into my house to sexualize my kids,” and that the fashion house Louis Vuitton had “killed” the designer Virgil Abloh, who died of cancer in 2021.

Those diatribes cut against Carlson’s argument that West is lucid, and thus an appropriate interview subject whose political views should be taken seriously. So Carlson edited them out of what he showed his viewers, even as he told them that they could make their own determination about West’s mental state from what aired.

That’s pretty typical — Carlson is a deeply dishonest person who has contempt for an audience he constantly cons. The Motherboard videos are just a new and compelling example demonstrating his duplicity.

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.