With its audience of as many as 3 million viewers a weeknight for some of its prime-time programs, Fox also essentially handed the platform over to voices from MAGA world to stoke the anger against the FBI, Justice Department and White House.
“Mar-a-Lago search shows the swamp’s Trump obsession,” a Wall Street Journal opinion column said. The sub-head read: “An FBI raid against a former president should never happen.”
The New York Post featured an opinion column headlined: “FBI Trump raid exposes Washington’s secrecy shams.” The lead paragraph quoted House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, a staunch Trump supporter, saying the search showed the Justice Department’s “intolerable state of weaponized politization.”
The rest of the right-wing media was right there in lockstep.
There were widespread calls for armed warfare on behalf of Trump across social media. One NBC News report said, “in the minutes after news of the search broke, users on pro-Trump forums like TheDonald, a Reddit-like website that was used to provide logistics before the Capitol riot, urged immediate violence, asking questions like ‘When does the shooting start?’ and calling upon Trump to summon militias.”
This is another layer of media support for Trump that flexed its muscles this week on behalf of him, and it certainly seemed far more visible and threatening than it did during his campaign in 2016 — if it even existed then.
Trump megaphone is even bigger
In 2016, much of his political power came from his ability to successfully use both old (Fox News) and new (Twitter and Facebook) media to amplify his messaging. His media performance skillfully straddled that period of technological transition in which we still reside.
Trump has since been banned on Facebook and Twitter, and his social media site, Truth Social, is struggling. But it didn’t seem to matter this week because mainstream media and tens of thousands of people on Twitter and elsewhere were retweeting, quoting, posting and citing what he was saying on Truth Social and elsewhere. He has dominated social media just as he did cable news this week.
And Trump has further enhanced his echo chamber by adding yet another level of media messaging that he didn’t have in 2016: the MAGA members of Congress and candidates on the mid-term campaign trails whom he has backed. Many of them jumped to his defense repeating his talking points and adding their own inflammatory rhetoric.
Marjorie Taylor Greene, Republican member of Congress from Georgia, invoked the Civil War in denouncing the search on Twitter. In another tweet she said there is an “extremely high probability” that the FBI planted “evidence” during the search, a conspiracy theory suggested by Trump himself.
At the local level, politicians like Dan Cox, the Trump-backed Republican candidate for governor of Maryland, joined the chorus by denouncing the search as “police state tactics” and called on “Maryland Republicans” to condemn the search.
Cox might not seem like he adds much, but as he and other candidates across the country talk to reporters in their cities and states about the search, they localize Trump’s words in a way that can often give them the kind of heightened credibility a local TV anchorperson might have.