The Democratic National Convention has been a mild affair this year. At times, it has felt like a charity telethon, which is perhaps inevitable with an all-remote event. It has been praised for defining Joe Biden’s biography and humanizing the Democratic presidential nominee, while also being criticized as too much of a bland, ideological grab bag. The most viral moment so far arguably involved Rhode Island and a plate of calamari.
But for right-wing media, the DNC has been a parade of breathtaking outrages.
The far left is taking over the “Democrat Party.” Former first lady Michelle Obama hates America. Democrats are “the party of anti-Semitism” for allowing activist Linda Sarsour to speak at a sub-event for Muslim delegates. And Biden is simply “pretending to be faith & family candidate,” as one Fox News chyron read. These are the main storylines to emerge out of the DNC in much of right-wing media.
Much of conservatives’ ire targets two prominent women of color who spoke: Obama and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), who only talked for 60 seconds.
“Fox & Friends” host Brian Kilmeade claimed that Ocasio-Cortez’s nomination of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) on Tuesday night was a shocking event, and her not mentioning Biden was intended as a snub. “She looked like a hostage video. It is unbelievable, it looks like there is an agenda trying to get out,” Kilmeade said, adding “the theory is, and it’s hard to push it down, that once Joe Biden is elected, this party is going flying left.”
That claim echoed a misleading NBC tweet that Ocasio-Cortez criticized and that was eventually deleted. (In reality, her symbolic nomination of Sanders was part of a procedural measure that takes place when a certain candidate acquires enough delegates.) Conservative host Mark Levin tweeted that Ocasio-Cortez was a “classless creep” while linking to a right-wing outlet that accused her of pushing a “socialist agenda” at the DNC.
Right-wing media’s other main fixation is America’s first Black first lady, who gave a more than 18-minute address on Monday night that cleanly dissected many failings of the Trump administration and gained widespread news coverage.
“Donald Trump is the wrong president for our country. He has had more than enough time to prove that he can do the job, but he is clearly in over his head. He cannot meet this moment. He simply cannot be who we need him to be for us. It is what it is,” she said.
Right-wing pundits responded with a series of hysterical attacks while struggling to find content in her speech to substantively criticize. Pro-Trump activist and frequent right-wing media guest Charlie Kirk told audiences on his podcast that “Michelle Obama just hates America,” and nonsensically argued that her address was “not a speech” because she was sitting down.
Radio host Rush Limbaugh, whom Trump awarded with a Presidential Medal of Freedom earlier this year, went on a strange tangent accusing Obama and “all Democrat women” of being unable to pronounce certain words. Right-wing media personality Ben Shapiro questioned why Obama would be qualified to criticize Trump in the first place.
“Apart from the chorus of bigoted attacks against Michelle Obama, right-wing pundits have scrambled to find a consistent narrative about the convention.”
Pro-Trump pundits also resorted to invoking even more overtly racist and sexist rhetoric to try to detract from Obama’s speech, sometimes barely putting a veneer over their bigotry. Fox News host Tucker Carlson, who recently had one of his top writers resign for a history of sexist and racist remarks, accused Obama of using the fact she is a Black woman to play a “victim,” saying “what she wanted you to know last night was that she is still a victim, she and everyone who looks like her, so shut up and accept her dominion over you.” Elsewhere on Fox News, host Brit Hume tried to frame Obama as an angry Black woman while praising Jill Biden’s speech for having a softer tone and lacking the “hard angry edge” he claimed Obama showed.
But apart from the chorus of bigoted attacks against Obama, right-wing pundits have scrambled to find a consistent narrative about the convention. Conservative media tends to exist in symbiosis with Trump and the White House, taking cues from their messaging for their own content as well as providing narratives for the administration.
But when neither party settles on strong talking points, the result is often a muddled attempt at finding which message will stick.
Fox News host Laura Ingraham, for instance, aired a scattered segment questioning various aspects of Biden’s character, while senior Trump 2020 campaign adviser Mercedes Schlapp claimed, “Democrats took God out of their platform not too long ago.”
Trump, meanwhile, has been largely silent about the convention. Apart from tweeting criticism of Obama’s address, he has said little publicly about the event and continued his own campaign with an anti-immigrant speech in Yuma, Arizona, on Tuesday. He will appear at the Republican National Convention next week, alongside a number of other speakers that right-wing media has elevated to celebrity status in recent years ― including Covington Catholic school student Nicholas Sandmann and St. Louis couple Mark and Patricia McCloskey, who became conservative stars after pointing guns at Black Lives Matter protesters in their gated neighborhood.