Violent demonstrations erupt at spa after Fox News hypes misinformation about trans people exposing themselves to kids
On Wednesday, The Guardian reported on how a viral right-wing hoax about a spa in Los Angeles picked up by Fox News' Tucker Carlson led to two weeks of violent clashes and far-right threats against the transgender community.
"On 24 June, a woman claimed on Instagram that a Korean spa in Los Angeles had allowed a 'man' to expose himself to women and girls in the women's section," reported Sam Levin and Lois Beckett. "The unsubstantiated allegations about Wi Spa in LA's Koreatown neighborhood quickly spread from social media to rightwing forums to far-right news sites to Fox News, and were distorted by anti-transgender groups across multiple countries."
According to the report, there is no evidence that anyone, male or female, exposed themselves to children at Wi Spa — the video that started the controversy just showed a woman demanding to know if one of the other customers was transgender, and an employee saying the spa doesn't discriminate by gender identity.
But the story picked up a life of its own, in large part thanks to Carlson.
According to Media Matters, Fox News discussed Wi Spa a dozen times in a week, with Carlson claiming a "man" was naked in the "female kids section". Internet commentators also turned their rage on Precious Child, a transgender activist in L.A. who has never actually been to the spa, as people speculated she was the supposed flasher and bombarded her with slurs and death threats, with one account sending her a picture of a rifle with the caption "Dirty piece of sh*t predator."
"The massive media attention resulted in two weekends of chaotic rallies in LA this month, in which anti-trans and trans-rights protesters fought in the streets, and women carrying 'protect female spaces' signs paraded alongside members of the far-right Proud Boys," said the report. "Trans counter-protesters and their supporters described being Maced, stabbed and chased by rightwing demonstrators, as well as injured by police." Futhermore, "Marie Dumouch, a 20-year-old French woman who came to both demonstrations to film and interview participants, said she was surrounded by rightwing demonstrators and bear-sprayed in the face during the 17 July protest: 'I got called a pedo lover and a bitch.'"
The Proud Boys, a self-described "Western Chauvinist" group, also had a hand in carrying out the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, and several of their members have been charged in connection with the incident.
On Tuesday, Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY) gave a speech outside the Capitol in which she falsely suggested that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) was in charge of security and let the Capitol rioters into the building on January 6 — a claim that fact-checkers have already debunked.
After this speech, The Buffalo News editorial board penned a scathing editorial calling out Stefanik for her "perverted" lies about the Capitol attack.
"When leading Republicans such as Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and New York's Elise Stefanik try to blame House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for the attack, that's a perversion, not just of the party's historic support for law and order and for police, but of its commitment to the idea of America," wrote the board. "The country came under assault on Jan. 6. All Americans should want to know the facts. This matters to the country, to this state and to Western New York, home of one of the suspects charged with beating a Washington, D.C., police officer nearly to death on that day. "
The editors went on the document just how much Stefanik is distorting history by trying to shift blame for the riots onto Pelosi.
"The mob had been summoned to Washington by then-President Donald Trump with lies about a stolen election, lies that he repeated to the horde. Standing with Trump, former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani – once a respected U.S. attorney – asked the crowd for 'trial by combat.' The crowd complied," wrote the board. "Yet, Stefanik, with no regard for the gravity of the House hearings or the fragility of democracy, sought on Tuesday to blame the Democrat Pelosi for an attack that the world saw her party leaders instigate. It was Trump and his co-conspirators who armed the bow, drew the string and fired it at the Capitol."
Stefanik was recently elected chair of the House Republican Conference, replacing Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) — who was publicly ousted as a GOP leader by the party for her repeated efforts to call out former President Donald Trump's attacks on democracy. She is now on the House committee investigating the attack — and is highly critical of fellow Republicans who have sought to undermine these efforts.
"Many subjects are appropriate for partisan debate, but the facts of insurrection are not," concluded the board. "Republicans are confused. They should not want to be identified as the party of political perversion, but it's what their leaders are inviting."
You can read more here.
Newsmax was once a favorite to become the go-to network for fans of former President Donald Trump after he regularly attacked Fox News for its election coverage.
But as Vox's Aaron Rupar explains, things have not worked out that way.
"But with Trump now more than seven months removed from the White House, out-Trumping the competition isn't proving to be the ratings hit these days that it was in December and January," said Rupar.
He cited the coverage of Trump's speech to the Turning Point conference in Phoenix, in which the network gave near-continuous coverage. Fox, on the other hand, bounced to its regularly scheduled programs.
While this worked for Newsmax in December and January, the attempts to out-Trump Fox News haven't paid off, as their viewership is down more than 50 percent as of January. The report quoted humiliating stats showing the network was pulling from "an average of about 300,000 viewers" to then "about 114,000 on July 18."
"The issue that I always come back to ... is that Newsmax is just not good," Media Matters Newsmax expert Josh Campbell explained. "It's very dull, it's very repetitive of conservative talking points I see everywhere else. They don't have nearly as big of a budget as Fox News does, and their hosts are just simply not as talented. It's hard to sustain huge viewerships when you're just not that good."
Fox News, by contrast, has flashy graphics, hot hosts in skimpy, short, tight dresses and a flood of Republican officials eager to speak on their airwaves. Newsmax has a lot of videos of Donald Trump and hosts like Sean Spicer, who was far more interesting when he was portrayed by actress Melissa McCarthy.
"To steal a line from the movie Scarface, Newsmax had basically gotten high on its own supply, and their viewers were left holding nothing at the end of all that. I think that played a major role," Campbell explained.
"During their ratings surge, there was frequent rhetoric coming from their hosts — Chris Salcedo one time said in early December that 'dedicated Democrats' ran Fox News," Campbell recalled. "They kept having all this rhetoric about how Fox News had betrayed Trump and, you know, people shouldn't watch it because of that."
He said that his favorite example was after Fox Business News canceled Lou Dobbs, Newsmax did daily coverage of it.
"One guest said that Lou Dobbs was too conservative for Fox News," said Campbell. "There was speculation about whether Newsmax would hire Lou Dobbs. There was even a weird 'man on the street' segment in April of a contributor to Newsmax walking around with a 'where's Lou?' sign. So they definitely tried to aestheticize themselves as the Trump-based network, and Fox as the betrayer of that."
In the end, however, it hasn't worked to keep their numbers up. According to AdWeek, Newsmax now struggles to get the audience larger than Nick-at-Night, the Golf Channel, the Game Show Network, the Lifetime Movie Network and the Weather Channel, to name a few.
Read the full interview with Campbell by Aaron Rupar here.
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