The author of a new book about the Proud Boys told Democracy Now’s Amy Goodman that Fox News has played a key role in sanitizing and normalizing the violent extremists.
Andy Campbell, a senior editor at HuffPost, has recently published a book called, “We Are Proud Boys: How a Right-Wing Street Gang Ushered In a New Era of American Extremism.”
In a Democracy Now interview today, Campbell highlighted the Proud Boys' unholy alliance with Fox News:
CAMPBELL: And they’ve normalized this political violence by sidling up to the top levels of the GOP, including Trump’s confidant, Roger Stone. So, they have friendships in the GOP. They have friendships in media: Fox News celebrates these guys. And they have support from a wide swath of the American right. And so, going forward, even though many of their top leaders sit in jail waiting sedition charges following January 6th, they are still working as planned.
And you have places like Arizona, where Republicans are calling for vigilantes like the Oath Keepers to show up at ballot boxes. And so, you can only imagine what it’s going to feel like for voters out there when you have this extremist contingent that includes Proud Boys, Oath Keepers and, really, everyday Americans on the right waiting and watching at the polls, when all that these guys do is commit violence. It’s going to be such a scary election season.
And it’s not just the ballot boxes. It is — going into the future, you know, the Proud Boys are being activated not just by Trump, but by everything that Fox News says. Fox News was railing all summer about drag queens and LGBTQ and trans issues. And the Proud Boys, activated by that rhetoric, have been showing up at abortion clinics, and children’s hospitals and libraries where there are Drag Queen Story Hours, and adding violence and intimidation to that atmosphere. This political violence has spread from the MAGA rallies, and BLM rallies from before, and into everyday American life.
I have to admit this was not something I had noticed but Campbell is right. Proud Boys founder Gavin McInnes was a regular Fox News guest for a time. The network was just fine with his bigoted and inciteful rhetoric, such as when he said, on the Hannity show, “gays seem to be the least tolerant group in modern America. It’s almost like Sharia law here,” without objection from host Sean Hannity. Or when McInnes strayed from the topic of astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson’s comments about extraterrestrial life in order to launch a gratuitous, racial attack. Referencing Tyson's comments about getting racially profiled when he was younger, McInnes said, “Back then, he looked like he was in The Warriors. He had a huge Afro and a cutoff shirt and New York was a war zone. Sorry, you fit the profile.” Host Greg Gutfeld said he wanted to return to the topic of aliens but did not object to McInnes’ comment.
A 2020 Media Matters article I either missed or have forgotten has more about how Fox helped turn McInnes into a right-wing media star. It also notes some of Fox’s more pernicious promotion of the Proud Boys. Two examples:
In October 2018, members of the Proud Boys beat protesters outside New York’s Metropolitan Republican Club after an event was held there featuring McInnes. McInnes reportedly exited the building with a samurai sword, and though police were on the scene, they didn’t arrest any of the Proud Boys on site. McInnes would note in the days that followed, “So I get there and there’s a mob of screaming lunatics and the cops have been there all day. Tons of cops. I have a lot of support in the NYPD and I very much appreciate that, the boys in blue.”
Ignoring the physical violence wrought by McInnes’ gang, Fox News framed the story around “left-wing vandals” and “antifa thugs.”
Of course, Tucker Carlson was part of the club:
In May 2018, Fox host Tucker Carlson posed for a photo with Proud Boys members Johnny Robinson and Will Dominguez in a Fox green room (also in the picture was Trump confidante and prominent Proud Boys ally Roger Stone). Both Robinson and Dominguez were wearing the black and yellow Fred Perry polos that have become something of an unofficial uniform for the organization. When asked by The Wrap if he condemned the group, Carlson instead sarcastically responded, “I strongly support and endorse every personal belief of every person I take a picture with on the street, the subway or in the green room, and always have.”
As for activating the Proud Boys, a 2022 Media Matters article notes that Fox spent more time attacking trans people and drag queens than it did covering the second January 6 hearing.
The symbiosis between an extremist group and the Murdochs’ cable “news” network is especially disturbing. But that’s only part of the very disturbing picture Campbell paints. I highly recommend watching the entire segment below, from the September 26, 2022 Democracy Now.