Fox News and Republicans try to shift attention to crime as midterms loom


Show caption Fox News host Tucker Carlson and former US president Donald Trump at the LIV Golf Invitational Bedminster, NJ, on 31 July 2022. Photograph: Justin Lane/EPA Republicans Fox News and Republicans try to shift attention to crime as midterms loom Rightwing leaders push ‘soft on crime’ narrative to propel Republicans this fall, as most voters focus on abortion rights Ramon Antonio Vargas in New York Fri 16 Sep 2022 06.00 BST Share on Facebook

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With most US voters indicating that the preservation of abortion rights is their chief focus as midterm elections loom, the face of Fox News and Republican politicians appear to be trying to shift attention to crime, a progressive media watchdog has warned.

As Democrats seek to maintain razor-thin advantages in both congressional chambers, an analysis from Media Matters for America notes that on 19 August, the highest-rated Fox News host, Tucker Carlson, implored “every Republican candidate in the United States” to pitch themselves as favoring “law and order and equality under the law”.

Since then, the word “crime” has appeared in 29% of Republican political ads, up from 12% in July, Media Matters said, citing reporting from the Washington Post.

In one of the most closely watched contests, the Republican Senate candidate in Pennsylvania, Dr Mehmet Oz, then launched ads attacking his Democratic rival, John Fetterman, on criminal justice.

Blake Masters – a past Carlson guest and Republican Senate candidate in Arizona – last week derided the Democrats as “the party of crime”.

A new survey by the Pew Research Center showed 56% of voters said abortion would be “very important” at the polls after the US supreme court struck down the 1973 Roe v Wade ruling that established the right to terminate a pregnancy.

A separate poll from the Wall Street Journal found that 60% of voters support abortion rights in most or all cases.

Media Matters said it is not new for Republicans – who hailed the supreme court ruling in June – to fixate on crime and the concept of “law and order” as a topic in national elections.

The left-leaning nonprofit pointed to a notorious ad about a convicted murderer, Willie Horton, that George HW Bush aired during his successful run to the Oval Office in 1988. The ad accused his Democratic rival, Michael Dukakis, of being soft on crime while Massachusetts governor because Horton raped a woman and robbed a man during a temporary furlough from prison in that state.

Media Matters also said that Carlson and Republicans have echoed each other before. For instance, Republicans joined the star Fox News host in characterizing Black activists’ protests against police brutality after the 2020 murder of George Floyd as a threat to safety.

But despite the increase in overall crime that the US has experienced in recent years across Democratic and Republican cities and states, murder and other violent offenses remain well below levels in the early 1990s, part of which was under a Republican White House.

While property crime rates have fallen, murder rates have increased roughly equally in Republican-controlled cities as in their Democratic counterparts, said a Brennan Center for Justice report cited by Media Matters.

The analysis also found that Republican candidates have not clearly outlined what federal-level policies they would adopt to drive down crime.

Despite claims that Joe Biden has done nothing to address crime, the president recently signed both the first federal gun safety bill in nearly 30 years and the American Rescue Plan, under which he successfully pushed for $10bn for policing and public safety.

Every Republican in Congress opposed the American Rescue Plan, which was aimed at helping the national economy recover in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

A spokesperson for New York City-based Fox News did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the Media Matters analysis.