From Fox News to the Far(ther) Right — Calls for Violence and Retribution Follow Trump Verdict

Demonstrating the wit and subtlety that antisemites and conspiracy theorists are so famous for, Stew Peters shared a noose with the words 'extreme accountability' on Telegram. Image: @EyesOnTheRight/Twitter

When Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee for president, was convicted on 34 felony counts in New York on Thursday, it was to be expected that the Right would take the news badly. And indeed—the various factions of the US (but also the international) right-wing have been in meltdown mode since the news of the guilty-verdict broke, threatening everything from violent retribution to killings. 

For those who had, somehow, still hoped that having a convicted felon as a nominee would finally be the red line Republicans wouldn’t cross, it must have been a rude awakening. The vast majority of Republican officials threw their considerable weight behind the convicted felon who is awaiting three other criminal trials in the future. They spun tales of an allegedly biased prosecutor; an unfair jury, despite Trump’s attorneys being involved in jury selection; and a left-wing jury, though even the juror who said they got their news from “Truth Social” voted guilty on all 34 counts.

Donald Trump Junior (paraphrasing Maya Angelou of all people) spoke out in favor of jailing Democrats in order to “retaliate”: 

I wish that wasn’t the case, but we don’t have a choice. They have shown their hand. When people tell you who they are, believe them. If we don’t start fighting fire with fire, they’re just going to keep doing it.

Maine’s ‘moderate’ Republican Senator, Susan Collins

And Junior was not the only one calling for an authoritarian, fascist response to their leader’s conviction (by a jury of his peers) by threatening to jail his political opponents. Claiming that Trump was the victim of a “Soviet-style show trial,” Fox News’ Jesse Watters, vowed “we’re going to regain our strength, and then we’re going to vanquish the evil forces that are destroying this republic.”

Watters also strongly hinted at violence, declaring, “If this judge tries [to give him jail time at his upcoming hearing], there’s going to be a revolution in this country.”

Trump’s guilty verdict, Watters informed viewers, wasn’t the result of a working justice system, but was allegedly cooked up by Democrats, Biden, and the Left, who actually hate you:  

Fear and hatred dominate the Democrat ruling class. They hate Trump more than they love the country. And fear you’ll put him back in power. In that way, they hate you—because power is all they love.

It’s quite telling that one of Fox News’ main hosts is now openly echoing the rhetoric of Steve Bannon, who told the listeners and viewers of his “Real America’s Voice War Room”: 

[…] it’s not President Trump they’re trying to destroy—they’re trying to destroy you. They don’t want you to have a voice and for you not to have a voice, they have to destroy the instrument of MAGA. And that is President Trump, our leader. And you saw today—34 felony counts.

High ranking Democrats, “the Left,” and the judge weren’t the only targets of far-right media figures. NewsMax guest Joe di Genova warned jurors to be “very careful,” while host Carl Higbie seemed to ominously threatened: 

[W]e’re going to find out who these jurors are in the next 24 hours. Some are going to speak, some are not going to speak. But you’ve ruined their lives, Alvin Bragg. They can never hold a normal job again. They can never go anywhere without worry about being harassed.

Watters and right-wing talk radio host Clay Travis engaged in some classic “joking” about threats of physical harm to Democrats, with Travis vowing:

There are red state D.A.s and red state attorney generals [sic] all over this country that should send clarion calls out across this nation and let it be known that there are now new rules and that if you’re going to swing a steel chair at us in the wrestling ring, we’re going to take it back and we’re going to smack you in the face with it harder. Democrats need to fear what Republican prosecutors will do. This can’t be 30 or 40 years ago when everybody has a Manhattan in the country club and talks about the Republican Party. We’re in a real war. Legal warfare is afoot and it’s time to return fire.

To which Watters replied:  

Joe Biden, not mentally fit enough to stand trial but maybe some of his comrades could take a steel chair to the head. Figuratively of course.

Referring to a professional wrestler of the 1980s, Travis shot back: 

Figuratively like Hacksaw Jim Duggan. It could be a 2×4, too. Again figuratively, Jesse. It’s time to go after them.

And while threats of physical harm still have to be concealed as jokes on Fox News, in the swamps of the online Right no such disguises are deemed necessary. Right-wing antisemite and conspiracy theorist Stew Peters, who had previously already called for the execution of Hunter Biden and Anthony Fauci, shared an image of a noose on Telegram, with the words “extreme accountability,” writing: “We are left with NO other option but to take matters into our own hands. ⚔️” Fellow far-right antisemite Mike Cernovic posted on Twitter:

Today was a terrorist bomb detonated on our legal system. A September 11th level attack.

Not one to sit this one out, Jesse Watters’ primetime Fox News predecessor, Tucker Carlson, meanwhile fanned the flames of political violence on Twitter, claiming that Democrats were planning to assassinate former President Trump, while also using the verdict to spread his racist anti-immigrant perspective: 

Import the Third World, become the Third World. That’s what we just saw. This won’t stop Trump. He’ll win the election if he’s not killed first. But it does mark the end of the fairest justice system in the world. Anyone who defends this verdict is a danger to you and your family.

Remarks like those by Watters, Bannon, and Carlson serve as a permission structure for possible political violence enacted against anyone on the wrong side of Donald Trump, by marking them, not just as a political threat to Trump, but as a threat—a physical threat—to the safety of the families of their viewers. In case this message was too subtle, Carlson added: “I feel like we’re being pushed towards Civil War.”

Pushed towards—notice the passive form. Any violence from the pro-Trump side, in this framing, is merely a response to violent actions from “the Left,” the Democrats, or however Carlson et al might choose to identify the enemy. Employing fascist rhetoric in echoing Watters and Bannon, White nationalist Jack Posobiec claimed:

If the Unhumans [Posobiec’s term for anyone he considers a communist, socialist, or marxist] will do this to Trump, imagine what they’ll do to you and your family. Read their playbook to prepare to fight back. The Unhumans are here.

Others from the Right’s militia-sphere have been even more open in their calls for violence. According to the Global Project Against Hate and Extremism, numerous Proud Boys chapters have issued calls to arms: 

Proud Boys Columbus posted a song on YouTube called ‘Get ya Gunz up’ advocating for the use of violence and a message saying ‘any one (sic) else have an insurrection erection?’

Meanwhile, Proud Boys Long Island proclaimed that “anyone who defends this verdict is guilty of treason!” while multiple other chapters of the White supremacist group posted a one-word message: “war.” White nationalist Laura Loomer called for Democrats to be executed on right-wing activist Tim Poole’s livestream after the host had proclaimed:

Not just jail, they should get the death penalty. You know, we actually used to have, the punishment for treason in this country.

At this point, Poole’s livestream ended abruptly—maybe he’d lost his nerve after Loomer’s public call for the execution of Trump’s political opponents. Yet other areas of the online far-right were brimming with similar calls for murder. 

As I’ve examined in more detail on RD, dehumanization is a core element of fascist rhetoric—it’s meant to make it easier to enact violence against the movement’s enemies, often casting them as vermin (as Trump has done) that need to be exterminated. Escalating even further, Posobiec also called for “total victory” (which, like “vermin,” is a Nazi phrase):

It wasn’t just a Stalinist show trial. It was an act of war. The unhumans want you dead. They want your way of life dead. They want to see your children lobotomized and converted to their mindless, lawless, and godless ways.

If Trump doesn’t win the next election, Posobiec vowed: 

[…] you’ll be the slave wondering where it all went wrong, wondering where your children are in the gulags as the invaders from foreign lands set up shop in your house, eat the food off your table, and take the toys out of your children’s hands.

To prevent this, Posobiec claimed ominously, Trump’s followers will have to: 

[…] get the message across by any means necessary before the unhumans have their way and erase you permanently from the history books. Take the path of the hunter, and with one singular voice, we are going to make them the prey.

At the same time, The Federalist’s Sean Davis, who welcomed the Heritage Foundation’s post-verdict decision to fly the “Stop the Steal” movement’s upside-down American Flag above their headquarters, has been in full meltdown on Twitter, live-tweeting a list of the journalists, attorney generals, and Democrats he wants jailed by Republicans:

In 2016, the presidential race was decided based on candidates releasing lists of potential Supreme Court nominees. In 2024, I want to see lists of which Democrat officials are going to be put in prison. This is what happens when you cross the Rubicon.

Davis, who has since issued threats against—among others—President Biden, Judge Juan Merchan, Maxine Waters, CNN commentator Norm Eisen, New York Attorney General Tish James, Democratic lawyer Marc Elias, and Chuck Schumer, claims that Democrats are not “above killing their political opposition.”

Yes, leading voices on the American Right are openly writing lists of which political opponents, members of the justice system, or parts of the media they want jailed, while at least some of their boots on the ground are calling for blood in the streets. In a way, it’s only fitting that the movement, whose dear leader had promised that he would deliver “retribution,” has followed suit—and is saying out loud what Trump has long been promising and alluding to. The noose meant for Mike Pence was a warning to everyone—including those on the Right—of what awaits those who refuse total obedience to Trump. Some appear willing and ready to cash in on that promise. 

A collage of collective outrage at the US justice system

But the US Right isn’t alone in their rage over the verdict rendered by a jury of Donald Trump’s peers. International allies have been quick to condemn the verdict, proclaim Trump’s innocence, and cast the trial as a political hit job. Among those professing their support for Donald Trump were Austrian and leader of the far-right “Identitarian” movement Martin Sellner (who’s called for mass deportations in Germany), right-wing UK politician Nigel Farage, former Brazilian Prime Minister Jair Bolsonaro, and Matteo Salvini, Vice Prime Minister to Italy’s fascist Giorgia Meloni, who called Trump a “victim of judicial harassment and a process of political nature.”

Former conservative UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson demonstrated his knowledge of 20th century organized crime in the US, tweeting: 

This was a machine-gun mob-style hit job on Trump. It was nakedly political—and will make his victory more likely, not less.

Hungarian prime minister and authoritarian Viktor Orbán was quick to rush to Trump’s defense as well, a sentiment also expressed by the Kremlin, whose spokesperson Dmitry Peskov gets the “pot calling the kettle black” award: 

If we speak about Trump, the fact that there is simply the elimination… of political rivals by all possible means, legal and illegal, is obvious.

Matteo Salvini, Vice Prime Minister to Italy’s fascist Giorgia Meloni

It’s no coincidence that the statements issued by Republican politicians, right-wing influencers, and far-right foreign political players sound so similar, peddling the same deranged, authoritarian narratives. It’s no secret that the international Right is closely connected, that they take their cues from one another, network, and exchange ideas, plans, and strategies. Their movements might be fiercely nationalist, but they’re united in their goal to destroy democracy—be it in the US or in their own countries. 

It’s important to understand that the US Right is united behind Donald Trump, a convicted felon; that they’re willing to not just bend the rules or do away with the norms of democratic society, but to do away with democracy altogether, if it means they get to impose their will onto Americans, the majority of whom don’t agree with their worldview. And, should they get the chance to implement their plans, their allies on the global Right will be cheering them on. If this means that their rhetoric incites violence amongst some of their own followers in the meantime—well, that’s clearly a risk they’re willing to take.