What do you do when your Trump-endorsed nominee in a crucial Senate race is an unpopular, psuedoscience-peddling, carbetbagging creep who owns himself online damn near every day? You enlist your propaganda arm to ruthlessly attack his opponent, of course.
That’s what seems to be going on at Fox News, where the primetime hosts have mentioned Pennsylvania Lieutenant Gov. John Fetterman a stunning 120 times since Labor Day—more than six other competitive Democratic Senate nominees combined. (The candidates in Arizona, Georgia, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio, and Wisconsin got a total of 96 mentions.)
Media Matters analyzed the shows Tucker Carlson Tonight, Hannity, and The Ingraham Angle (God help them) to uncover this Fetterman Fixation, as well as the fact that the hosts referenced Republican nominee Mehmet Oz 48 times, more than twice as often as the other GOP candidates.
In a statement to Jezebel, Fetterman communications director Joe Calvello said, “The rightwing echo chamber is doing everything they can to stop John because they know he is going to take on Washington and the elites. But we are not backing down one bit.”
Sean Hannity—who supported Oz in the primary—mentioned Fetterman the most at 52 times, followed by Tucker Carlson at 40, and Laura Ingraham at 28.
The attacks appear to be working: A July 28 Fox News poll showed Fetterman up by 11 points, 47 percent to 36 percent; but a new poll published on September 28 showed the race narrowing, with Fetterman’s lead down to four points, 45 percent to 41 percent, and within the poll’s margin of error. A Franklin & Marshall Poll out this week also put Fetterman at just three points ahead, and found his unfavorable ratings went up by 10 points since August.
If your candidate can’t get support on their own, you go super negative on their opponent, hoping some voters will stay home.
Tucker Carlson spun conspiracy theories about Fetterman’s tattoos, which prompted Fetterman to write an essay about them for NBC News. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich has also been obsessed with the ink, creating his own little saga of why the tattoos are Very Scary, and yes, going on Hannity to talk about it.
Basically, Republicans have targeted the Pennsylvania Senate race as one they can win if they go all in on it, and Democrats are not taking the threat seriously enough. Dr. Oz is the worst candidate we’ve seen in at least a decade, and if he loses because Republicans manage to frame his tattoo as a gang tat—and Republicans thus win control of the Senate, the Democratic Party should be embarrassed.