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Shannon McGregor discussed how President Trump transferred his presidential authority, legitimizing far-right, “fringe” news outlets within the Republican Party and the broader media ecosystem. Her team’s analysis involved analyzing Trump’s tweets about three far-right news outlets (One America News Network, Newsmax, and Breitbart) in the context of mainstream media recognition and GOP appearances with the far-right outlets, noting increases in both areas, as Trump provided more legitimacy to these organizations through his presidential authority. McGregor’s team argues that accepting Trump’s authority was a key component of these far-right networks being seen as rightful and gaining power.

To conduct their analysis, McGregor’s team analyzed two independent variables and controlled each for a variety of factors:

1. Mainstream media mentions of far-right news outlets: The team found a mostly positive correlation between Trump’s mentions of the far-right news outlets and coverage in legacy outlets, such as the New York Times, Washington Post, USA Today, and Wall Street Journal.

2. GOP appearances in far-right news outlets: The team analyzed videos. If the title or video contained the name of a GOP congressional member and contained specific keywords (spoke to, peered on, etc.), it was counted as a positive in their dataset. They found OANN, for example, was granted nine of these interviews in 2017, but by 2020 the number had risen to 90. Likewise, Newsmax was given only two of these interviews in 2017, but that amount rose to 76 by 2020.

McGregor explained their studies provide robust evidence of far-right media being legitimized and given authority in the eyes of the GOP and mainstream news media because of former President Trump’s tweets. Through these posts, he conferred authority on news networks that were previously considered “fringe” and contributed to the mainstreaming of dangerous notions such as white supremacy.

Click here to view the talk on YouTube.


Shannon McGregor, Assistant Professor

Department: Hussman School of Journalism and Media; Senior Researcher, Center for Information, Technology, and Public Life | Faculty Profile

Featured on: November 10, 2022 (Event Page)

Session Title: Navigating Politics and the Law (Event Recap

Tools, Information, and Resources:

  • UNC Center for Information, Technology, and Public Life (CITAP): The Center for Information, Technology, and Public Life (CITAP) at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill researches the intersection of politics and digital technology, studying technologies in the context of the people who design, use, and govern them. In the rapidly growing field of research on the role of technology in our society, CITAP’s work is distinctive, uniting multiple fields of study and methodological approaches with a shared Southern, public-institutional view with strong shared research values.