Edited by Scott Wright
[Journal of Language and Politics 20:5] 2021
► pp. 676–695
While the debate around the prevalence and potential effects of fake news has received considerable scholarly attention, less research has focused on how political elites and pundits weaponized fake news to delegitimize the media. In this study, we examine the rhetoric in 2020 U.S. presidential primary candidates Facebook advertisements. Our analysis suggests that Republican and Democratic candidates alike attack and demean the news media on several themes, including castigating them for malicious gatekeeping, for being out of touch with the views of the public, and for being a bully. Only Trump routinely attacks the news media for trafficking in falsehoods and for colluding with other interests to attack his candidacy. Our findings highlight the ways that candidates instrumentalize the news media for their own rhetorical purposes; further constructing the news media as harmful to democracy.