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MAGA Media Salivates Over Italy’s Most Far-Right Leader Since Mussolini

The Daily Beast 9/27/2022 Justin Baragona
Photo Illustration by Luis G. Rendon/The Daily Beast/Getty © Provided by The Daily Beast Photo Illustration by Luis G. Rendon/The Daily Beast/Getty

Right-wing media rejoiced this week over news that Italy had elected its most far-right leader since fascist Benito Mussolini was deposed following World War II, describing the victory of Giorgia Meloni and her Brothers of Italy party as “the rise of Christian nationalism.”

With Italy’s flirtation with fascism sending shockwaves throughout Europe and the Western world, MAGA pundits attempted to paint Meloni’s ideology as “middle of the road,” suggesting that she couldn’t be “hard-right” if she won the election.

In just a matter of a few short years, Meloni has helped take the Brothers of Italy from a fringe-right group to the most powerful party in her country. And besides leading the nation’s first far-right government since Mussolini, Meloni also makes history by becoming Italy’s first woman premier.

It isn’t just her hard-line populist positions against abortion, immigration, LGBTQ rights, the European Union, and other social issues that have resulted in her getting labeled with the dreaded f-word: Her party has literal origins in the neo-fascist Italian Social Movement, which was founded by Mussolini’s supporters after his death, and still uses the group’s tri-color flame as its logo. And though she has denounced antisemitism and disavowed parts of Mussolini’s legacy, she also openly praised the fascist dictator in her youth. “Mussolini was a good politician, in that everything he did, he did for Italy,” a 19-year-old Meloni told French television.

Much of her meteoric rise can be attributed to former Trump chief strategist Steve Bannon, who began boosting her during the 2018 election and has spoken at her ultra-nationalist events. The MAGA influencer also pushed to make her a featured speaker at this year’s Conservative Political Action Convention (CPAC), where she made a similar splash as far-right Hungarian leader Viktor Orban, whom she views as a kindred spirit and close friend.

Meloni’s electoral victory was therefore greeted with much celebration on Bannon’s War Room: Pandemic show on Monday. Alongside CPAC organizer Matt Schlapp, the ex-Trump adviser excitedly exclaimed that her win was the “rise of Christian nationalism” while the mainstream establishment was “in full meltdown.” Schlapp, meanwhile, declared that she “skyrocketed” to victory, which was a “warning shot coming from Italy.”Bannon and Schlapp also laid down the groundwork for a talking point that quickly became prevalent in the pro-Trump media ecosphere. “She’s for God, her country, and family. That doesn't seem all that radical. That doesn’t seem all that radical to me,” Bannon stated.

“She is pro-life, she’s pro-Constitution, she’s pro-family, and she’s anti-globalist,” Schlapp noted. “And she fits right neatly in the term of what we call conservative here in America, so as people start reading this propaganda media saying that she’s some kind of fascist, just remember, they’ve called us all fascists.”

British tabloid host Piers Morgan, who recently joined Fox Nation and Murdoch-owned British network TalkTV, insisted Meloni “is not ‘far-right,’” claiming anyone labeling her that needs to “brush up on your Nazi/Fascist history” because she’s really “centre-right.”

Charlie Kirk, founder of Trump-devoted student organization Turning Point USA, also asserted that Meloni’s politics were largely uncontroversial. “It’s not fascist. It’s common sense, it’s normal, it’s middle of the road,” he blared on his podcast.

Appearing on his network’s flagship news program Special Report on Monday evening, former GOP congressman-turned-Fox News host Trey Gowdy bemoaned the media calling Meloni “far-right” while suggesting her victory demonstrated her centrist bona fides.

“I guess what I'm wondering is if you are winning elections, if you are what the people want, at what point does that become the center?” Gowdy wondered. “Who gets to say what is far-right, or what is hard-right?”

Over on Fox News wannabe competitor Newsmax, the commentary incorporated outright cheerleading and revisionist history.

Conservative author Sam Sorbo (wife of Hercules actor and right-wing activist Kevin Sorbo) gushed over Meloni, insisting that “we don’t see neo-fascism” with the incoming premier. Furthermore, according to Sorbo, fascism is actually a left-wing ideology.

“Fascism has everything to do with socialism,” she said to the credulous Newsmax anchors. “That’s why Mussolini joined with Hitler during WWII. And Hitler was not a fascist, Hitler was a socialist. Mussolini was a fascist.”

Newsmax host and serial plagiarist Benny Johnson, who spent Monday online raving about “Based” Meloni, also took to his channel’s airwaves to effusively praise the new premier. “Meloni doesn’t want globalist control, she doesn't want the Italians to essentially be melted into a pot of all Europeans and treated like a number instead of a unique, individual human being,” he proclaimed. “Populism is popular.”

In the end, though, it was up to the host of the most-watched primetime show on cable news to put his stamp of approval on Meloni. Tucker Carlson, who has relentlessly boosted Orban and

Brazil’s authoritarian president Jair Bolsonaro, delivered a full-throated endorsement of the incoming Italian prime minister on Monday night. And he called for a similar candidate in the U.S.

“American families are facing the very same onslaught from the very same poisonous ideologies,” Carlson emphatically stated. “The difference is that in this country it's rarely acknowledged, except on the fringes. Meloni is not on the fringes. She's the new prime minister of Italy—she will be—and she's saying it out loud.”

Before playing a clip of a Meloni, speech, the Fox star added: “As you watch this, ask yourself if you would vote for a candidate like this if you had the chance in our country.”

Read more at The Daily Beast.

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