Date of Award

Summer 2023

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



Committee Chair

Dr. Christopher P. Campbell

Committee Chair School


Committee Member 2

Dr. Cheryl Jenkins

Committee Member 2 School


Committee Member 3

Dr. David Davies

Committee Member 3 School


Committee Member 4

Dr. Laura Stengrim

Committee Member 4 School


Committee Member 5

Dr. Fei Xue

Committee Member 5 School



The establishment of a crisis theme through public rhetoric often triggers widespread attention, resulting in public concern and media coverage of an issue that could potentially be overblown or deceptive. In right-wing political discourse, this crisis warning is typically delivered by a White male leader with ready access to the powerful news media. An “us versus them” theme often occurs. Within this mode of a hegemonic exclusion, a culture of immigrants or an American minority are often depicted, perhaps aggressively, as a threat: A threat used to motivate, enrage and create the frustrations inherent in ressentiment. This dissertation explores the manner in which damaging crisis talk can thread its way into the media and impact public opinion, legislation and everyday lives. Through an analysis of discourse, official testimony and news coverage, three case studies explore how the strategic use of “othering” occurred towards Muslims and Mexicans in the 21st century. It examines the false depiction of Sharia law and consequent passage of anti-Sharia legislation, the anti-Muslim Congressional hearings sponsored by Rep. Peter King, and the elevated charges of Mexican criminality espoused by former President Donald Trump. A fourth case study illustrates the versatility of this mode of rhetoric through a thematic comparison of two nationalist speeches delivered years apart in vastly different settings by Stephen Bannon and then-president Trump. Findings of the study suggest that many of the themes and tactics throughout these different case studies remain the same. It notes that the reporting of false or overblown claims by the media led to even further repetition and public exposure. It recognizes that the reiteration of these claims by mainstream media were frequently the result of efforts to provide a balanced news story. Finally, it raises awareness of the societal impact of this demonization on the general public and vulnerable minority populations who may be subject to similar treatment and restrictive legislation.