Topic: Media Research Center
The Media Research Center has been in ref-working mode on the moderators for the presidential debates since before they were even named. In August, a month before the debate moderator were announced, MRC chief Brent Bozell was warning of biased moderators and declaring that "I'm watching to see to what degree are you going to have more impartial moderators this time."
When NBC's Lester Holt was named the moderator of the first debate, the MRC was quick to downplay the fact that he was reportedly chosen to appease Donald Trump. Tim Graham huffed in a Sept. 2 post that "Trump likes Holt, but it's not out because he's been tough on Hillary" and was mad that Trump committed jounalism by asking Trump "about his 'staggering negatives' and outrageous statements." Geoffrey Dickens followed up by omitting all mention of the Trump-appeasing choice of Holt to rummage through the MRC archives to dig up "a few examples of Holt’s most liberal moments in his time at NBC."
On Sept. 9, the MRC's Rich Noyes ran to Fox Business to complain that criticism of NBC's Matt Lauer for his hard questioning of Hillary Clinton, and relatively mild question of Trump, during a presidential forum means that Holt is "going to try to be very careful with the questions he's asking Hillary Clinton because of the way he's seeing his colleague being treated." Noyes didn't mention that his employer was mocking Lauer as a lightweight before the forum by mockingly posting photos of his cross-dressing Halloween antics.
The MRC then hilariously went into projection mode, whining about others doing the exact thing it's doing by trying to influence Holt before the debate:
- Under the headline "Working the Refs: Journalists Push Debate Moderators to Be Tougher on Trump," Dickens grumbled that "the liberal media have set the stage for NBC Nightly News anchor Lester Holt and his fellow presidential debate moderators to be rougher with the GOP nominee," emphasizing that Holt is "liberal-leaning."
- Bozell projected in a Fox TV appearance that "Hillary Clinton is already just sort of pre-playing this a little — that the media will be responsible if it shows media bias and doesn't go tough on Donald Trump, that it’s intimidated by Trump, that maybe Lester Holt will be intimidated by Donald Trump just as they argue Matt Lauer was at an NBC town hall event," adding, "They’re working the refs and this comes out of the Clinton playbook." It also comes out of the MRC playbook as well, but Bozell won't tell you that.
Then, when it was revealed that Holt is a registered Republican, the MRC -- which for years has complained about reporters who are registered Democrats -- suddenly decided that party registration was meaningless.
The MRC's NewsBusters Twitter account sent this comment from Bozell on the matter: "So is Colin Powell. So what?" And Graham when into full sulk mode:
The Washington Post and Time magazine are trying to play up the fact that debate moderator Lester Holt is a registered Republican – as if this means anything about his performance. Registering only gives you the right to vote as a Republican. It doesn’t mean that you actually do. It could just be a public-relations ploy.
To prove this, Graham has to go back a whopping 26 years, citing a 1990 MRC item about one journalist who said he was a registered Republican to balance out his Democratic wife and get campaign literature from both sides. But that journalist, Tony Kornheiser, was a sports reporter at the time and, thus, irrelevant to the current discussion.
Graham went on to complain that "If Holt had acted like a "registered Republican" on the air, he'd have never made it to the anchor desk," adding, "Liberals would not suggest that 'a case for partisan bias against Chris Wallace will be tough to make' based on his voter registration." Yet the MRC has not been forthcoming with a greatest-hits item of Wallace "liberal bias." Why is that? Because Wallace is the MRC's guy -- in 2007, Bozell said that the GOP "ought not to suggest, but demand, a Brit Hume or a Chris Wallace as moderators" for a Republican debate.
Graham added, apparently without irony, "The amount of 'gaming' by the Democrats has been intense, even on the morning of the debate." As it has been by the MRC.