Topic: Media Research Center
In a Feb. 27 post, NewsBusters blogger Randy Hall gushed over how "Primetime was a great time for Fox News in February, when the channel drew its highest ratings ever and attracted an average of 3.5 million viewers during the second month of 2020.... the 44th consecutive month the FNC has been the most-watched channel in all of basic cable and a 218-month streak as the most-watched cable news network."
Since then, the Media Research Center has steadfastly defended Fox News against charges that the channel has put out misinformation on the coronavirus in service of its pro-Trump agenda -- not by refuting the charges, mind you, since they're basically true, but by playing a lot of whataboutism. Typical of that approach was Kyle Drennen's March 13 post: "MSNBC was eager to exploit the coronavirus to bash cable competitor Fox News, accusing the rival network of spreading “misinformation” about the disease and even endangering the lives of its viewers. The discussion took place on the same show that labeled the virus President Trump’s “Chernobyl” on Thursday.
A March 17 post by Curtis Houck engaged in more juvernile name-calling:
Between Monday night and early Tuesday morning, CNN political commentator Joe Lockhart and MSNBC/NBC legal analyst Glenn Kirschner rhetorically molded and mounted on their heads matching tin-foil hats, insisting that the Fox News Channel and President Donald Trump should face “criminal” and “serious liability” for misinforming the public on the deadly nature of the coronavirus. In the latter’s case, he compared the President to murderers in Washington D.C. he threw in prison.
As a reminder, Lockhart was a Clinton White House Press Secretary while Kirschner was a longtime federal prosecutor and Army JAG officer. And now both offer takes that belong on a liberal equivalent of InfoWars. My how the mighty fall.
Houck added: "Someone alert Lockhart to what the likes of primetime host Tucker Carlson and straight-news reporters like Bret Baier, Shannon Bream, Bill Hemmer, Ed Henry, and Martha MacCallum. He probably views them all the same as the equivalent of news anchors on TASS, but you can’t fix ignorance." But Houck made no effort to reverse that alleged ignorance by citing any actual examples of their work.
Scott Whitlock complained on March 19:
Socialist MSNBC anchor Lawrence O’Donnell on Wednesday night kicked off his prime time show by snarling that competitor Fox News is “endangering your life” with Coronavirus “lies.” The Last Word host, who has himself politicized the virus, insisted that “Fox now takes the pandemic seriously.” But “the sudden switch to taking the pandemic seriously at Fox proves that Fox was lying about it deliberately for weeks and weeks when they were lying in the way they believed Donald Trump wanted them to lie.”
Whitlock didn't counter the claim, nor did he explain why he felt the need to label O'Donnell a "socialist" in a post that had nothing to do with the subject.
The next day, Whitlock served up more whataboutism at another MSNBC host:
Brian Williams is angry at “freaky” Fox News, deriding the network for thinking we’re all “stupid.” The MSNBC late night host, a man who lost his NBC job for lying, on Thursday night attacked Fox for not being honest in its past coverage of the Coronavirus. Talking to Michael Steele, Williams ranted, “The other attempt to tell us what we ourselves saw and heard or did not see and hear really has, at its core assumption, that we must be stupid.”
After playing six words from the March 9 Hannity, in which Sean Hannity used the phrase “bludgeon Trump with this new hoax,” Williams marveled at “the speed with which the entire [Fox] crowd turned around just days ago.” The ex-Nightly News anchor, who falsely claimed his helicopter was shot down over Iraq, added, “And awoke with new seriousness, Fox coverage changed along with the President's verbiage. It was freaky to watch.”
As before, Whitlock failed to explain what bringing up Williams' long-ago sins -- twice! -- had anything to do with anything now beyong gratuitous piling on. He did, however, attempt a weak defense by pointing out that Hannity said other things on that show that didn't downplay the virus. Which, of course, doesn't exactly refute the fact that he did.
But in a March 27 column, Tim Graham effectively admitted that Fox News pushed misinformation, which he reframed as not buying into alleged hype about the virus from the "liberal media":
The liberal pack is prosecuting Fox for supposedly shoving Americans off a coronavirus cliff with “misinformation.” Then they equate “misinformation” with the argument that the pandemic gave the liberal media a new rationale to cripple President Trump politically.
That’s not “misinformation.“ It’s rock-solid, bank-on-it information.
Yes, it’s factually true that the president and the conservative media were suspicious of all the Worst Case Scenarios and expressed skepticism about the threat. Many of us were initially reluctant to be dragged into a massive government intervention. Then Italy happened.
Of course, that worst-case scenario basicaly came true. Don't expect an apology for that.
Graham and the rest of the MRC will never explicitly admit that Fox News did misinform -- that would require actual research, after all, and we know the MRC would never do anything in-depth on Fox News.