An Exhibition of Conservative Paranoia
Exhibit 68: Denial of Reality Attack
The Media Research Center's Brad Wilmouth keeps insisting that GOP Rep. Steve Scalise didn't give a speech to a David Duke-led white nationalist group -- despite the fact that Scalise apologized for giving it.
By Terry Krepel
The Media Research Center has demonstrated how allergic it has become to facts during the Trump era. But the MRC's Brad Wilmouth -- once employed there as a "news analyst," now just a blogger for its NewsBusters operation -- has taken this to an extreme.
In a September 2016 post, Wilmouth was offended that CNN guest and college professor Jason Johnson asserted that Trump "continually associates himself with terrorist organizations like the Klan," complaining that "Johnson has a history of making incendiary accusations of racism." Johnson's claim about a Trump-KKK link was overstated (though not without basis), so Wilmouth has something of a point.
But Wilmouth tried to go further, asserting that in a TV appearance earlier in the year, Johnson "repeated a discredited claim that Louisiana Republican Rep. Steve Scalise spoke to a white supremacist group in Louisiana in 2002." Wilmouth linked to one of his own posts on the subject from February 2016 that offered this defense for Scalise:
The story about Rep. Scalise speaking to a racist group originated in December 2014 with a liberal blogger who claimed that the Louisiana Republican spoke at a convention for the European-American Unity and Rights Organization -- founded by white supremacist and former KKK leader David Duke -- in the congressman's home state in 2002.
Actually, according to PolitiFact, Knight has "provided several conflicting accounts of the conference and Scalise’s involvement," claiming both that Scalise spoke early to the confab and also that he didn't speak at all. So it seems Knight is not exactly a reliable witness.
But Wilmouth seems to have missed a more important and salient fact: More than a year before Wilmouth wrote his post, Scalise issued an apology for speaking to Duke's organization:
“Twelve years ago, I spoke to many different Louisiana groups as a state representative, trying to build support for legislation that focused on cutting wasteful state spending, eliminating government corruption, and stopping tax hikes,” Scalise said in his latest statement.
Other MRC writers and bloggers had run to Scalise's defense before. P.J. Gladnick, for instance, seized upon a Slate report quoting a Knight claim that Scalise never spoke to the group, huffing that "Whether one politically supports or opposes Scalise, he doesn't deserve being smeared over something that didn't happen." But Wilmouth has shown himself to be almost pathologically devoted to spinning or completely ignoring facts that counter his insistence that Scalise never spoke to Duke's group.
After Scalise was wounded in a shooting in June, that claim returned to the air -- as did Wilmouth's dishonest defense. In a June 15 MRC post, Wilmouth complained that "CNN correspondent Randi Kaye repeated a discredited claim that Republican Rep. Steve Scalise 15 years ago spoke to a group founded by white supremacist and former KKK leader David Duke." He continued:
Kaye began the report by recalling that the Republican congressman has a well known love of baseball, and then moved to recounting his history in Congress. The CNN correspondent soon got to the claims about him speaking to white supremacists as she continued: "In 2014, after House Majority Leader Eric Cantor lost his primary, Scalise jumped into the race. But during that campaign, questions were raised about a speech he gave to a group led by former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke back in 2002."
Wilmouth didn't mention that Knight has no credibility, or that Scalise apologized for the speech.
So desperate is Wilmouth to cling to his falsehood that he issued a rare MRC attack on Fox News in a June 16 post in which he finally admitted that Scalise apologized for giving the speech -- but that pertinent fact didn't matter because that totally discredited guy said he didn't give it:
The discredited claims that House Majority Whip Steve Scalise 15 years ago spoke to a white supremacist group founded by former KKK leader David Duke have left such a mark, that the claims even manage to make it onto Fox News Channel more than two years after the more dominant drive-by liberal media seized on them.
Wilmouth spun even harder in a June 23 post complaining that Salon's Chauncey DeVega "repeated the discredited claim that Scalise spoke to a 'white supremacist' group in 2002," still insisting that Scalise's apology didn't prove anything:
Not mentioned by DeVega is that even liberal outlets like Slate, Newsweek, and the Daily Beast have run stories that undermined claims that Scalise spoke to the white racist EURO organization that were based on three eyewitnesses, a promotion flyer for the conference, and a newsletter writeup after the event that did not mention Scalise's presence.
Brad, honey, Scalise apologized for speaking to the group. That trumps any defense you're offering. Accept it and move on with your life.
This is the state of "media research" these days at the MRC.