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Cat Got Your Tongue, Brent?

The MRC responds to accusations of bias with, well, more bias.

By Terry Krepel
Posted 12/26/2001

The Media Research Center, like most media-releated entities conservative or otherwise, is much more comfortable being the accuser than being accused. Those MRC folks love to hurl accusations of bias around, but when their own bias is called into question -- at least by certain prominent others -- they get a tad defensive.

Jonathan Alter noted in a Dec. 14 column for MSNBC that the Rev. Jerry Falwell's blame-America comments on Pat Robertson's "700 Club" TV show somehow failed to make the list of questionable post-Sept. 11 statements contained in an MRC package of "good, bad and ugly" quotes on the subject.

MRC responded in two ways. The first was in the Dec. 18 CyberAlert, where Brent Baker defends the exclusion because Falwell's forum did not fit the MRC's definition of news:

Jesse Jackson, many left-wing professors and some far-left politicians also made some pretty stupid comments, but we didn’t quote them either because they are not in the mainstream media. And, unlike (Susan) Sontag, are not part of New York’s literary community given a forum in an establishment magazine or, unlike Maher, do not host a broadcast network show dealing with politics. The 700 Club doesn’t pretend to be an unbiased news show so the MRC does not monitor it, just as we never quoted what Jackson said on his old CNN show since we were able to differentiate it from the rest of the CNN schedule. But I’m sure this is obvious to everyone but Alter.

Is Baker really intimating that Falwell is the right-wing equivalent of Jesse Jackson and should perhaps be treated the way conservatives treat Jackson? Hard to say because it's not said explicitly, the same way he doesn't explicitly criticize Falwell, just vaguely likening his statements to those by so-called left-wingers. And Susan Sontag is not exactly mainstream, either, and neither is the New Yorker, forum in which she made the comments that got her on MRC's bad side, despite Baker's assertion that it's an "establishment" magazine. "The 700 Club" is probably more mainstream than the New Yorker, certainly in the world that the MRC inhabits.

Clomping in right behind is MRC head honcho Brent Bozell himself, who devotes his Dec. 20 column, "Jonathan Alter, Bite Your Tongue," to the subject. "In fact, conservatives most certainly did state their disapproval and to not know this is to prove only that this 'media critic' is awfully selective about what media he reads or listens to," he thunders, noting a few said denunciations.

"And he didn’t hear Falwell apologize," Bozell adds. Bill Maher, host of Politically Incorrect," apologized for his "coward" comment, too, but that didn't stop Bozell from mounting a campaign to get Maher's show canceled. (This would be the show Baker deems worthy of MRC monitoring but Bozell has dismissed as an "obscure late-night" program that wouldn't be missed. Make up your minds, guys.) Bozell then fills out the column with inflammatory, out-of-context statements by "liberal" news people and (speaking of the way conservatives treat Jesse Jackson) goes after Jackson where Baker doesn't, blaming him for "countless racist, dishonest, slanderous personal attacks ... waged on conservatives over the years."

As a man who, among other things, has called former Clinton administration official Eric Holder a “hit man” and attorney Gregory Craig a "political prostitute" and hosted a $125-a-plate banquet for the sole purpose of bashing the Clintons, Bozell certainly knows his way around dishonest, slanderous personal attacks.

Missing from Bozell's column, though, is Bozell's own thoughts on Falwell's statements. Like his employee Baker, he can't bring himself to explicitly state his views one way or another. In fact, a search of MRC's web site indicates Falwell's statements are addressed nowhere -- not in the CyberAlerts, not in Bozell's columns -- except in the two articles listed above.

Bozell, it appears, can't just come out and publicly commit himself to a formal alignment with the religious right, even though his agenda is almost identical to theirs. For instance, a story earlier this year by Bozell's CNS on the Christian Coalition featured an anonymous "prominent conservative activist" defending the group who was almost certainly Bozell.

Bozell should worry less bout what's biting Jonathan Alter's tongue and more about the cat that apparently has his.

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