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Political Impact vs. Journalistic Reputation

Guess which one is more important to the folks at the Media Research Center?

By Terry Krepel
Posted 12/27/2002

The Media Research Center was no doubt more than glad to fire up the evil-liberal-media machine about the New York Times' crusade to get women admitted to the Augusta National Golf Club. (In fact, MRC has a whole section devoted to "editor and partisan" Howell Raines, as if MRC genuinely cared about news being nonpartisan.) It was in particularly high dudgeon when the Times refused to run two commentaries critical of the paper's policy on the issue.

"How can Times editors contend that the paper’s editorial position does not influence news content when reporters know they better not write any story which could be seen as undermining the paper’s editorial position?" MRC's Brent Baker wrote Dec. 5, completely missing the distinction between news stories and the commentaries that were killed. A Dec. 9 column by Brent Bozell opines that the actions of Raines and his editors show "how they value political impact more than their journalistic reputations." A Dec. 9 CyberAlert noted that the Times ended up running the columns after all, although "censored ... by insisting that criticism of the Times editorial position be removed."

So don't expect the MRC folks to pounce on the news that the publisher of the newspaper in Augusta, Ga., has personally killed or buried stories and commentaries that were critical of the hometown golf club over the membership issue.

Down the hall, meanwhile, joined in the Augusta fun as well, promoting web sites attacking a woman who has led the charge in pushing for female membership. It's one of those CNS-balance type of things, offsetting a story in which the woman criticizes Bryant Gumbel for belonging to an all-male golf club. Or maybe not, since the MRC just loooooves to beat up on Gumbel.

* * *

Another example of what passes for balance at

When a CNS article plugged a book on "why the left hates America," no effort was made to interview anyone who might have challenged the author's ideas, as ConWebWatch has previously noted. When CNS decided to do something on the book "The Emerging Democratic Majority," the majority of the Nov. 29 article was devoted to people who disagreed with the authors' premise.

That's -- valuing political impact over journalistic reputation. (Hmmmm ... here have we heard that before?)

* * *

You know you're at the end of your rhetorical rope when you're resorting to repeating proven lies to make your point. Yet that's what MRC's Brent Bozell does in his Dec. 3 column whacking Al Gore for criticizing the media for being too accepting of Republican talking points. "What is this man talking about?" whines Bozell -- and then proceeds to lie:

Let’s insert here any too-painfully-accurate portrayal of Gore in the last election cycle, and see how it works. Al Gore told Wolf Blitzer on CNN, "I took the initiative in creating the Internet." The television networks ignored this bold-faced lie for weeks. (Blitzer sat through it nodding.) Then, when the RNC hammered on it, the allegedly "less objective" press failed to turn down the volume. Gore didn’t want his truth-bending arrogance "woven into the fabric of the zeitgeist." He wanted the entire media to nod along with Wolf.

Gore's statement, of course, is not a "bold-faced lie." As has been repeatedly demonstrated, Gore's work as a congressman did indeed help lay the foundation for today's Internet. Vinton G. Cerf, the person most often called "the father of the Internet" for his part in designing the network's common computer language, said "I think it is very fair to say that the Internet would not be where it is in the United States without the strong support given to it and related research areas by (Gore) in his current role and in his earlier role as senator." Heck, even Newt Gingrich is on record as saying, "... in all fairness, Gore is the person who, in the Congress, most systematically worked to make sure that we got to an Internet." Not exactly the "truth-bending arrogance" Bozell would like you to believe.

And as the Daily Howler's Bob Somerby has detailed, it was a Republican National Committee talking point -- a misquote that Gore "created the Internet" -- that became the zeitgeist in the mainstream media and allowed people like Bozell to build the image of Gore the liar even when the things he has been accused of "lying" about have a solid foundation in truth.

But Bozell doesn't seem to be terribly interested in the truth. Political impact over journalistic reputation, remember?

* * *

In the middle of its carping about how the evil liberal media was doing Trent Lott wrong, the MRC's Brent Baker pondered another example of alleged liberal bias.

As he complained Dec. 11 that conservatives denouncing Lott's remarks were suddenly newsworthy (well, duh!), Baker noted that one network had cited an article by Byron York at National Review Online denouncing Lott, then added: "Naturally, the networks, other than FNC, have yet to pick up on York’s story about the vote fraud in South Dakota which allowed incumbent Democratic senator Tim Johnson to hold onto his seat."

Perhaps that's because there might not be much truth to the article. State attorney general Mark Barnett -- a Republican, it's worth noting -- dismissed the more than 40 allegations of election improprieties filed, saying at least two of them were fraudulent. He also called the National Review story "shoddy and irresponsible and sensationalistic and garbage."

So, naturally, the National Review has started attacking Barnett as part of the conspiracy. A Dec. 16 article by York insists its allegations are true. "Perhaps Barnett does not think the problems are significant. Perhaps he does not think they fall under the jurisdiction of his office. Perhaps he simply wishes they would all go away," York writes. And an editor's note on the online version of York's original story makes a point of noting that Barnett is "a Republican with designs on the governor's office."

Meanwhile, blogger Joshua Micah Marshall, who has been following the happenings in South Dakota, discovered that the affidavits were "pre-worded" by Republican lawyers involved in the RNC's voter fraud investigation, and pointed out that York's original article never identified Barnett as a Republican.

That should tell you even more about where the MRC and the National Review stand on the political impact-versus-journalistic reputation spectrum.

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