The Culture & Media Institute serves as the Media Research Center's base of supporting "traditional values" -- which typically translates into anti-gay rants, defending Sarah Palin, and tacitly condoning the deaths of abortion doctors.
By Terry Krepel
When the Media Research Center created the Culture & Media Institute in October 2006, its announced purpose was to "advance, preserve, and help restore America’s culture, character, traditional values, and morals against the assault of the liberal media." Inaugural director Robert Knight, a longtime right-wing activist, added, "I look forward to working with the MRC’s experts and unparalleled resources to expose how the media undermine faith, morality, marriage, thrift, generosity, manners, modesty, entrepreneurialism and patriotism."
In reality, CMI has acted a lot like its parent -- a MRC with an even more overdeveloped sense of outrage and prudishness. It has launched attacks on those it has deemed liberal or insufficiently conservative while ignoring similar behavior by conservatives.
CMI kicked off its existence by embracing the "War on Christmas" meme promoted by its conservative fellow travelers. A Dec. 7, 2006, CMI article by Kristen Fyfe asserted: "The war on Christmas is not a figment of the imaginations of Fox News or conservative Christians, as the liberal media would have you believe."
Actually, as ConWebWatch has detailed, the so-called "War on Christmas" was promoted by right-wing legal groups such as the Alliance Defense Fund and dependent on right-wing media outlets such as Fox News, WorldNetDaily and, yes, CMI to uncritically promote those claims.
CMI also joined the MRC's agenda in attacking two employees of John Edwards' presidential campaign for remarks critical of Christianity they made on their personal blogs before they joined the campaign. A Feb. 13, 2007, CMI article by Fyfe denounced the pair as "vitriol-spewing anti-Christian bloggers" who were being turned into martyrs by the "liberal media" after the Catholic League's William Donohue joined the effort to get them fired, adding: "None of these outlets reported Bill Donohue's thoughtful arguments regarding Marcotte." That may be because Donohue is not exactly known for "thoughtful arguments." He is, after all, prone to rants about "gook jokes" and "secular Jews" controlling Hollywood and bashing Christians, as well as a certain inconsistency in his outrage.
(Fyfe also failed to disclose that her boss, Brent Bozell, is on the board of advisors of Donohue's Catholic League.)
In seeming contradiction of its mission, CMI took sides in the 2008 presidential race, serving as a defender of Republican John McCain and his running mate, Sarah Palin.
Joining in the general hypocrisy of its MRC parent, Knight endeavored in a March 20, 2008, article to defend Rev. Jerry Falwell from claims that he was the conservative equivalent of Rev. Jeremiah Wright, longtime pastor to Barack Obama whom Obama finally had to abandon due to his controversial statements. Knight declared any such comparison scurrilous" and "vile," insisting that "Jerry Falwell was no hater. After his most controversial moment, when he blamed pro-abortion and pro-homosexual groups for 9-11 as God’s punishment on America for abandoning moral standards, he apologized."
In fact, Falwell's "apology" was a rather tepid one, telling CNN that while "I would never blame any human being except the terrorists" (and specifically apologizing only for having "left that impression with gays or lesbians or anyone else"), he added that "I do believe, as a theologian, based upon many Scriptures and particularly Proverbs 14:23, which says 'living by God's principles promotes a nation to greatness, violating those principles brings a nation to shame.'"
CMI also sought to equivocate away controversial statements by John Hagee and Rod Parsley, two pastors who had endorsed McCain. A May 6, 2008, article by Kristen Fyfe asserted: "It is obvious that Newsweek is seeking to mitigate the damage Wright has done to Obama by trying to make a comparison to the Hagee-McCain relationship. But the comparison doesn’t work because Hagee wasn’t McCain’s pastor for twenty years and McCain has been specific in saying that his relationship with the pastor is based on Hagee’s pro-Israel stance." A May 22, 2008, article by Brian Fitzpatrick complained that " major media outlets have attempted to hang a Reverend Jeremiah Wright around the neck of presumptive Republican presidential nominee John McCain" by highlighting the Hagee and Parsley statements.
Fyfe again equivocated on Hagee and Parsley in a June 26, 2008, article: "Neither man, however, was McCain’s pastor or regularly preached at his church."
In the fall of 2008, CMI cranked out a report purported to document how Americans "turned against" Sarah Palin because of "a blizzard of bad reports" about her, "running 18 negative stories for every positive one." But as ConWebWatch detailed, CMI carefully limited the report's scope to make its real point of complaining that there was any negative coverage of Palin.
Condoning deaths of abortion doctors
Abortion is a particular focus at CMI, manifesting itself in a passive-aggressive approach to violence against abortion providers that tacitly endorses such violence even while purporting to denounce it.
In an April 2, 2009, article, Colleen Raezler complained that the media allegedly failed to report the fact that the victims of a plane crash were an abortion doctor and his family. Raezler's repeated insistence that "loss of human life is a tragedy" belied her overall tone that she really believed the deaths of these people weren't. She turned in a repeat passive-aggressive performance in a June 2, 2009, article co-authored with Sarah Knoploh, suggesting that murdered abortion doctor George Tiller deserved to die:
Loss of human life is a tragedy and should be reported as such, and premeditated murder is always wrong something all the mainstream pro-life groups were quick to affirm in the wake of the killing. But in reporting this tragic story, the news media have much to say about a man who helped provide women with the “right” to end their pregnancies, but have little to say about lives he helped to end. In failing to highlight what Tiller’s work actually entailed, reporters do nothing to help their audience understand why this man was targeted.
By suggesting that Tiller was killed for completely understandable reasons, she's also claiming that it's completely understandable that someone would want to murder him, her disingenuous blather about how "loss of human life is a tragedy" notwithstanding.
(A Sept. 22, 2009, CMI article by Raezler carried the faux-outrage headline "ABC Perpetuates Myth of Violent Pro-Lifers." One can assume that Tiller -- or Barnett Slepian, or David Gunn, or Robert Sanderson and Emily Lyons, or Shannon Lowney and Lee Ann Nichols -- would beg to differ.)
in a July 14, 2009, article, Knoploh complained that the TV networks failed to mention that one of the anti-abortion protesters who disrupted Sonia Sotomayor's confirmation hearing was Norma McCorvey, the "Jane Roe" in the original Roe v. Wade ruling that legalized abortion who is now an anti-abortion activist. "McCorvey’s outburst should have received more attention from the networks," Knoploh insisted.
But Knoploh was mum about one aspect of McCorvey's disruption, as well as that of three others who similarly disrupted the hearing with anti-abortion statements. As the Washington Post reported in an article to which Knoploh linked:
All appeared to be players in the shock street-theater troupe of Randall Terry, who founded Operation Rescue 20 years ago and yesterday brought his provocative props to his latest venue. Outside the Hart Building, Terry and his band brandished posters of aborted fetuses and children's coffins holding dolls covered in stage blood. A demonstrator dressed in a judge's robes carried the sickle of the Grim Reaper.
As ConWebWatch has detailed, CMI's parent, the MRC, and the rest of the ConWeb had been trying to ignore Terry, particularly after he essentially condoned the killing of Tiller. This means that McCorvey is far beyond the merely "concerned" and "passionate" activist Knoploh portrays; she's in thrall to an extremist who condones murder.
Knoploh embraced the Depiction-Equals-Approval Fallacy in a Feb. 26 CMI item, claiming that a Washington Post article on Carol Ball, a Minnesota abortion provider who travels to South Dakota to perform abortions, "not only turned Ball into a hero, but sympathized with her 'difficult' situation." Knoploh also stated that the Post "quoted the clinic director, sympathizing further with the pro-abortion side of South Dakota’s controversy."
That's right -- Knoploh is asserting that a news outlet merely quoting someone means said outlet endorses whatever that person has to say.
Knoploh insisted the article shows that "Pushing a liberal pro-abortion agenda is nothing new for the Post"; one of the examples she provides of that "agenda" is of the Post "featur[ing] a medical student’s opinions about why she supported abortion in June 2009." A total of three stories over two years were cited, but Knoploh offers no explanation of how that equates to compelling evidence of a "pro-abortion agenda."
CMI also has an issue with the existence of gay people. For example, a Nov. 25, 2009, article by Colleen Raezler declared that it's "selfish" for gays to come out of the closet during the holidays because it's "possibly ruining" those holidays for other members of the family. Raezler also felt the need to take a comedian's jokes seriously, bashing Kevin Meaney (who name is misspelled throughout as "Meany") for claiming that "he came out by descending a staircase in a Speedo singing, 'I am what I am, I am my own special creation' while 'the in-laws are going, ‘lamb of God, take away the sins of the world'" and that he "joked about the ultimate selfishness when he told the panel his tale of trying to save his marriage by asking his wife to 'have a sex change operation.'"
A Jan. 5 article by Plocher is one long screed against the American Library Association for daring to recommend book to youth that have gay characters. Plocher took the Depiction-Equals-Approival Fallacy approach to the issue, essentially claiming that any book that does not denounce homosexuality is "pro-homosexual" and, thus, is not "good, wholesome literature." She attacked what she portrayed as the ALA's focus on "authentic literature," with special focus on a graphic novel (to which Plocher helpfully adds, "aka a comic book") called "Skim," which features "a depressed, gothic, homosexual, Wicca-worshipping high school girl":
The ALA claims that “authentic literature” like “Skim” more accurately portrays the gritty, real American life, and therefore, has more literary merit. It’s a manipulative tactic that has effectively stocked library shelves across the nation with pro-homosexual books that inevitably fall into children’s hands.
Plocher offers no evidence that "Skim" is "pro-homosexual." And despite the fact that the book has received numerous honors, Plocher seems to have decided that "good, wholesome literature" with literary merit punishes gays for being gay, a rule "Skim" apparently does not follow.
Plocher further complained that "More than a dozen high school libraries rejected over 100 books that featured conservative perspectives on homosexuality, which were offered by the Colorado-based Focus on the Family." Plocher doesn't mention whether the views promulgated in those books have any basis in reality.
In a Feb. 9 CMI item, Knoploh invoked the Depiction-Equals-Approval Fallacy by claiming that actress Anne Hathaway's decision to leave the Catholic Church was met by "media cheers." How so? "USA Today, New York magazine and The Huffington Post used the public break as an opportunity to scold the Church."
Knoploh's definition of "scolding," however, is as skewed as declaring short blurbs in three unrelated media outlets to be "cheers." There's no "scolding" whatsoever; all these outlets did is report what Hathaway has said on the issue. All three outlets reported Hathaway statement that "Why should I support an organization that has a limited view of my beloved brother?"
Knoploh also took offense at references to the Catholic Church's "intolerant views on homosexuality," but she didn't dispute the accuracy of the characterization. Knoploh also appeared to scoff at the idea that Hathaway once thought as a child about becoming a nun. But following such a vocation has undoubted been considered by Catholic children at some point in their childhoods, however fleetingly.
Knoploh's wildly inaccurate confusion of reporting and opinion was followed by Plocher's declaration in a Feb. 11 CMI post that Hathaway "recently announced to a cheering media" she was leaving the church.
Knoploh portrayed herself a a reader of reporter's mind, declaring in a March 4 item on the legalization of gay marriage in the District of Columbia, Knoploh declared that Washington Post reporters "cheered that the 'fight' for gay marriage had won in the district" and were "giddy" about it."
How does Knoploh know the reporters were "giddy" and "cheer[ing]"? She doesn't, of course -- she's merely imparting motives she cannot possibly know to people she has in all likelihood never met. In her mind, all reporters are biased, and if they don't work for a right-wing outlet like CMI sister organization CNSNews.com, they are hopelessly liberal, and all liberal reporters inject their stories with liberal bias. That's just axiomatic in MRC-land.
On March 12, Raezler followed up with a bit of research claiming that the Post "[q]uoted supporters 10 times more often than opponents" on the subject of gay marriage in the previous seven days as gay marriage became legal in Washington, D.C. Raezler went on to sniff: "Nobody can accuse The Washington Post of being objective when it came to covering the District of Columbia’s decision to legalize same-sex marriage. The Post has reported on the event with a celebratory zeal more appropriate to The Advocate or The Blade."
Post ombudsman Andrew Alexander responded to CMI in his March 21 column:
"As soon as this became law, it was basically The Washington Post standing up and saying 'Yay!' " Dan Gainor, the group's vice president, said in an interview. "It's news," he acknowledged, but the coverage was excessive and "one-sided." Conservatives see it as evidence that The Post is hopelessly liberal, he said.
But CMI has no intention of conceding that its attack was narrowly drawn with a partisan, Post-bashing agenda in mind. A March 25 article by Raezler made a passing mention of Alexander's column, then bashed the Post anew, claiming that "the Post itself keeps piling up evidence of its pro-gay agenda."
A March 11, 2009, article by Matt Philbin renamed the "Totally Stylin' Tattoos Barbie" doll as "Tramp Stamp Barbie," going on assert that it reflects "the aesthetics of our porn-sodden culture," and adding: "From here, the path is clear: next year comes "Urban Ken" with shaved head, baggy pants and barbed wire ink around his neck. Then, 'Body Piercing Barbie' and 'Pole Dance Barbie.' Finally the 'Malibu Dream House' will be updated into 'Secluded San Fernando Valley Rental Dream House.'" Philbin also took offense at the existence of Dora the Explorer, deriding her as "the most excruciatingly multicultural cartoon star not under contract to PBS" and as "a repository of feminist ideas about child-rearing. She’s an adventurer in non-gender-specific clothes. No tea parties or doll houses for her!"
An April 15, 2009, CMI article by Jeff Poor and Colleen Raezler criticized the "liberal media’s disdain for conservative women," specifically attacking MSNBC for apologizing over slights toward Hillary Clinton and other liberal women but claims it has a "strategy" of "insult, insult, insult" toward conservative women and hurling "belittling, degrading, sexist comments" toward them. Yet CMI has never held its fellow conservatives to account for the sexist remarks they make. Rush Limbaugh or Michael Savage, for instance, are two conservatives with very long histories of making "belittling, degrading, sexist comments" toward liberal women.
As she had done with Washington Post reporters on gay marriage, Knoploh imparted emotions to a reporter she can't possibly know in a March 2 item, asserting that a USA Today reporter "lamented" a business slump in the "porn industry," assailing the reporter for writing about it "as though it was just another suffering business" and snarking, "The poor porn industry." How does Knoploh know the reporter "lamented" the state of the porn industry? She doesn't -- she's merely invoking the Depiction-Equals-Approval Fallacy by essentially claiming that any reporter who reports on pornography must endorse it and may be an actual user of it. (That's not just a logical fallacy -- in this case, it may be libelous.)
Knoploh further claimed that "This is not, however, the first time the media has pitied the porn industry." Again, Knoploh offers no evidence of "pity," just another article reporting on the industry's slump.
Note to Sarah Knoploh: Reporters write all the time about things they don't personally approve of. Does every reporter who writes about a murder endorse it? Knoploh apparently thinks so.
Such illogical presumptions may not fly at most places of employment, but they are embraced at CMI -- not to mention its MRC parent.