The MRC Doubles Down on Double Standards
It seems that if the Media Research Center didn't engage in double standards at seemingly every turn, it wouldn't have any standards at all.
By Terry Krepel
Any conservative organization that's been around as long as the Media Research Center has is bound to have its share of double standards -- judgments applied differently to conservatives than to others who oppose the MRC's right-wing ideology.
But over the past year, the MRC has been positively infested with a plague of double standards, contradicting itself on issue after issue. Let's review, shall we?
Celebrities' political opinions
The MRC's Brent Bozell promoted his organization's list of insufficiently conservative quotes of the year in a Dec. 31 Newsmax interview, keeping up the ruse that a blog post by a non-reporter working for a non-news organization -- winner of the MRC's top award -- constitutes "reporting."
The winner of the MRC's "quote of the year" was not a network or even a newspaper employee, but a blogger, Melissa Lafsky, who is described by the MRC as "Discover magazine deputy web editor... who formerly worked on the New York Times’s Freakonomics blog," and whose post appeared at Huffington Post. Lafsky had the misfortune of running afoul of the MRC's Kennedy hate machine by writing upon Kennedy's death that "[One wonders what] Mary Jo Kopechne would have had to say about Ted’s death, and what she’d have thought of the life and career that are being (rightfully) heralded. Who knows maybe she’d feel it was worth it."
The selection of this quote is more about the MRC's near-pathological hatred of Ted Kennedy than its stated goal of exposing "the year's worst reporting."
But Bozell also made this statement about insufficiently conservative statements by celebrities: "This is why you listen to these people from Hollywood and you tell them they really need to stick to memorizing their lines and repeating their lines. Don’t use that mind of yours. Don’t exercise that brain muscle, because you tend to make a fool out of yourself."
If Bozell is so opposed to celebrities expressing political opinions, why does his NewsBusters blog include in its roster of bloggers Pat Boone and Charlie Daniels? As ConWebWatch detailed, Boone's lone contribution to NewsBusters thus far was an entry that repeatedly took statements by Obama out of context to falsely portray him as "a president without a country."
Bozell slobbered over Daniels in a Sept. 10 column, boasting that "I’ve come to know Charlie Daniels personally" and declaring him to be someone who "loves America," which makes him a "a pop culture pariah." That, apparently, is enough to garner oneself a blogging slot at NewsBusters.
F-words by vice presidents
Jeff Poor spent an entire March 24 MRC Culture & Media Institute article complaining that the media "applied two different standards" to Joe Biden's and Dick Cheney's 2004 use of the F-word on the Senate floor.
It seems not to have occurred to Poor that Biden used the F-word in excitement and celebration, while Cheney used it in hate and anger, intended as a deliberate insult to a sitting senator, Patrick Leahy. Is Poor really not able to tell the difference between the two?
By the way, a search of the MRC archive for what it had written on Cheney's F-bomb at the time revealed ... nothing. Zip, zero, nada. Even the notorious prudes at the MRC couldn't get worked up over it.
If the MRC gave Cheney a pass then, it has no moral authority to complain about Biden now.
From the Department of Manufactured Outrage, Dan Gainor complains in a May 5 MRC Business & Media Institute column about liberals who "think it’s OK to compare everything to Nazis as a way of bashing conservatives and pushing every agenda item, from nationalized health care to immigration amnesty." Gainor makes sure to include examples of such.
Missing from Gainor's column, of course, is any actual outrage of conservatives tossing the Nazi smear around, let alone any examples. Gainor does make a passing mention of "some" conservatives who "compared Obama to Hitler," but, again, he can't be bothered to name names or specifically criticize the practice beyond the tepid closer "Let’s be honest. Conservatives aren’t Nazis. Neither are liberals."
While Gainor whines that "journalists and liberals love this Nazi double-standard," he's engaging in his own -- calling out liberals but afraid to call out his fellow right-wingers.
Noel Sheppard complained in a May 18 NewsBusters post that "our nation's media couldn't care less" about "an international conference discussing the scientific holes in the theory of man-made global warming." Sheppard is referring to the Fourth International Conference on Climate Change, spearheaded by the right-wing deniers at the Heartland Institute.
While Sheppard ignores the institute's political leanings and downplays the biased, deniers-only nature of the conference, he does let slip -- though not until his final paragraph -- one reason why the conference has been ignored by "our nation's media": "Readers are advised that the Media Research Center is a co-sponsor of this conference."
That's right -- the MRC is helping to fund this biased conference.
But it seems that if this conference is so important to right-wingers, the right-wing media should be covering it as well. But it isn't.
CNSNews.com isn't covering the conference, even though its MRC parent is funding it. The MRC's Business & Media Institute has published several articles by Jeff Poor from the conference, but at no point in any of these articles does Poor disclose that the MRC is funding what he's writing about.
This is not the first time that Sheppard has complained about media coverage of a subject that his own media has also ignored. On May 5, Sheppard lamented that "you may not know much about" devastating flooding in Nashville because of "all the attention media have given to the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and the failed car bomb attempt in New York's Times Square." Sheppard was followed by a NewsBusters complaint by Charlie Daniels that the flooding was "never really trumpeted in the national media."
But as Media Matters' Eric Boehlert pointed out, the Nashville flooding received even less coverage from right-wing news outlets such as the Washington Times and the New York Post, and Fox News ran half as many segments on the flooding that CNN did.
If the right-wingers' own media won't cover Sheppard's favorite subjects, what right does he have to complain that the "mainstream" media isn't covering them?
Sexual misconduct by politicians
It's kinda cute how the boys at the MRC got so annoyed by reports that South Carolina Republican gubernatorial candidate Nikki Haley had an affair.
Tim Graham whined that the accusation is "unproven" and lacks "details or proof," later insisted that the charge is "unsubstantiated." TimesWatch's Clay Waters lamented that the charges are being reported in the media "without substance like emails or phone messages." Scott Whitlock asserted that MSNBC "didn't let lack of proof stand in the way of interviewing a man claiming he had an affair with a conservative favorite." Mark Finkelstein suggested that the story is not worthy of coverage because "Haley has categorically denied the allegations" and that those making the allegations are "men with possible political axes to grind."
This not only runs counter to the MRC's previous enthusiastic promotion of adultery allegations against Bill Clinton despite lack of substantiation -- indeed, in 1994, the MRC was upset that "the national media" wasn't digging deeply enough into "the questions surrounding Clinton's personal life" -- it also runs counter to the MRC's enthusiastic promotion of adultery allegations against John Edwards long before there was any credible substantiation of it.
As ConWebWatch detailed at the time, the MRC was flogging the affair even though the only thing approaching evidence they had at the time was a National Enquirer story. P.J. Gladnick complained that the media was "maintain[ing] their silence on the alleged John Edwards scandal, and was later annoyed that the supermarket tabloid was not considered a reliable news source. And Brent Bozell later praised the "New Media" -- of which the Enquirer is apparently a part -- for spreading the rumors despite a lack of actual evidence.
All of which, of course, ran against the MRC's previous denouncement of salacious allegations against Republican politicians as "rumor and gossip, fit to print only for the likes of the National Enquirer."
It seems that the MRC's ethics on such things are situational, invoked only when they can used to forward its right-wing agenda. That makes the MRC a somewhat effective political organization -- not someplace to turn for serious media analysis.
Meanwhile, a July 1 NewsBusters post by Mark Finkelstein accused MSNBC's "Morning Joe" of overlooking a different sexual misconduct story, this one involving Al Gore being accused of making sexual advances on a masseuse. Finkelstein doesn't mention that Gore had "categorically denied" the accusation -- thus making it, by his own standards in the Haley case, unworthy of coverage by anyone.
Interfering with a reporter's job
A June 30 NewsBusters post by Lachlan Markay complained that "The White House has gone to extraordinary lengths to prevent the press corps from having meaningful access to Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan," repeating claims by the right-wing Judicial Watch that it "apparently blocked a New York Times reporter from sitting in on Kagan's brother Irving's constitutional law class at Hunter College High School."
Markay presents this all as something shocking. So why isn't he similarly outraged that the publisher of his blog posts has done pretty much the same thing?
MRC vice president for business and culture Dan Gainor tried to coordinate a blackball conspiracy by trying to get his fellow right-wingers to stop talking to ex-Washington Post blogger Dave Weigel. Gainor was proud enough of his anti-Weigel crusade to talk to Politico about it, but he didn't disclose it in his own attacks on Weigel, most prominently a July 1 column cheering the "self-immolating" of Weigel.
If interfering with a reporter's coverage is a bad thing when Democrats do it, why isn't it bad when Markay's fellow right-wingers do it?
Violence toward others
A July 22 NewsBusters post by Tim Graham complained that in the cherry-picked Journolist email release, there appears a "call for violence," namely that "Spencer Ackerman (now with Wired magazine) is again talking about putting conservatives through a plate-glass window (as in the Caller's first piece), in this case terrorism expert Michael Ledeen." The previous day, Graham highlighted another cherry-picked Journolist post from "an NPR producer who admits flaming hatred for Rush Limbaugh" and wrote that if Rush Limbaugh were dying, she would "Laugh loudly like a maniac and watch his eyes bug out."
Graham, meanwhile, has been silent about a call for violence made by one of his own co-workers. A couple days before Graham's Journolist outrage, Dan Gainor, the Media Research Center's vice president for business and culture, Twittered, "I'll give $100 to first Rep. who punches smary [sic] idiot Alan Grayson in the nose." He later insisted it was "a humorous offer."
Apparently, threatening people with violence is perfectly OK when conservatives do it.
A July 19 NewsBusters post by Noel Sheppard expressed outrage that "CNN this weekend invited a 'diversity consultant' on its 'Saturday Morning' program that actually likened black Tea Party members to Jews that worked as guards in Nazi concentration camps" -- specifically, the guest referenced "kapos." Sheppard declared it to be "disgustingly offensive anti-Tea Party rhetoric" and lamented, "How come folks that condemn inflammatory rhetoric use equally inflammatory rhetoric to castigate those their accusing?"
Sheppard's outrage might be more justified if he and his employer had bothered to condemn the same insult when used by their side.
In April, CNSNews.com -- like NewsBusters a division of the Media Research Center -- published a column by Ben Shapiro in which he asserted that White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel "is a kapo."
Until a recent website redesign glitch eliminated links to outside blogs not beginning with the letters A, B, and C, NewsBusters linked to the right-wing blog Gateway Pundit, whose proprietor, Jim Hoft, similarly portrayed Emanuel as a "kapo." (Like Sheppard, Hoft was full of faux outrage over the CNN segment.)
If "kapo" is such an offensive term, why didn't anyone at NewsBusters condemn Hoft and Shapiro for invoking it? Or lift a finger to stop the organization it's a part of from promulgating the slur?
In a July 23 Business & Media Institute article (and NewsBusters post), Jeff Poor expressed annoyance with the idea that ABC's Jonathan Karl would dare to make global warming denier Sen. James Inhofe -- who insists that the earth is in a cooling trend, despite the fact that the past decade has been the warmest on record -- do an interview outside during a Washington heat wave, "Karl's effort to use the current heat along the East Coast is something the left was up in arms about earlier this year when snow covered much of the country, when it was used to mock the theory of manmade global warming," Poor asserts.
Poor doesn't disclose, of course, that his BMI and his fellow MRC employees at NewsBusters were among the chief promulgators of the idea that record cold in various places last winter disproved global warming -- and that it was not done mockingly. For instance, a March 2009 BMI article by Julia Seymour declared that the fact that "Temperatures have plummeted to record or near-record lows in 32 states this winter" meant that "Reality is not cooperating with the network news’ global warming theme." A Jan. 4 article by Seymour complained: "The news media constantly misuse extreme weather examples to generate fear of global warming, but when record cold or record snow sets in journalists don’t mention the possibility of global cooling trends."
We did find some mocking at BMI: a Jan. 8 article by Matt Philbin bashing the established-beyond-a-doubt fact that weather is not climate, asserting that only "properly indoctrinated young folk" believe such a thing.
Over at BMI's sister organization NewsBusters, such assertions that cold weather disproved global warming, in the form of attacking anyone who said it didn't or otherwise violated conservative correctness on the issue (many of which were penned by Noel Sheppard), were endemic:
Where's the mocking? We couldn't find it.
Criticizing the ADL
An Aug. 2 NewsBusters post by Ken Shepherd claimed that Time magazine's Joe Klein engaged in "self-righteous bluster" in criticizing Anti-Defamation League head Abe Foxman "for his opposition to a planned Islamic center just blocks from Ground Zero in lower Manhattan." Shepherd's post carries the headline, "Joe Klein Defames ADL Leader As Intolerant for Questioning Appropriateness of Mosque Near Ground Zero."
But what was NewsBusters doing earlier this year? Defaming Foxman for committing the conservative sin of criticizing Rush Limbaugh.
A Jan. 24 post by Lachlan Markay attacked Foxman and the ADL for daring to "deride Limbaugh for supposedly offensive comments that they themselves have supported," in this case Limbaugh's statement that Jews who voted for Obama may be feeling "buyer's remorse" because the Obama administration is "assaulting bankers"and "a lot of those people on Wall Street are Jewish." According to Markay, "ADL demonstrated profound hypocrisy in criticizing Limbaugh for simply recounting stereotypes of the Jewish community used throughout history as the basis for often violent campaigns against Jews."
Markay even brought in Ben Shapiro -- the very same beneficiary of of MRC's previous selective outrage -- for support, quoting him further defaming Foxman: "The Jews don't have many friends outside the conservative movement in the United States. When Foxman attacks those friends, he endangers Jews far more than he protects them. And that is a betrayal of his mission and the trust that so much of the Jewish community has placed in him."
Funny how Foxman is an apostate when he engages in conservative incorrectness, but absolutely valuable when he happens to dovetail with right-wing talking points.
A Sept. 1 NewsBusters post by Lachlan Markay predicted that "the left will be working overtime in the next few days to spin ... any way they can" the hostage crisis at the Discovery Channel headquarters, claiming they won't highlight "the radical, militant environmentalism he espoused, and that "anti-war groups" make "similar claims." Markay doesn't mention that NewsBusters leads the way in doing this kind of spin.
In a May 31, 2009, post, Tom Blumer touted a LifeNews.com article claiming that Scott Roeder, shooter of abortion doctor George Tiller, "appears to have an affiliation with extremist political groups but not with the mainstream pro-life movement." Blumer similarly insisted that "George Tiller's murderer was not affiliated with the prolife movement."
Except that he was. As ConWebWatch detailed at the time, Roeder had numerous contacts with mainstream anti-abortion group Operation Rescue, and Randall Terry, for years considered a mainstream figure in the pro-life movement, tacitly endorsed Roeder's shooting of Tiller.
Similarly, a June 11, 2009, post by Noel Sheppard insisted that James von Brunn, who shot and killed a guard at the Holocaust Museum in Washington, was "hardly conservative" even though, as ConWebWatch noted, he held such right-wing views as Obama birtherism and hatred of the Federal Reserve (views also held by WorldNetDaily).
Mark Finkelstein devoted a Sept. 7 NewsBusters post to complaining that MSNBC's Ed Schultz "no fewer than four times referred to FNC host Steve Doocy as Steve 'Douche-y.'" Finkelstein -- who headlined his post "Schultz Goes Below Belt with Juvenile Name-calling of Fox's Doocy" -- sniffed that this was "middle school-worthy mispronunciation."
Of course, NewsBusters is no stranger to juvenile name-calling. For instance, a September 2008 post by Noel Sheppard is headlined, "Did MSNBC Throw Matthews Out With The Bathtub Boy's Water?" Sheppard helpfully explains: "Finally, for those scratching their heads about the headline, 'Bathtub Boy' is Fox News John Gibson's pejorative nickname for Olbermann."
Apparently, name-calling is only juvenile when liberals do it.
In an Oct. 15 NewsBusters post, Lachlan Markay took Joy Behar to task for allowing Jesse Ventura on her show to discuss Bill O’Reilly’s “Muslims attacked us on 9-11” claim, during which he referenced his truther leanings: “I got a conspiracy theory. So who's to say they actually did or not?” Markay went on to harangue Behar, asking whether she “is in fact a truther herself, or simply so viciously hostile to conservatives that she will dub a center-right position ‘hate speech’ while overlooking a repugnant, wackjob conspiracy theory simply because the person espousing it agrees that Bill O'Reilly is a ‘spineless puke.’ ”
NewsBusters might have a little more credibility in criticizing anyone who helps Ventura spread his conspiracy theories if one of its editors hadn’t himself done exactly that.
Late last year, an episode of Ventura’s TruTV show, helpfully named "Conspiracy Theory," focused on global warming and asked whether it was “a plot to cheat, extort, and control you and everybody else.” Playing a lead role in advancing the conspiracy was none other than NewsBusters associate editor Noel Sheppard.
The conspiracy-lovers at Alex Jones’ Prison Planet website loved that episode so much they clipped the entire thing (Jones, himself a 9-11 Truther, appears in the show too). Sheppard -- ludicrously identified as an “investigative journalist” -- appears in the opening segment, eagerly playing along to make things sound as spooky and clandestine as possible, declaring that global warming is all about “power and money and control of the population.” He goes on to call the idea of carbon credits “one of the biggest Ponzi schemes we’ve ever seen,” then slips Ventura “a list of scientists that I want you to talk to. You will learn a lot from these folks.”
It seems NewsBusters’ criticism of Ventura’s conspiracy theories only applies when it’s not promoting the same conspiracy theory.
Dan Gainor's Oct. 19 column is all about denouncing the "Character Assassination Nation" being perpetrated by "Obama and Co." and further perpetrated by "the left and their media flunkies."
But Gainor's MRC co-workers were all about character assassination when it came to doing a Heathering job on Meghan McCain. Why was she attacked? Because she appeared on ABC's "This Week" and said that Christine O'Donnell, a Republican Senate candidate in Delaware, is "seen as a nutjob" who is "making a mockery of running for public office." Let the Heathering begin:
All because she expressed an opinion that was ultimately borne out by the election results.
Gainor's boss Bozell, meanwhile, was in full character-assassination mode in an Oct. 15 Newsmax interview, in which he hysterically asserted of ABC "This Week" host Christiane Amanpour: "Christiane Amanpour needs lithium badly. She is just out of control with her Christian bashing."
On top of the outrageous personal attack, Bozell offers no evidence to back up his claim that Amanpour has done any "Christian bashing," let alone that it is "out of control." Indeed, an examination of headlines on NewsBusters entries tagged with Amanpour as a topic between the time Amanpour became "This Week" host and Bozell's interview indicated no expressed concern over "Christian-bashing." And the only thing close to "Christian-bashing" that the MRC cited in its "Profile in Bias" of her is a segment of her 2007 special on religious extremists, of which the only thing the MRC finds worth noting as an example of "bias" is Amanpour's description of the controlling behavior enforced on students of evangelist Ron Luce's Honor Academy as akin to "totalitarian regimes." The MRC doesn't explain why that's offensive or even inaccurate.
Co-opting events to push your own agenda
An Oct. 29 NewsBusters post by Tim Graham asserted that "One prominent liberal supporter/exploiter of the Comedy Central 'sanity' rally is Media Matters for America, which will glom onto the march in its effort to kill Fox News Channel." Graham's employer, of course, would never do something so gauche as to glom onto somebody else's big Washington rally.
Or would it? From a Sept. 13 NewsBusters post:
Thousands of protesters descended on Washington, Sunday, for the 9/12 rally and many rallied with MRC signs proclaiming, "Don't believe the liberal media!"
The post included numerous posts of people at the rally holding MRC signs, plus a screen capture of a CNN report with an MRC sign in the background.
What was your problem with Media Matters again, Tim?
(Disclosure: I work for Media Matters.)