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The Media Anything-But-Research Center

The MRC won't fact-check Mitt Romney out of fear the truth will make him look bad -- but it will fact-check a Kanye West song.

By Terry Krepel
Posted 9/26/2012

Despite having the word "research" as part of its name, the Media Research Center doesn't care much for doing research -- especially if it makes a Republican look bad.

Of course, the MRC has a long history of doing shoddy partisan attacks it tries to pass off as "research." But this year, it has decided that President Obama must be defeated, and not only must it refuse to fact-check anything Mitt Romney says, anyone who actually does -- or put Obama's words back into the context the MRC regularly rips it out of -- must be either ignored or denounced.

Eager to defend Romney from his nasty attack on Obama supporters as freeloaders who don't pay income taxes, Brent Baker repeated that summary of Romney's remarks in his Sept. 17 NewsBusters post, then asked: "And the inaccuracy is?"

Mr. Baker, mind you, is the MRC's vice president for research and publications. One might presume that, given his title, he would sit down and check to see if there are any actual inaccuracies in Romney's claim before dropping a glib, snide statement like that.

Meanwhile, real news outlets did fact-check what Romney said. For instance, the Washington Post pointed out that "Of the 47 percent of Americans who pay no federal income tax, two-thirds pay federal payroll tax." ABC News noted, "About 1 percent of the top 1 percent of income earners, those making about $533,000 or more, did not pay income taxes. That's roughly 13,000 tax filers." CBS News added: "Overall, according to the Tax Policy Center, 'of the 38 million tax units made nontaxable by the addition of tax expenditures, 44 percent are moved off the tax rolls by elderly tax benefits and another 30 percent by credits for children and the working poor.'"

Baker, meanwhile, decided to attack those who were doing the job he was apparently too lazy to do. Baker wrote in a Sept. 19 MRC item:

NBC and CBS felt compelled Tuesday night to fact check Mitt Romney’s assertion “47 percent of Americans pay no income tax” and both had to acknowledge his accuracy, but then tried to undermine Romney’s point. Noting the statistic had become “Tea Party mantra,” NBC’s Andrea Mitchell allowed “it’s true that approximately 47 percent of Americans do not pay federal income taxes, as Mitt Romney said, but,” she quickly added, “not because they are living off of the 53 percent.”

Over on CBS, Anthony Mason relayed how “Roberton Williams with the non-partisan Tax Policy Center says, to be precise, 46.4 percent of Americans pay no federal tax. But,” Mason insisted, “it’s more complicated than that.”

Mason gave a soundbite to Williams for a non-correction effort to explain away Romney’s concern: “Sixty percent of them are working and pay federal payroll taxes, the taxes that support Social Security and Medicare, so they’re not deadbeats that are not on the tax roll at all.”

Yes, Mr. Baker, the truth is complicated -- so complicated, it seems, that Baker doesn't want to be tasked with telling.

At no point does Baker lift a finger to fact-check the fact-checkers -- after all, he has no basis to, since unlike Baker, they actually did their work -- instead whining that they ignored "Romney’s overall point about a growing number of Americans getting more from government than they put in."

But if key facts of Romney's claim are factually incorrect, how can his "overall point" be true? Baker didn't explain.

Meanwhile, when it came to Obama, the MRC displayed its usual research laziness by repeatedly taking a statement of his out of context.

A Sept. 19 NewsBusters post by Jeffrey Meyer highlighted "audio of then-State Senator Barack Obama (D-Ill.) speaking at Loyola University talking about his support for wealth redistribution, complaining that MSNBC's Andrea Mitchell wouldn't play the tape becuase it hadn't been "authenticated."

That caution was justified. The full version of the 1998 Obama video -- the edited version of which had been promoted by the Drudge Report in a clear attempt to distract from a leaked video of Mitt Romney denigrating the 47 percent of Americans who Obama supporters as freeloaders -- shows that Obama was referring to "redistribution" as a way to "decentralize delivery systems in ways that both foster competition, can work in the marketplace, and can foster innovation at the local level and can be tailored to particular communities." In other words, Obama was not talking about advocating socialism at all.

Nevertheless, the MRC continued to push Obama's "redistribution" comment while not lifting a finger to verify, let alone mention, its proper context:

  • Brent Baker referenced "video of Barack Obama in 1998 advocating redistribution of wealth," calling it a "display of Obama’s far-left economic philosophy."
  • Clay Waters complained that a New York Times writer "took pains to point out that the old Obama segment was 'carefully clipped,' implying it was misleading." Which, of course, was entirely true.
  • Geoffrey Dickens huffed that "when tape emerged of Barack Obama stating he was in favor of “redistribution” of wealth," the Bit Three networks (no mention of Fox News, of course) devoted "just six and a half minutes" to it, compared with 88 minutes to the Romney tape.
  • In his weekly appearance on Fox News' "Hannity," MRC chief Brent Bozell ranted that Obama's comment "confirms ... that he's a socialist who believes in the redistribution of wealth."
  • Matt Hadro grumbled that "NBC failed to press Obama adviser David Axelrod over the President's remarks about redistribution" but "did find time, however, to cover the 'Honey Boo Boo' nickname generator."
  • In an MRC press release, Bozell touted how "the Romney campaign exposed a 1998 video showing then-State Sen. Barack Obama espousing his far-left philosophy of wealth redistribution." Bozell also referred to when "Obama disparaged small business" -- which the MRC also deliberately took out of context.

When Washington Post political fact-checker Glenn Kessler dared to put Obama's words in their proper context, the MRC attacked him -- never mind that no Bozell employee could be bothered to do so.

In a Sept. 21 NewsBusters post, Ryan Robertson began by ranting about how Obama and Vice President Biden "are given the benefit of the doubt by the supposedly non-partisan media" because "we're told by liberal media 'fact checkers' that Republicans end up using them out of proper 'context.'" Of course, Robertson is really whining that conservatives get busted taking their opponents' words out of context on such a regular basis that he must regurgitate the right-wing attack line of trying to discredit all fact-checking because some of it proves conservatives wrong.

Robertson went on to claim that Kessler "furiously spun" Obama's statement and that the edited clip has just "one missing sentence, one that somehow redeems Obama for his previous statement." Robertson then nit-picked that Kessler's Pinocchio rating was too severe:

By excluding the last sentence, Kessler thought this was a "whopper" of a lie. Yet according to his own scale, this doesn't make any sense. "One Pinnocchio" statements are marked by "some shading of the facts and selective telling of the truth. Some omissions and exaggerations, but no outright falsehoods." Two Pinocchio-defined statements are said to be "significant omissions and/or exaggerations. Some factual error may be involved, but not necessarily." Three Pinocchios, as Kessler notes, are merited when there is "significant factual error and/or obvious contradictions."

By his own rating system, at worst this only deserved two. What's more, keep in mind that this has not yet been made into a campaign ad, and yet Kessler and his staff eagerly set to excoriating the Romney camp, giving them the worst-possible score on their Pinocchio scale.

At no point does Robertson explain why the full context doesn't redeem Obama. And he falsely claims that Kessler did not "quote anything Romney or a Romney surrogate said about it per se." But Kessler did:

Nevertheless, the Romney campaign had seized on the remark as evidence of Obama’s apparently socialist tendencies. “You know, President Obama said he believes in redistribution,” GOP vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan said Tuesday. “Mitt Romney and I are not running to redistribute the wealth. Mitt Romney and I are running to help Americans create wealth.”

Apparently, if we are to believe Robertson, Paul Ryan is not part of Romney's campaign.

That's the level of self-deception the MRC must practice in order to justify its laziness in trading what little "research" it actually does for mindlessly repeating anti-Obama partisan attacks.

Bozell claimed in his press release: "Like an overeager Labrador retriever, the liberal media will do anything to please their master, even if it means biting his opponent every day between now and the election." And Bozell is desperate to please his master, Mitt Romney, by using his multimillion-dollar organization to dishonestly attack Obama and boost Romney's campaign.

Seemingly confirming that the MRC's laziness is ordered straight from the top, Bozell used his Sept. 26 column to repeat the storyline, declaring that what Romney said wasn't "untrue" -- even though numerous fact-checkers found otherwise -- and that Obama "professed his love for redistributing other people's money, solidifying the socialist agenda that Obama has so zealously denied" -- which also isn't true.

While the MRC was desperately avoiding trying to figure out the truth about Obama and Romney, it did find someone worthy of fact-checking (and grammar-checking): rapper Kanye West.

Paul Wilson whined in a Sept. 14 MRC Culture & Media Institute post about a new West song with the line “I’m just trying to protect my stacks / Mitt Romney don’t pay no tax”:

Aside from being grammatically flawed (the double negative suggests Romney does pay tax), West’s claim is factually untrue. He has released his tax returns for 2010 and 2011, both of which show him paying taxes to the federal government. Romney’s returns revealed that he paid effective tax rates of 13.9 percent in 2010 and 15.3 percent in 2011 respectively.

Wilson then attacked West's wealth, noting that he "made an annual income of $35 million," adding, that "according to Fox News, in 2010, West’s own charity [the Kanye West Foundation] spent more than a half-million dollars while donating no money to actual charitable grants and contributions. Perhaps West should be concerned with his own tax returns, instead of rapping false rumors about Romney."

To sum up: the MRC won't fact-check Romney, but it will go after a Romney critic for "rapping false rumors."

Perhaps it's time for the MRC to drop the "research" from its name -- since it doesn't do any -- and replace it with "Republican," thus making the name a much more accurate description of what Bozell and Co. actually do.

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