The MRC's Blind Eye To Right-Wing Journalistic Misdeeds
The Media Research Center couldn't scream loud enough over Brian Williams' exaggerations. But when Bill O'Reilly and other right-wing journalists are caught in similar exaggerations, the MRC doesn't want to hear about it.
By Terry Krepel
It's a simple but true statement: The Media Research Center cares about bad or false reporting only when it can be used to advance its right-wing agenda.
The MRC made this clear in 2013 when it completely ignored problems with a "60 Minutes" segment by Lara Logan about the 2012 terrorist attack on a U.S. diplomatic facility in Benghazi, Libya, featured "an actual eyewitness of the attack" -- turns out the "eyewitness" had a history of telling conflicting stories about what he saw at Benghazi, and his publisher withdrew the book he wrote (published by a division of CBS, which went undisclosed during Logan's segment on the CBS show).
Even though "60 Minutes" is a key component of the "mainstream media" the MRC professes to despise, it ignored the Logan scandal in order to perpetuate the right-wing-friendly -- but increasingly dubious -- Benghazi story.
Earlier this year when NBC Nightly News anchor was caught exaggerating his role in an Iraq War exploit, the MRC and its leader, Brent Bozell, couldn't scream loudly enough for Williams to be fired -- even though Bozell himself lied twice a week for more than 15 years by portraying himself as the author of his syndicated column when, in fact, it was written by his deputy, Tim Graham.
But when the MRC had the chance to give the very same treatment to not one but two media figures on its side of the ideological divide, it chose not to.
In mid-February, Mother Jones magazine revealed that O'Reilly has claimed he was in a "war zone" when covering the Falklands War in the early 1980s as a CBS correspondent; in fact, O'Reilly got no closer to the Falkland Islands than Buenos Aries, 1,200 miles away. The MRC largely ignored this revelation, publishing only a Feb. 20 NewsBusters post by Matthew Balan promoting former CNN newsman Frank Sesno's claim that O'Reilly's exaggerations aren't as severe as Williams'.
The MRC apparently knew it couldn't defend O'Reilly's exaggerations, so it did the next best thing: blame the messenger.
Graham grumbled in a Feb. 24 NewsBusters post: "The left is trying to knock off O’Reilly after the Brian Williams scandal." As if the MRC's attack on Williams wasn't motivated much more by partisan hatred than concern for journalistic integrity. The fact that Graham's post is mostly about an irrelevant side issue of whether a Washington Post blogger should have disclosed his wife's employment with Mother Jones, the magazine that first disclosed O'Reilly's exaggerations, shows how unwilling the MRC is to address the actual case against O'Reilly
Graham attacked another messenger in a Feb. 25 post, bashing GQ for daring to opine on O'Reilly:
No one looks to GQ for political analysis. It would be like looking to Rolling Stone for religion coverage. But they can still ape the rest of the liberal media and mock Fox News. As the Fox haters campaign to get Bill O’Reilly canned, GQ (not an abbreviation for Genius Quotient) has come up with a mocking list of “18 Things That Actually Would Get Bill O'Reilly Fired.”
Graham took it even farther promoting his post on Twitter, seemingly questioning the sexuality of anyone who questions O'Reilly by sneering that GQ is "Foppishly against Fox."
Graham wasn't alone in aggressively ignoring the substance of the charges against O'Reilly. In a Feb. 25 NewsBusters post, Randy Hall similarly borrowed from the kill-the-messenger playbook: "Could this assault on the most popular person in cable news for 15 years be an attempt to balance the scales after the liberals recently lost former NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams? Only time -- and ratings -- will tell." At no point does Hall acknowledge the factual basis behind the accusations against O'Reilly.
Jeffrey Lord made the MRC's O'Reilly agenda clear in a Feb. 28 NewsBusters post declaring that it's irrelevant whether O'Reilly lied:
There is a lesson from all of this O'Reilly story, a reminder of exactly how the American Left works. Make no mistake. This story of what Bill O'Reilly did or did not say or do decades ago during the Falklands War is not what this latest dust-up is really all about.
Lord makes no mention of Williams -- probably because he cannot plausibly claim that the right-wingers who glommed onto that controversy were not motivated by an "obsessive drive to destroy" Williams. Indeed, as ConWebWatch noted, the MRC was fundraising off it.
The MRC's hypocritical strategy was made even more clear in a March 2 MRC item by Mike Ciandella huffing that "liberal groups attacking Fox News host Bill O’Reilly about his past reporting got more than $15 million from left-wing billionaire George Soros." It's so insidious, according to Ciandella, that "Even some outlets pushing this story that are not funded by Soros have Soros connections." At no point does Ciandella dispute the accuracy of what this outlets are saying about O'Reilly -- he's just joining his MRC compadres in trying to kill the messenger.
As the documented O'Reilly exaggerations piled up -- for example, he apparently lied about having heard the shotgun blast in the suicide of a figure in the investigation into President John F. Kennedy's assassination while reporting for a Dallas television station in 1977 -- the MRC went completely silent, not even mentioning O'Reilly for two weeks after Ciandella's March 2 post.
Finally, a March 16 NewsBusters post by Kyle Drennen grumbled that NBC's Chuck Todd praised how his network handled similar allegations against news anchor Brian Williams while Fox tried to deflect the accusations against O'Reilly by running a "political campaign." Drennen commented no further on O'Reilly.
That was followed by a March 17 MRC item by Jordan Ecarma is focused on repeating Barney Frank's criticism of Hillary Clinton's email controversy. Almost as an afterthought, Ecarma noted that Frank was asked "if he was 'enjoying' the current controversy surrounding O’Reilly. The TV host was recently accused of lying about or exaggerating his war experiences, similar to the revelations that crumbled the reputation of longtime NBC anchor Brian Williams." Like Drennen, Ecarma does nothing further with it.
And that's pretty much it. Which, actually, is a lot more than the MRC has done regarding another right-wing exaggerator.
Emily Miller is a gun-rights activist who moved from being an opinion editor at the right-wing Washington Times to the "chief investigative reporter" for WTTG, the network-owned Fox affiliate in Washington, D.C. A central part of her partisan fame is her quest to get a gun permit in the District of Columbia, the motivation for which was, in part, her claim to be a victim of a home invasion.
But as the Washington Post's Erik Wemple documents, the reality is much more mundane than Miller has publicly portrayed it. While dog-sitting for friends, Miller noticed a man leaving the house she was staying at while she was out walking the dog.
Wemple added that Miller received a gun-carry permit in the District based on what she called “two different threats against me, which I had documented with police reports.”
The MRC has promoted Miller's reporting, and touted her work under the cheerful headline "Pro-Second Amendment Emily Miller Schools Gun Grabber on CNN." It has been completely silent about Miller's crime exaggerations.
Of course, holding O'Reilly and Miller accountable for their journalism doesn't yield the propaganda benefits it garners from targeting Brian Williams, so that won't be happening.
Thus, any claim the MRC might make that it cares about journalistic accountability -- implied in its mission statement, where it claims it's "the nation’s premier media watchdog" -- is a sham.