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Envy and Spite At The MRC

Media Research Center writers' disdain for the success of the political satire of Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert sure looks a lot like jealousy.

By Terry Krepel
Posted 2/5/2015

Brent Bozell

The Media Research Center has never particularly liked "Daily Show" host Jon Stewart, but its ire markedly increased last fall.

MRC leaders Brent Bozell and Tim Graham devoted their Nov. 21 column to bashing Stewart and sneering at the people who enjoy his brand of political satire -- or, as they call it, "his snarky conservative-trashing show" -- calling them "flatterers, sycophants, and every other synonym in the thesaurus for obsequious."

Bozell and Graham whined that Stewart responded to right-wing "mockery of Obama's patriotism" in the criticism of the president's salute with a coffee cup in his hand. But they don't mention that Republican President George W. Bush did the same thing while holding a dog, and not only did it not get held up for public ridicule at the time, MRC writer Kyle Drennen complained that it was only brought up as a way to "distract" from and "muddy the waters" over right-wing criticism of Obama.

Bozell and Graham don't mention one key reason why they are so angry at "The Daily Show" -- earlier this year, Stewart mocked Bozell for complaining that a Spanish-language channel was helping its viewers to comply with Obamacare.

Graham went off again in a Nov. 24 NewsBusters post, downplaying Stewart's influence because he "generally draws about 1 to 1.2 million viewers, less than ABC's Nightline draws at 12:30 in the morning. It typically gets beat by a second airing of The O'Reilly Factor." Graham, of course, doesn't mention that Stewart's audience is more desirable to advertisers than O'Reilly's: 65 percent of Stewart's audience is under 50, while 64 percent of O'Reilly's audience is over 50.

Graham also ranted that Stewart "makes more than $25 million a year," but doesn't explain what that has to do with anything.

An then there was Jeffrey Lord's Nov. 22 NewsBusters attack on Stewart. Lord took offense at Stewart arguing that Fox News right-winger Sean Hannity is "acting" rather than pushing sincerely held beliefs, but rather than honestly and intellectually respond to Stewart's charges (other than to insist that Hannity is "a deeply well-grounded, thoughtful man with boundless empathy"), he launched an ad hominem attack on Stewart, accusing him of being "loathsome, disingenuous, cynical and devious" because ... well, there are too many white people on his show, and he once aired an edited video that somehow completely justifies Hannity doing the same.

Lord also cited economist Peter Schiff's complaint about how his "Daily Show" interview was edited, highlighting his statement that the "mentally retarded" would be happy to work for $2 an hour. Lord didn't mention that Schiff likes to engage in stunts like protesting a minimum wage hike in a Walmart parking lot.

Lord concludes: "Jon Stewart is a funny guy. A talented guy. But there are words for what comedy’s Jon Stewart and academia’s Jon Gruber are about. The words 'devious' and 'loathsome' are but two."

The truth is, however, that the MRC appears to be totally jealous of Stewart's success, and it wants a piece of that action.

Last September, the MRC sent its mailing list a message accusing Stewart of being among the comedians who "advance a leftist agenda under the guise of comedy and brainwash America's young people each and every day. Is it any wonder that the youth of America are turning into leftist Obama zombies?"

The email went on to solicit donations to upgrade the MRC's sad little web comedy show, "NewsBusted" (a title, by the way, that the MRC totally stole from ConWebWatch; bolding and underlining in original):

When we started NewsBusted, we wanted to change that by creating at least one comedy show where socialism isn't worshiped and where American values aren't derided.

NewsBusted is the one comedy show where joke writers aren't afraid to serve up the ridicule that Barack Obama, Joe Biden, Harry Reid, and Nancy Pelosi so richly deserve.

We have a specific goal for 2015 – to raise enough money to upgrade all aspects of the audio and video production of NewsBusted ... it’s time for a major, high tech upgrade—in High Definition!

Quality television audio & video production doesn’t come cheap. For nearly seven years, our production team has been using the SAME standard definition camera, the SAME microphones, the SAME lighting system, the SAME editing bay, the SAME graphics package, and the SAME sound mixing board ... NewsBusted is long overdue for a high tech upgrade and 2015 is the year to do it!

I need you to donate today so that we can start producing better sounding and better looking episodes of NewsBusted – in high definition! We need your generous contribution to keep the laughs coming!

How does investing thousands of dollars (well, other people's dollars) in a so-called comedy show that gets virtually no notice outside its own websites further the MRC's ostensible mission as an "educational" organization -- not to mention qualify under the tax law that exempts donations to the MRC from taxes? We don't know either.

We do know, however, that "NewsBusted" probably wouldn't survive if it was subjected to the free market where ratings and viewership matters -- the same place where Stewart and "The Daily Show" are thriving. Which makes the normally free-market MRC's jealousy of Stewart that much more ironic.

Bitter about Colbert's success

When Stephen Colbert's Comedy Central show ended in December, MRC writers were even more bitter about its accomplishments. Tom Johnson complained in a Dec. 19 NewsBusters post:

If you’re tired of the tributes and homages to Stephen Colbert’s faux-conservative character, take heart: they’re just about over with. Probably.

One of the gushiest goodbyes came from Leslie Savan, who blogs about media/political issues for The Nation. In a Thursday post, Savan noted that on The Colbert Report, Colbert didn’t attack conservatives head-on, but rather “inhabit[ed] their heads via a character,” which enabled him to “demonstrate…how right-wing psychology works.”

Colbert, opined Savan, “show[ed] that beneath his character’s assertion of omnipotence and certitude, there’s a fragility, one that’s also buried in most of the real-life blowhards and their dittoheads ... If they stop clapping, Tinker Bell will die. If they stop nodding in agreement, or step off the reservation of Tax Cuts, Guns, and Built It Myself, they could get Other-ed.”

Johnson failed to mention this, but Othering people who stray off the right-wing reservation is exactly how his NewsBusters boss Tim Graham operates. Just the week before Johnson's post, Graham lashed out at anyone who committed the offense of criticizing Ted Cruz, including solidly conservative Washington Post blogger Jennifer Rubin.

Indeed, such Othering -- or, as it's known around these parts, Heathering -- is Graham's and the MRC's chief method of enforcing right-wing ideological rigidity. It seems that the writer Johnson was highlighting has it correct.

Speaking of Graham, he was, unsurprisingly, extremely bitter about the praise given to Colbert upon the retirement of his character. He huffed in a Dec. 18 post:

Liberals are going into deep mourning over the television death of Stephen Colbert, Very Badly Disguised Liberal. They think this is an "unparalleled achievement." In Wednesday's paper, TV writer Bill Carter of The New York Times lined up all of Colbert’s competitors to call him a genius for disparaging conservatives with so much panache.

“For nine years, Stephen Colbert has relentlessly maintained his pompous, deeply ridiculous but consistently appealing conservative blowhard character he has left an indelible mark on late-night television comedy,” Carter wrote. “Consistently appealing?” To whom? Liberals presume “why, everybody enjoys mocking conservatives as opposed to reading.”

It’s these cheap, repetitive insults that don’t deserve a Hall of Fame induction, but liberals love hating conservatives so preciously that anything that helps them demean their opponents as God-fearing, America-loving morons is an instant classic.

Graham turned even more bitter in a Dec. 21 post, ranting that "Washington Post TV writer Hank Stuever didn’t refrain from the goo over the end of Stephen Colbert’s tenure at Comedy Central. His 'Critic's Notebook' might have been too soaked with tears to be legible, but it made it into print." Graham grumbled that the idea of Colbert's audience being divided between those who got his schtick and those who didn't was really about "the people who loved the joke, and the people who were the joke."

The MRC has also spent the past eight years smarting about Colbert's 2006 appearance at the White House Correspondent's Dinner for being too critical of then-President Bush. NewsBusters managing editor Ken Shepherd complained in a Dec. 18 post: "The liberal comedian savaged President Bush and conservatives in a decidedly hard-nosed comedy routine that violated the cardinal rule of WHCA dinners: the night is about poking fun and ribbing both sides of the aisle, not shoving a knife in the president and twisting it."

Funny, we don't remember anyone at the MRC being this upset about alleged violations of decorum when Don Imus made some unusually pointed remarks about

President Clinton at the 1996 correspondents dinner -- in fact, the MRC mocked the idea that Imus' remarks were offensive by including a quote of a journalist saying that Imus "went a little too far" in a 1996 edition of its "Notable Quotables."

Such bitterness toward the success of Colbert and Stewart goes a long way toward explaining why the MRC's own "comedy" show, "NewsBusted," is such a painfully unfunny failure and how the MRC's fundraising effort to upgrade its production values overlooks the inconvenient fact that it doesn't matter how slick the show looks if it still isn't funny.

Attacking Colbert's replacement

The MRC's hatred of Comedy Central's late-night schedule quickly extended to quickly going after the man replacing Colbert, Larry Wilmore.

Jeffrey Meyer had the unenviable task (from a right-wing standpoint) of reviewing the debut episode of Wilmore's "The Nightly Show." So we have the only black host currently on late-night TV, with a show debuting on the Martin Luther King holiday, so it seems natural that Wilmore would focus on racial issues, right?.

Not to Meyer, apparently. The headline of his Jan. 20 post reveals what he took away from the show: "Larry Wilmore Debuts New Comedy Central Show By Obsessing Over Race."

Meyer didn't define what he meant by obsessive coverage -- but then, NewsBusters has been obsessing about Benghazi to a much greater extent than Wilmore did in his debut show.

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