The MRC vs. The Truth
Because Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump is an inveterate liar, the Media Research Center must defend him by attacking fact-checkers.
By Terry Krepel
"Reality has a well-known liberal bias," Stephen Colbert declared in character as his conservative blowhard alter ego at the 2006 White House Correspondents' Association Dinner. The Media Research Center's attacks on things that are true -- and its war on fact-checking as a whole -- seem to be its main agenda.
The MRC, of course, has been doing this sort of thing for years. Every election year, it runs a "Tell the Truth!" campaign that in reality is about demanding that the media not tell the truth about conservative Republican candidates. Its attacks on fact-checkers for finding a inordinate number of false statements by conservatives has been a years-long crusade as well.
In 2012, for example, NewsBusters' Matthew Sheffield denounced the Washington Post's fact-checkers as "The Obama Palace Guard" and asserted that "like all products of journalism, the verdicts of the "fact-checkers" must be fact-checked, too." And in 2013, MRC director of media analysis Tim Graham complained about a study that found PolitiFact cited more false claims by Republicans than Democrats (but stayed silent about the flawed methodology used to reach that assessment). Graham huffed: "No one should assume that a fact-checking organization can only be assumed to be fair if it tries to employ a 50-50 partisan quota on who's mangling the facts. However, "independent" fact-checking groups run by "mainstream" media companies can easily be questioned about a liberal tilt."
Protestations aside, it's clear that Graham and the MRC would very much prefer a "50-50 partisan quota on who's mangling the facts," if not one that tilts toward finding liberals telling more falsehoods -- the MRC's right-wing narrative is more important than reality, after all.
This year, though, the Republicans have a uniquely prolific liar as the party's presidential candidate in Donald Trump -- PolitiFact has rated a full 70 percent of the Trump statements it evaluated as mostly or completely false. The MRC, as a group loyal Republicans above anything else, is sworn to defend Trump.
This means facts matter as little to the MRC as they do to Trump, and fact-checkers must be denounced.
A day after the MRC's "news" division CNSNews.com uncritically quoted a Trump campaign flack declaring that "We’re not going to base national security off PolitiFact" after fact-checkers pointed out that Trump got caught telling yet another lie, Graham and Brent Bozell's June 29 column whined that fact-checkers continue to call out Trump's lies, attacking in particular "the liberal-media project calling itself PolitiFact."
Graham and Bozell bring up no less than three times what they call "Hillary Clinton's obscene lie about landing in sniper fire in Bosnia," complaining that it "is a distant memory." That's because it is -- she said it in 2008, and it was judged as false back then. By contrast, their preferred presidential candidate, Trump, lies on a daily basis and is surely lying about something right now. But pointing out the fact that Trump is an inveterate liar is apparently part of that the anti-conservative media conspiracy they've been warning us about.
But let's read how Graham and Bozell rant about this, and how they deflect away from Trump's lies:
Let us briefly review the ratings this "fact-checking" project gave the candidates that week.
Declaring that Trump "almost immediately backed away" from a "thoughtless answer" on abortion -- actually, several hours passed before for he did so, and only after anti-abortion groups pointed out that this he was not following the political stance of the movement -- means that Graham and Bozell are making an excuse to save their preferred candidate, and it doesn't erase the fact that he did indeed say it in the first place.
And Graham and Bozell mislead about the statement it highlights about Clinton. In fact, PolitiFact rated Clinton's statement that maternal mortality has plummeted since Roe v. Wade as "Mostly True" -- not "True," as they claim -- and it also pointed out that the mortality rate was on the decline in the years before Roe v. Wade, which Graham and Bozell falsely suggest it did not do.
Since Graham and Bozell aren't ones to let the facts get in the way of an attack on fact-checkers, they trudge onward:
PolitiFact avoided rating another Clinton statement altogether. In the same speech she said, "Thank you for being there for Natarsha McQueen, who told me how Planned Parenthood caught her breast cancer when she was just 33 years old, and saved her life." Wrong. One of the most persistent lies is that Planned Parenthood does mammograms and "catches" breast cancer. Planned Parenthood doctors only refer women to other people who do mammograms. Clinton tells that lie incessantly. "Pants on Fire Lie" puts it mildly.
Actually, the story is mostly true: NBC reported that "McQueen was diagnosed with breast cancer after a breast exam revealed a lump and a subsequent referral from Planned Parenthood let to further diagnosis and treatment."
Graham and Bozell then set up a false comparison between Ted Cruz and Elizabeth Warren: "Cruz and Warren were both elected to the Senate in 2012. Cruz has been assessed for truth on 114 occasions by PolitiFact, but Warren has only been assessed on four? And for the record, there's no rating for Warren claiming to be part Cherokee Indian."
Graham and Bozell don't mention the pertinent fact that Cruz spent much of the past year running for president, while Warren did not. Oh, and there's no evidence Warren deliberately lied about having a Native American heritage or that she used it to advance in her career; she has said she relied on family stories for her claim.
Graham and Bozell followed in their July 20 column, were upset that the media would dare fact-check reliable right-wing tool Patricia Smith, whose son died in the Benghazi attack, over her Republican National Convention screed blaming Hillary Clinton personally for her son's death despite the fact that :
PolitiFact put a picture of this angry mother on their home page with the headline "Checking Patricia Smith's claims about Clinton and Benghazi." The suggestion? Smith probably told some whoppers on the floor in Cleveland.
Yes, how dare the media demand Smith to be bound by facts? All that matters to Graham and Bozell is that she was spewing as much venom as possible at Hillary Clinton and, thus, helping Trump -- not whether any actual facts back up her hate.
Let's be clear about Graham and Bozell -- and the MRC -- are doing. The only way they can deal with Trump's steady barrage of falsehoods is to declare the act of fact-checking to be a partisan exercise and declare that the fact-checkers must be fact-checked.
The MRC have invested years -- nay, decades -- in portraying the Clintons as liars, but when someone who lies as much as Trump comes along and is a Republican, facts suddenly no longer matter.
Or, as Graham and Bozell concluded their June 29 column, fact-checking is now "a liberal, out-of-touch, elitist media thing."
That's the state of "media research" at the MRC these days.