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The MRC's Trump Flip

In the space of just a couple of months, the Media Research Center went from demanding negative media coverage of Donald Trump -- which it didn't even order its own "news" division to do -- to complaining when it happens.

By Terry Krepel
Posted 7/14/2016

For months, the Media Research Center couldn't get its collective heads around Donald Trump's presidential campaign.

When Trump played the "media bias" card against Fox News after he faced some tough questions during debates the channel hosted, the MRC said nothing, even though it attacked other debate-hosting news outlets that asked similar questions.

MRC chief Brent Bozell declared in February that Trump does not "walk with" conservatives, and his MRC was grumbling that the broadcast TV networks had done only one story on the Trump University scam since Trump's presidential campaign started. Mike Ciandella portrayed it as a legitimate story because of its "ongoing nature."

In March the MRC contradicted itself, asserting that Trump coverage was too negative. Rich Noyes whined that "all three broadcast networks have made the violence surrounding Donald Trump’s rallies the near-exclusive focus of their campaign coverage. But an MRC analysis of ABC, CBS and NBC news coverage found that the left-wing protesters who forced the cancellation of a presidential campaign event escaped nearly all blame, as reporters dumped 94% of the blame on Trump and his campaign."

The flip-flips continued:

  • A post praising the Daily Beast for uncovering Trump denouncing Ronald Reagan as weak in 1987 was followed exactly three hours and 27 minutes later by one defending Trump against criticism that he had insufficiently renounced an endorsement by former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke.
  • An item on how "ABC and NBC on Tuesday hyped the comparison of Donald Trump to the Nazis and Adolf Hitler" by noting that Trump "has asked crowds to take a loyalty oath" was countered by an "editor's pick" link at NewsBusters to an article criticizing Trump's loyalty oath.
  • A post complaining that Trump got "a whopping 84 percent of the Republican campaign segments" on the TV networks prior to the most recent Super Tuesday elections omitted the fact that seven hours earlier, an MRC colleague pointed out that the vast majority of that coverage was negative.

As recently as the end of April, the MRC was complaining that media coverage of Trump wasn't negative enough -- despite also claiming that the negative tone of Trump's media coverage was irrelevant. The MRC's Nicholas Fondacaro further complained that one network "failed to report on the major news" that a class-action lawsuit against Trump University would be going to trial. This was followed by an April 28 post by Scott Whitlock lamenting that "All three broadcast networks, thus far, have ignored a shocking moment on Wednesday night when Donald Trump touted his endorsement by convicted rapist Mike Tyson."

But then, in early May, Trump clinched the Republican presidential nomination -- and the MRC climbed fully aboard the Trump train and started complaining about the negative media coverage they previously demanded. For instance, Samantha Cohen hissed in a June 10 post, in boldface no less: "We also have a mainstream media who is talking about Trump University. Every. Single. Day." Which, of course, is what the MRC was demanding the media do a couple months earlier.

Meanwhile, amid all the flip-flopping, the MRC was also setting up a path forward in case Trump won the nomination: a conspiracy theory that the "liberal media" made sure Trump would win so he would lose to Hillary Clinton in November. That, again, despite admitting that much of Trump's media coverage was negative during the primary, and despite the fact that right-wing media like the MRC's own could have gone after Trump but chose not to.

Still, after flip-flopping over for months over whether it would defend Trump the way it was defending other Republican presidential candidates, his clinching of the nomination sealed the deal for the MRC: Trump would get the full MRC apologist treatment. We saw how this would work when MRC director of media analysis Tim Graham complained in a May 11 post:

It’s mid-May, which means it’s time for The Washington Post to unload the cheap-shot “investigative” stories on the Republican front-runner. On the front of the May 11 Washington Post is a story on Trump’s sex boasts....and sex life. The online headline is “From playboy to president? Trump’s past crude sex talk collides with his White House bid.“ In the newspaper, it was "Before candidate Trump, there was playboy Trump: Extolling Lothario lifestyle worked for the developer, but now it behooves him to back off old boasts."

Bill Clinton’s crude sex talk? Not front-page news in the Post. Crude sex talk from JFK or LBJ? Not front-page news in the Post. Remember the 2008 Post story on Obama's sex life? But here’s how reporter Mary Jordan began, by quoting from a Trump radio interview with Howard Stern:


Notice the Post didn’t locate these 19-year-old quotes when there were still Republican opponents in the race appealing for the conservative-Christian vote. The Post somehow couldn’t find the time for this story until the term “presumptive nominee” fit.

Jordan noted Trump’s exchanges with Stern were posted online by BuzzFeed “this year” – that would be in February. The Post thought they became front-page material on May 11. Check the liberal rag's Romney-haircut-bully-from-1965 timing.

You know who else didn't locate these 19-year-old quotes when there were still Republican opponents in the race appealing for the conservative-Christian vote? The MRC and CNS. BuzzFeed reported on Trump's sexist comments on Stern's show on Feb. 24; both the MRC and CNS completely ignored them until Graham wrote his post.

In other words, CNS and the MRC could have made a big deal about these comments for the past three months had they chosen to do so. They didn't. This means Graham is being utterly hypocritical in bashing the Post for reporting a story the MRC itself ignored for months.

Instead, the MRC was much more concerned about a Trump-Stern story BuzzFeed reported a week earlier, in which Trump had told Stern in 2002 that he supported an invasion of Iraq. This time, though, the MRC was bashing NBC's Chuck Todd for confronting Trump about it. Susan Jones' Feb. 22 CNS article on the comments was framed as allowing Trump off the hook because he wasn't a politician at the time he made the comment. And the MRC's Nicholas Fondacaro instead chose to attack Todd for saying during his Trump interview it's not solely the media's responsibility for vetting Trump and that "a normal campaign that was running against Donald Trump" should be even more aggressive.

Graham's whining about the Post shows how completely the MRC will be acquiescing to Trump by portraying him as the victim of the "liberal media" -- again, despite complaining that this same "liberal media" wasn't doing enough to take Trump down earlier ... which, again, the MRC itself wouldn't do.

Graham was followed by the MRC's Clay Waters whining that the New York Times documented Trump's long history of sexist behavior toward women. He made sure to highlight that these "unflattering" stories, "many of them 20 years old," took "five Times reporters" to cover. Waters then immediately launched into the ol' Clinton Equivocation:

The Trump behavior described by the various women is immature and boorish. But did former president Bill Clinton’s sexual history or his multiple sex (and worse) scandals get this sort of front-page over-the-fold analysis? Hardly. In fact, during the 1992 campaign, the Times referred to blockbuster rape allegations made against Clinton by former Arkansas nursing home administrator Juanita Broaddrick as typical “toxic waste” and did everything it could over the years to avoid covering the story.


Yet when Juanita Broaddrick's allegation of sexual assault by Bill Clinton finally emerged publicly in 1999 in the Wall Street Journal, the Times sniffed that her claim had obvious problems and defended its failure to cover them, blaming nationwide "scandal fatigue" and lamenting that "smaller outlets on the Internet and cable television" were "overwhelming the slower and more sober judgments of mainstream news organizations" in having the gall to publish a sex candal involving a Democrat president (this less than a year past wall-to-wall coverage of Anita Hill's claims against Clarence Thomas).

The Times did its best first to ignore, then discredit the story, calling the Wall Street Journal editorial page "one of the nation's most conservative and a strident critic of Mr. Clinton." Times reporters Felicity Barringer and David Firestone in February 1999 explained why their paper passed on Broaddrick’s rape allegations in 1992, when coverage could have swung the election.

But it's in the excerpt of that Times defense that the truth -- which Waters doesn't otherwise acknowledge -- comes out: Broaddrick was denying in 1992 there was any attack, and made that denial under oath. She later flip-flopped. Which means Broaddrick is a liar -- she was either lying then or is lying now.

Nicholas Fondacaro followed up by attacking ABC for reporting on the Times story, in a post headlined "ABC Takes NYT's Bait: Network Reports on Trump Hit Piece." Does that mean Fondacaro and the MRC are taking Trump's bait by rushing to his defense?

Fondacaro then latched onto how one of the Times' interviewees, Rowanne Brewer Lane, "has spoken out about her words being twisted by the paper." But the Washington Post's Callum Borchers pointed out that Brewer Lane is falsely claiming that the Times said Trump "paraded" her in a swimsuit she was asked by Trump to change into; that word appears nowhere in the Times article. Borchers adds: "Even if Brewer Lane's grievances did necessitate a correction, they wouldn't invalidate the premise of an entire 5,000-word story based on interviews with more than 50 women."

But now that the MRC is on Trump's side, that's exactly what it wants its followers to believe. And it comes straight from the top.

In their May 18 column, Bozell and Tim Graham summarized all of this, ranting about both how the Times dismissed Broaddrick (while, like Waters, ignoring that she's a documented liar) and how Brewer Lane's criticism of the story means the entire story "quickly blew up in [the Times'] faces." They huffily conclude: "It's safe to say that Trump is no one's idea of Mr. Manners. His rudeness toward women was summarized by Fox's Megyn Kelly at the first GOP debate. And the way Trump treated her afterward underlined it. But The New York Times now has no right whatsoever to pass judgment on presidential candidates and their treatment of women."

Oh, please. Bozell and the rest of the flip-flopping MRC have no right whatsoever to pass judgment on the "liberal media" for doing the job the right-wing media wouldn't in vetting Trump.

The flip was made complete with an MRC study complaining about all the negative Trump media coverage it once demanded or deemed irrelevant. Rich Noyes wrote in a June 20 MRC article: "Voters who have relied on the network evening newscasts for information about the 2016 presidential candidates saw four times more airtime devoted to controversies involving presumptive GOP nominee Donald Trump than to the scandals surrounding his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton."

And among those negative Trump stories is Trump University -- which the MRC specifically demanded more coverage of a few months earlier.

Curiously, Noyes always refers to issues regarding Trump as "controversies," while regularly referring to issues regarding Clinton as "scandals." Not once does Noyes refer to a Trump controversy as a "scandal," though you'd think the scammy Trump University would be one.

"The networks have left no stone unturned in their vetting of Trump," Noyes whined -- which is exactly what the MRC wanted the media to do. It has no right to complain now, especially when the MRC has its own "news" outlet, CNS, that could have vetted Trump during the primary process but refused to.

Nobody at the MRC has publicly explained why CNS didn't do that, apparently choosing to hypocritically bash the non-conservative media instead.

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