Letting A Pervy Politician Slide
The Media Research Center can't quite bring itself to issue an unequivocal condemnation of Roy Moore's alleged history of perving on teenage girls. And the MRC's "news" division, CNSNews.com, did its best to bury the Moore story.
By Terry Krepel
When the news of Moore's alleged history of perving on teenage girls, the MRC's Mike Ciandella was first to weigh in, complaining that the story was being covered more than the corruption trial of Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez (as usual, limiting his media view to network news and completely ignoring cable). Of course, he plays the "if true" card on the way to his equivocation:
The media are right to cover the allegations of child molestation against Alabama Senatorial Candidate Roy Moore. If these allegations are true, they are inexcusable and unforgivable, and voters in that state have a right to know about them. Yet, the same media outlets that have moments of clarity when it comes to Republican scandals and corruption turn a blind eye when the scandals and corruption come from a Democrat.
Rich Noyes churned out a more in-depth -- but still biased and narrowly constructed -- study comparing Moore and Menendez coverage, with an added whine about "the liberal media’s double-standard on ethics: A Democrat’s corruption scandal is kept under wraps, while a Republican’s alleged transgressions are given saturation coverage."
Jeffrey Lord -- who played dumb about sexual harassment claims against Roger Ailes -- echoed Ciandella: "This sudden and massive coverage of Alabama GOP Senate candidate Roy Moore and a 38-year old charge of sex with a 14 year old? Where is all the massive on-going liberal media coverage of Democratic Senator Bob Menendez’s trial for corruption and bribery? It isn’t there. Funny how that works, yes? No, actually."
Scott Whitlock conceded that the accusations against Moore are "serious" -- then whined that the media accurately identified him as a conservative Republican.
Curtis Houck also agreed the allegations are "damning" -- but then attacked the Washington Post for publishing them, because they're biased and liberal and stuff:
The allegations are damning and a clear example of not living life according to The Ten Commandments, but that doesn’t mean The Post is absolved from being labeled a part of the liberal machine. Allegations and important reporting can come from outlets across the political spectrum (e.g. Ronan Farrow’s masterful Harvey Weinstein stories in The New Yorker), but it’s important to recognize where stories are coming from.
Has the MRC ever dismissed an allegation about a liberal made by a conservative media outlet because of where the story came from? Not that we can recall.
The MRC then moved to the Clinton Equivocation-whataboutism phase of the story. Tim Graham cheered that "Slick Willie" was brought up, however briefly, and Nicholas Fondacaro huffed: "Voters couldn’t be skeptical about the allegations against Moore, but her network and the rest of the media could be skeptical, omit, and deny the allegations against their precious Bill Clinton." And Houck rejoiced when CNN's Jake Tapper claimed that Clinton's accusers did not get "the same respect" in the media that Moore's accusers have.
At this point, the MRC had yet to make any sort of statement about the veracity of Moore's accusers, apparently incapable of even the most innocuous statement that they should be believed -- despite the fact that over the past two decades it continuously portrayed Bill Clinton's accusers as unimpeachable despite the same lack of hard evidence to back up their claims that some critics of Moore's accusers have cited.
As of this writing, the MRC still had not issued an unequivocal condemnation of Moore or any sort of statement on the veracity of Moore's accusers. By staying silent, the MRC is not showing them the same respect they showed Clinton's accusers.
The Graham encapsulation
Meanwhile, Graham managed to encapsulate the entire MRC response to Moore in a single Nov. 18 post. He kicked of the post by complaining that "pseudoconservative David Brooks" had accused Christian supporters of Moore of being "heretics" who are practicing "idolatry" by almost voicing an unequivocal condemnation of Moore:
One can understand the "making an idol out of politics" part, but "heresy" means something different to religious folks than it does to David Brooks. It means a false teaching against the core teachings of Christianity, a rejection of orthodoxy. He's not exactly separating church and state on the special election. Personally, I think the charges against Moore are serious enough that I would withhold my vote from him.
Graham doesn't live in Alabama, so he'll never be forced to put those words into deeds. Unfortunately, he went on to justify voting for Moore anyway because no matter how "serious" those charges against Moore are, simply being a Democrat like his opponent, Doug Jones, is infinitely worse:
But a Christian could look at the two choices left on the ballot and say if I need a Senator to vote against abortion, against the LGBT agenda, and for religious liberty, one cannot vote for the Democrat. That would be closer to a heretical vote, if we're buying the Brooks definition.
Graham then went on to defend right-wing evangelical Franklin Graham for standing by Graham, with a quick pivot to the Clinton Equivocation:
Franklin Graham spoke to Roy Moore on the phone, and is accepting Moore's denials of wrongdoing. He tweeted “The hypocrisy of Washington has no bounds. So many denouncing Roy Moore when they are guilty of doing much worse than what he has been accused of supposedly doing. Shame on those hypocrites.” This drew angry tweets from CNN's Jake Tapper and Andrew Kaczynski. But on its face, if Rev. Graham is talking about the Clintons and their defenders, then he has a point. The Broaddrick rape charge is a very serious charge that a vast majority of liberal journalists have dismissed as fake news for decades -- which makes them look hypocritical on Moore.
Finally, Graham attacked the Washington Post for its purported political motivation in running the story on Moore's history of perving on teenage girls -- with even more Clinton Equivocation:
Nowhere in this PBS discussion is there any questioning the timing or the liberal tilt of The Washington Post, who for whatever reason couldn't locate these charges until the very convenient (for Democrats) time that Alabama could not change the ballot. There was no reflection by Brooks that the Post sat on its Juanita Broaddrick story in 1999 -- as did NBC News -- until Bill Clinton was safely spared in a Senate impeachment trial. So are they hypocrites, or heretics? Once again, the press doesn't discuss its own political manuevering.
Graham doesn't question why, if this story has been out there so long, why right-wing media outlets -- like the MRC's own CNSNews.com -- didn't beat the Post to the punch and defuse it before Moore got the GOP nomination. Sounds like he's just mad that the truth was told at all.
You know, we're starting to doubt that Graham was telling the truth when he said he wouldn't vote for Moore. He's laboring hard to give Alabama voters every reason why they should.
Meanwhile, MRC chief Brent Bozell apparently has no problem with a grown man perving on teenagers because he can't be moved to raise an objection. Graham and Bozell's Nov. 17 column swiftly attacking Democratic Sen. Al Franken showed that they can address sexual harassment in a timely manner when it helps their political agenda. They offered this odd defense of Moore:
As the Franken scandal unfolds, the media and Democrats have insisted that Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore cannot win the seat due to allegations that he had sexual contact with teenagers. There's no photograph here either. There is no admission of guilt like Franken's. But journalists demanded the voters of Alabama tar and feather Moore.
Apparently, if you deny the accusations and there's no physical evidence , Bozell is cool with that -- well, if you're a conservative, anyway. As expected, Bozell and Graham went on to rant about how Bill Clinton accusers like Paula Jones and Juanita Broaddrick were treated by the media even though they, like Moore's accusers, have offered no evidence to back up their claims.
In other words, the MRC sexual harassment double standard continues.
CNS tries to bury Moore scandal
The MRC-operated CNSNews.com purports to be a news outlet, what with the word "news" in its name and all. But it clearly cares little for reporting news that does not advance its right-wing agenda. Its coverage of the alleged perviness of Roy Moore made that crystal clear.
When the Washington Post broke the Moore story on Nov. 9, CNS apparently didn't think it was news, even though it concerns a prominent conservative politician whose attack on the Southern Poverty Law Center managing editor Michael W. Chapman touted earlier this year and whose ranting against gay marriage CNS promoted in 2015.
No stories about Moore appeared the next day -- its lead story for much of the day was about the Air Force needing pilots. What did appear, oddly enough, was two stories highlighting child marriage in Islamic countries. If that was a way for CNS to deflect from Moore by pointing out other places that are even more pervy about teen girls that Moore has been accused of being, that was a bizarre way to do it.
Finally, on Nov. 13 -- four days after the story broke -- CNS finally got around to doing a story about Moore -- a summary by Susan Jones of Moore's friendly appearance on fellow conservative Sean Hannity's radio show, in which he denied the charges. Jones made sure to write it as favorable to Moore as possible and highlighting his blaming the controversy on a media "agenda," not on his own actions.
(by contrast, CNS went wall-to-wall on the allegations against Franken, churning out three news articles and a blog post in the day after the story broke -- demonstrating that it too can be motivated to move on a sexual harassment scandal when it serves its political agenda.)
Then there's the Nov. 20 CNS article by Susan Jones that summarized an interview with Moore accuser Leigh Corfman. The writeup is mostly straightforward; the headline, however, betrays CNS' right-wing, pro-Moore bias. It reads, "Leigh Corfman, Roy Moore’s Accuser: ‘I Was Expecting Candlelight and Roses’."
Huh? That makes it seem like Corfman was the one trying to seduce Moore.
The quote in questions doesn't appear until the fifth paragraph of Jones' article, the it reads much differently in its proper context:
She said it did not occur to her at the time that she had been molested, but she said the experience did change her life for the worse:
In other words, Moore is the one who was anti-candlelight and roses and apparently ruined adult relationships for a naive teenager.
Curiously, Jones edited a Corfman quote later in the article. She writes:
Corfman told NBC's Savannah Guthrie she was not paid or compensated in any way for coming forward: "If anything, this has cost me. I have no tickets to Tahiti. And my bank account has not flourished. If anything it has gone down."
In fact, Corfman said (with Jones' omissions in italics): "If anything, this has cost me. I've had to take leave from my job. I have no tickets to Tahiti, and my bank account has not flourished. If anything, it has gone down because currently I'm not working.”
Why does Jones want to hide the fact that Corfman has been unable to work because of the accusations she made against Moore? We don't know.
Moore has been largely absent from CNS' commentary section. A column by Pat Buchanan, for instance, demanded that Alabamians vote for Moore because it "could determine whether Roe v Wade is overturned. The lives of millions of unborn may be the stakes."
Then there was the Nov. 20 column by John Horvat II, who didn't mention Moore by name but lashed out at accusers of all stripes of sexual harassment for, he claim, trying to bring down the patriarchy:
The principal goal of the left’s new offensive in the Culture Wars is not to bring the accused to justice. In fact, many of these deeds are so long past that they are now beyond the law’s reach. More importantly, it is not the creation of a virtuous society, since no one is attacking the tabloid promiscuity culturethe hotbed of these moral pathologies.
It appears that if it's not good news for conservative, CNS is simply not going to report it at all -- at least until it can find a way to put a positive spin on it. That's not anybody's definition of a "news" operation.