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The MRC's Selective Outrage on Sexual Harassment

The Media Research Center is happy to lecture about Harvey Weinstein -- but was mostly AWOL when prominent conservatives were exposed as sexual harassers and misogynists.

By Terry Krepel
Posted 10/19/2017


The Media Research Center was quick to exploit the sexual harassment allegations surrounding now-former film executive Harvey Weinstein. It's cranked out dozens of posts about it, a large number of them calling out people and media outlets that weren't obsessing over it as hard as the MRC has been, or who had previous links to Weinstein. For instance:

MRC chief Brent Bozell and lieutenant Tim Graham lectured in their Oct. 13 column:

We can guess no one will make a movie about the decades of harassment by Weinstein and Hollywood's cover-up. And, certainly, no one would win an Oscar for it. No Holy Father in Tinseltown has moral authority. Feminist superstars like Meryl Streep professed they hadn't the slightest idea of what their friend Harvey was doing ... which makes them either profoundly cynical or amazingly clueless.

A far more believable response came from French actress Lea Seydoux, who wrote in the Guardian that she was groped by Weinstein. She said: "Everyone knew what Harvey was up to and no one did anything. It's unbelievable that he's been able to act like this for decades and still keep his career."

If the liberal intelligentsia found it completely unbelievable that a Catholic bishop might have been uninformed about sexual abuse by priests, then how do they expect anyone to believe it's impossible for the Streeps of Hollywood to be unaware?

You know who else is being hypocritical and failed to speak truth to power when it mattered regarding certain other perpetrators of sexual harassment? Bozell, Graham and the MRC.

If Bozell and the MRC want to play this game, let's take a look at how they reacted to two other recent high-profile cases of serial sexual harassment -- but these involved the leader and the star employee of the MRC's favorite channel, Fox News -- as well as our current president.

MRC on Trump and Ailes

The MRC's game in discussing conservatives caught in sexual harassment or misogynistic behavior has always been deflection rather than obsession. Its reaction to the infamous audiotape of Donald Trump engaging in vile misogyny was distract by going full Clinton Equivocation; Bozell admitted it was "disgusting," but only in passing as he ranted about Bill Clinton's sex life.

When tales of sexual harassment by Fox News chief Roger Ailes forced him to resign last year from the "news" channel he created, the MRC was the opposite of obsessed; it was mentioned only in passing, when it was mentioned at all. For instance, Graham tried to make light of it by quipping, "If these claims of sexual harassment are true, Ailes seems more like Bob Packwood than J. Edgar Hoover." But that Hoover comparison was more apt than Graham will ever (publicly) admit: New York magazine's Gabriel Sherman reported that Ailes used the Fox News budget to hire consultants, political operatives, and private detectives who reported only to him and conducted PR and surveillance campaigns against journalists, authors and other critics of Fox News or perceived threats to the organization.

In the very rare times it did address the issue, the response was deflection: One NewsBusters blogger insisted that Ailes shouldn't be blamed for the pervasive culture of sexual harassment at Fox News, and another claimed it was "liberal bias" for anyone to even discuss Ailes' sexual harassment issues -- or, for that matter, anything remotely critical about him, no matter how accurate.

When Ailes died earlier this year, not only did the statement Bozell issued fail to mention the sexual harassment (while gushing that "The good Roger did for America is immeasurable), the MRC attacked anyone who attempted to include sexual harassment as part of an accurate accounting of Ailes' legacy:

  • Kristine Marsh ranted that "Journalists from every major media outlet couldn’t contain their disgust for the man, Fox News, and the right" -- Gizmodo and the writer's room at the "Late Show With Stephen Colbert" are "major media outlets"? -- though in reality most were pointing out Ailes' less-than-savory attitude toward women and the sexual harassment allegations that forced him out at Fox News.
  • Kyle Drennen wrote that NBC "rightfully pointed out the controversy surrounding Ailes’ firing from Fox News over sexual harassment allegations" -- never mind that Drennen's co-workers don't believe it was rightful for anyone else to bring it up -- but then bashed "left-wing anti-Fox crusader" Gabriel Sherman for pointing out that Ailes "ruled Fox News with an iron fist" and that "he kind of died alone." Drennen doesn't dispute the accuracy of any of Sherman's remarks, only that he said them.
  • Scott Whitlock complained that a couple of people on MSNBC decided to "spike the ratings football" and "made sure to underline Fox’s struggling" following Ailes' departure and grumbled that Andrea Mitchell pointed out -- we again assume correctly, because Whitlock does not challenge the accuracy of it -- that Ailes' "downfall was because of personal failures and the fact there was such a culture of illegality."
  • When NBC quoted "Ailes-hater" Sherman saying that Ailes' legacy is "transforming American politics into a contact sport where there’s no rules and anything goes, Nicholas Fondacaro huffed in response: "Sherman doesn’t seem to be a student of history because American politics has been a rough and tumble endeavor almost since its creation. There have instances of fistfights and canings in the U.S. Senate dating back to the 1800s. That’s not to mention the vile (for time period) things they would say about each other on the campaign trail and in political cartoons." Of course, Fondacaro didn't mention that America had generally considered itself past such things; he's just making excuses for the unsavory side of Ailes.
  • Tim Graham went unhinged on Rolling Stone writer Matt Taibbi's takedown of Ailes: "It would be smarted [sic] to say the 'hyper-divisive media environment' started with the hippies in the Sixties, the ones who turned on their parents as atrocious war-mongering squares. ... In this Taibbi fantasy, Rolling Stone was never a political fiefdom for hippie leftists and drug-crazed Hunter Thompson fanatics, which later aged into a sort of baby-boomer Tiger Beat for Clinton and Gore, Kerry and Obama (combined with Taibbi slashing the Republicans as monsters like Ailes). Instead, all political fear and loathing came from Fox[.]" (Who goes on rants about "hippies" anymore? Most people got over that around, oh, the 1970s. Talk about out of touch.)
  • Whitlock returned to complain that CBS invited on NPR media critic David Folkenflik (to whom Graham regularly loses Twitter fights), who pointed out that Ailes' Fox News encouraged an "emphasis on opinion rather than reporting," sneering, "As though liberal journalists on ABC, CBS and NBC haven’t been doing that for decades?"
  • Clay Waters howled that the New York Times was "graceless" and "classless" by accurately discussing Ailes' legacy. Perhaps Waters has forgotten the classless treatment of ABC's Peter Jennings, who used his death to tout how its archives were "packed with documentation of liberal bias" from him. Waters also declared that "National Review's Jonah Goldberg offered a more (to use Ailes’ words) 'fair and balanced' accounting of Ailes' legacy." And by "fair and balanced" Waters apparently means that Goldberg devotes barely half a sentence to Ailes' sexual harassment scandal.
  • Trump sycophant Jeffrey Lord, meanwhile, played dumb on Ailes, then played the Clinton Equivocation: "I have no idea what went on with the tales of Ailes and sexual harassment. I do know that when President Bill Clinton had women pouring out of the woodwork to accuse him of, among other things, dropping his pants to a state employee (Paula Jones) and telling her to “kiss it”, an allegation of rape (Juanita Broaddrick) and groping in the Oval Office (Kathleen Willey) liberals dismissed all of this as “only about sex” - instructing the rest of us to get a life and grow up. And for double-standards such as that Roger Ailes built Fox News." (Lord would later hypocritically attack some in the media for alleged cowardice in not immediately speaking out on Weinstein.)

If it wasn't for double standards, the MRC wouldn't have any standards at all.

MRC on O'Reilly

When star Fox News host Bill O'Reilly was ousted from the network over similar sexual harassment allegations, the MRC didn't really want to talk about that either -- not even when Tim Graham appeared on the final edition of O'Reilly's old show (albeit after O'Reilly had been dismissed) and had a chance to speak truth to power.

Graham and Bozell then issued a perfunctory denunciation of O'Reilly ("If all the charges of sexual harassment are true, his case is indefensible"), then spent the rest of their column attacking O'Reilly's critics as guilty of "rank hypocrisy," dismissing the allegations as old news and portraying O'Reilly as the victim of a hypocritical "liberal media." (Never mind Bozell and Graham's own hypocrisy in being unable to denounce sexual harassment without invoking the Clintons.)

They concluded: "Women deserve a workplace where men don't harass them for sex. But that's not what these sanctimonious liberal journalists care about. It just doesn't matter how brutal the alleged rape of Juanita Broaddrick was. What matters is that Bill O'Reilly had to go. Bill Clinton is laughing." Probably because he, like the rest of us, can see through the sanctimonious load of horsepuckey Graham and Bozell are serving up here.

Yes, Bozell and Graham are still pushing dubious allegations the alleged victim spent 20 years denying, for the sole purpose of turning attention away from O'Reilly.

In September, the MRC touted O'Reilly's appearance on NBC in which he denied any harassment without offering any evidence to back him up and -- in an echo of Bozell and Graham -- insisted he was the victim of a "hit job, a political and financial hit job." Would the MRC ever provide a similarly uncritical platform for Weinstein to deny the allegations against him? Highly unlikely.

In an interview with the Associated Press, Bozell even suggested that the sexual harassment charges against Ailes and O'Reilly weren't true, and even if they were, the Fox News audience wouldn't care:

But many of the stories are background noise to Fox viewers suspicious of bias by the “mainstream media,” said Brent Bozell, president of the conservative media watchdog Media Research Center. Many question the truth of the stories or see them as payback for Fox’s success, he said.

[...]

“They’re not going to stop watching Hannity because of Roger Ailes,” Bozell said. “I don’t think they connect the two of them at all.”

Bozell didn't say whether he himself was having the same disconnect -- one that the MRC, by contrast, is working to ensure doesn't happen between Weinstein and anyone even tangentally associated with him.

The MRC has no room whatsoever to complain about silence and hypocrisy by others on the issue of sexual harassment. Yet it insists on complaining anyway.

Attacking the victim (of conservative harassers)

The MRC's Kyle Drennen used an Oct. 11 post to attack an old victim of sexual harassment who spoke out (needless to say, the perpetrator was a prominent conservative):

Discussing the growing list of sexual harassment and rape allegations against left-wing Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein on her MSNBC show Wednesday afternoon, anchor Andrea Mitchell saw a chance to deflect away from the scandal swirling around the prominent Democratic Party donor to instead attack conservative Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.

“And you know, we shouldn’t just pretend that it’s just Hollywood, because every profession has its own dynamics. And I remember covering the Clarence Thomas hearings in 1991,” Mitchell declared as she recalled the discredited sexual harassment charges hurled at Thomas by Anita Hill.
As ConWebWatch pointed out in documenting the MRC's 25-year-long campaign of hate against Hill, her accusations have never been "discredited." While Hill's side has not been definitively proven, neither has Thomas' side.

This is simply a false, baseless attack that demonstrates how the MRC treats victims of sexual harassment depending on the ideology of the alleged perpetrator.

Graham then took it one step further in an Oct. 15 post by attacking one of Ailes' accusers, whining that "this week’s People gave three pages to a big article on former Fox News host Gretchen Carlson, whose sexual harassment accusations against Fox News chief Roger Ailes created a similar hubbub in July 2016. Fox News settled her lawsuit for $20 million." Yes, according to Graham, Ailes' serial sexual harassment was just a "hubbub," apparently not a big deal.

Graham then portrayed Carlson's allegations as part of a liberal hit job on Ailes: "Carlson has a new book coming out called Be Fierce: Stop Harassment and Take Your Power Back, and they loaded in an excerpt. The book’s dust-cover testimonials come from a progressive crowd: Maria Shriver, Katie Couric, Larry Wilmore, Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill, Billie Jean King, and Fox-loathing journalist Gabriel Sherman."

Graham seems not to have considered that Carlson's publishers could find no conservative who would speak out on her behalf for fear of alienating Fox News and losing those precious TV hits -- after all, Bozell and Graham certainly have no interest in doing so.

The MRC's selective outrage is driven by partisan politics, not by any sense of morality they claim to hold, which is why they give Ailes, O'Reilly and Trump a pass and would never hold them to the same scrutiny they hold non-conservatives caught doing bad things. They're more mad that the media exposed O'Reilly's (and Ailes' and Trump's) bad behavior than by the behavior itself.

They carry the stench of cynical opportunism, and everyone can smell it.

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