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Another Fox News-Shaped Blind Spot

The Media Research Center continues to avoid scrutinizing -- let alone condemning -- Fox News personalities accused of sexual harassment, even as it obsesses over non-conservative harassers.

By Terry Krepel
Posted 2/14/2018

In their Jan. 26 column headlined "Weinstein Amnesia Rules at Sundance," the Media Research Center's Brent Bozell and Tim Graham complained that Harvey Weinstein was being stuffed down the memory hole at the Sundance Film Festival because of his record of sexual harassment.

Ironic, because Bozell and his MRC have been spending months stuffing allegations against Fox News executives and personalities down the memory hole.

ConWebWatch has already documented how Bozell and the MRC downplayed or completely ignored the alleged sexual harassers at Fox News while obsessing over the revelations about Weinstein, and how the MRC couldn't be bothered to issue an unequivocal condemnation of conservative Roy Moore's history of perving on teenage girls.

Bozell has continued to obsess over non-conservatives accused of sexual harassment while staying silent as other Fox News personalities have faced the same accusations. Why? Sheer bias and self-interest.

As we pointed out in early 2016 when the MRC -- then an anti-Trump operation -- refused to criticize Fox News' pro-Trump bias, Fox News and sister network Fox Business are the go-to media outlets for Bozell and other MRC talking heads, and they don't want to jeopardize that access by biting the hand that feeds them. This Fox sycophancy is so bad that Bozell's statement upon Roger Ailes' death in early 2017 failed to mention the numerous charges of sexual harassment drove him out of his job at head of Fox News, instead gushing that "The good Roger did for America is immeasurable."

MRC silent on Charles Payne, snubs his accuser

In October, the Washington Post told the story of Scottie Nell Hughes, a once-prominent pro-Trump talking head whose career ground to a halt after she accused Fox Business anchor Charles Payne of coercing her into a sexual relationship with him. Hughes explained how she has been blackballed within the conservative media world and how difficult it is for a conservative woman to make allegations of sexual harassment within it:

Hughes told me that she’s found out the hard way that conservative women have a particularly hard time making sexual harassment and assault claims. Those claims often are scoffed at on the right, she said, and retaliation can be swift and brutal.

“Name me another conservative woman who has charged a male on the same side of the aisle with sexual misconduct outside of those involved with Fox,” she said.

The absence speaks volumes, she said: “Victims have been shamed into silence and it’s almost like open hunting season for sexual predators on the right.”

Almost every day, she said, she hears from women in conservative political and media circles. She gave examples of what they’ve told her: “My career would be over.” “I’m thinking I should speak up against certain people but it would ruin me.” “I internalized it for years. And hid behind work.”

Count the MRC among those right-wing media outlets who have apparently declared Hughes to be persona non grata. Her last mention at NewsBusters, the MRC's main content site, came in December 2016, well before she made her accusations against Payne.

Not only has the MRC never mentioned the claims against Payne -- continuing a double standard in which it largely ignores sexual harassment by Fox News hosts and personnel while obsessing over non-conservatives who have been accused -- the two most recent mentions of Payne in the NewsBusters archive are of Bozell appearing on Fox Business shows hosted by Payne, the final appearance coming just two days before Payne was suspended by Fox (he was reinstated two months later, though Hughes has since accused Payne of rape).

Nevertheless, the MRC's Curtis Houck waxed indignant in a Dec. 20 post:

The New York Times decided that it would not fire Glenn Thrush following an investigation into allegations of sexual misconduct, citing “dozens of interviews with people both inside and outside the newsroom” and that Thrush will seek workplace “training” to supplement his “counseling and substance abuse rehabilitation.”

The befuddling decision by executive editor Dean Baquet came exactly one month after detailed disturbing claims of sexual misbehavior by Thrush from his tenure at Politico. The paper suspended Thrush that same day while MSNBC took him off the airwaves (where he’s a political analyst).

Baquet announced in a memo that Thrush will remain at The Times despite losing his title as one of the paper’s White House correspondents and moved to “a new beat upon his return.” In other words, Al Franken should consider sending his resume over when he leaves the Senate on January 2. Who knows, maybe Charlie Rose should do that too.

Needless to say, Houck didn't mention that a host at the MRC's favorite TV channel was in the same exact situation.

So unconcerned was the MRC about the allegations against Payne, in fact, that it took advertising money from him.

A Jan. 24 email sent to members of the MRC's mailing list from InvestorPlace, a financial news website that pays Payne for a branded newsletter containing stock picks as well as something called "Charles Payne's Smart Investing," described as "a once-in-a-lifetime, 12-month journey to help you reclaim your American Dream" open to "a small number of individual investors." The email touts "5 New Trump Trades" promoted by Payne in a very right-wing-friendly manner:

Fellow American,

The fake news media is lying to you—again.

And this time, it could cost you a fortune.

In their desperate attempt to knock down President Trump at every turn, they want you to believe that his Make America Great Again agenda is floundering.

But you and I know better.

My name is Charles Payne, and you may know me from my show on Fox Business News or my regular appearances on Fox News.

And today I want to make sure you know the truth about President Trump’s progress and how to profit from it in 2018.

President Trump has quickly slashed regulations that were crushing businesses, killing jobs and holding back spending.

And now he’s about to push through the biggest tax reform our country has seen since Ronald Reagan.

His ambitious plans for America have unleashed corporate spending, fueled a raging bull market and sent consumer confidence soaring to 17-year highs.

And that is creating huge profits for smart investors.

The message includes a disclaimer: "Please note that the following message reflects the opinions and representations of our advertiser alone, and not necessarily the opinion or editorial positions of or the Media Research Center." But given how (selectively) offended the MRC has been over the sexual harassment issue, it's just not a good look when someone has rented its email list to promote an accused sexual harasser.

Other Fox harassers get the silent treatment

By contrast, the suspension and departure from Fox News of host Eric Bolling actually got a mention at the MRC -- but only in passing.

Bolling's suspension got a mention in an Aug. 10 post by Alex Xenos, though not in the actual text of his item; Xenos kept Bolling's name isolated to a screenshot of a tweet by MSNBC commentator Howard Fineman, who referenced it in wondering, "Does political orientation predict harassment?" That led to a tirade by Xenos on how "the left has a serious problem with harassment" and how "they literally nominated a man for president who in all likelihood committed rape, and at the very least sexual harassment." (Shhhh -- don't tell Xenos about Donald Trump.)

A month later, Fineman's tweet was committed to actual text, but only as part of a compilation item of quotes from "liberal reporters, writers and hosts ... using heated rhetoric to denounce conservative Republicans and Trump as a bunch of haters." And in October, Bolling's status as someone fired for sexual harassment appeared in the transcript accompanying an item by Tim Graham complaining that nobody's talking about Bill Clinton's alleged sexual harassment, but Graham didn't highlight it.

Meanwhile, longtime Fox News correspondent James Rosen was a legend at the MRC, mainly for having been investigated by President Obama's Justice Department in an attempt to stop classified leaks. But when it was announced in January that Rosen had left the channel following claims of sexual harassment, the MRC was silent.

Graham: Ex-Fox anchor too rich to complain

Tim Graham, the MRC's director of media analysis, has a history of dismissing sexual harassment allegations when they're made against conservatives. He's declared Anita Hill a liar who made her accusations against Clarence Thomas in order to score a book deal and a law-school teaching gig, suggested former Fox News anchor Gretchen Carlson made up her sexual harassment allegations against Roger Ailes -- the late former head of the channel that's like a second home for MRC talking heads -- in order to get a settlement payday and, yes, a book deal, and he along with MRC chief Brent Bozell have implied that Roy Moore's accusers shouldn't be believed because there's no physical evidence of their claims (which somehow didn't keep the MRC from believing Bill Clinton's accusers).

When a Fox anchor leaves the channel, however, they're fair game for attacks. The target is former Fox News anchor -- Megyn Kelly, who has also claimed that Ailes sexually harassed her. Graham whined in a Dec. 6 post that Kelly was featured among Time magazine's "silence breakers" that were named the people of the year. Graham sniped that for Time, Kelly didn't talk "about sexual harassers on her current show, but on Fox News." (Kelly currently hosts the fourth hour of the "Today" show, which had recently jettisoned co-host Matt Lauer over harassment claims.) Perhaps because she was sexually harassed at Fox News and not in her short time at NBC?

Graham then argued that Kelly shouldn't be complaining about sexual harassment because she has a fat NBC contract:

On the video that appears with the cover story, Kelly gets profane. Over emotional music, Kelly says “We don’t have to just live like this. I always thought things could change for my daughter. I never thought things could change for me.” Actress and Harvey Weinstein accuser Rose McGowan says women have been “conditioned since birth to be polite,” and then Kelly is sliced in: “To be ‘nice’ [finger quotes]. To be ‘kind’. To be ‘liked’. To not make waves [music pauses] – Bullshit!”

At the risk of sounding rude to Kelly, the idea of her living in some kind of oppressive bubble might seem a bit odd, since she makes an estimated $23 million a year to host a morning TV show for NBC. The "maybe my daughter won't have it so rough" sounds a bit out of touch to people making $15 an hour...or the hotel housekeepers also featured in the video.

The point Kelly is trying to make -- which seems to have completely eluded Graham -- is that sexual harassment happens to popular TV anchors as much as to hotel housekeepers making $15 an hour. Perhaps Graham can enlighten us as to the maximum amount of money a woman can make and still complain about sexual harassment, since $23 million a year is too rich for his blood.

If anyone's sounding out of touch here, it's Graham, who has apparently decided that the degree a sexual harassment accuser can be believed is inversely proportional to how closely the accused adheres to conservative ideology.

Obsessing over Lauer, ignoring Fox

After longtime NBC "Today" host Matt Lauer left NBC after claims of sexual harassment, the MRC rushed to exploit it, cranking out a whopping nine posts in the next 12 hours for its NewsBusters site.

The first of those posts was one in which Scott Whitlock bashed Lauer as a "hypocrite" for questioning ex-Fox News anchor Bill O'Reilly about his sexual harassment cases. That would be the interview in which NewsBusters blogger Randy Hall endorsed O'Reilly's portrayal of himself as the innocent victim of a "hit job," even though he has effectively admitted guilt by paying out millions of dollars in settlements to his victims.

The second Lauer post was also hypocrite-themed, in which Whitlock wondered if Lauer "doesn't have any concept of self-reflection" and "might have pondered his own actions while slamming Donald Trump over the infamous Access Hollywood tape," going on to huff that "Lauer brezzily reported on allegations against others." Recall that the MRC helped Trump play the victim over that tape by dismissing it as politically motivated, with a heavy dose of Clinton Equivocation.

We also got the preening moralizing from Bozell, asking: "Clearly, there must have been numerous people at NBC who knew about his repugnant behavior. Where have they been all this time? How many people who could have put an end to this actually enabled his abuse of women?" Bozell never asked that about the goings-on at Fox News.

The MRC's Rich Noyes took a similar tack, arguing without evidence that NBC News president Andy Lack must have known earlier about the accusations against Lauer "unless he's living in a cave or everybody else whose talking on the record is lying." He didn't mention that at Fox News, it was the president himself, Ailes, who was doing the harassing.

After similar accusations surfaced against MSNBC host Chris Matthews, Bozell blustered in a Dec. 18 statement:

It is evident NBC has been breeding a culture of deviancy for decades and doing everything in its power to cover it up along the way. Two major on-air personalities and a top executive have already been fired from the network for sexual misconduct and now a fourth is being accused of the same. While at this time we do not know the full story behind these allegations against Chris Matthews, NBC’s history of covering for deviants creates suspicion.


Lauer’s lecherous behavior was well-known throughout the NBC hierarchy and went unchecked for years before they were forced to fire him. I can only speculate the same applies to others. If NBC wants to redeem any semblance of credibility they should be transparent and launch an independent investigation into their issues with sexual misconduct in the workplace.

If you substitute Matt Lauer for Roger Ailes or Bill O'Reilly (or Eric Bolling or Charles Payne), you can easily be talking about Fox News, which has also fired two on-air personalities and a top executive and has had a "culture of deviancy for decades." Their behavior was certainly known throughout the Fox News hierarchy and went unchecked for years before the company were forced to fire them.

Yet Bozell never called for Fox News to "launch an independent investigation into their issues with sexual misconduct in the workplace" as he was demanding from NBC. And since he values the MRC's regular appearances on Fox News and would like them to continue, he never will.

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