MRC on Massacres, Part 1: Defense and Distraction
The Media Research Center knew what it had to do following the El Paso and Dayton massacres: Defend Trump, play up one shooter's left wing views while distracting from another's anti-immigrant sentiments, and attack anyone critical of guns.
By Terry Krepel
At the Media Research Center, protecting President Trump is Job 1, with aggressive promotion of conservative narratives a close second. In the aftermath of the El Paso and Dayton massacres, it had its partisan work cut out for it. Not only did the MRC try its best to spin away the fairly obvious link between Trump's anti-immigrant rhetoric and that in the El Paso shooter's manifesto, it made sure to play up the alleged left-wing beliefs of the Dayton shooter -- though it never could link those beliefs to a motive, unlike the declared racist in the El Paso massacre -- and did its right-wing duty by attacking anyone advocating tighter gun restrictions.
Let's examine how all that broke down.
Scott Whitlock whined that CBS "uncritically parroted talking points from the 2020 contenders on how the President should is [sic] responsible" -- thus invoking the Depiction-Equals-Approval Fallacy that assumes any action reported on a newscast is automatically an endorsement of that action. Nicholas Fondacaro took a similar tack, ranting that by repeating what Democratic presidential candidates said about the massacre, ABC was "spewing the liberal hate that demanded that President Trump be considered the cause of the violence." He didn't mention the shooter's manifesto, even though it had been reported on before his item was posted. Kyle Drennen kept this narrative alive, complaining that "the Today show eagerly touted Democrats rushing to blame President Trump’s rhetoric for the attack in El Paso, Texas."
In another post, Fondacaro declared that "The liberal media hate machine was running at full steam on Sunday in the wake of two mass shootings the left wanted to blame President Trump for" and that "the liberal media has taken every opportunity to smear and label Trump voters as racist and worthy of contempt." Fondacaro didn't mention the double standard of how he and his employer treat Democratic politicians and voters as worthy of contempt.
Whitlock reacted badly to a reporter who pointed out that the shooter's language on immigration was "almost identical" to Trump's, huffing: "Almost identical? In his manifesto, the alleged killer offered support for the mass murder in Christchurch, New Zealand. He ranted about the “great replacement” of white people and discussed the best way to pull off a mass killing. That’s identical?" Whitlock is being dishonest here; the reporter specifically referenced the language similarly "with regard to illegal immigration" -- as he quoted the reporter saying earlier in his piece.
Whitlock went on to suggest Trump's post-massacre speech critical of white supremacy somehow indemnified him from criticism over his previous racially charged remarks, grousing that the speech "wasn't enough" for some. Marsh took a similar tack, lamenting that some "slammed Trump’s words as 'empty' and 'lacking self-reflection' on how his 'rhetoric contributed' to these shootings."
Bill D'Agostino followed by complaining that the speech didn't stop some in the media from assigning blame to Trump. He then tried a lame whataboutism: "Since Sunday, supposedly objective reporters have framed the President’s supposed culpability as established fact. If these members of the press truly believe that the President’s rhetoric is responsible for the deaths of dozens of innocents, one wonders how they would like us to assess their own rhetoric about him and his administration."
Fondacaro similarly complained: "Despite President Trump’s full-throated denunciation of racism and white supremacy on Monday, NBC Nightly News was determined to place the weekend’s mass shootings at his feet."
Kristine Marsh whined that an MSNBC correspondent was "sounding more like a Democrat [sic] politician" by claiming he said "it was 'clear as day' he was to blame for this weekend’s shootings."
Under the hyperbolic headline "Mulvaney RIPS INTO Chuck Todd Over Atrocious Shooting Blame Game," Drennen cheered a servile Trump White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney doing his job by defending the president.
Whitlock returned to grouse that "The Daily Show" made a compare-and-contrast video between the shooter's manifesto and rhetoric on Fox News, calling it "ugly" and "a pure political attack on Fox." At no point did Whitlock dispute the similarities between the two.
(Ironically, in an example of a post that didn't age well, Brad Wilmouth complained in a July 24 post -- just 11 days before the El Paso massacre -- that a CNN guest suggested that Fox News gave racists and white supremacists a platform. Wilmouth then tried an incredibly lame bit of whataboutism by claiming that a chart showing that right-wing violence is a threat "manages to overlook the substantial amounts of violence committed by Americans who go on to register as Democrats after being released from prison.")
And Drennen was appalled that anyone would like a commentary that pointed out flaws in American culture that ought to be addressed:
On Tuesday afternoon, MSNBC hosts Ali Velshi and Stephanie Ruhle marveled at an unhinged diatribe delivered by left-wing Princeton University professor and MSNBC contributor Eddie Glaude during Monday’s Deadline: White House. In the nasty rant, Glaude dismissed the “myth” of American “goodness,” referred to the conservative Tea Party movement as the “ugly underbelly of the country,” and labeled President Trump the “manifestation of the ugliness that’s in us.”
Meanwhile, nobody at the MRC has offered any criticism whatsoever of Trump's racially charged, bomb-throwing rhetoric.
Dayton shooter's leftist views
The second key part of the MRC's playbook on protecting President Trump from fallout linked to his anti-immigrant rhetoric mirroring that of the El Paso massacre perpetrator was to play whataboutism by hyping the far-left views of the Dayton massacre perpetrator and, specifically, his alleged support for Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren. The extent to which the MRC beat that particular drum in the first few days after the massacres is rather amazing ... almost as if MRC writers were under orders to manufacture a specific narrative.
Kristine Marsh set the pace:
Monday morning following horrific, deadly mass shootings in Dayton, Ohio, and El Paso, Texas over the weekend, as well as Gilroy, California last week, the networks were eager to pin blame on President Trump for “fueling” the violence with his “hateful rhetoric” against immigrants. What they were not eager to do was point out that the alleged social media accounts of one of these shooters revealed he was a radical leftist, who supported socialism, antifa, and Elizabeth Warren for president.
From there, MRC writers fell in line:
-- CBS This Morning hosts jumped on the Democratic effort to blame this weekend’s horrific mass slaughters on Donald Trump. ... [CBS correspondent Chip] Reid made no mention of the Ohio shooter’s alleged support for socialism, gun control and Elizabeth Warren. -- Scott Whitlock, Aug. 5
-- During coverage of the horrific mass shootings that happened over the weekend, on Monday, NBC’s Today show eagerly touted Democrats rushing to blame President Trump’s rhetoric for the attack in El Paso, Texas. ... Amazingly, none of the network morning shows on Monday mentioned reports that the shooter in Dayton, Ohio was a self-described “leftist,” Antifa supporter, and fan of liberal politicians like Elizabeth Warren. -- Kyle Drennen, Aug. 5
-- Celebrities, including Avengers star Don Cheadle, rapper Cardi B, Golden State Warriors Coach Steve Kerr and pop star Bebe Rexha, blasted President Trump and Republicans for inspiring the violence through “racist” rhetoric and lamented the lack of gun-control. Still no word on whether they acknowledge that the onus of the murders is on the crazies who pulled the triggers, one of whom was a self-described "leftist" who supported ANTIFA violence and Elizabeth Warren's bid for the presidency. -- Gabriel Hays, Aug. 5
-- The actual nature of the shootings that occurred over the weekend also contradicted Scarborough’s premise. One of them was committed by a white supremacist and the other by a crazed leftist who supported Elizabeth Warren, yet the blame was put squarely on President Trump.-- Gregory Price, Aug. 5
-- [Columnist Charles] Blow (pictured) tried to suggest Dayton shooter Betts was motivated by anti-black racism, ignoring his alleged Twitter account where, as NewsBusters Kristine Marsh pointed out, “he identified as a ‘leftist’ ‘atheist’ who wanted socialism, and he said he’d vote for Elizabeth Warren. -- Clay Waters, Aug. 5
-- So far, broadcast networks ABC, CBS, and NBC have spent a combined 77 minutes on their flagship morning and evening newscasts covering Sunday’s horrific shooting in Dayton, Ohio. However, as these networks on Tuesday morning delved into the alleged shooter’s disturbing past and personal life, none of them spent even a second of air time discussing his apparent “leftist” political views. -- Bill D'Agostino, Aug. 6
-- CBS This Morning on Tuesday scored an exclusive interview with the acting secretary of the Department of Homeland Security. So, of course, co-host Anthony Mason used the opportunity to push Kevin McAleenan on Donald Trump’s culpability for this weekend’s mass killings. ... One question that didn’t come up was the Dayton shooter’s alleged support for Elizabeth Warren, Antifa, socialism and other left-wing causes. -- Scott Whitlock, Aug. 6
-- As NewsBusters research analyst Bill D’Agostino exposed Tuesday afternoon, the liberal broadcast networks were doing their best to avoid telling their viewers that the gunman behind the Dayton mass shooting was an admitted ‘leftist.’ But hours later, ABC’s World News Tonight was the first flagship network news program to break that trend when they footnoted that fact. Meanwhile, the flagship CBS and NBC newscasts were still avoiding it like the plague. ... Unfortunately, ABC still didn’t mention the fact that the shooter was a big fan of 2020 presidential hopeful Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Antifa, or his anti-gun stance. -- Nicholas Fondacaro, Aug. 6
-- The journalists at CBS This Morning on Thursday resorted to the “critics” say line of attack to link Donald Trump the mass slaughter seen this past weekend. ... No mention, of course, was made of the Dayton, Ohio shooter who endorsed Antifa violence and Elizabeth Warren and called himself a "leftist."-- Scott Whitlock, Aug. 8
-- While [Bill] Maher had no problem tying the El Paso shooter to President Trump, he remained mum on the political beliefs of the Dayton shooter; who described himself as a “leftist” and supported liberal Senator Elizabeth Warren. -- Ryan Foley, Aug. 10
That's what's called creating a narrative.
There was another component to the MRC narrative as well: attacking anyone who brought up the idea of increased gun regulation.
Curtis Houck howled "DIABOLICAL" in a headline about how CNN guests "slammed the National Rifle Association (NRA) as seemingly the one group that’s anthetical to keeping Americans safe." Houck hurled childish insults at anyone who didn't stick with the right-wing pro-gun narrative, "arrogant," "smug," and "deranged" among them, and huffing that one guest either didn't know or care "about why the Founders didn’t go with direct democracy."
Houck's needless rhetorical excess continued in another post in which he accused CNN guests of engaging in "a nearly 14-minute-long beatdown of political commentator David Urban, who was the lone conservative panelist. Houck went even farther on his personal Twitter account, ludicrously claiming that Urban was a victim of "rhetoric[al] waterboarding and torturing."
Famous people who said something about guns were a big target. Gabriel Hays bashed "Hollywood leftists" for having an opinion on the shootings -- making sure to get in the talking point that the Dayton shooter was "a self-described "leftist" who supported ANTIFA violence and Elizabeth Warren's bid for the presidency" -- then went after country music artists who spoke out, sneering that "aspiring activists should be called to propose something constructive, rather than just, 'Oh, my gosh! FIX IT!'"
Nicholas Fondacaro ranted about the townhall CNN aired after the shootings, bashing it in advance as a "anti-gun show trial" that would "emotionally exploit grieving families"and rehashing his rage at a post-Parkland townhall CNN aired. Afterwards, Fondacaro robotically called it a "show trial" again, complaining that host Chris Cuomo "lashed out at the National Rifle Association for not subjecting themselves to the hate and rhetorical torture session they were treated to at the Parkland shooting town hall last year." Which can also be interpreted as the NRA's refusal to leave the conservative media bubble where it knows the MRC and its media allies will ever say an unkind word about it.
Houck kept up the "show trial" talking point after the townhall, declaring it to be "just as hideously horrible as one could have predicted when it came to promoting gun control and confiscation in the wake of the El Paso and Dayton shootings."
Jorge Plaza, meanwhile, argued that the real problem isn't guns but movies that have guns in them:
On August 4th, two horrific shootings in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio shocked the nation. Americans from coast to coast were nonplused that such atrocious acts could be committed by their compatriots, and unfortunately, many are already using these events as political clubs to beat the drum for gun control. They scapegoat guns as the root issue, ignoring the possible cultural influences.
As if Plaza and the rest of the MRC were not also politicizing a tragedy in their vociferous defense of Trump and guns.
Finally, Geoffrey Dickens served up yet another of the MRC's dubious "studies," this one claiming that "the networks filled their morning show programs with statements favoring gun control over gun rights by a ratio of roughly 17 to 1." As usual, no methodology or raw data was provided so that readers could see how the MRC arrived at its conclusions. Ironically, Dickens' piece is illustrated with a screen shot of a "CBS This Morning" host holding up a pro-restriction front page cover from ... the Rupert Murdoch-owned New York Post, which is most definitely not part of the "liberal media." Yet the MRC never attacked the Post for that headline.