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Thursday, January 12, 2006
Faulty MRC Analysis
Topic: Media Research Center
An excellent example of why the Media Research Center fails as a credible media "watchdog" is a Jan. 12 NewsBusters post by Noel Sheppard. In it, he lambastes ABCs Martin Bashir for a "Nightline" segment in which, in Sheppard's words, he "brought on an Arkansas 'abortionist' to sell America the virtues of this oftentimes ghastly procedure." Why the scare quotes around "abortionist"? Sheppard never explains; it's a perfectly accurate term for what the doctor does and, indeed, what the doctor, William Harrison, calls himself. Perhaps Sheppard wanted Bashir to work words like "evil" or "minion of Satan" in there somehow.

The rest of Sheppard's article is excerpts from the transcript of Bashir's segment interspersed with Sheppard's comments imputing motives to Bashir that the transcript excerpts doesn't even support:

-- Sheppard claimed that Bashir "got political" when all Bashir did was state that Harrison's concern "is no longer with critics and protesters but with the prospect of Judge Samuel Alito being confirmed." Harrison is the one who "got political," not Bashir.

-- Sheppard claimed that "Bashir then depicted a gruesome position against adoption as an alternative to abortion." In fact, he lets the doctor speak for himself and highlights the fact that Harrison doesn't mention adoption as an alternative.

-- Sheppard then said that "Bashir then sold the necessity of abortion in our nation"; in fact, he asked the following question of the abortion doctor: "Roe v. Wade was originally conceived as an opportunity for women to have choice. But you seem to be suggesting that the women that you see actually have no choice." How is that "selling the necessity of abortion"?

-- Sheppard claimed that "Bashir concluded by painting a picture of abortion being a way for women to be "born again.'" While Bashir says it here first in response to Harrison's claim that a woman who has undergone an abortion has been "given her life back," Harrison originally made the claim in a Nov. 29 Los Angeles Times article, from which the idea to have him on "Nightline" presumably sprung.

Putting words into people's mouths and ascertaining purported motives, as Sheppard does here, is hardly the stuff of serious media analysis. If the MRC wants to continue to be taken seriously as a media analyst and not just a source for conservative complaints about the media, it should more closely scrutinize NewsBusters posts such as these before making them public. After all, the small army of NewsBusters posters, while for the most part not MRC employees, are operating under the MRC name and reflect on the entire organization.

Posted by Terry K. at 12:51 PM EST

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