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Tuesday, June 16, 2009
MRC Wins the Perception War
Topic: Media Research Center

The Media Research Center's war against David Letterman over a joke he told was based on a deliberately misleading bit of framing: that Letterman was deliberately referring to Sarah Palin's 14-year-old daughter in a quip about Palin’s daughter getting "knocked up" by baseball star Alex Rodriguez, when Letterman has made clear that he was referring to Palin's 18-year-old daughter.

Brent Bozell blurred the distinction in his June 12 demand for an apology like a "real man" (Bozell, if you'll recall, had to be taken into court and forced to pay $3.5 million to World Wresting Entertainment before he apologized like a real man for telling lies). The MRC's Seton Motley joined Fox News in ignoring the distinction completely in a June 14 appearance, portraying Letterman's joke as specifically referring to the 14-year-old though Letterman has specifically said that wasn't the case. (Motley's Fox News appearance, by the way, follows the template -- Motley appeared solo was not identified as a conservative.)

Motley also said of comparisons of the Letterman situation with that of Don Imus' offensive remark about the Rutgers women's basketball team: "None of this is defending Don Imus. For me, the MRC -- none of it. He was obnoxious, he was offensive." In fact, as we detailed at the time, the MRC was loath to directly criticize Imus over the remarks, reserving its wrath for people like Al Sharpton who highlighted the remarks, with Bozell himself calling them "the usual cast of professional victims."

But the MRC, in declaring victory by getting Letterman to issue a more formal apology, gives away their game. Brent Baker wrtes in a June 15 MRC item that "Palin and conservatives were outraged and demanded an apology and retraction for a 'joke' seemed aimed at the 14-year-old daughter though Letterman said he was referring to the 18-year-old daughter."

And who made Letterman's joke seem "aimed at the 14-year-old daughter"? Palin and conservatives.

Baker quotes Letterman as saying, "It doesn't make any difference what my intent was, it's the perception." Again, who created the perception that Letterman said something so offensive that he must formally apologize? Palin and conservatives led by the MRC. Thus, the MRC wins the perception war against Letterman.

Motley complained during his Fox News appearance that "It's just a matter of if you get into a grievance group situation ... there is no grievance group for conservatives, for conservative women." But the MRC is, in fact, one of many grievance groups on the right -- a fact Motley downplayed on Fox News.

If the MRC didn't have a grievance to peddle, there was no reason for Motley to go on TV and Bozell to issue press releases.

UPDATE: Letterman's more abject apology still isn't good enough for Bozell, who dismissed it as "slippery and Clintonian." And Bozell still wants to fight the perception war -- even though he already won -- by insisting there was "no perception, no misunderstanding" about Letterman's original joke.

Posted by Terry K. at 1:07 AM EDT
Updated: Tuesday, June 16, 2009 12:20 PM EDT

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