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Wednesday, June 8, 2011
Flashback: MRC Defended Vitter From Media During Prostitute Scandal
Topic: Media Research Center

The Media Research Center, needless to say, is ecstatic about the sexting scandal involving Democratic Rep. Anthony Weiner, which launched it into its usual mode of self-righteous right-wing activism on media coverage.

The MRC was quick to run to the defense of right-wing blogger Andrew Breitbart, whose websites first reported the sexting claims against Weiner. Lachlan Markay, in a June 7 NewsBusters post, was upset that some were pointing out that  Breitbart has a history of targeting Democrats and a checkered past, while another NewsBusters post by Alex Fitzsimmons complained that some were "besmirching" Breitbart and "assault[ing] Breitbart's credibility." Noel Sheppard also ran to Breitbart's defense, grumbling that some were "fixating on Breitbart to minimize the seriousness of this issue." The MRC's Matthew Balan, meanwhile, huffed that CNN's Anderson Cooper "played up Breitbart's supposedly 'questionable credibility.'"

Also needless to say, none of these writers conceded that Breitbart does, in fact, have credibility problems.

It was just a few years ago, however, that the MRC engaged in exactly the same behavior it criticizes now -- attacking the credibility of a activist leveling sex-related accusations against a politician. Of course, that politician was a Republican.

A July 2007 MRC Culture & Media Institute column by David Niedrauer responded to Hustler publisher Larry Flynt's expose of Republican Sen. David Vitter's "dalliances with prostitutes" not by criticizing Vitter but by attacking Flynt as "a political partisan with an axe to grind," and complaining that "The media are regurgitating Flynt's gotcha spin on Vitter while largely ignoring Flynt's agenda and partisan history":

Flynt, who has a history of savage attacks against social conservatives going back to the 1980s, found Vitter's telephone number in the telephone list of Pamela Martin & Associates, which federal prosecutors accuse of being a prostitution service.     

The founder of Hustler magazine, Flynt is a self-described nemesis of the religious right.  Flynt has embarked on a new campaign against what he calls “hypocrisy” in conservative lawmakers after placing an ad in the Washington Post in early June offering $1 million to anyone who could document a past “sexual encounter” with a member of Congress or a “high-ranking government official.”

Flynt conceded on the MSNBC show Live with Dan Abrams last week that his feud against conservative Republicans is personal as well as political:  “Well, Dan, I've been jailed nine times, been shot and paralyzed, all for publishing Hustler magazine. So let's just say that it's payback now, and payback's a bitch.”

“I've been a die-hard Democrat all my life," continued Flynt, adding gleefully that most of the Republicans he's exposed over the years for sexual indiscretions “have actually been fundamentalists.”

Gee, we don't recall the MRC describing Breitbart as "a political partisan with an axe to grind," even though he's no less of one than Flynt is.

Even years after Vitter's scandal was exposed -- with Flynt yet to be discredited over it -- the MRC was still attacking Flynt's credibility. In an October 2010 NewsBusters post, Rich Noyes lamented that in a CNN appearance, host Don Lemon asked Flynt to "regurgitate tawdry details of Republican Senator David Vitter’s prostitution scandal" and was "begging Flynt to reveal 'tips' and 'hints' about other politicians who might be exposed." Baker huffed, "It’s bizarre that an anchor on CNN, which touts itself as 'the most trusted name in news,' would ask a pornographer to smear public officials by name without any independent journalistic corroboration."

Did the MRC demand "independent journalistic corroboration" for Breitbart's claims about Weiner before embracing them? We didn't think so.

By its own standards, the MRC should have shunned Breitbart's claims about Weiner until they were independently verified. It didn't -- making this yet another on the long list of the MRC double standards.

Posted by Terry K. at 1:41 PM EDT

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