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Thursday, October 6, 2011
MRC Has No Factual Basis On Which To Declare Chavez 'The Networks' Favorite Dictator'
Topic: Media Research Center

A Sept. 30 MRC Culture & Media Institute article by Paul Wilson carries the headline "Hugo Chavez: The Networks' Favorite Dictator." Having made such a declarative, precise statement, surely Wilson must have mounds of emperical evidence to back up his claim, right?

Well, if you are familiar with the MRC's lengthy history of shoddy research, you will not be surprised to find that the answer is no. This is the extent of "research" Wilson has done:

Out of 21 stories on Chavez over the last two years (from Sept 29, 2009 to Sept 29, 2011), precisely 3 of them mentioned Venezuela's strained relations with the United States. Only one of them mentioned human rights abuses in Venezuela.

Two of those stories tended towards trivial and unimportant matters.

That's it. No examination of comparative coverage of other dictators to determine which one was the media's "favorite." And as per usual, Wilson's examination is limited only to the three broadcast networks. There's no mention of Fox News at all; if Wilson had bothered to do anything approaching comprehensive research, he would have found that Fox at one time had its own favorite dictator, the Ivory Coast's Laurent Gbagbo.

Wilson also referenced how "The MRC analyzed media coverage of Chavez from 1998 to 2006" -- curiously linking not to the report but a Fox News article about Chavez that doesn't mention the MRC -- which "found that the networks ignored or whitewashed his radical brand of politics completely, refused to cover his threats against the United States, and positively covered his political stunt of giving oil to the American poor."

Complaining that "the media" (that is, the TV networks) did report on Chavez's "radical brand of politics" in 1998 is disingenuous because he was not as autocratic in 1998 as he is now. Upon taking office, Chavez did introduce some populist democratic reforms in Venezuela.

(We couldn't find a live version of the report on Chavez on the MRC's website; it's referenced near the end of this article by the MRC's Business & Media Institute, but the link no longer works.)

Wilson concludes by asking, "Will the networks acknowledge Hugo Chavez as an anti-American dictator, or will they ignore his anti-American ways once again? A more relevant question to ask would be whether the MRC will ever be able to tell the difference between genuine research and political hack work.

Posted by Terry K. at 3:18 PM EDT

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