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Friday, February 20, 2015
MRC Buys The Result It Wants In Anti-Brian Williams Poll
Topic: Media Research Center

A Feb. 20 NewsBusters post announced the news:

A new poll commissioned by the Media Research Center reveals that the tales Brian Williams told – which led to his eventual suspension without pay – have severely undermined his credibility with the American people. In a survey of 1,007 respondents: -

- 66.1 percent said Brian Williams should have been fired after he was caught in numerous lies. Williams famously lied about being in a helicopter that was shot down over Iraq and seeing a dead body float by his New Orleans hotel during Hurricane Katrina.

-- An overwhelming 71.6 percent of respondents said that despite the anchorman's apology and suspension, he should still resign.

-- In the same poll, 61.6 percent said they are less likely to trust NBC News if Brian Williams is allowed to return as anchor of NBC Nightly News.

But the post omitted a couple of important things: the full results of the poll -- which most pollsters provide -- and the specific wording of the questions (which would be stated in the full poll results). That raises questions about exactly how fair the poll was.

One bit of information was noted that points us toward the answer: the poll was conducted by McLaughlin & Associates. NewsBusters doesn't disclose it, but McLaughlin & Associates primarily works for Republican and conservative causesand candidates, which tells us that McLaughlin likely crafted the poll's questions to get the result the MRC wanted.

The article on the poll by Barbara Hollingsworth at also failed to  provide the full poll results or disclose that the MRC's pollster is a conservative operation, but she did include the wording of questions:

“NBC suspended ‘Nightly News’ anchor Brian Williams for six months after he was caught in numerous lies, including fabricating a story about being shot down in a helicopter over Iraq and seeing a dead body float by his hotel in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina. In your opinion, should he have been fired?” pollsters asked.


“[If] Brian Williams is allowed to return as NBC’s anchor, reporting the nightly news after being caught in numerous lies, are you more or less likely to trust NBC News?” respondents were asked.

The MRC and McLaughlin are overstating the facts -- deliberately so, one must assume. It hasn't been definitively proven that Williams "lied" about what he saw in New Orleans; others in New Orleans have expressed doubt that Williams could have seen what he claim he did.

And even Williams' story of  "being shot down in a helicopter over Iraq" is not the "fabrication" the MRC wants you to believe it is. The pilot of Williams' helicopter admits that it was struck by small-arms fire during the incident in question (but not the rocket-propelled grenade that actually struck another copter in the convoy in which Williams was embedded).

The fact that the questions emphasize the "numerous lies" Williams allegedly told demonstrates the slanted nature of the poll. The MRC must be pleased that it got the results it paid for.

Of course, the MRC presentation of its slanted poll would not be complete without MRC chief Brent Bozell ranting against Williams:

“This poll confirms that the American people no longer trust Brian Williams to report the news. When the American people believe by such wide margins that your lead anchor is a liar, you have no other option but to fire him if he will not do the honorable thing and resign. Any effort by NBC News to rehabilitate its tarnished brand can only begin under new leadership for its flagship nightly news program. This is no longer about Brian Williams’ reputation. This is about NBC News having any chance of being a credible source of news.”

We can probably assume that the poll never asked a question about whether a syndicated columnist who passed off the work of others as his own -- as Bozell did for 15 years -- should also be fired. But since the MRC has refused to make the full results of the poll public, we may never know.

Posted by Terry K. at 5:34 PM EST

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