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Monday, October 31, 2016
MRC's Study of Media Bias On Trump Is Hypocritical And Narrow
Topic: Media Research Center

Remember when the Media Research Center thought that media coverage wasn't negative enough? We do.

Remember when MRC chief Brent Bozell said it was irrelevant that most of Trump's media coverage was negative? We do.

Which is why the MRC's big report last week complaining about negative media coverage of Trump is a big, hypocritical nothingburger. Add to that the study's extremely narrow focus: a review of only the evening newscasts on NBC, CBS and ABC -- a tiny sliver of "the media. Nevertheless, report author Rich Noyes interchangably uses "the broadcast networks" and "the media," as if they were the same thing:

The results show neither candidate was celebrated by the media (as Obama was in 2008), but network reporters went out of their way to hammer Trump day after day, while Clinton was largely out of their line of fire.

Our analysts found 184 opinionated statements about Hillary Clinton, split between 39 positive statements (21%) vs. 145 negative (79%). Those same broadcasts included more than three times as many opinionated statements about Trump, 91 percent of which (623) were negative vs. just nine percent positive (63).

Noyes also played false equivalence with Trump's extensive record of falsehoods, complining that "Reporters also bluntly called out Trump for lying in his public remarks in a way they never did with Clinton, despite her own robust record of false statements." The MRC has long denied the obvious fact that Trump has told more falsehoods than Clinton, to the point that it attacks fact-checkers to deflect from that.

Further, the MRC's method of coming to its preordained conclusion (does anyone think the MRC would make this public if it wasn't?) seems suspect. Noyes writes:

Our measure of campaign spin was designed to isolate the networks’ own slant, not the back-and-forth of the campaign trail. Thus, our analysts ignored soundbites which merely showcased the traditional party line (Republicans supporting Trump and bashing Clinton, and vice versa), and instead tallied evaluative statements which imparted a clear positive or negative tone to the story. Such statements may have been presented as quotes from non-partisan talking heads such as experts or voters, quotes from partisans who broke ranks (Republicans attacking Trump or Democrats criticizing Clinton), or opinionated statements from the reporter themselves.

Additionally, we separated personal evaluations of each candidate from statements about their prospects in the campaign horse race (i.e., standings in the polls, chances to win, etc.). 

Evaluating statements as either "positive" or "negtative" seems like a recipe to introduce bias; after all, since the MRC is pulling for Trump, it would be predisposed to mark more statements about Trump as "negative," which may skew its results. Since the MRC never posts the raw data from its "research," there's no way to independently evaluate those statements or the MRC's classification of them.

Most egregiously, Noyes ignores that one reason Trump received more negative coverage is because he has done more things that warrant it, having apparently decided to push the fiction that Trump is merely just another Republican.

Another example of Noyes' bias: he complains that stories about "Donald Trump’s treatment of women" are "alleged" and "unproven," while applies no qualifiers to "Bill Clinton’s past treatment of women, and Hillary Clinton’s role in covering up her husband’s wrongdoing."

In short: It's a biased report produced with biased intent, and all the uncritical coverage of it on Fox News -- whose election coverage the MRC conspicuously refused to study -- doesn't change that one bit.

Posted by Terry K. at 3:33 PM EDT

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