Topic: Media Research Center
The Media Research Center loved the big story Fox News dropped on Nov. 2. As the MRC's Kyle Drennen recounts: "On Wednesday evening, Fox News Special Report anchor Bret Baier led off his show with explosive breaking news revealing an extensive ongoing FBI investigation into the corruption scandals swirling around Hillary Clinton, with bureau agents looking into everything from newly discovered e-mails to pay for play allegations against the Clinton Foundation."
Media observers were quick to point out the flaws in Baier's story -- the main one being that it's be based on accounts from two anonymous sources who claim to have knowledge of the investigation, not necessarily actual FBI sources.
But that didn't stop the MRC from complaining that the story wasn't getting traction outside the usual right-wing haunts. Drennen went on to huff, "Despite the bombshell coming just days before election day, the broadcast networks have yet to touch the story." He also complained that "While the networks were unwilling to report on the Democratic nominee being embroiled in a criminal investigation, back in 2000, the same media were eager to hype a decades-old DWI charge against then-Republican nominee George W. Bush as a November surprise designed to damage the candidate," apparently not understanding the difference between a documented police record a an anonymously sourced article by a parisan media outlet.
Then, the next morning, Baier walked back the central claim of his story -- that an indictment was "likely" over the Clinton Foundation allegations -- calling that statement "inartful" because "that's not the process." The MRC continued pushing the story anyway. Curtis Houck complained that "MSNBC acknowledged the story but repeatedly chided Fox News perpetuating a story using 'anonymous sources' that’s not 'corroborated or substantiated.'"
Meanwhile, other news outlets did their own investigating, and they came to a much different conclusion: NBC's Pete Williams reported that "this idea that there are indictments near or something like that, I am told is just not true," and CNN similarly pointed out that "there is no evidence that any of the Fox stuff is true. That there is nothing close to an indictment."
Still, the MRC kept pushing the story. Houck was offended that NBC did its own reporting on the story, then touted GOP operative Matt Schlapp dutifully sticking to the increasingly dubious Fox News talking points, at one point telling an MSNBC host, "Your reporting is not accurate." Needless to say, Schlapp's quote was the headline of Houck's post.
Then, right on cue, the MRC bigwigs injected themselves into the story. MRCchief Brent Bozell issued a press release ranting about the "media cover-up" of the increasingly dubious Fox News story and asserting that "No one in the so-called ‘news’ media can deny this without lying through his/her teeth." Tim Graham ran to fight-wing-friendly Fox Business, sister network of Fox News, to complain that other news outlets are accurately reporting that the Fox News story has "no substantiation whatsoever." (he also veered off topic and into right-wing fantasyland by saying, "Well, we could certainly argue that the Watergate story itself was left-wing partisanship in action.")
The MRC's Nicholas Fondacaro, meanwhile, was still complaining about a lack of media coverage of the increasingly shaky story, asserting that "A solid 24 hours after Fox News reported the massive bombshell that the FBI was pursuing a criminal investigation into the Clinton Foundation, the liberal “Big Three” networks (ABC, CBS, and NBC) were scrambling to defend Clinton Thursday evening." NBC's reporting that there is no imminent indictment as Fox News claimed is merely an attempt to "downplay" the Fox story, Fondacaro claimed.
Bozell and Graham then teamed up for a column declaring that "The network blackout so far on this FBI probe is beyond the pale." They did not mention the unsubstantiated nature of the allegation, the growing body of reporting contradicting it, or that Baier actually walked back the key allegation.
After their column appeared, however, Baier effectively retracted his story, admitting that "just wasn't inartful, it was a mistake" to report that an indictment was forthcoming, "and for that I'm sorry." He also walked back his claim that it was all but certain -- a "99 percent accuracy" -- that Clinton's private server had been hacked, admitting that "there are still no digital fingerprints of a breach."
The MRC, however, still wants to believe Baier did not correct the story, again complaining about accurate reporting: "On Friday morning, the rush to gang up on Fox News and Special Report host Bret Baier over his FBI story was full speed ahead with CNN repeatedly harping on Baier’s 'completely false' bombshell being 'a prime example of the echo chamber at work' spreading 'lies' to hurt Hillary Clinton."Houck did not acknowledge the validity of the reporting by other media outlets on this story, and he did not mention Baier's retraction at all.
Bozell said in his rant, "We will report developments on this continuing cover-up every hour from here on out." But the MRC has yet to report on Baier's retraction, which one would think is an important development -- or explain why it's continuing to push a bogus story.
Then again, we all know the answer to that: Because the story hurts Hillary, and the MRC is in the tank for Trump.
UPDATE: The MRC has sent out an email touting how "Fox News’ Bret Baier exposed the startling new revelations regarding the FBI investigation of the Clinton Foundation on Wednesday night" telling readers to call the presidents of non-Fox networks to "let them know, in no uncertain terms, that the American people demand an end to this pro-Hillary blackout of major new developments regarding ongoing FBI investigations." The email didn't mention that the story has been retracted.