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Thursday, May 4, 2017
MRC's Labeling Study Fail
Topic: Media Research Center

The Media Research Center's Geoffrey Dickens complains in an April 25 post:

With Republicans set to make another run at repealing and replacing ObamaCare this week, look for the Big Three networks (ABC, CBS, NBC) to blame conservatives, specifically, the House Freedom Caucus for any sort of obstruction to getting a deal done. In 30 days of health care debate coverage (March 7 through April 5), the broadcast networks consistently framed it as a fight between unreasonable conservatives versus more moderate Republicans and Senate Democrats by overwhelmingly applying ideological labels to one side of the argument.

MRC analysts reviewed all 141 stories on the Big Three (ABC, CBS, NBC) network evening and morning shows that mentioned the efforts of the House Freedom Caucus and their Senate counterparts during the ObamaCare repeal/replacement debate, and discovered that while congressional conservatives were overwhelmingly given ideological labels, those that opposed them were rarely, if ever, labeled by journalists.


In these stories, MRC analysts documented how network reporters assigned a whopping 223 ideological labels to House and Senate Republicans — either to individual members of Congress, or factions like the House Freedom Caucus within the GOP.

Overwhelmingly, the networks used “conservative” tags to talk about Republicans. Fully 80 percent of these labels (179) talked about “conservatives” or those on the “right;” just 20 percent (44) referred to “moderate” Republicans.

Eleven percent of the labels (20) painted conservatives as extremists: “far right,” “hardline,” “very conservative” or “ultra-conservative.” Such deliberate labeling is designed to stigmatize conservatives, casting them as outside-of-the-mainstream ideologues, as compared to their (usually unlabeled) adversaries.

Democrats were never labeled as “liberal” or “progressive.” Twice Democrats were referred to as “moderate,” both times on CBS.

Dickens fails to mention the reason why ideological factions were identified on the Republican side: That's where the fight over repeal is being fought and there are, in fact, conservative and moderate factions. It's not just the "liberal media" reporting on this -- even right-wing Breitbart (like the MRC, a major benificiary of the Mercer family's largesse) has noted the conservative-moderate split. Democrats are unified against any Affordable Care Act repeal, so there is no ideological split to report on -- and, thus, no need to sort between "moderate" and "liberal" Democrats.

In other words, Dickens' "study" has a fundamentally dishonest basis.

There are other issues as well. Once again, a conservative MRC exmployee is inexplicably upset that conservatives are accurately labeled as "conservative." As far as the "far right" label goes, Dickens fails to identify who exactly was labeled as such, so without more information it's impossible to determine the extent of bias here. But given the MRC's propensity for tossing around the "far left" label for anything and everything it doesn't like, there's likely

And for all his complaining about the conservative House Freedom Caucus as an "obstruction to getting a deal done," Dickens does not explain how they were not.

As with its so-called study of "negative" Trump coverage, this MRC study is too biased, loosely defined and narrowly tailored (again, Fox News does not face scrutiny) to be taken seriously by anyone other than the MRC's fellow right-wing travelers.

Posted by Terry K. at 11:01 AM EDT

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