Topic: Media Research Center
The Media Research Center's coverage of the trial of actor Jussie Smollett over his apparent false claim that he was the victim of an assault by a MAGA mob largely consisted of rehasihng attacks on media outlets that originally reported his claims before questions were raised about them. Typical was a Nov. 29 post by Kristine Marsh, who baselessly asserted: "Smollett's fake story wasn’t believable to any reasonable person from the beginning, but the media still ran with it because it fit their narrative." That sort of tone continued:
- STUDY: After Hyping Fake Smollett Attack as ‘MAGA’ Terror, Nets BURY Actor’s Hoax Trial
- ASHAMED: ABC Hosts Wants You to Forget Their Embarrassing Smollett Reporting
- NEW NewsBusters Podcast: Rittenhouse-Obsessed Networks Are Bored by Smollett Trial
- EMBARRASSED: Why Has GMA Gone 665 Days Since Covering Jussie Smollett?
- FINALLY: 666 Days Later, GMA Returns to the Smollett Hoax Scandal
- Absurd: 'View' Hosts Say Smollett’s Fake Hate Crime ‘Made Sense' 'Believable' (in which Marsh again insisted that "Smollett's story wasn't realistic in the slightest and was clearly a political stunt intended to make Trump supporters look like violent bigots")
- NEW NewsBusters Podcast: Brian Williams, Jussie Smollett Share a Fake-News Farewell
- Rewind: Many Idiot Celebs Backed Smollett and His ‘MAGA Country’ Hoax
For an organization that loves to attack other for pushing "fake news," the MRC has promoted a surprising amount of fake news. The most notorious of them, of course, was its promotion of the fake 2016 Fox News storyabout Hillary Clinton's purportedly imminent indictment, which it embraced harder that any outlet it has based for reporting on Smollett's original assault claim -- and which it still, after five years, has not told its readers was fake news.There are a few others as well:
- The MRC promoted the hoax story that CNN scripted questions at a televised forum.
- It also hyped the idea that a Border Patrol agent was skilled by an undocumented immigrant, but still hasn't told readers that an investigation found that the agent apparently died in an accidential fall.
- We've caught MRC researcher Nicholas Fondacaro spreading numerous false claims, none of which he has corrected.
- Fondacaro and fellow MRC writer Curtis Houck falsely accused some media outlets of reporting that "whips" were used by Border Patrol agents on horseback against a group of immigrants, despite never quoting them using that word.
Don't look for the MRC to apologize for spreading all of that fake news -- the MRC never apologizes for any of its screw-ups.
Meanwhile, CNN's Oliver Darcy -- mortal enemy of Houck for ceasing to be the right-wing hack he remains and turning into a real journalist -- called out Fox News (and, by extension, the MRC) for using the media's early reporting of Smollett's story to discredit the media as a whole (bolding in original):
The tactic is dishonest, yet simple: Take an actual act of deception, in this case one that was perpetrated by an actor and covered heavily by the press, and then use it to suggest that anything reported by mainstream sources cannot be trusted. Everything is a hoax.
Propagandists know that their power increases substantially when they can convince their audiences not to trust other sources of information. And so, Smollett's case is very valuable to them. They can hold up Smollett's guilty verdict and then attempt to extrapolate it onto other stories which are politically inconvenient for them.
When you cannot argue on the facts, it is much easier to dismiss a story in its entirety and go after the credibility of the press for reporting on it. It's the timeless play — one that played on repeat during the Trump administration — and one that is only growing more and more popular in right-wing media...
Unsurprisingly, Tim Graham spent an entire Dec. 11 post whining about it:
When Jussie Smollett was convicted on five of six counts for his hate-crime hoaxing in Chicago, CNN's "Reliable Sources" newsletter Thursday on the media didn't spend some time eating humble pie about being swindled. Instead, Oliver Darcy turned the occasion into an attack on Sean Hannity and the right-wingers. Like nothing demands CNN humbly examine themselves. Everything that happens calls for an attack on the right-wingers.
This is mildly funny when his cohort Brian Stelter wrote an entire book on Fox News titled Hoax, which quite obviously attempts to convince their audience not to trust that source of information. So is he a "propagandist"? Or are all propagandists conservative? Did everyone who hammered the false Smollett narrative escape the term "propagandist"?
Note that Graham doesn't deny that's what Fox News is doing -- instead, he goes straight to whataboutism by attacking yet again Stelter's book (and doesn't address, let alone rebut, its content).
When Darcy went on to cite Trump and Russia, COVID and the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection as other examples of the right-wing media trying to reframe a story that's counter to the facts, Graham took offense to that as well by slinging more whataboutism:
CNN never admits that its dominant narrative of the Trump era -- that Trump colluded with the Russians to steal the 2016 election -- did not turn out to be true. CNN's Democrat minions energetically spread conspiracy theories funded by the Hillary Clinton campaign, starting with the phony Steele dossier.
Darcy wasn't going to engage on what CNN did to argue against conservatives as Smollett's story collapsed. After the guilty verdicts, conservative Twitter replayed Brian Stelter's attempts to suggest "we may never know" the truth, which doesn't seem like the proper pose for journalists who boast of being "pro-truth."
The "CNN Media Unit" should be doing an examination right now about how the "mainstream media" that endlessly proclaims it is "pro-truth" should have been more careful. It should not have immediately rushed to judgment when someone cried "hate crime in MAGA hats," without confirming basic facts. Instead, it's all Fox News is terrible, Trump is terrible, and we have never done anything wrong, ever.
Again, no defense is offered for the tactics used by Fox News or even his own employer. He may as well be officially acknowledging that Darcy is correct, and that delegitimizing the media is the MRC's (and Fox News') goal. C'mon, Tim, say the quiet part out loud.