Topic: Media Research Center
The Media Research Center relentlessly hyped every little claim special counsel John Durham made that alluded to possible wrongdoing by Hillary Clinton's 2016 presidential campaign as a "MASSIVE" development as it reported on the trial of lawyer Michael Sussmann for allegedly making a false statement to the FBI. But when the jury acquitted Sussmann, had to find a new narrative: attacking the justice system. In a May 31 post, Kevin Tober suggested the verdict was illegitimate because the jury was mysteriously "dubious":
In one of the most outrageous examples of leftist media bias, ABC’s World News Tonight and CBS Evening News decided to finally report on the Durham/Sussmann Russia hoax trial, but only after Michael Sussmann was acquitted of lying to the FBI. Both networks had no interest in covering the trial while it was ongoing. It wasn’t until the Hillary Clinton campaign lawyer was found not guilty by a dubious Washington D.C. jury that they decided to take a victory lap. While NBC Nightly News made no mention of the jury verdict.
On World News Tonight, anchor David Muir gloated about the “major defeat” for special counsel John Durham before tossing it to the network’s chief justice correspondent Pierre Thomas.
For Thomas’s part, he joyfully reported the “Washington jury handing special counsel John Durham a stinging defeat, acquitting a lawyer with ties to Hillary Clinton's campaign of charging that he lied to the FBI.”
Unlike with previous articles bashing those channels' lack of coverage of the trial, Tober did not mention how Fox News covered the verdict.
When CNN's John Avlon took right-wing media to task for its embarrassing Durham cheerleading. Aidan Moorehouse had a meltdown in a June 1 post:
If you ever feel like being lectured by someone who thinks you have the mental capacity of a toddler, look no further than CNN’s John Avlon. On Wednesday’s New Day, Avlon decided to use his five-minute monologue Reality Check to gloat over the acquittal of Clinton campaign lawyer Michael Sussmann and ironically tout CNN as “reality-based media” as opposed to “partisan media.”
Avlon could barely contain his glee as he recounted, “Yesterday, the hammer was supposed to finally come down. . .But instead, it was time to cue the sad trombone soundtrack, as the jury came back with an acquittal for the Clinton campaign lawyer Michael Sussmann, who’d been charged with a single count of lying to the FBI.”
Avlon compared the Durham probe with the Mueller investigation, which “took less than two years, and it resulted in prison sentences for five members of the Trump circle, including Paul Manafort and longtime political advisor Roger Stone — both of whom Trump later pardoned — as well as former consigliere Michael Cohen.”
He then decided to take a swipe at CNN’s rival (and much more popular) network, “The folks over at Fox News obligingly hyped up the Durham investigation big time. Get this, according to LexisNexis transcripts, they mentioned it at least 625 times on their air since 2019. The repetition reflects the alternate reality that gets created by partisan echo chambers.”
Avlon continued, “As it became evident that the trial was going sideways, right-wing media was already primed to explain away an acquittal, blaming the jury as biased and saying it contained Hillary Clinton donors. But this wasn't a close call. It was a fast six-hour deliberation followed by a unanimous verdict.”
Does Avlon think that pointing out the speed of the deliberation and clear conflicts of interest will make people trust D.C. more?
But if jury members had the "clear conflicts of interest" that Moorehouse claims, wasn't it Durham's duty to make sure those people never got on the jury, since both prosecution and defense attorneys must sign off on jury members?
Emma Schultz lodged a similar complaint in a June 2 post, grumbing that the acquittal means "outlets like CNN are suddenly excited to spike the football. On Tuesday night, Don Lemon and guests cheered the verdict as won 'fairly and squarely.' They also derided 'partisan folks' who watch such trials in bad faith." She then tried to raise the specter of a biased jury by citing a highly biased Fox News employee: "Fox News host and former Trump spokesperson Kayleigh McEnany explained that 'the D.C. jury pool, this is an area of the country where 76 percent of people in the District of Columbia are registered Democrats. Believing that the jury did not 'buy what Durham was selling,' she feeds right into what the left thinks." Like Moorehouse, Schultz failed to mention that Durham approved this jury. Clay Waters followed with a June 4 post grousing that the New York Times pointed out Durham was just chasing right-wing conspiracy theories.
Meanwhile, MRC writer Curtis Houck was more explicit about blaming a biased jury on his Twitter account, lashing out in one tweet at an "ultra-liberal D.C. jury" and calling Sussmann their "friend" (despite offering no evidence that any jury member had any sort of "friendly" personal connection with Sussmann). He whined in another tweet that "This [is] what happens when you try a Democratic operative in a city with Saddam Hussein-like election returns for Democrats." At no point did he mention that Durham signed off on these jurors and that if he felt they were overly biased, he shouldn't have done that.
Houck further complained: "If a Trump lawyer were to be tried in a scheme similar to how Michael Sussmann was charged with lying to the FBI and faced a D.C. jury, the trial would be held in Fulton County, PA where Trump got 85.5% in 2020." But Houck offered no evidence that Durham tried to move the Sussmann trial to find a supposedly less Democratic jury.
It wouldn't be an official MRC narrative, however, if Tim Graham didn't weigh in. In his June 1 podcast, rehashing his subordinates' whining that the "liberal media" didn't cover the trial but only noted when Sussmann was acquitted, rehashed right-wing complaints about the Mueller report and even went way back to the 1990s to complain that Lawrence Walsh indiced Caspar Weinberger before the 1992 election. Graham further whined that the trial was held in "midnight-blue D.C., so pretty much every prospective juror was a Democrat." Like Houck, Graham offered no evidence Durham tried to move the trial outside D.C. He added: "Basically, the jurors came out and told reporters this was a waste of our times, which just tells you the jurors were Democrats." Graham seems incapable of admitting that jurors' assessment of Durham's case could not possibly be objective.
Graham went on to handwave Durham's failure as a prosecutor and cheer his work in perpetuating right-wing anti-Hillary narratives: "So in this case the prosecution failed, but in media terms, the John Durham probe keeps giving us details on how the media and the Clinton campaign colluded to create the Russian collusion narrative that ended up being false."
Graham regurgitated a lot of his podcast ranting in his June 3 column: "John Durham was guaranteed a hostile reception from journalists who wanted everyone to believe the most overwrought tales about Trump while they posed as the Guardians of Facts and Truth. Any attempt to dig into the manufacturing of their sensationalist narratives has to be disparaged as a 'debacle.'" And Durham was guaranteed a fawning reception from Graham and the MRC because he was advancing right-wing anti-Hillary narratives. That was too good of a story for anyone at the MRC to fact-check beyond his "MASSIVE" claims -- which might have revealed they weren't so massive after all.