Topic: Media Research Center
When reports surfaced of a 10-year-old girl in Ohio who had been raped but the extreme anti-abortion laws in the state proved to be so onerous that she was forced to go to Indiana to undergo the procedure, the Media Research Center -- particularly executive Tim Graham -- tried to throw shade at the claim. In a July 4 post, Graham complained that Republican Gov. Kristi Noem of South Dakota, where abortion is similarly effectively illegal, "was harassed to support an abortion for a raped 10-year-old girl in Ohio." He cheered that Noem clung to approved anti-abortion narratives and that "Noem focused on the predator and then expressed the pro-life position that abortion after rape is adding a tragedy to a tragedy."
After President Biden referenced the story, Graham returned with a July 10 post that sought to portray it as a hoax and attacking Washington Post fact-checker Glenn Kessler for not immediately calling Biden a liar after being unable to immediately substantiate the claim:
This story was "too good to check" for the liberal media -- a ten-year-old rape victim in Ohio having to travel to Indiana to get an abortion. On Saturday, Washington Post fact-checker Glenn Kessler noticed it when Joe Biden used it. "This is the account of a one-source story that quickly went viral around the world — and into the talking points of the president."
Kessler underlined "There is no indication that the newspaper made other attempts to confirm her account. The story’s lead reporter, Shari Rudavsky, did not respond to a query asking whether additional sourcing was obtained." The Star put out a lame statement that "the facts and sources...are clear."
That's not transparency! That doesn't build confidence in newspapers! Kessler noted this one-source anecdote was treated as fact all over the globe, and he included CNN's Dana Bash.
If Donald Trump picked up a story like this, Kessler would assign Pinocchios. As usual, there were no Pinocchios for Biden, and his take on the "presidential imprimatur" on this possibly mythical event is so mild that you could interpret it as "Oh, it's a fact now."
We would remind Graham that he and his employer demanded that all media treat the Hunter Biden laptop story that surfaced before the 2020 presidential election as unimpeachable fact despite the fact that the laptop had not been independently verified by anyone outside of the pro-Trump activists who were pushing the story.
But the story was true after all -- a 10-year-old girl was raped. But because the alleged rapist is an undocumented immigrant, it suddenly became a story that could fit into the MRC's pile of stock right-wing narratives. So it changed the focus of the story on the perpetrator instead of the victim in a trio of posts on July 13 and 14:
- CBS & NBC Ignore 10-Year-Old Girl Raped by Illegal Alien
- CBS, NBC Omit Suspect Is Illegal Alien in Rape Case, Imply Ruling Will Cause More Teen Rapes
- GROSS: Twitter Omits Alleged Ohio Rapist Was an ‘Illegal Immigrant’
In that second article, Curtis Houck complained that CBS reporter Eliaine Quijano wanted to talk about things other than the alleged perpetrator's legal status: "Quijano cited '[t]he Indiana doctor who said she performed the abortion,' but skipped over how both her name (Caitlin Bernard) when mentioning the fact that she could face legal trouble for failing to report the rape to law enforcement." Houck didn't explain how Bernard's name was relevant to that particular telling of the story. And his allegation that Bernard "could face legal trouble for failing to report the rape to law enforcement" because it was reported the same day that, in fact, she did.
When the mother of the girl went on TV to defend the alleged rapist, the MRC found that more interesting as well. Jorge Bonilla's eyes seemed to metaphorically light up at the prospect of more undocumented aliens he could disparage: "Based on that experience, I assess that: the mother's distressed defense of the rapist suggests she is also here illegally and fears deportation, the defendant is the family's sole source of income, there is a likelihood of other children in the home, and Mom is exposed to removal of the children under dependency proceedings (failure to protect). Kevin Tober followed with the usual MRC "non-right-wing media aren't covering angles beneficial to right-wing narratives" item, and Bonilla served up another post on the development.
Tober wrote up a post complaining that the girl being forced to go to another state to get an abortion was being held up as an example of post-Roe America: "Of course, this ignores the fact that Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost had previously stated the girl could’ve received an abortion under her unique circumstances." In fact, the Ohio law is so vaguely written that any doctor who performed an abortion could easily face criminal charges.
Graham spent his July 15 column whining that the story made the front page of USA Today; he didn't tell his readers he previously tried to portray it as a hoax. The next day, he was whining that conservatives were called out for trying to prove the story was a hoax, rehashing his previous complaints:
On Friday's PBS NewsHour, anchor William Brangham twisted around the horrible child rape in Ohio as something the Republicans tried to "make hay" of, somehow not a story that Democrats and the liberal media were the first to exploit.
This began as a single-source story in the Indianapolis Star, and CNN's Dana Bash threw it in the face of Gov. Kristi Noem and tried to intimidate her about allowing the murder of a baby after rape. When Washington Post "Fact Checker" Glenn Kessler found the Star reporter and her abortionist source didn't want to talk, Republicans "made hay" of how the story might not be true. Then this controversy forced it to come out.
Graham did not apologize for doubting the story, nor did he admit he was one of the doubters. Alex Christy similarly whined in another July 16 post:
MSNBC’s Stephanie Ruhle hypocritically weaponized the case of a 10-year old girl who traveled from Ohio to Indiana to seek an abortion by declaring that it was actually conservatives who were “weaponizing this story” by not initially believing its veracity.
During a panel discussion, Ruhle expressed to former colleague and current Washington Post Live anchor Leigh Ann Caldwell, “the truth matters but only if you hear it. We say it all the time and I want our audience to understand this week, many, many people heard this awful, awful story in Ohio, a ten year old girl was raped and she had to flee to another state to seek abortion services. Why did she do that? Well, we all know, because Roe v. Wade was overturned.”
To help Ruhle and Caldwell, it was the left and the media that originally weaponized this story by asking Republicans to comment on the case even though they would still be called extremists even if they embraced rape and incest exceptions. It should also not be considered right-wing hackery to except journalists to do a better job confirming single-source stories before turning them into high-profile national narrative drivers, even if they ultimately end up being true.
Again: The MRC demanded that the Hunter Biden laptop story be promoted as stated from partisan right-wing campaign operatives without any independent verification.
Meanwhile, Jeffrey Lord served up his own bizarre spin on the story in a July 16 column claiming that it proved Donald Trump right when he smeared Mexican immigrants as criminals and rapists: "In the zeal of both President Biden and his liberal media allies to target the repeal of Roe with the story of the 10 year old girl being raped, they are suddenly confronted by the fact that they have accidentally confirmed Trump’s point about some illegals crossing the border and, their background un-vetted, committing rape. Which is exactly what appears to have happened to that 10 year old girl."
According to the quote Lord himself cited, Trump didn't say "some" immigrants were rapists; he portrayed nearly all immigrants as criminals and rapists befor adding that "some, I assume, are good people."