Topic: Media Research Center
The Media Research Center in general, and Tim Graham in particular, love to complain that right-wing "satire" gets fact-checked -- but they usually leave out the part where people treating the "satire" as reality are the reason it gets fact-checked. Graham did it again in a June 24 column:
On June 18, someone captured video of President Biden riding a bike on vacation in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. When he came to a stop, he caught his foot in the pedal and fell to the pavement. Without it being on tape, no one would have cared much.
On social media, conservatives quickly brought up how Trump was ridiculed for walking gingerly down a ramp at the West Point commencement in 2020. The liberal media – stoked by Trump-loathing social-media accounts – spread it far and wide.
Spencer Brown at Townhall pointed out the Biden campaign even made an ad championing Biden’s vigor, that he runs up ramps while Trump tiptoed down one. CNN’s Chris Cillizza wrote a silly piece headlined “Why the Donald Trump-West Point ramp story actually matters.”
But what stood out on the Biden bike bumble was the “fact checkers.” An AP Fact Check quickly proclaimed: “Despite a fabricated screenshot circulating online, The Atlantic hasn't published an article with a headline describing President Joe Biden's bike fall as ‘heroism.”
The fake headline was “The Heroism of Biden’s Bike Fall: The President gracefully illustrated an important lesson for all Americans—when we fall, we must get back up.” Radio host Jason Rantz tweeted “AP is fact checking a satire of The Atlantic because they think people would believe it really came from that publication — which is telling.”
Reuters also fact-checked it. The typography is exactly the same as the magazine’s, so it would be easy for Biden critics to share and enjoy it.
Again, Graham leaves out the fact that the fake Atlantic headline was fact-checked because people were treating it as real. The Reuters fact-check noted that "One user shared the screenshot on Twitter and said: 'Are you kidding me??'" and that "Another said: 'In 2022 this masquerades as journalism'." The AP fact-check similarly stated: "While some social media users realized that the headline is fake, others appeared to view it as authentic. One Twitter user who shared the image wrote on Saturday, 'Are you kidding me??'"
Rather than offer up examples of liberal-leaning social media memes that were mistaken for reality and thus required a fact-check, Graham whined that the current right-wing star, Ron DeSantis, was mocked by an obvious satirist:
The “fact checkers” lunge to clear up these satires around Biden. But not for, say, Ron DeSantis.
Sister Toldjah at RedState noted that satirist Stephen Colbert badly mangled a DeSantis press conference from January 31, 2022. The CBS late-night host implied DeSantis refused to condemn a gaggle of “about 20" neo-Nazis quacking in Orlando. Colbert cited an Orlando Sentinel story, but just the words “Gov. Ron DeSantis remained silent.” The actual sentence said he was silent "until Monday afternoon when he responded to a question about the rallies with a tirade against his political enemies.”Colbert then showed a 12-second video clip of this presser where the governor said he wouldn’t be smeared by Democrats. He insisted DeSantis didn’t have the courage to condemn the neo-Nazis. Again, the Orlando newspaper quoted DeSantis calling them “some jackasses doing this on the street” and said they’d be held accountable by law enforcement.
DeSantis went on to boast of having signed “the strongest antisemitism bill in the country” and denounced the Democrats for welcoming antisemites like Rep. Ilhan Omar.
But there were no fact checks: no AP, no Reuters, no Snopes, and no PolitiFact. Twitter had nothing to underline. Satirists on the Left have a free pass to smear DeSantis as a cowardly lion on neo-Nazis. The game is rigged.
As we documented when the MRC first complained about it, this summary leaves out important details -- it took DeSantis two days to issue a response to the neo-Nazis "quacking in Orlando" and only then when he was cornered on the issue. His then-press secretary, Christina Pushaw, issued a tweet (since deleted) falsely suggesting the Nazis were actually Democrats in disguise.
Graham's whining about how "the game is rigged" is particularly dumb since he gave no examples of it. To the extent that there is a "game" -- and Graham, as a right-wing political operative, thinks everything that doesn't support right-wing narratives is a "game" -- is about telling the truth, and conservatives not getting away with lying to people or misleading them somehow means it's "rigged." If Graham wants a less rigged "game," he should hold his own side as accountable as he holds the "liberal media."