Topic: Media Research Center
The Media Research Center didn't care about the derailment of a train in East Palestine, Ohio, carrying hazardous chemicals when it happened on Feb. 3. It was only when it decided it could be politically exploited to bash the Biden administration and advance its anti-media agenda that it started paying attention. Thus, on Feb. 14 -- 11 days after the derailment -- Curtis Houck and Bill D'Agostino penned the MRC's first post on the derailment, accusing the TV networks of ignoring the story and baselessly implying it was because the town's population is mostly white:
On February 3, East Palestine, Ohio was rocked by a train derailment carrying a host of toxic chemicals, leading to a five-day-long evacuation order for nearly 5,000 Ohio and Pennsylvania residents. Three days later, the rail operator triggered a controlled burn of the toxic chemicals to prevent an explosion and declared the operation a success.
But the fallout is far from over. There have been widespread reports of chickens and fish dying, new chemicals discovered, pets falling ill, and residents complaining< of health complications. Unfortunately, the liberal broadcast networks (ABC, CBS, and NBC) have completely moved on from the story.
For the broadcast networks to revisit East Palestine now would be to admit that their prior abandonment of it was an error born out of laziness and a lack of curiosity.
Unfortunately for East Palestine, their demographics and location in a red-tilting state like Ohio make them a wholly unappetizing topic for the corporate liberal media. According to the latest breakdown, East Palestine is 93.5 percent white, three percent Hispanic, and only 0.36 percent black.
But at least not all of the TV news media lost interest so quickly. Along with CNN, the Fox News Channel, MSNBC, and NewsNation, even the taxpayer-funded leftists at PBS have had their priorities in order.
Houck and D'Agostino didn't explain why they and the MRC had totally ignored the derailment until now. Of course, the MRC would demonstrate its own laziness and lack of curiousity shortly afterward by ignoring the bombshell revelations that Fox News lied to its views as revealed in the Dominion filings.
The next day, the networks resumed coverage of the derailment, and Houck was desperate to claim credit for it:
On Tuesday, NewsBusters reported that the broadcast networks of ABC, CBS, and NBC had abandoned the environmental fallout from the February 3 train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio on their flagship morning and evening shows with zero seconds on ABC and only a minute and 42 seconds on CBS and NBC after an evacuation order was lifted on February 8.
But since the study’s publication and public outcry about the threats posed to the community’s air, food, residents, and water supply, the liberal networks rediscovered the issue Wednesday morning for a combined six minutes and 42 seconds with Tuesday’s CBS Evening News having a 31-second brief.
Houck offered no evidence that the MRC had anything whatsoever with the networks resuming coverage of the story. Tim Graham also hyped the lack of coverage in his Feb. 15 podcast.
Alex Christy spent a Feb. 16 post being mad at a late-night TV host for noting how train safety rules were rolled back during the Trump administration:
NBC Late Night host Seth Meyers has a theory on Wednesday as to why the train carrying toxic chemicals in East Palestine, Ohio, derailed: Donald Trump. This theory was basically a retelling of the talking points being spouted off by Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg.
During his “Closer Look” segment, Meyers declared, “And by the way, rail workers and their unions have been warning for years about deteriorating safety conditions and demanding better work standards. Instead, these massively profitable rail companies poured money into stock buybacks and dividends and lobbied for safety regulations to be repealed. For example, in 2018, the Trump Administration rolled back a train braking rule meant to keep oil tankers from exploding near communities. I mean, of [bleep] course he did.”
Christy then tried to give Trump a pass: "Rule or no rule, since 1990 there has been an average of 1,704 derailments per year." Which, of course, raises the question of why the MRC is so desperate to give this particular one coverage.
Indeed, Houck served up a Feb. 17 post complaining that the networks weren't giving sufficient coverage to the derailment, then going on to defend comparing coverage to that of Fox News:
Oftentimes, NewsBusters will point out a contrast between networks with the Fox News Channel on cable conveying the seriousness of a story either downplayed or ignored on the broadcast networks (ABC, CBS, and NBC). In this case, take notice of how radically different two broadcast networks were in their framing compared to the third.
Houck is being dishonest. The actual reason the MRC does this is beause Fox News is a leader is establishing right-wing narratives -- after all, it wouldn't cover a story if those narratives weren't served. The MRC can then use Fox News' coverage of that story as a cudgel to attack the "liberal media." That's how the right-wing media bubble works.
When the New York Times pointed out right-wingers' obsession with politicizing the derailment story for partisan purposes, Clay Waters complained in a Feb. 19 post:
Stuart Thompson, who patrols the “online information flows” beat for the New York Times, hit out at “right-wing” outlets for not trusting the Environmental Protection Agency’s response to the train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio earlier this month that spewed the carcinogen vinyl chloride and resulted in evacuations for miles around. Thompson dismissed concerns, at least those by conservatives on Friday: “‘Chernobyl 2.0’? Feverish Speculation After Derailment, Fire and Toxic Smoke.”
Yes, the same paper trying to make you terrified of gas stoves is downplaying the crash of a train carrying toxic materials and criticizing those who question the federal response. And perhaps Thompson of all reporters shouldn’t jump too soon and immediately dismiss accusations as right-wing conspiracies?
The Times seemed more concerned about conservatives gaining traction against the Biden administration's response than the actual unfolding ecological disaster.
And the MRC is more concerned with expoiting a disaster for partisan gain than the actual disaster. Meanwhile, Christy lashed out at another late-night host while serving as an apologist for the rail company that caused the derailment:
CBS's The Late Show host Stephen Colbert admitted on Monday that he doesn’t know if deregulation and capitalism are to blame for the East Palestine train derailment, but that did not stop him from encouraging Sen. Bernie Sanders to use the situation to hype his book It’s OK to Be Angry About Capitalism.
Starting the third segment with Sanders, Colbert proclaimed that, “There were some regulations that were put into place under the Obama Administration. They may or may not have had any effect in this case but they were definitely rolled back all during the Trump Administration, after heavy lobbying from Norfolk Southern and other railroads.”
Colbert does not appear to realize that he broke his own embargo on the word “Trump,” but more seriously, buried near the bottom of a fact-check of Occupy Democrats on the claim “Obama imposed stricter rules on trains carrying toxins. Trump killed them,” that PolitiFact declared “mostly true,” were two sentences that would suggest the opposite, “The Facebook post includes an image of the aftermath of the train derailment in Ohio. However, this rule, if it had remained in effect, would not have applied to that Norfolk Southern train as it was not categorized as ‘high-hazard.’”
Houck spent a Feb. 21 post complaining that Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg is not being personally blamed for causing the derailment:
The East Palestine, Ohio train derailment entered a new phase this week as the liberal media blamed Donald Trump for the toxic dump of hazardous chemicals into the air and water supply, and painted the semi-present Biden administration and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg as heroes for this working-class town who’ll crack down on the train operator, Norfolk Southern, for any mishandling of the clean-up.
Among the critics last week, Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) called for him to resign (which led to some pathetic spin from Buttigieg’s media allies), the area Congressman gave Buttigieg a failing grade, and many noted it took Buttigieg ten days to even comment on the derailment. Even the far-left magazine The Nation panned his response to the crisis.
But because Stephanopoulos gingerly went about presenting the blowback, Buttigieg ran out the clock by saying he “plan[s] to go and our folks were on the ground from the first hours” nd suggested his presence would interfere with an investigation into the derailment’s cause.
“[W]hen I go, the focus is going to be on action. Look, I was mayor of my hometown for eight years. We dealt with a lot of disasters, natural and human,” he stated, adding that he’d be a man of action and not someone “there to look good and have their picture taken.”
We thought right-wingers like Houck opposed government intervention in local matters. From there, it was more whining from Kevin Tober that Trump administration policies were called out as possible contributors to the disaster, followed by a gleeful post from Joseph Vazquez that PolitiFact (which the MRC normally despises for committing the offense of fact-checking conservatives) found that the Trump-era regulation rollback did not factor in the cause of the derailment, which "flies in the face of liberal media outlets infected with Trump Derangement Syndrome trying to use the deregulated 2015 Obama rule as a cudgel to wantonly blame Trump for the derailed train." Vazquez didn't explain why he found PolitiFact so trustworthy all of a sudden.
Mark Finkelstein, meanwhile, was annoyed that MSNBC's "Morning Joe" highlighted how Fox News defending President Biden for not immediately rushing to the scene of the derailment -- which is to day, it did what his co-worker Vazquez had done regarding PolitiFact:
Fox News is the network that Morning Joe loves to hate. Similar to the way the show will often refuse to even mention Donald Trump by name, referring to him only as "the former president," Morning Joe will often make a sneering reference to "certain networks," while obviously targeting Fox.
So it was what we could call a Sudden Respect moment when today's Morning Joe praised Fox News in general, and Brit Hume in particular, for their defense of President Biden's trip to Ukraine before making a possible visit to East Palestine, Ohio in the wake of the train derailment there.
Morning Joe played a clip of Bret Baier mentioning that it has not been historically common for Transportation Secretaries to visit the site of train derailments, especially when there are no fatalities. Baier pointed out that during the Trump administration, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao didn't visit train-disaster sites, including ones involving loss of life, whereas there was no loss of life in East Palestine.
Morning Joe then played an extended clip of Hume opining that a president's key duty is to the security of the United States, and in that context, Biden's visit to Ukraine took precedence over a visit to East Palestine.
"Morning Joe" is, of course, the show that Finkelstein loves (and gets paid) to hate.