Topic: Media Research Center
The Media Research Center's Curtis Houck has long been a fanboy of upstart channel NewsNation, portraying it as "delightfully objective and refreshing" though the presence of former Fox News executives and on-air talent suggest a right-leaning bias (which is really why Houck praises the channel). When the Daily Beast pointed out this fact, Houck had a meltdown in a Sept. 15 post, arguing that NewsNation has people who didn't used to work for Fox News too:
The Daily Beast has always had a reputation as not only a leftist publication, but a contemptuous band of pricks buffered by layers of juvenile smugness. So, it was no surprise when they had writer Joe Berkowitz spend a week watching NewsNation and, on cue, he concluded with a piece dripping with disdain that was so thick he must of forgotten to get basic facts right, including who hosts what show and where many of them used to work.
Berkowitz opened with a whining about the existence of On Balance with Leland Vittert, calling it “a nightly opinion fabfest” and opposite of “‘fairest’ in the Snow White sense” and no different than content on Vittert’s former channel, Fox News. He then added Vittert was one of “many...Hannityville refugees” like former executive Bill Shine, but a basic consulting of their hosts would show a diversity of previous stops.
“Sometimes the NewsNation hosts seem to go out of their way to avoid saying anything bad about Republicans, as if doing so would put them in danger of being mistaken for Rachel Maddow,” he whined.
But who’s the showrunner for Vittert’s show. Oh, it’s a former executive producer for CNN’s The Lead with Jake Tapper.
Yes, Chris Stirewalt is their political contributor and he came from Fox News (as did fill-in anchor Elizabeth Prann), but who’s NewsNation’s Washington bureau chief? Mike Viqueira, former correspondent at CBS, NBC, and al-Jazeera.
Houck then seved up a "current breakdown of hosts and their previous stop(s) prior to NewsNation, from AM to PM. It includes a former World News Tonight anchor and, yes, Chris “Fredo” Cuomo from CNN (and ABC before that)." He also went on to highlight correspondents who didn't previously work for Fox News (a couple of whom hail from right-wing outlets like OAN and the Daily Caller) as well as a list of liberal contributors, though he didn't mention that the Daily Beast pointed out that one supposedly liberal contributor ghost-wrote a book for Republican presidential candidate Chris Christie.
All that list-making obscured the fact that Houck refused to address the substance of the Daily Beast article -- that NewsNation has a right-leaning bias. Here's one example it cited:
In a typical segment, Morning in America host Marni Hughes welcomes strategists from both sides to discuss Donald Trump’s glowering mugshot. Hughes asks the GOP strategist his opinion on why Fulton County D.A. Fani Willis insisted Trump take a mugshot, which prompts the strategist into a nearly two-minute tirade of MAGA talking points. When Hughes finally interrupts him, it’s not to push back on any falsehoods or mischaracterizations—that first Trump interview on NewsNation apparently having crystallized “zero pushback” into house style guidelines.
Instead, she turns to the Dem strategist to ask whether he agrees that Trump is the victim of a double standard, given that recent NewsNation guest Alan Dershowitz—who, Hughes stresses, did not vote for Trump—thinks Al Gore reacted after the 2000 election pretty much the same way as Trump did after 2020. The Dem strategist offers a cogent 40-second rebuttal before Hughes throws it back to the GOP stooge for a long rant on Hilary Clinton’s emails and similarly relevant topics. End of segment.
It’s as if the host, the GOP strategist, and Alan Dershowitz for some reason, are all on the same side, with the Dem strategist on hand just to play devil’s advocate.
Houck continued to whine:
We’re approaching dead horse territory, but Berkowitz seemed hellbent on embarrassing himself in the piece that he claimed was merely “a Yassified Fox News—with all unseemly biases artificially buffed and ironed into a centrist façade” and fixating on how some of the first hires left the network.
Was that NewsNation focuses on the border? Or drug addiction? Or other topics Americans actually care about, and not just all Trump scandals, all the time? He wouldn’t say.
Of course, "the border" and "drug addictions" are Houck's whitewashed descriptions of right-wing talking points-- "the border" is typically labeled at NewsBusters as "Biden border crisis," and "drug addiction" is essentially fentanyl crossing the border, which the MRC also loves to blame on Biden even though most drug smugglers are Americans.
Meanwhile, here's how the Beast article described NewsNation's Trump coverage:
NewsNation treats Trump’s indictments like potential baggage; as though he stood accused of mild tax evasion decades ago, rather than recently plotting to overturn an election, obstructing justice, mishandling nuclear secrets, and dozens of other extremely serious charges. Everyone on-air seems to regard the GOP’s continued love affair with him as a questionable quirk, not an unmistakable sign of rot from within the party.
Networks like MSNBC and CNN may get too bogged down in the melodrama of Trump’s alleged criminal activity, but to avoid acknowledging the gravity of these charges—and to provide friendly cover for alternative facts about some of the dead-to-rights evidence supporting them—is a massive overcorrection. It’s not unbiased; it’s untethered to reality.
Houck did note the latter paragraph, but his response was to cherry-pick criticism of Trump on the channel and present it without context:
A simple perusing of their coverage from said time period found all kinds of guests saying the Georgia charges (and the other three cases) against Trump were serious. It included historian Douglas Brinkley, who’d never be confused with being pro-MAGA.
Also that day, criminal defense attorney Jon Sale said: “If I were his lawyer, I would really cringe.”
NewsBusters -- of which Houck is managing editor -- regularly attack channels that have on guests exposing such Trump-critical opinions. But he'll never criticize NewsNation for doing the same thing because he can use it as cover to attack anyone, like the Daily Beast, who points out NewsNation's right-leaning bias. As we've seen with Fox News, peddling right-wing talking points buys a lot of brownie points from the MRC, which comes in handy when you're accused of, say, lying to your viewers.
Besides, Houck has effectively admitted NewsNation's bias by being so aggressive to defend the channel when that bias is pointed out. He would not do so if that bias wasn't there.