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Monday, November 27, 2023
MRC Launches Loud And Lame Attack On Another Media Ratings Servce
Topic: Media Research Center

The Media Research Center's war against NewsGuard for pointing out the shoddiness of right-wing media has been loud, lame and partisan. Now it's running the same playbook against another website-ratings firm. Luis Cornelio and Tim Kilcullen began a Sept. 21 "original" report this way:

The left’s crusade against media critical of the Biden agenda has entered a new disturbing stage that should send chills down every American’s spine.

Meet Ad Fontes: a powerful media ratings firm positioning itself to be the arbiter of truth and facts. Founded in 2018, Ad Fontes has established close partnerships with the nation’s largest Big Tech platforms, advertising agencies and educational institutions. But Ad Fontes is just getting started.

Ad Fontes seeks to determine which media platforms are acceptable for Americans to use and which ought to be dismantled—all under the guise of non-partisanship and impartiality. However, an MRC Free Speech America investigation into Ad Fontes exposed the company’s claim of impartiality to be a mere facade. Our findings revealed that Ad Fontes’s entire methodology is designed to harm conservatives while championing liberal outlets. In addition, our investigation showed that its executives rigged its “Media Bias Chart” to hide the disturbing fact that Ad Fontes exists to promote the left’s political agenda.

Of course, the fact that it rates right-wing websites lower than other ones is not, in itself, evidence of bias, however much Cornelio and Kilcullen want you to believe that advance their narrative -- they simply assume that anyone who doesn't push the same right-wing narratives are biased and evil and must be destroyed for such wrongthink. They went on to shoehorn their attacks on Ad Fontes into the MRC's existing narratives:

Ad Fontes achieves its ratings by having nameless, faceless analysts making subjective editorial decisions consistent with the views of its founder and CEO.

Ad Fontes claims to deploy teams of three unnamed individuals with different ideological leanings (allegedly right, center and left) to review and rate news stories. Ad Fontes CEO Vanessa Otero told MRC Free Speech America that this so-called diversity guards against biases in their ratings of media. Ad Fontes asks Americans to accept its anonymous analysis as objective, scientific and empirical. Regrettably, it’s not. Our findings reveal that Ad Fontes’s analysis is categorically plagued with leftist bias.

Otero claimed her ratings are meant to check bias but she consistently failed to see how her own biases and repeated contradictions are systemic in Ad Fontes’s work. From how stories are initially selected for review to how these stories are analyzed, Otero provided information in statements to MRC Free Speech America that contradicted her assertions. 

Notably, Ad Fontes glosses over legacy media’s most effective political activism tool, bias by omission. These are the stories the media refuse to cover — such as the Biden family scandals (e.g. the legacy media blackout of information harmful to Joe Biden) to swing elections in favor of the left. MRC published a detailed report showing how the media and Big Tech defeated former President Donald Trump in the 2020 election utilizing this powerful tactic.

That "detailed report," as we've documented, is nothing but a conspiracy theory that ignores the fact there was no reason to trust the New York Post's reporting on Hunter Biden's laptop given its stattus as a pro-Trump lackey and based on findings the MRC paid biased right-wing pollsters to generate.

The lead attack was on Ad Fontes' media bias chart:

The Ad Fontes business model is built around the idea that it is “non-partisan,” “impartial” and fact-based. This is a facade. An investigation by MRC Free Speech America reveals that in both approach and application, Ad Fontes exists to amplify media on the political left while suppressing media that report facts inconsistent with Otero’s worldview.

"Ad Fontes is a for-profit company run by a left-winger purporting to objectively rank media outlets,” said Brent Bozell, founder and president of the Media Research Center. “But no honest American believes that PBS, CNN and The New York Times are objective media outlets. Their whole ranking system is a lie aimed at telling Americans to trust the leftist media and not to trust anyone on the right."


MRC Free Speech America staff analyzed the reliability scores of the 3,134 media entities rated by Ad Fontes between July 31 and Aug. 7. The disparity in scoring was readily apparent. Of the 2,032 media that Ad Fontes rated on the political “left,” 1,299 (64%) were given a score of 40 or above, solidifying their status as “reliable.” 

Examples of left-leaning media awarded this highest rating include CNN, The New York Times, NPR, Associated Press, Vox, ABC, CBS and NBC. However, of the 975 media Ad Fontes rated on the “right,” only 313 (32%) were given a “reliable” score of 40 or above. (e.g. The Wall Street Journal, Fox Business, National Post, CATO Institute). Ad Fontes was exactly twice as likely to award its highest rating to media on the left.

“The left’s most powerful tool you’ve never heard of, Ad Fontes’s official ratings chart resembles a fairytale rainbow of vibrant colors, but the actual data is nightmare for people who want straight news,” said MRC Free Speech America Vice President Dan Schneider. “This so-called media literacy firm seems to have worked overtime to make its rating system look benevolent, but when you look deeper into the real data, it’s not. The chart offered to students and advertisers is clearly deceptive and tailor-made to create a veneer of objectivity. I can see why advertisers would be induced to direct their advertising dollars to the left and why kids would be influenced not to read another article critical of liberal policies.”

As the head of NewsGuard occasionally did, Otero made the mistake of trying to cooperate with the MRC, which was interested only in bad-faith attacks and planning a hit job on her organization:

Ad Fontes’s leader, Otero, claimed her media ratings system is meant to check bias, but in an interview with MRC Free Speech America, she recited vague platitudes about her own biases but then consistently refused to acknowledge how her own prejudices are reflected in her company’s work.

Even if something as subjective as reliability could be quantified in a single number, Otero is ill-suited for such a task. This is because, despite her enthusiastic presentation, she has massive blindspots to the flaws in her methodology and is reflexively hostile to data that challenges her worldview. 

MRC Free Speech America pressed Otero about the issue of bias by omission in an Aug. 8 interview. Bias by omission is the most insidious form of media manipulation: Instead of misrepresenting facts, outlets simply refuse to report news contrary to their own political agenda. Sometimes, legacy media will bury an entire story, such as legacy media’s refusal to cover the Hunter Biden laptop exposé until after the election. This well-researched story, published in October of 2020, included emails recovered from abandoned Biden family laptops that revealed Joe Biden participating in his son’s dealings with the shady Ukrainian energy firm Burisma Holdings.

Speaking of bias by omission: Cornelio and Kilcullen touted how "MRC commissioned a detailed survey of 1,750 swing state voterst hat pulled the lever for then-candidate Joe Biden," finding that "82 percent of Biden voters were unaware of at least one of eight news stories that legacy media had buried" -- but didn't disclose that the poll was conducted by The Polling Company, which was founded by Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway, so its fairness and accuracy can reasonably be questioned. When Otero pointed out how biased the MRC "study" was, Cornelio and Kilcullen objected:

Ad Fontes gave the MRC study on the media coverup of the Biden family scandals an abysmal 11.33 reliability rating on a scale where anything below 24 is considered unreliable. Otero spared no words in assailing the piece: “It’s based on a supposition, a premise that you all—you advocate that the media doesn’t cover these things.”  

When MRC Free Speech America researchers pointed out that the study revealed that a large portion of Biden voters had never heard of the Hunter Biden laptop story and that 9.4 percent of his voters would not have voted for him if they had known of it, Otero doubled down. “I don’t agree with that … there was so much attention on the Hunter Biden laptop thing,” she claimed. “Like, regardless of the fact that it was, like, suppressed on Twitter and Facebook. There is no lack of coverage of, like, Hunter Biden stories, right?”


Otero’s response highlights one of the fatal weaknesses with Ad Fontes’s methodology: In training analysts to adopt a uniform approach consistent with Otero’s vision, her opinions are used as the standard to determine the reliability of stories.  Actual facts that contradict her opinions are therefore deemed misinformation. Thus, many of the 1,750 Biden voters who were scientifically polled but reported views that contradicted Otero’s alternative reality were once again erased.

Again, Cornelio and Kilcullen refused to disclose the logical reason the study should be dismissed: the bias of the pollsters on which the study relies (the other one being McLaughlin, who was the pollster for Trump's 2020 presidential campagin and, thus, is even more compromised).

We'll delve more into the MRC's attack on Ad Fontes soon.

Posted by Terry K. at 10:04 PM EST

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