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Monday, January 29, 2024
MRC Surprisingly Knocks NewsNation's Performance At Fourth GOP Debate
Topic: Media Research Center

As far as the Media Research Center is concerned, the loser of the fourth Republican presidential debate was ... NewsNation, the channel that aired it. That's a surprise, considering how much the MRC is desperate to tell you how wonderful and purportedly unbiased NewsNation is (despite that fact that it features former Fox News figures both on camera and behind the scenes). The first shot at NewsNation was paired with a move from the MRC's DeSantis Defense Brigade in a Dec. 6 post by Nicholas Fondacaro:

NewsNation was the new kid on the block in the television news space, and Wednesday was their first go at hosting a presidential debate. The moderators were NewNation's [sic] Elizabeth Vargas, The Washington Free Beacon editor-in-chief Eliana Johnson, and Sirius XM podcaster Megyn Kelly. While NewsNation claimed not to have an agenda, it was hard to see it as the first question and a series of audio/visual mishaps all seemed to go against one of the Republican candidates in particular.

Unfortunately, things didn’t start well as Kelly kicked off the debate with a long-winded fastball at Florida Governor Ron DeSantis pressing him to get out of the race[:]


When DeSantis went to answer the question, the NewsNation control room had apparently messed with his microphone and had him sounding like a colony of bees in a vacuum cleaner. Some may argue that it was just an accident since he was the first to speak. But that issue should have been worked out in a pre-debate walkthrough when they hooked up the candidates and adjusted their audio levels.

There was another snafu almost 10 minutes later where, as DeSantis was going after former Ambassador Nikki Haley and Black Rock, the camera started shaking wildly (both incidents are included in the video accompanying this piece). DeSantis had already spoken and had not moved, so camera adjustments shouldn’t have been necessary. Again, that’s usually worked out in walkthroughs.

Those were the only noticeable audio/visual issues during the debate.

Jorge Bonilla weighed in with his own NewsNation complaint in a post a couple hours later:

Tonight was NewsNation’s first foray into hosting a presidential primary debate, and then running a post-debate analysis special. No small feat for what amounts to a brand new network. And with that, comes the opportunity for self-congratulation. Which, unfortunately, did not happen off-air.

Watch as the all-star panel headed by Chris Cuomo effusively congratulates itself on a job well-done:


In fairness, congratulations are in order. But it wasn’t like the event went off without a hitch, as our friend Nick Fondacaro pointed out. The start of the debate was marred by technical glitches that could have been averted with a walkthrough. Or one more walkthrough. But NewsNation recovered and delivered a more substantive debate with a better panel asking more of the kinds of questions you’d expect in a Republican primary debate (unlike the Reagan Library fiasco).

From there, it was on to praising candidates for dutifully reciting right-wing talking points. A post by Tom Olohan cheered how "presidential candidate Nikki Haley called for a TikTok ban citing rampant antisemitism on the app." He made sure not to mention that Twitter/X, run by MRC fave Elon Musk, also has an anti-Semitism problem, some of it spread by Musk himself.

Alex Christy went into Defense Brigade mode to defend DeSantis over a reference to an older Republican president:

To close out the Wednesday GOP Presidential Debate, the Washington Free Beacon’s Eliana Johnson asked the candidates which former president they would draw inspiration from and for his choice, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis selected Calvin Coolidge. For some reason, PolitiFact decided to fact-check this.

DeSantis argued, “When Calvin Coolidge was president, "the country was in great shape," but PolitiFact claimed it is more complicated. On one hand, PolitiFact notes, “Coolidge’s reputation has risen in the past two decades, especially among conservatives, who value his record of balanced budgets, low taxes, light regulation and limited government. Biographer Amity Shlaes, who chairs the Calvin Coolidge Presidential Foundation, wrote that, under Coolidge, Americans began buying cars and electric appliances, and patents "increased dramatically.”

On the other, "Coolidge’s hands-off approach appeared to be reasonably popular with Americans. But the Roaring ’20s ended abruptly with the Great Depression five months after Coolidge left office. This sequence of events has been hard for historians to ignore: A periodic survey of historians currently places Coolidge 24th in the ranking of presidents, just below average."

That survey PolitiFact cites also ranks Franklin Roosevelt as the nation’s third greatest president which says more about the people doing the ranking than FDR.


Was Coolidge a perfect president? No, none of them have been, but the economy performed great during his tenure and he understood the limits of the power of the office which is more than can be said of the current president. Most importantly, however, is that which president Ron DeSantis considers to be a worthy role model for his own presidency is an opinion.

Christy did not explain why an opinion can't be fact-checked.

From there, it was on to the usual complaining that non-right-wing media weighed on the debate. Tim Graham grumbled that CNN said nice things about Haley:

CNN came out of the NewsNation Republican debate with a typical flourish: Republicans are seriously evil. Analyst Van Jones, who had a cup of coffee in the White House in the earliest days of President Obama, compared Nikki Haley to "Wonder Woman fighting off like a mob of like, supervillains."

CNN host Kaitlan Collins thought DeSantis had a good debate, but there was a lot of yelling crosstalk, and "I think the most notable point was Chris Christie at the end saying picture Election Day and saying Donald Trump will not be someone who's voting on that day because he is going to be a convicted felon."

CNN has been savoring that idea for five years now.

Curtis Houck whined that the elephant who wasn't in the room was talked about:

Following the fourth 2024 Republican presidential debate, the “big three” of ABC, CBS, and NBC shrugged Thursday morning not only at the notion they matter, but showed varying degrees of rage over the fact that the debate helmed by NewsNation’s Elizabeth Vargas, SiriusXM’s Megyn Kelly, and the Free Beacon’s Eliana Johnson wasn’t dominated by questions about Donald Trump and instead beset with pesky policy issues (like, say, the economy and Israel).

ABC’s Good Morning America was disgusted. Co-host and former Clinton official George Stephanopoulos falsely claimed Trump only came up from “time to time” and was “hardly mentioned after [he] said he would govern like a dictator on the first day”.


Stephanopoulos then condescendingly added that “[i]t’s hard to think how much these debates even matter any more.”

Karl again gushed over his former ABC colleague: “Chris Christie, I thought, had a significant moment there, several significant moments. He’s clearly comfortable in being somebody who is not only not afraid to offend Donald Trump. He is not afraid to offend Donald Trump’s supporters, Donald Trump voters.”

On CBS Mornings, socialist co-host Tony Dokoupil had the same talking points, lamenting “most of [Trump’s] Republican rivals” were “reluctant to criticize him” and whining the four candidates who actually showed up to face questions “spent a lot of time slamming each other, more time doing that than criticizing” Trump.

Again, Houck's sole evidence that Dokoupil is "socialist" is that he did a single segment on income equality four years ago (the accuracy of which Houck did not dispute).

Christy then moved to comedy-cop mode to grouse in a Dec. 8 post that Seth Meyers didn't have anything nice to say about the debate:

An annoyed Seth Meyers reacted to the Wednesday GOP presidential debate on the Thursday edition of Late Night on NBC by claiming that “no one gives a [bleep]” and that the four debaters were all a bunch of “blowhards.”

Citing current polling, Meyers wondered what the whole point was before sarcastically conceding that maybe he should give the non-Trump candidates some credit, “Now, in fairness, I shouldn't be so glib I may disagree with these people, but they've stepped up to take on the responsibility of leadership, and who knows? Maybe there's a chance they'll beat Trump and become the nominee. So, I do think we should at least listen to what they have to say.”

Meyers then played a clip of Megyn Kelly opening the broadcast, “Welcome to the fourth and final—” but Meyers cut the clip short, “Just kidding. No one gives a [bleep].”

Claiming his dismissal was justified, Meyers continued, “Why should I-- why should I act like any of these people are actually running against Donald Trump when they won't even act like they're running against Donald Trump. They spent the whole debate fighting with each other like pigeons fighting over a French fry in the parking lot of a restaurant that is owned by a much bigger pigeon. In case you missed it -- sorry because you missed it, here's a quick recap of all these dweebs taking shots at each other.”


Of course, Republican candidates are going to try to tailor their message in a way that appeals to Republican voters and running around sounding like Seth Meyers is not the way to victory.

Christy didn't explain how the need for a Republican candidate running against Donald Trump to say how he or she would be different from Trump equates to "sounding like Seth Meyers."

Posted by Terry K. at 8:47 PM EST
Updated: Monday, January 29, 2024 10:26 PM EST

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