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An Exhibition of Conservative Paranoia

Exhibit 66: Against History

The Media Research Center spent a good part of the Obama years complaining that the media described historic events as "historic."

By Terry Krepel
Posted 3/16/2017

One of the odder manifestations of the Media Research Center's hatred of anything that could be remotely considered "liberal" in the media is its disdain during the Obama years for a historic event to be described as such -- especially if it doesn't conform to the MRC's right-wing political agenda.

We first noticed this in an August 2010 item in which MRC vice president Brent Baker portrayed the evening news programs' noting the historic nature of Elena Kagan being confirmed to the Supreme Court -- making the first time in American history that three women have sat on the high court -- as making them, in the words of Baker's headline, "as Giddy as Liberal Democrats." Baker seemed particularly annoyed that the event was even being described as historic:

“The number that really excited Democrats is three: Think Ginsburg, Sotomayor and Kagan,” NBC’s Kelly O’Donnell excitedly announced Thursday night while leading into a clip of Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy, who exclaimed as he bounced on his heels on the Senate floor: “Three women will serve together on the United States Supreme Court for the first time in our nation's history!”

The news equally excited the TV network journalists. “History was made in this country today when the Senate confirmed Elena Kagan to the U.S. Supreme Court,” declared fill-in NBC Nightly News anchor Lester Holt as viewers were treated to a “Making History” on-screen graphic.

“Tonight on World News, a day of high court history. Elena Kagan confirmed. For the first time ever, three women will be part of deciding the law of the land,” spouted a giddy Diane Sawyer in matching NBC by making Kagan her lead story. Sawyer could hardly contain her excitement[.]

Baker, it seems, was letting his partisan hate blind him to history.

That attitude returned in an April 2013 post by Matt Hadro, which he complained that "After NBA player Jason Collins came out as gay on Monday, CNN hyped the announcement as a 'bombshell,' a 'big deal,' and one for the 'history books.'" Hadro didn't explain why Collins' coming out is not historic.

That same attitude prevailed in a June 2013 MRC item by Kyle Drennen:

During live coverage of the Supreme Court's gay marriage rulings on Wednesday, NBC legal analyst Lisa Bloom could barely contain her enthusiasm at the decisions overturning the Defense of Marriage Act and Proposition 8: "There is no question that this is a sweeping historic decision for gay rights....I think this is only the beginning, by the way. This is the decision today, but this is going to engender many more cases to come to further protect gay rights."

Drennen offered no evidence that these Supreme Court decisions are not historic -- he's simply annoyed they were described as such.

The MRC really ramped its anti-"historic" crusade in 2016. Matthew Balan did the honors in a May 13 post, under the headline "NBC Hypes 'Historic' Obama Admin. Move on Transgender Students":

The Big Three networks' evening newscasts on Friday devoted full reports to the Obama administration's controversial letter to every public school district in the nation directing them to allow transgender students to use bathroom and locker rooms according to their chosen sexual identity. However, NBC Nightly News's segment on the issue touted the "Obama administration's historic new directive to the nation's public schools," and revisited a Massachusetts girl who now lives as a boy. Kate Snow touted how the child's mother says the federal government's move is "protection for him at school — and validation that his rights matter." [video below]

Substitute anchor Thomas Roberts (who has a record of acting as a left-wing LGBT activist) teased Snow's report by hyping that "the Obama administration sends a sweeping message to schools across the country: let transgender kids use the bathroom of their choice, or else." Just before using the "historic" term about the controversy, Roberts underlined that "pushback is coming fast and furious" against the policy move.

Hillary Clinton clinching the Democratic Party's presidential nomination -- the first time a woman has done so for a major political party -- seriously ramped up the MRC's whining over the "historic" aspect being reported, with seemingly the entire MRC staff drafted to denounce it:

  • Scott Whitlock grumbled: "With Hillary Clinton on the verge of officially becoming the Democratic nominee for president, outlets such as the Washington Post and U.S. News are not holding back. “It’s Hillary; it’s History” and “For a generation of women pushing against the limits, a singular triumph” are two examples." He further whined that these media outlets "never once mentioned scandals such as her e-mail server or Benghazi."
  • Kyle Drennen followed with more complaining about how the media "basked in the 'history'" of Clinton's accomplishment, making sure to put "history" in scare quotes, as if he was trying to deny it didn't actually happen.
  • Curtis Houck went into full rant mode, screeching that MSNBC "brought on none other than NBC News special correspondent and former California First Lady Maria Shriver to demand the American people ' think about how this is historic and unprecedented' for Hillary Clinton to become the first female presumptive presidential nominee" and made "this gushing decree for the American people to follow when Clinton declares victory" and "reiterated how imperative it is that we bow down to Clinton." Houck was too busy frothing to notice that Shriver did not actually "demand" anything; she used the word "hope," not "demand."
  • Houck followed up by continuing to mistake reporting facts for being a cheerleader, asserting that "While the sun still had to fully set, CNN wasn’t shy in being completely over the moon for Hillary Clinton as they dubbed her the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee and first woman to hold the title as 'a watershed moment of the 2016 presidential race and in the history of American politics.'"
  • Nicholas Fondacaro joined the party, complaining that ABC's "Nightline" noting that she was "making history" meant it was "an absolute Hillary Clinton lovefest."
  • MRC's Latino division even took part, with a post by Edgard Portela claiming that Univision and Telemundo "focused on the fact that Clinton is the first major party woman nominee for President, but missed another historical first: the first time a major party nominee is also under an FBI criminal investigation as she tries to win the White House."

The whining culminated with a post by Tim Graham finally conceding that Hillary getting the nomination was, in fact, historic -- then complaining that the media largely ignored in 2012 that Mitt Romney was the first Mormon to get a major party presidential nomination:

The TV networks are heavily promoting the word “historic” in Hillary Clinton’s presumptive-nominee status – and “historic” is correct. This surely is a first. But in all of that hype, Clinton critics pick up a heavy whiff of suggestion – “but to make it truly historic, you have to elect her.”’

“Historic” can be a factual adjective, but in the hands of the networks, it often carries a highly positive ring, often attached to liberal victories. By contrast, consider the historic nature of Mitt Romney’s nomination in 2012.


So how did the TV network news programs cover this “historic milestone”? Most didn’t. In a Nexis search for “Romney” and “historic” from Sunday, May 27 through Sunday, June 3, there was no mention of this fact on ABC, CBS, NBC, PBS or the (searchable) transcripts of MSNBC and Fox News.

CNN was the TV exception, noting the distinction at least five times on May 29 and 30.

Graham avoided mentioning the obvious: Only 2 percent of the U.S. population is Mormon, while roughly 50 percent are female.

Also, Graham really should have thought about sending out a memo to his MRC underlings to stop whining about historic events being accurately described as such if they want to be taken seriously as "media analysts."

But he didn't, so the anti-"historic" ranting continued. Kyle Drennen's Aug. 31 post on a reporter taking the first commercial flight from the U.S. to Cuba in more than 50 years, something most non-agenda-driven observers would admit is historic, complained about use of the H-word:

On Wednesday’s NBC Today, correspondent Kerry Sanders once again acted like a representative from the Cuban board of tourism as he reported live from a plane set to take off for the Communist nation: “Well, good morning from the cockpit of Jetblue Flight 387....this is going to be a one hour and eight minute flight into history.”

The on-screen headline proclaimed: “U.S. Flights to Cuba Resume; Jetblue Makes History With First Flight in More Than 50 years.” Sanders gushed: “This morning, Americans can once again buy a commercial airline ticket and fly from the U.S. directly to Cuba. The last scheduled U.S. Flight was a Pan-Am DC-6 back in 1961. JFK was in the White House, hardly anyone had heard of the Beatles.”


Back in May, Sanders giddily boarded a cruise ship bound for the island. He celebrated the “historic” voyage as a “pinch-me moment.”

Scott Whitlock similarly put "historic" regarding Cuba in scare quotes in a Sept. 1 post, huffing that "CBS isn’t the only network to be excited over the communist country. On July 21, 2015, as ABC thrilled over the 'historic' opening of a Cuban embassy in Washington D.C., the same network skipped coverage of the country’s human rights violations."

Drennen surfaced again to grouse in a Sept. 22 post:

On Thursday’s NBC Today, co-host Matt Lauer proudly announced that the network had received an Emmy award for its biased coverage of the Supreme Court’s 2013 ruling legalizing gay marriage across the country. Lauer told viewers: “By the way, the News and Documentary Emmy awards were held last night and NBC News and MSNBC picked up this one for our live coverage of the Supreme Court's landmark decision on same-sex marriage.”

He continued: “As always, we are very proud of the people who work here and the efforts that they put forward on a daily basis.” Co-host Savannah Guthrie chimed in: “Proud of the whole team.”

Lauer, Guthrie, as well as correspondents Chuck Todd, Peter Alexander, and Pete Williams were all named in the presentation of the award for “Outstanding Live Coverage of a Current News Story - Long Form.” In addition, MSNBC anchor Thomas Roberts and legal correspondent Ari Melber were included for the cable channel’s reporting.

During a live NBC News special report on the day of the court decision – June 26, 2013 – the Today hosts, along with Todd, celebrated the ruling as one that “has potential to go down in the record books...[with] the significance of something like Brown versus Board of Education.” Later in that same one-sided coverage, Alexander gushed that the outcome of the case was “very personally satisfying” for President Obama.

That kind of liberal cheerleading helped guarantee the network’s Emmy win.
Related articles on ConWebWatch:

Out There, Exhibit 52: CNS' Obama Word Obsession

How, exactly, is it "liberal cheerleading" to acknowledge the historic nature of the same-sex marriage ruling or note that Obama supported the ruling? Or how that supposedly garnered NBC the Emmy? Drennen didn't explain -- he's just speculating and imposing his own right-wing bias on news he doesn't like.

Remember: This is all supposed to be "media criticism."

Needless to say, the MRC no longer sees any bias in calling historic things "historic" -- and a few not-so-historic things as well -- now that a Republican in president. On Jan. 25, for example, James Powers cheered the "historic day" that the Dow Industrial Average topped 20,000 making sure to add that "experts credit President Donald Trump’s election and his platform for the recent stock market surge."

On Feb. 1, Houck enthused about how "the White House took the historic step to involve four journalists from outside Washington D.C. in the Daily Press Briefing," followed a few days later by Tom Blumer similarly touting "the historic step of including four outside-the-DC Beltway journalists at White House press conferences via Skype."

Apparently, at the MRC, something is "historic" only when it involves a conservative or Republican -- or if the MRC can declare it so.

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