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An Exhibition of Conservative Paranoia

Exhibit 54: A Hypocrisy-Induced Migraine

The Media Research Center criticizes news organizations for reporting on Michele Bachmann's migraines -- but not the conservative website that broke the story.

By Terry Krepel
Posted 8/10/2011

As we have already seen in the cases of Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter, the Media Research Center will not criticize a conservative ally for engaging in behavior it would find offensive if a liberal was committing it.

The MRC takes that hypocritical double standard to a new level with its highly selective freak-out over a story involving a certain conservative-leaning presidential candidate that the MRC appears to be quite fond of.

On July 18 the conservative website the Daily Caller published a report detailing how presidential candidate Michele Bachmann suffers from sometimes-debilitating migraines, for which she takes numerous medications, prompting concerns among current or former associates about whether Bachmann will be able to handle the rigors of campaigning, not to mention the presidency.

The story was the sensation of the week in the political world -- except at the MRC, where the scramble was on to find new and inventive ways to criticize the story without criticizing its source.

A July 20 TimesWatch post by Clay Waters was in straightforward denial mode. While bashing the New York Times for latching onto the story, he acknowledged that the Daily Caller first reported it and denounced it as an "anonymously sourced report," but he failed to note the Caller's conservative slant.

NewsBusters' Mark Finkelstein, meanwhile, sought to distract from that inconvenient fact. Finkelstein conceded that "the story first appeared in the conservative Daily Caller," but he attacked MSNBC guest John Heilemann for pointing out that the story was not the product of a "liberal media conspiracy." Finkelstein then declared that the story's origin doesn't matter: "And consider that even if the MSM didn't originate the story, liberal outlets like the New York Times have gleefully sought to exploit it to Bachmann's detriment." Finkelstein didn't criticize the Daily Caller for running the story in the first place.

A July 23 NewsBusters post by Scott Whitlock stated that the story was broken by the conservative Daily Caller -- but only after complaining that "the three major networks devoted 12 minutes and 59 seconds to highlighting the 'campaign controversy' of Michele Bachmann's migraines." That was followed by further complaining that said networks identified the source of the story as conservative:

Jon Karl made sure label the Daily Caller, the source of the story: "The issue was first raised Monday be the conservative Daily Caller website, which quoted anonymous sources saying Bachmann frequently suffers from incapacitating headaches."

Both Today and Early show used the same description os the site as a "conservative" web page. "Liberal" is an ideological tag not as freely thrown around.

Whitlock didn't criticize the Daily Caller for breaking the story -- only the networks for reporting it.

Aubrey Vaughan wrote in a July 28 NewsBusters post headlined "Lefty Journos Find New Favorite Target in Bachmann":

First it was her migraines, then it was the cost of her hair and makeup, and now it's correlating her anti-gay views to bullying and suicides in a school district she represents. Rep. Michele Bachmann has in many ways become the new Sarah Palin as a prominent female target the media love to hate. Even when she responds to her critics, they don't seem to go away.

Bachmann suffers from migraines, like 30 million other Americans, but has proved through her career the migraines don't hinder her ability to serve. Nevertheless, she immediately released a statement from her doctor explaining her migraines are under control. In comparison, both former President Bill Clinton and President Barack Obama had health issues that could have turned into major problems during their presidencies, but neither released their medical records. Clinton had high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and clogged coronary arteries, while Obama was a longtime smoker with a family history of cancer.

The transparency of Bachmann's immediate medical explanation was not enough to satisfy critics, though, who have since found more ways to attack her.

At no point in all of this equivocation did Vaughan acknowledge that the migraine story originated with a conservative publication.

The MRC was in such contortions over this that it found itself in the uncomfortable position of acknowledging that a liberal TV host came to Bachmann's defense. From a July 21 NewsBusters post by Brad Wilmouth:

On Wednesday’s The Ed Show, MSNBC host Ed Schultz came to Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann’s defense against what he called a "right-wing hit job" from the Daily Caller in the form of an article alleging that the Minnesota Congresswoman suffers from severe migraines. But one may question whether Schultz waded into taking a side in the controversy as an excuse for bolstering his case that the Republican Party is anti-woman, or just to attack the GOP establishment and other Republicans whom Schultz may perceive as being more able to defeat President Obama as he lambasted presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty and FNC contributor Karl Rove.

But whatever his motives, Schultz had words that sounded more gracious than one typically expects to hear him speak of a Republican.

That must have been painful for Wilmouth to write, and even more so for the MRC powers that be to publish it. But it comes off as criticism by proxy: Schultz is saying what the MRC won't in its own voice.

That it has to farm out its criticism of a conservative to a liberal is the ultimate form of conservative correctness. Instead of standing on principle and forcefully denouncing dubious attacks on a Republican candidate no matter who published it, the MRC let Ed Schultz do it, then acquiesce in the criticism by reprinting it at NewsBusters.

Ronald Reagan's famous "11th commandment" reads, "Thou shalt not speak ill of any fellow Republican." The MRC has apparently put that ahead of intellectual integrity as a guiding force for the organization.

A couple weeks later, Newsweek published a cover photo of Bachmann that, in the words of NewsBusters' Noel Sheppard, "makes her look crazy." The MRC could finally attack the messenger again.

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