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Update: The Context of Context

The MRC complains it's been "unfairly impugned" about being "duplicitous." Plus: More Rush sycophancy from the ConWeb, WorldNetDaily treats another biased poll like a real one, and homosexuality, gerbils and a WorldNetDaily columnist.

By Terry Krepel
Posted 12/30/2003

In a rare instance of a conservative criticizing Fox News Channel, the Media Research Center accused an FNC commentator of "falsely impugning" it.

As MRC's Brent Baker tells it in a Dec. 22 CyberAlert, "FNC's liberal media analyst, Neal Gabler" on a broadcast of its show "Newswatch" called the MRC "almost always duplicitous" and later noted that "I hardly ever agree with the Media Research Center, and I do think they usually take people out of context ... "

The "Newswatch" argument that promped Gabler's MRC-bashing was the quoting by fellow panelist Cal Thomas (who last we checked was irked that there's a liberal media bias even though his column appears in more than 500 newspapers) brought up an MRC-gleaned quote of ABC's Peter Jennings not being sufficiently pleased that Saddam Hussein was captured.

Baker reviewed his previous work, concluded it was very much in context, and after a similar review of another MRC piece Gabler criticized, declared: "In Gabler’s attacks on the MRC, I think it’s now MRC 2, Gabler 0."

Whoa there now, Brent. It very easily be argued that the bulk of the MRC's work is out of context, since all it does it document what it deems liberal bias without any comparison to similar examples of conservative bias (you know, like what FAIR does) or to the total news output of the organizations being studied. Genuine, peer-reviewed media research would document all of that.

While Baker's declaring himself innocent, there examples galore of MRC's shoddy, out-of-context work:

  • Showcasing an allegedly "liberal" quote from a 1994 Joe Klein article that, unbeknownst to MRC readers, was mostly critical of Democrats.
  • Spending nearly a decade attacking Howell Raines for saying that Ronald Reagan "couldn’t tie his shoelaces if his life depended on it" when the truth was that Raines was quoting someone else as saying it and the context was fly-fishing, not intelligence.
  • An attack on reporter Jake Tapper as an unrepentant, horribly biased liberal that Tapper himself had to step in and refute.
  • A major blind spot to media bias at the Fox News Channel because that's the kind of bias it likes, going to far as to refuse to acknowledge FNC has a political agenda even after it has clearly demonstrated it and celebrating a Clinton sex joke by Brit Hume while ignoring the factual error he made at the same time.

New score: ConWebWatch 4, MRC 2.

* * *

Nobody was expecting scrupulously fair coverage from the ConWeb of Rush Limbaugh's legal problems, and thus far it has done a fine job of living up to those decidedly low expectations.

The distortion is unmistakable in a Dec. 25 NewsMax story accusing a "Democratic Party prosecutor" of ordering a review of Limbaugh's seized medical records despite an order sealing them temporarily. NewsMax offers no evidence that the prosecutor, Barry Krischer, is any sort of party hack or operative beyond a note that he "is a Democrat who strongly backed Attorney General Janet Reno," but that doesn't keep NewsMax from stating that "The brazen legal move has Limbaugh's supporters worrying that his medical secrets may now be in the hands of senior Democratic Party operatives working for New York Sen. Hillary Clinton and other top Democrats." The story even quotes a poster at Free Republic as fretting that "The contents of Limbaugh's medical records are undoubtedly already in Hillary's database."

Why is NewsMax making such a big deal of allegedly leaking medical records? Because perhaps that's the same trick Limbaugh's lawyer, Roy Black, pulled in another case.

Black was a lawyer for William Kennedy Smith when a woman accused the Kennedy heir of raping her a decade ago. Dan Moffett, a columnist for the Palm Beach Post, writes that part of Black's defense for Smith was to portray his accuser as psychologically unstable, and to that end served subpoenas to numerous health care provider to obtain the accuser's medical records. But Black and his team never told the providers that the matter was under judicial review, Moffett writes, "so many of them unwittingly complied and gave up records that should have stayed sealed."

The trial judge denied the admittance of the medical records into the trial, but somehow they were leaked to the media, smearing the accuser. "Mr. Smith was acquitted, and Mr. Black's rise to prominence was launched," Moffett writes. (Thanks to World o'Crap for first noting the connection.) NewsMax has never mentioned Black's Kennedy connection.

WorldNetDaily, meanwhile, continues its sycophancy in a Dec. 23 story (smartly unbylined) that is mostly a transcription of Limbaugh's latest radio rant on the issue. Needless to say, nowhere is the prosecution's case presented (other than to be knocked down as a straw man by Limbaugh), let alone quoted. And a Dec. 29 story (through its partnership with Moonie-owned Insight magazine) frets that the USA Patriot act helped snare Limbaugh.

Yes, the expectations were rock-bottom, and the ConWeb is performing as expected.

* * *

Another installment in the annals of ConWeb hypocrisy:

The World O'Crap weblog reports on some wacky assertions by a WorldNetDaily columnist. Dr. Brian J. Kopp wrote in a Dec. 13 piece about the movement to stamp out homosexuality by grossing people out, namely through the distribution of a tract called "The Medical Consequences of What Homosexuals Do." Kopp approvingly quotes Paul Cameron, the tract's writer, as saying it's "thoroughly documented. ... Facts don't discriminate."

Well, since neither Kopp nor Cameron are interested in telling the full truth, it fell to World O'Crap to tell it. Cameron writes of the allegedly widespread practice of inszerting "toys" into the rectum, which he further describes as "objects which are inserted into the rectum--bottles, carrots, even gerbils (8)."

That number is a footnote to a "Straight Dope" article by Cecil Adams -- which, as World O'Crap discovered, actually debunks the gerbils-in-the-rectum story as a urban legend.

Hmmmm ... wasn't WND's very own Joseph Farah not so long ago denouncing other publications for not doing simple fact-checking?

* * *

How low has WorldNetDaily sunk in parading barely disguised advertising for a WND author as genuine news content?

The lead of a Dec. 15 story provides the answer: "A poll on talk-radio host Michael Savage's website,, shows 96 percent of respondents disagree with a Bush administration proposal to make legal the millions of illegal aliens currently residing in the U.S." We're sure it's just coincidence that Savage's WND-published book has just been released.

Yes, WND has turned yet another unreliable, unscientific opt-in poll into a "news" story. This time, the uncredited writer sort of admits it when he writes, "While the Savage poll, like virtually all Internet surveys, is unscientific ..."

Unfortunately, he goes on to write that "it suggests a high level of outrage over any sort of amnesty program for those who have entered the U.S. illegally." No, it doesn't -- it suggests a high level of outrage only among Savage's listeners, who are anything but a broad cross-section of the American public. And given the fact that, according to the story, 1,212,893 votes were cast on the winning side, it's a pretty good assumption that voters were not limited to one vote, making the poll even more unreliable.

But hey, when there's money to be made and a political point to be hammered home, why let a little thing like the time-honored wall between news and advertising stand in your way?

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