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The Heathering Never Stops

NewsBusters and the Media Research Center continue to attack conservatives who demonstrate even the slightest deviation from right-wing orthodoxy.

By Terry Krepel
Posted 9/18/2013

If the high school girls of "Heathers" were conservative white males, they'd be writing for the Media Research Center dissing other conservatives for not being slavishly devoted enough to the right-wing agenda.

In 2008, ConWebWatch first compiled evidence at NewsBusters of what we called Heathering -- attacking and belittling any conservative who shows even the slightest deviation from right-wing orthodoxy, not unlike the mean girls in the classic teen film "Heathers" who mocked and shunned anyone who weren't as cool as them.

Well, it hasn't stopped -- NewsBusters is still Heathering conservatives for being insufficiently loyal to conservatism, racking up numerous victims in 2013 alone.

Tim Graham, chief of the Heathers

The Media Research Center's Tim Graham took Heathering to the next level in a May 24 NewsBusters post, actually calling former Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele a "backstabber" for daring to criticize far-right Virginia lieutenant governor candidate Rev. E.W. Jackson:

How does Steele sound any different than Rev. Al Sharpton in this quote package? How does Steele reconcile the idea of electing more black Republicans and diversifying the party by dumping on this nominee? At least Jackson was elected.

How does the former Lieutenant Governor of Maryland forget that he was merely selected, and was considered too socially conservative to win black voters in 2002? The Washington Post then found Steele saying he was pro-life and pro-death penalty, unlike his running mate Bob Ehrlich: "It's part of my religious upbringing," Steele said. "I will follow the next governor. I will argue my beliefs when asked."

Apparently, Steele threw out his religious upbringing when he started attending the same cable-news Church of Obama as Rev. Sharpton. The Post is enjoying these quotes too much to point out that Steele’s personal election record has two statewide losses and one win.

Needless to say, Graham is careful not to mention the details of Jackson's extreme views, nor does he provide any evidence that Steele ever held those very same views. And lost in Graham's attack on Steele's "personal election record" is the fact that it was under Steele's leadership at the Republican National Committee that the GOP did so well in the 2010 midterm elections, while the Republicans under current RNC chairman Reince Priebus did horrible in the 2012 elections -- and, unlike Steele, kept his job.

In a June 14 NewsBusters post, Graham turned his attention to Washington Post columnist Michael Gerson, who committed the offense of not slobbering over the likes of Rush Limbaugh and Mark Levin:

Washington Post columnist Michael Gerson – President George W. Bush’s top speechwriter from 2001 to 2006 – was hired by the Post in 2007 because he would be “a different kind of conservative” and "an independent voice." Translation: he would slash other people on the right as dishonest, dishonorable, unpatriotic people. He has not attacked talk-show hosts on MSNBC or other leftists this way.

In his Friday column, Gerson whacked Ron Paul, Rush Limbaugh, and Mark Levin with these harsh attacks.

Not only did Graham solicit a response from Levin -- who predictably whined that "Gerson is a big-government quasi-Republican who twisted what I said" -- Graham then shifts into Heather overdrive:

Dear Mr. Gerson: you are certainly aware that liberals routinely crossed the line and referred to a Bush "regime" after the "tick-tight" 2000 election. It wasn't just a sixties-seventies thing. (Former Postie Daniel Froomkin loved the term "Bush regime" when he worked there.)

So Gerson has the audacity to suggest that Limbaugh, Levin, and Paul are guilty of the “poisoning of patriotism,” and are “noxious...dishonest...dishonorable.”

One might suspect a bad case of David Brooks-itis, defined as more affiliated with your liberal newspaper masters than with conservatives. So Gerson began his column at the Post on May 16, 2007. From that date through Obama’s first Inauguration, let’s try some Nexis searching.

Did Gerson attack or even mention Keith Olbermann? No. Chris Matthews? No. Rachel Maddow in her Air America-to-MSNBC phase? No. Even MSNBC in general? No. Could that be because his Post masters had a content-sharing “strategic alliance” with MSNBC? Hmmmmm.

What about other Bush haters in the liberal media, people who called President Bush a dictator? Did Gerson call out CNN’s Jack Cafferty? No. Eleanor Clift? No. Jonathan Alter? No. Bill Maher? No. Michael Moore? No.

Perhaps Gerson is simply allergic to attacking the liberal media in general, because that’s where he sits now. Perhaps attacking Limbaugh and Levin make his case for subbing in for pseudo-conservative David Brooks on the Friday roundtable at the PBS NewsHour, and attacks on liberal journalists would not. He hasn’t attacked PBS, either. His outrage is laced with opportunism.

And Graham's outrage isn't? He's simply trying to boost his (and his employer's) conservative cred for bashing a fellow conservative who had the temerity to slip of out lockstep with the right-wing agenda. That's not media criticism -- you know, Graham's supposed job -- but being an ideological whip. And we're pretty sure the MRC's nonprofit status isn't supposed to be funding that sort of thing.

Defense by Heathering

Wannabe new-media guru Matthew Sheffield used an Aug. 15 NewsBusters post to mount a weird defense of conservative Washington Post blogger Jennifer Rubin from former Post ombudsman Patrick Pexton's opinion that she should be fired "because she’s just plain bad." After citing some of Pexton's criticisms, Sheffield wrote:

There are several laugh-lines in the above paragraphs, one of which is Pexton's claim that Rubin "parrots and peddles every silly right-wing theory to come down the pike." If Pexton had any actual working knowledge of the conservative blogosphere, he would know that many conservatives dislike Rubin because they believe she is not enough of a team player and does not endorse arguments they see as valid. But that doesn't matter. Liberals accuse her of being a parrot for far-right beliefs so it must be true.

That's right -- Sheffield's "defense" of Rubin is to Heather her by declaring she's "not enough of a team player."

Sheffield then turns his ire in the direction of a different Post blogger:

In truth, if any Post blogger deserves to be fired, it is Ezra Klein for his creation of the infamous Journo-list where politicians and liberal news reporters and opinioneers collaborated on how to shape the news to become more liberal. Nothing that Rubin has actually or allegedly done was ever as outrageous and abusive of reader trust than Journo-list. Klein created it before he worked for the Post but was never fired after it was exposed while he was in the paper's employ.

This from a man who, along with everyone else at the MRC, has been utterly silent about Groundswell, where conservative news reporters and opinioneers collaborated on how to shape the news to become more conservative. What a hypocrite.

Bozell goes a-Heathering

MRC chief Brent Bozell is running with the example set by his subordinates, applying the Heathering process to the entire Republican Party.

After President Obama won re-election last November, Bozell went on a very long temper tantrum, trying to intimidate Republicans into not straying from right-wing dogma by threatening to stop raising money for Republicans. That's a little awkward, given that the MRC is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization that is not supposed to take partisan stands.

Bozell's Jan. 16 column is one big Heather-fest, starting off with his usual whining:

The Republican Party is desperately in need of some good advice. It needs to return to Ronald Reagan conservatism and give America a two-party system, not a tinny echo of Obama. But our liberal media keep desperately inviting fake Republicans to offer advice to the GOP.

They want to create a new Republican Party, one that rejects the principles of the man who championed freedom.

Nobody tell Bozell that Reagan supported gun control!

After complaining about Michael Bloomberg -- who was a Republican only for the purpose of running for mayor of New York City and is currently an independent, thus making him a poor example -- Bozell turned his Heathering sights on Colin Powell:

Exhibit B: Colin Powell, who voted for Obama twice, but still insists he's a Reagan Republican. Indeed, since becoming a Republican, all he's done is criticize the GOP. NBC brought him on "Meet the Press" to declare, "If it's just going to represent the far right-wing of the political spectrum, I think the Party is in difficulty. I'm a moderate but I'm still a Republican."

Powell thinks he's a Republican, and the GOP has an "identity problem." But the "identity problem" is Powell's — voting for Obama is neither Republican nor "moderate." Today's Republican establishment isn't to the right of Reagan. It is to the left of the man who won one of the largest landslides in history with an unequivocal conservative agenda.

In other words: Powell is not as rigidly dogmatic as Bozell is, therefore he's not a real Republican.

Related articles on ConWebWatch:

Out There, Exhibit 48: The Heathers at NewsBusters

Bozell then gave the Heather treatment to another heretic, Republican strategist Mike Murphy, for daring to criticize Rush Limbaugh: "Limbaugh's dream is Reagan's dream. You can't be against Rush and for Reagan."

Unless Bozell is telling us that Reagan called women sluts and advocated conducting abortions with guns, we're pretty sure you can separate the two.

In March, Bozell went after Karl Rove's operation to promote electable Republicans over right-wing extremists, which prompted a tussle over a Rove spokesman who (accurately) called Bozell a "hater."

Bozell followed up by unleashing a fit of Heathering on Rove in the form of a letter signed by him and other right-wing activists to donors to Rove's American Crossroads super PAC, declaring that Rove isn't a real conservative:

Karl Rove and others are attempting to blame conservatives and the tea party. But a simple analysis shows this to be simply untrue. In 2012, the only Senate Republican winners were Jeff Flake, Deb Fischer, and Ted Cruz—all of whom enjoyed significant tea party and conservative support. Meanwhile, more moderate candidates like Tommy Thompson, Heather Wilson, Rick Berg, and Denny Rehberg went down to defeat despite significant support from Crossroads.

It was firmly expected that Republicans would capture the Senate in 2012. It is inexcusable that they failed and, in fact, lost two seats.


Mr. Rove and his allies must stop blaming conservatives for his disastrous results. It is time for him to take ownership of his record. He must also stop posturing himself as a conservative: his record supporting wasteful government spending and moderate candidates over conservatives spans decades.

No matter how he positions himself in this attempt at damage control, Mr. Rove’s efforts will not elect the type of leaders who will come to Washington to fight for conservative principles. In fact, they are likely to stifle the emergence of candidates like Marco Rubio, Pat Toomey, and Rand Paul. Further, the model that will be employed by the Conservative Victory Project has proven to be ineffective and a waste of political resources.

Heathering hasn't exactly worked on the TV-talking-head level. Why does Bozell think it will work against an entire political party?

A year after Bozell pulled himself and his MRC out of conservative confab CPAC in a huff because Bozell wasn't granted a prominent enough speaking slot -- something MRC's own news organization and blog has yet to tell its readers --Bozell apparently got the speaking slot he demanded for the 2013 CPAC, and he used it to do more party-wide Heathering. Craig Bannister quoted from the speech in a March 16 blog post:

"So what do we conservatives believe? What is a conservative?

"Throughout this wonderful conference so many very good leaders have discussed this so eloquently. Another discussion is unnecessary. Instead, let me tell you first what a conservative isn't.

"Paul Ryan, you're a good man and you mean well, and good for you for your courage trying to reform Medicare and rid us of Obamacare. But your proposed budget that has the federal government spending $41 TRILLION over the next ten years, with more and more and more spending increases every single year, and assumes all the oppressive Obamacare taxes. Congressman, that's what liberal Democrats do, not us.

"This is not conservatism. It is, literally, Democrat Lite.

"Do you have national aspirations? Do yourself and your country a favor. Rip that budget up and come back with one that truly does reduce the size of government, which puts us on the path toward a balanced budget by reducing deficits, and one that puts us on the path of solvency by eradicating our debt. Watch what happens to both your national aspirations, and your legacy.

"Haley Barbour, my friend, when you call for unity and on conservatives to "sing from the same hymnal" and then publicly trash good conservative groups like Club for Growth for supporting good conservatives, you're out of tune, and you're out of line. Do you want to be seen as a national conservative leader? Start supporting national conservative groups.

"John Boehner, Eric Cantor, and Kevin McCarthy: You said all the right things to conservatives to propel the GOP back to the majority and you to the top three leadership positions in the House.

"You, like virtually every single other Republican elected to Congress solemnly vowed to rid us of Obamacare, which you can do simply by refusing to fund it. Why haven't you done so?

"While we're at it... when the Secretary of HHS decrees that we should be forced to pay for the murder of babies, why don't you decree that Americans are no longer going to pay for HHS? What of all the other oppressive, and in the case of Planned Parenthood, evil organizations immorally funded by our tax dollars? What of the utterly useless agencies like NPR, and PBS, and Legal Services, and the NEA and so many others you solemnly pledged to put out of our misery?

It looks like the war between establishment Republicans and right-wing agitators like Bozell will be continuing for some time.

More examples

In a Feb. 26 NewsBusters post, Jeffrey Meyer hammers longtime Heathering target Joe Scarborough, declaring that the MSNBC host can't possibly be a real conservative because his adherence to right-wing talking points isn't sufficiently slavish.

Responding to Scarborough's complaint that New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie won't be invited to right-wing prom CPAC, Meyer huffed that "Scarborough completely ignored the fact that Christie has done his level best to alienate himself from conservatives."

Meyer saved his largest bit of Heathering for last:

If Scarborough were a true conservative, wouldn't he be doing more to bash President Obama's reckless spending and challenge the president to rise to the occasion to make the sequester work?

After all, Obama makes Bush look like a piker by comparison on the spending front. No, Scarborough is comfortable with the path of least resistance, playing nice with his liberal bosses at MSNBC as the network's pet "conservative."

Since when is conservatism defined by refusal to stray from talking points? We don't know, but that appears to be what Meyer and his cohorts have decided.

Ken Shepherd huffed in a Sept. 16 NewsBusters post that former George W. Bush speechwriter David Frum is a "faux conservative" who "proved his usefulness to the liberal media yet again this afternoon with his calls for more gun control in the wake of the deadly Washington Navy Yard shooting."

The next day, Shepherd followed in Sheffield's footsteps by attacking Rubin, claiming she's "supposed to be the paper's conservative opinion blogger, but who often takes to her blog to slam other conservatives." Shepherd didn't mention that Rubin was one of the most devoted supporters of Mitt Romney during the 2012 presidential election. Isn't that kind of slavish devotion what NewsBusters and the MRC want in a conservative? Or is it not slavish enough?

The Heathering double standard

Randy Hall feels Kevin Drum's pain in an Aug. 20 NewsBusters post:

As conservatives, we know what happens every time we criticize the policies of the liberal occupant of the White House: We're instantly branded as “racist” and “intolerant” while our views are quickly and summarily dismissed.

However, Kevin Drum, a political blogger for the liberal Mother Jones website, has received similar treatment as he learned that no matter which side of an issue he supports, his mailbox on the Twitter social media website quickly fills up with emails from people taking the opposite view.

Drum described the situation by discussing reactions to policies of the National Security Agency from the “emo-progs” -- emotional progressives -- or the O-bots, people who believe that President Barack Obama can do no wrong.


“Conversely,” he noted, “if you criticize the NSA’s surveillance programs, your Twitter feed quickly fills up with equally hysterical proclamations from the O-bots that you hate Obama, you’ve always hated Obama, and you’re probably a racist swine who’s been waiting ever since 2009 for a chance to take down the nation’s first black president.”

Somebody is being criticized for showing insufficient fealty to a political agenda? Where have we seen that before?

Oh, yeah -- at NewsBusters.

Gotta love how a major Heathering website is pointing and laughing at the Heathering of others.

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