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The MRC's Unambiguously Catholic Duo

Brent Bozell and Tim Graham lead the Media Research Center in promoting Catholicism and bullying its critics -- and hiding Bozell's connections to Catholic activist groups.

By Terry Krepel
Posted 11/21/2013

NewsBusters' Dave Pierre -- he of the desperate defense of the Catholic Church over its sexual abuse scandals -- is not the only zealously pro-Catholic employee at the Media Research Center, which publishes NewsBusters. The MRC employs several Catholics, all of whom adhere to conservative interpretations of the faith.

In addition to being the head of the MRC, Brent Bozell is also its head Catholic, defending it at every opportunity -- even when it seems to conflict with his organization's nonprofit status.

Bozell used his Oct. 30 column to serve as the campaign spokesman for Republican Virginia governor candidate Ken Cuccinelli (such explicit partisan advocacy not being covered under the MRC's tax status notwithstanding). And like any good campaign hack, Bozell twists facts and peddled distortions to the benefit of Cuccinelli and the detriment of his Democratic opponent (and the race's ultimate victor), Terry McAuliffe.

Bozell huffed that "McAuliffe is running a transparently, viciously anti-Catholic campaign all over television, trashing Cuccinelli as a woman-hating extremist for backing proposals that line up with Catholic church teachings on abortion, contraception, and divorce. Any reporter with fifteen minutes to kill can discover that."

But shouldn't Cuccinelli have been aspiring to be the governor of all Virginians instead of just the Catholic ones? And what moral authority does Cuccinelli have to impose his religious agenda on those who don't share his religion? It seems that Bozell is calling for a very unconstitutional merging of church and state.

Bozell's March 27 column railing at the alleged lack of national coverage of the trial of an abortion doctor's alleged crimes quickly devolved into baseless allegations of Catholic-bashing:

You can also see the anti-Catholic animus determining which trials are newsworthy in Philadelphia. On May 23, 2012, the "CBS Evening News" began with the trial of Monsignor William Lynn, accused of covering up child sexual abuse in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. Scott Pelley wasn't shy about letting the prosecutor speak as she compared the Catholic Church with the Nazis at Nuremberg.

But when a pro-lifer uses Holocaust metaphors for an abortion clinic, he is condemned.

Bozell provides no context for the Nuremberg reference. In fact, Pelley did not "let" the prosecutor "compare the Catholic Church with the Nazis at Nuremberg." In the "Evening News" segment Bozell is referencing, the prosecutor was labeling Lynn's I-was-just-following-orders defense the Nuremberg defense (as any such defense is typically labeled), and the statement was made in a pretaped report, not live to Pelley.

In other words, Bozell is lying.

Brent Bozell and Bill Donohue

MRC chief Brent Bozell is a member of the board of advisers for the right-wing Catholic League, headed by William Donohue. But aside from the frequency with which he appears on MRC websites, you wouldn't know about that conflict of interest. This is strangely prevalent at, the MRC division that purports to be a "news" operation.

In a March 8 CNS article attacking a poll finding that a majority of Catholics support same-sex marriage for including Catholics who don't attend church weekly "as required by their faith" (without explaining why the opinions of Catholics who don't go to church weekly are less valid than that of those who do), Patrick Burke quoted Donohue attacking the poll without mentioning the MRC's connection to Donohue.

An Aug. 8 article by CNS managing editor Michael W. Chapman complained about Conan O'Brien doing a gay-priest joke, giving Donohue free rein to attack it (without, of course, mentioning the MRC's connection to Donohue).

After uncritically repeating Donohue blaming the Catholic Church's child sex scandals on "gay priests," Chapman wrote:

The John Jay College of Criminal Justice report on sexual abuse of minors by Catholic priests and deacons, 1950-2002, found that 81% of the victims were male, and 78.2% of the victims were ages 11-17. (Specifically, 50.9% of victims were age 11-14 and 27.3% were age 15-17.

But Chapman fails to report that the John Jay researchers have warned against using their report to link homosexuality and pedophilia as Donohue was doing:

"What we are suggesting is that the idea of sexual identity be separated from the problem of sexual abuse," said Margaret Smith, a researcher from the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York, which is conducting an independent study of sexual abuse in the priesthood from 1950 up to 2002. "At this point, we do not find a connection between homosexual identity and an increased likelihood of sexual abuse."

A second researcher, Karen Terry, also cautioned the bishops against making a correlation between homosexuality in the priesthood and the high incidence of abuse by priests against boys rather than girls -- a ratio found to be about 80-20.

"It's important to separate the sexual identity and the behavior," Terry said. "Someone can commit sexual acts that might be of a homosexual nature but not have a homosexual identity." Terry said factors such as greater access to boys is one reason for the skewed ratio. Smith also raised the analogy of prison populations where homosexual behavior is common even though the prisoners are not necessarily homosexuals, or cultures where men are rigidly segregated from women until adulthood, and homosexual activity is accepted and then ceases after marriage.

Matt Hadro rushed to defend Donohue from a less-than-fawning interview on CNN -- and gave him a similar pass on his anti-gay agenda -- in a Sept. 20 NewsBusters post:

CNN's Chris Cuomo turned a discussion on Pope Francis' recent interview into an ugly personal attack and sharp lecture of his guest, the Catholic League's Bill Donohue, on Friday's New Day.

The fracas began when Cuomo lectured Donohue on the Pope's statement that the ultimate focus of the church is "salvation" and not one particular moral issue. He said "it really sounds like you're one of the people [Francis] is sending this message to, to be fair, Mr. Donohue, isn't it?" Cuomo clearly had a bone to pick with his guest. [Video below the break. Audio here.]

"I mean, you have bashed on these issues for years and years, most infamously recently saying that the church had a homosexual problem, not a pedophile problem. I mean really incendiary, flagrant, divisive stuff," Cuomo continued.

On top of not disclosing the link between his boss and the Catholic League, Hadro didn't mention that Donohue's remarks about homosexuality and pedophilia are not just "incendiary, flagrant, divisive," they are completely wrong. Experts -- including those who worked on a study of sexual abuse in the Catholic church that Donohue has previously touted -- agree that homosexual acts do not necessarily correlate to a homosexual identity, and that same-sex pedophilia does equal homosexuality.

Hadro then huffed that "Cuomo repeatedly drew from Donohue's past statements in an effort to attack him for being so controversial. He did no service to any CNN viewers who were hoping to gain insight on Pope Francis' words." But Hadro doesn't explain why Donohue shouldn't be held accountable for his inflammatory rhetoric.

One reason for that also went undisclosed by Hadro -- his boss, Brent Bozell, is on the board of advisers for the Catholic League. That's a clear conflict of interest that should have been disclosed.

And for someone who purports to abhor "ugly personal attacks," Hadro sure didn't hesitate to engage in one against Cuomo's family:

Cuomo's brother Andrew is the Democratic Governor of New York who supports abortion rights, pushed for gay marriage, and lived with an divorced woman while he himself was divorced. All of the above are serious violations of church teaching and are public scandals. But then, double standards are the coin of the Media Research Center realm.

Bozell and the Cardinal Newman Society

Tim Graham devotes an Oct. 25 NewsBusters post to expressing his unhappiness that, according to something called Catholic Education Daily, a class at Georgetown Law School "will have students working with a pro-abortion rights advocacy organization." (Apparently, Graham believes that some law students should be kept in the dark about certain aspects of the law for ideological reasons.) Graham concludes his post by noting:

PS: Catholic Education Daily is a publication of the Cardinal Newman Society. MRC president Brent Bozell serves on its board.

That stands out because it is apparently the first time anyone at the MRC has disclosed Bozell's right-wing Catholic activism to its readers. As ConWebWatch documented in 2009,, the MRC's "news" division, had never disclosed Bozell's link to the Newman Society in four years of stories citing the group and promoting its dogmatic agenda and attacks on the Obama administration.

Tim Graham

MRC director of media analysis Tim Graham also is reflexively pro-Catholic. For instance, in a November 2011 NewsBusters post, he conceded that there has been a problem with sexual abuse by priests in the Catholic Church -- but followed that up by attacking the leader of a group that has criticized the abuse.

What set Graham off was a writer at CNN's website, Dan Gilgoff, who likened the sexual abuse scandal involving a former Penn State football coach to problems within the Catholic Church. Complaining that Gilgoff didn't quote anyone defending the church, Graham offered himself up as a spouter of pro-Catholic talking points:

Memo to Dan Gilgoff: You may call me and other Catholics at (703)683-9733 for comment when officials won't talk. But you didn't want anyone to defend the church, or you might have made another phone call. I would tell you the Catholic priest scandal was much worse than a football coach scandal, because a football coach doesn't make solemn vows to God to shepherd souls with the deepest love and integrity. But to drag the church through the mud now is a gratuitous cheap shot.

So the church abuse scandal was horrible, but nobody is allowed to talk about it anymore because it's old news? Odd for someone who works for an organization that has no problem bringing up decades-old political scandals like Chappaquiddick or Bill Clinton's peccadilloes at the drop of a hat.

Graham then went on a blame-the-victim tear, attacking Gilgoff as a "lazy anti-Catholic reporter" for quoting David Clohessy, head of SNAP. That's reductio ad absurdum -- quoting a critic of the Catholic Church does not make one "anti-Catholic."

Graham turned this into an personal attack on Clohessy and "his own priest coverups within his own family," portraying Clohessy as a hypocrite by claiming that Clohessy "covered up for his own brother, Father Kevin Clohessy," who had been suspected of abuse. Of course, Graham quoted NewsBusters writer Dave Pierre to back up his attack on Clohessy.

In fact, Clohessy did not "cover up" for his brother; he merely gave his brother a heads-up when he learned that the allegations were about to go public. Clohessy had not previously discussed his brother's situation publicly because no public allegation had been made against him. As a 2002 New York Times article details, on Clohessy, Clohessy's situation was also much more complicated than Graham tells it. But when does Graham and the MRC care about context when it involves anyone who's not an ideological fellow traveler?

A May 11 NewsBusters post by Graham mocked the idea that real Catholics could favor allowing gays to join the Boy Scouts:

"Catholics" -- at least those saying they were -- favored the gay agenda: "Opposition to banning gay scout leaders ranges by religious group and along well-worn political fault lines. A 56 percent majority of Catholics oppose the continued ban on gay scout masters, a number that rises to 75 percent among people who identify as atheist, agnostic or nothing in particular.

Gotta love the scare quotes around "Catholic," as if he was somehow appointed the arbiter of who and who isn't Catholic. Then again, he did appoint himself a spokesman for the church.

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