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Bozell vs. CPAC

The Media Research Center chief has been spending much of the past several years at war with the annual conservative gathering, with his MRC employees caught in the middle.

By Terry Krepel
Posted 3/5/2014

Brent Bozell

If it's late winter, that usually means Brent Bozell is picking another fight with CPAC, the annual conference of conservatives.

This year, it's all about Bozell throwing a fit because CPAC invited (then disinvited) an atheist group to have a booth. It's the latest in a string of conniptions Bozell has had involving the conference, which typically ends up making his MRC employees pay by not being able to represent the organization at CPAC despite the prominence of both organizations in the right-wing universe.

Let's review Bozell's recent history with CPAC, shall we?


WorldNetDaily reported in January 2011 that the MRC would not participate in that year's CPAC "because of the continued participation of the homosexual activist organization GOProud."

Strangely, that announcement did not appear on any MRC website, including its own "news" division,

(Since WND is involved, it went without saying that it couldn't get the story completely correct. Fitzpatrick also portrayed the Heritage Foundation as pulling out of CPAC over GOProud; Slate's Dave Weigel reported that Heritage spokesman Mike Gonzalez -- whom Fitzpatrick quotes in his article -- says that GOProud's participation is not why the group is not taking part in CPAC this year.)

A NewsBusters post by Ken Shepherd timed to the start of the conference read: "Today marks the opening of the 38th annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC). Regardless of where you may stand on internal debates about some of this year's co-sponsors, there's no denying that for nearly four decades its been an enduring legacy of conservative political activism" -- but Shepherd didn't note that his own employer was refusing to take part.

The MRC's dealings with CPAC -- taking a bold stand by boycotting, but not terribly eager to publicize that stand -- came off as cowardly and contradictory. It wasn't until after the conference ended, in a Feb. 14 CNS article by Penny Starr, that the MRC straightrforwardly admitted it wasn't taking part in CPAC. Starr didn't explain why she or any other MRC employee hadn't reported this until now, even though it had been public knowledge for more than a month.

Starr's article later received this curious "correction": "Several conservative organizations chose not to participate in CPAC this year; they did not boycott the event." It's not explained why several organizations choosing "not to participate" in CPAC in protest of the presence of another group does not amount to a boycott; that seems like a distinction without a difference.


The MRC did take part in the following year's CPAC -- for a while. That is, until Bozell petulantly withdrew the MRC from CPAC because he wasn't granted a prominent speaking slot.

The Daily Caller reported:

Sources tell The Daily Caller that the Media Research Center, a conservative media watchdog located in a Virginia suburb of Washington, D.C., withdrew from the Conservative Political Action Conference Friday because its president, Brent Bozell, was not offered a “prominent” speaking slot at the annual conference.

MRC political director Christian Robey sent a staff-wide email Friday to employees making the announcement, and instructing staff not to attend any of the conference’s events. (RELATED: Full coverage of CPAC)

We have pulled out of CPAC. Please adjust your schedules accordingly and do not attend any CPAC events.

Kristi Campbell, a CPAC spokeswoman, confirmed that the MRC had withdrawn over the speaking slot.

“We offered Brent Bozell the opportunity to participate as a moderator and speaker of one of our events,” she said. “He chose not to accept that opportunity.”

This too went unreported by the MRC's own websites, making its treatment just as cowardly as the previous year.

Still, after it was over, an MRC TimesWatch item complained that a New York Times article on CPAC "contains 23 instances of the word “conservative” in a 28-paragraph story" -- apparently oblivious to the fact that CPAC is a gathering of conservatives, and that "conservative" is the most logical descriptor for them.

And Bozell's snit did not keep the MRC from protecting one CPAC participant that year. During one seminar, conservative columnist Cal Thomas declared that MSNBC's Rachel Maddow "is the best argument in favor of her parents using contraception." The MRC apparently didn't think that opinion was in any way controversial, for no mention of it whatsoever can be found on any of the MRC websites.

Thomas penned a column a few days later in which he offered a full, unequivocal and abject apology to Maddow, stating: "One of the principles in which I believe is not to engage in name-calling; which, to my shame, I did. ... I had embarrassed myself and was a bad example to those who read my column and expect better from me."

Even though NewsBusters carries an archive of Thomas' columns, his Feb. 16, 2012, column -- the one with his apology to Maddow -- is curiously absent.


Bozell apparently got the prime speaking slot he wanted, because in 2013 he and the MRC took part in CPAC.

Bozell used that prime slot to do some serious Heathering, continuing the expansion of his right-wing purity test to the entire Republican Party. Craig Bannister quoted from his boss' speech in a CNS 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 was right-wing red meat, with a not-so-coded message to the hosts who capitulated to his demand for a prime speaking slot: Deviate from right-wing orthodoxy again, and CPAC will be the target of another Bozell tantrum.


And that's exactly what happened. CPAC invited the group American Atheists to have a booth, only to disinvite them shortly afterwards. Still, Bozell was so incensed about it that he spread his displeasure across the MRC empire:

“The invitation extended by the ACU, Al Cardenas and CPAC to American Atheists to have a booth is more than an attack on conservative principles. It is an attack on God Himself.

“American Atheists is an organization devoted to the hatred of God. How on earth could CPAC, or the ACU and its board of directors, and Al Cardenas condone such an atrocity?

“It makes absolutely no difference to me that CPAC and ACU have backed down and removed the booth. I am sick and tired of these games.

“I will continue to denounce CPAC, ACU and Cardenas. No conservative should have anything to do with this conference. If you do, you are giving oxygen to an organization destroying the conservative movement.”

A couple points here:

  • What does Bozell's ideological spat, and his use of MRC websites to forward that spat, have to do with the MRC's declared mission of hunting out media bias?
  • We thought Bozell didn't believe in censorship -- he has repeatedly accused the media of "censorship" for allegedly ignoring things that conformed to his right-wing agenda. Yet here he is, acting as a censor for CPAC. Hypocrisy much?

Bozell then started using his "news" division,, to hammer home his animus toward CPAC.

A Feb. 27 CNS article by Barbara Hollingsworth and Michael Chapman features a CPAC board member criticizing the since-rescinded invitation to American Atheists, and trying to get other CPAC board members and sponsors to answer whether CPAC "should insist on an official policy guideline making it clear that groups that are openly hostile to any one of the four major pillars of conservative thought--including traditional values--will not be allowed to participate in future CPACs." The authors couldn't be bothered to contact American Atheists for a comment.

CNS editor in chief Terry Jeffrey also did his boss' bidding with a blog post quoting William Buckley's "God and Man at Yale" and declaring:

There are Americans today, holding themselves up as conservatives, who argue that one can be both an atheist and a conservative. This is absurd.

There is a God, He made us and all things, and His immutable moral laws apply to all men, in all nations, at all times. These fundamental truths--recognition of which is not confined to any particular religious denomination--were embraced by our Founding Fathers. A social and legal order consistent with these fundamental truths is at the very heart of what modern conservatives seek to conserve.


Must the modern Conservative Movement be a classroom in which young Americans can be schooled in how to fight and defeat the forces of atheism so manifestly gaining ground in our society today? Of course.

Jeffrey didn't mention the CPAC controversy, but he didn't have to. He did mention it, however, in his March 5 column, which expanded on his blog post by bringing Ronald Reagan into it and explaining why it's a good thing for CPAC and the ACU censor views it doesn't agree with:

Are atheism and promoting atheism consistent with American — let alone conservative — values and principles?

The operational policy of the American Conservative Union now appears to contradict Ronald Reagan's view on this.

Reagan believed atheism was not merely wrong, but the enemy of freedom. The ACU has functionally adopted the position that groups promoting atheism can be featured at its annual Conservative Political Action Conference — so long as they promote godlessness with civility.

Strange to see the head of a so-called "news" organization advocate censorship of viewpoints different from his. Again, this deviates from the MRC's declared mission.

While this is all moderately entertaining political theater, there are people caught in the middle: MRC employees who, for the third time in four years, will not be allowed to represent their employer for at least part of the conservative movement's largest annual gathering.

But this is war, and Bozell is taking no prisoners in trying to enforce his absolutist views on his fellow right-wingers -- the latest in Bozell shenanigans. As long as he continues to use the MRC as a cudgel to advance his personal political agenda instead of a tool to help Republicans, this war will continue for some time to come.

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