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Rigging the Media at the MRC

The Media Research Center laid the foundation for Donald Trump's "rigged media" rants -- but Brent Bozell and Co. won't acknowledge the threats of violence against journalists Trump's toxic rhetoric generates, let alone tell Trump to dial it back.

By Terry Krepel
Posted 11/3/2016

Hatred of the media -- well, any media that doesn't uncritically parrot right-wing talking points -- has been the Media Research Center’s core belief for decades. That anti-media philosophy is the bedrock of the nasty rhetoric Donald Trump aims in every speech at the journalists who cover him.

Trump is clearly drawing inspiration from the MRC’s work, and the MRC has responded in kind by enthusiastically endorsing and promoting Trump’s “rigged media” tirades.

MRC chief Brent Bozell and his crew almost certainly know that Trump's rhetoric, like much of the rest of the campaign's claimed ideological leanings, is empty -- after all, Bozell wouldn't support Trump in the primaries because he doesn't "walk with" conservatives. Heck, even Fox News' Greg Gutfeld, no liberal he, admits that Trump has received much more free media than any other presidential candidate and has benefited greatly from it.

The MRC said the same thing about Trump's media coverage -- that is, until it became politically inconvenient to do so. In May, the MRC complained that "NBC has spent more than a decade building his brand as a successful businessman of almost mythic proportion"; five months later, it was attacking Samantha Bee for making that very same argument.

There's no reason to believe Trump's heart has changed in those five months, but because he's now saying some of the things a Republican candidate is supposed to say, the MRC will blindly play along.

And because Trump is now giving the "liberal media bias" meme the biggest megaphone it's ever had -- again, regardless of the fact that Trump only cares about it because he might lose and needs someone to blame -- the MRC will happily ride Trump's coattails.

Thus, Bozell and Tim Graham's Oct. 19 column, headlined "Trump's Right: The Media Is Rigged." They engage in their usual tired anti-media ranting:

A charge of leftist media bias this election cycle is about as ludicrous as claiming that the sun rises in the east. All these WikiLeaks emails give firsthand evidence of the so-called "objective" press acting like badly disguised Clinton campaign workers. If this sort of fraud were illegal, these reporters would be headed for Sing Sing.

What's false, ludicrous and damaging to democracy is the idea that this sort of journalistic betrayal is ethical and permissible.

What is the evidence they present of this? A few minor things. First, a report that Democratic strategist and then-CNN contributor Donna Brazile allegedly forwarded a question from an upcoming CNN-hosted candidate forum to Hillary Clinton, as revealed in the stolen WikiLeaks emails. The question itself was a fairly standard query about the death penalty that any competent candidate would have a position staked out on, not any sort of sneaky gotcha question -- yet Bozell and Graham huff that Brazile was "a CNN contributor rigging a CNN event," adding, "If Corey Lewandowski were feeding town-hall questions to Donald Trump, we can guess Stelter would have a heart attack on air."

Actually, if the latter were true, Bozell and Graham would likely be praising Lewandowski -- who, unlike Brazile at the time, remains on the payroll of a presidential campaign -- for his cunning and willingness to stick it to the "liberal media."

The second example Bozell and Graham cite is the Washington Post's breaking the news of the tape o' vile misogyny from Trump, and it went full Clinton Equivocation on that: "So what do you call the Washington Post publishing the Trump sex-talk tape in six hours, whereas it sat on the Paula Jones story for months? What's absurd is denying that liberal bias is in full corrosive effect."

Bozell and Graham conveniently forget that Paula Jones' allegations were being shopped by Clinton's political enemies, not preserved on a network-recorded videotape, so there was much skepticism about her motivation.

Bozell and Graham also complain about how "ABC's George Stephanopoulos harshly interviewed 'Clinton Cash' author Peter Schweizer" over his Clinton Foundation hit job, with behind-the-scenes assistance from the Hillary Clinton campaign. Bozell and Graham apparently wanted Schweizer to be able to present his attacks without challenged -- you know, like Bozell gets to do every time he appears on Fox News.

But even Bozell's own organization has admitted that Schweizer is a conservative activist who wrote his book as a partisan attack against Clinton and, as he himself appears to admit to WorldNetDaily, has no actual proof to support his allegations and says he "did not have a smoking gun." That leaves him open to hard questioning, and apparently Schweizer couldn't handle it.

Bozell and Graham even complain about WikiLeaks revelations that some reporters worked with the Clinton campaign to clear quotes, but we're willing to bet that the MRC's own "news" division,, does that sort of thing pretty regularly. The authors don't bring up CNS' supposed journalistic standards as a rebuke -- perhaps because there may not be any.

Bozell and Graham howl that "Wikileaks is exposing the media-Democrat collusion that is utterly routine in every election cycle" -- as they also did in their column five days before -- but don't discuss the media-Trump collusion happening right now at Breitbart News. They cannot name any major "liberal media" figure who moved straight from that job to running a political campaign, like Breitbart's Steve Bannon did for Trump's campaign -- because there hasn't been one.

One more connection they don't mention: Schweizer's book was backed by something called the Government Accountability Institute. Who heads it? Steve Bannon. More media-Trump collusion.

Trump is parroting the MRC's message, and so Bozell and the MRC will parrot him -- that much is obvious. Meanwhile, Trump's MRC-inspired anti-media rhetoric is starting to have real-world consequences for the reporters who cover him, and the disturbing stories are rolling in about ugly abuse and threats against the press by Trump’s supporters:

  • One reporter tells of a “mob mentality” against journalists at Trump rallies, adding, “The people who are shouting look at us like we’re their immediate enemies, not as like . . . primarily late-20-to-early-30-somethings there to do a job.” Reporters are now concealing or removing their press credentials when leaving the pen to avoid confrontations with Trump’s supporters, and the atmosphere is particularly threatening to female reporters and to female TV reporters.
  • CNN’s Sara Murray writes that “members of the media walk into an event like Trump’s mid-October rally in Cincinnati, greeted by a crowd of thousands screaming at us about biased coverage and flipping us off.” Murray cited another incident: “During the general election, we were at a stop in Florida when someone followed my producer to our car. When we left the event hours later, we discovered someone keyed our car on both sides.”
  • The Washington Post notes that some Trump supporters are shouting “Lügenpresse” at journalists. The word, German for “lying press,” was used during the Nazi era to smear journalists who opposed the Hitler regime.

Trump himself is mainly responsible for inspiring this ugly behavior by his supporters. But it began with the MRC.

That means the MRC owns a piece of this escalating ugliness against journalists. Yet you won’t see any mention of it on any MRC-run website.

You’d think the MRC would want to try to turn down the heat a little — if only for appearance’s sake — by telling Trump and his supporters to tone it down a bit. Or maybe Bozell and Co. aren’t opposed to seeing acts of violence against journalists; perhaps they enjoy the mob mentality and condone the ugliness as a form of revenge against the bias they claim the media has perpetrated. After all, Trump is the biggest megaphone the MRC’s anti-media message has ever had, and it’s clearly loath to willingly give that up.

But this much is obvious: If a Trump supporter goes too far and commits an act of violence against a journalist — which seems sadly likely given the vehemence of the anti-media hate Trump has whipped up — some of that blood will be on the MRC’s hands.

Bozell and his MRC have a choice here: Draw a line and warn against anti-journalist violence, or continue to ride the Trump train and put its message (and the fundraising that comes with it) first regardless of the seemingly inevitable consequences. Unfortunately so far, they have chosen the latter, and they're doubling down.

In a friendly solo appearance on Fox Business -- sister channel to Fox News, where the MRC knows its claims will never be challenged, and it gives the channels the kid-glove treatment in kind -- Bozell huffed, "So, the bottom line is Donald Trump is 100 percent correct that this is a rigged media against him." And in a Nov. 2 Fox Business appearance, Bozell asserted that "Whatever you say of him, Donald Trump is absolutely right when he says this is a rigged election and he says this is a rigged media."

In neither appearance did Bozell mention the growing threats facing the reporters that cover Trump. And never mind that his MRC was complaining just a few months ago that the media was rigged for Trump.

Apparently, "the media" not real people to Bozell -- only a faceless mass whose only purpose is to serve as a easily toppled strawman for his, and Trump's, demagoguery.

That kind of merciless attitude, sadly, may only make it more likely that a journalist will be hurt at the hands of a Trump supporter. And, again, part of that will be on Bozell's hands.

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