CNS Camps Out on Hack Ridge
A CNSNews.com blogger slobbers all over Mel Gibson -- while censoring any mention of the actor and filmmaker's ugly personal history.
By Terry Krepel
As an organization driven by ideology, the Media Research Center routinely gives a pass on the personal lives of people as long as they share its right-wing views.
In January 2016, for example, MRC leaders Brent Bozell and Tim Graham took shots at David Bowie following his death, lamenting that "David Bowie died to universal acclaim, even from a star-struck Vatican newspaper," and complaining that the media was ignoring stories of Bowie bedding underage groupies. Bozell and Graham whined about how "the secular news industry in New York and the social justice warriors in Hollywood pour outrage all over the predatory Catholic priests who abused children in this same era of sex and drugs and 'revolution,' the rockers and the filmmakers plowed their way through a polyester playground of high-school groupies exploiting their 'star privilege.'"
In writing that "it adds to the litany of famous male entertainers who've exploited underage girls with their celebrity, from Roman Polanski to Bill Cosby to Woody Allen," Bozell and Graham conspicuously omitted one person from that list: underage groupie-bedder (and underage groupie-marryer) Ted Nugent.
During a "Behind the Music" documentary, Nugent bragged about bedding underage girls, suggesting that it was OK because he "got the stamp of approval from their parents." Nugent even made himself the legal guardian of one 17-year-old so he could a patina of legality to his sexual relationship with her. Nugent even celebrated his predilection for underage girls in a song called "Jailbait," about having sex with a 13-year-old.
Ah, but Nugent is a conservative, not to mention a member of the board of the National Rifle Association. So he gets a pass on this from Graham and Bozell -- and also on apparent death threats he issued to Obama.
Another entertainer who gets a pass for his bad behavior is Mel Gibson. Right-wingers will always love Gibson for making "The Passion of the Christ," overlooking the film's gore and anti-Semitic overtones; Bozell fought back against claims of anti-Semitism in the film in a 2003 column.
When Gibson got caught in 2006 spewing anti-Semitic hate after an arrest for drunk driving, Bozell was quick to forgive him and change the subject, calling his critics "hypocrites" and complaining about "anti-Christian, anti-Catholic bigotry." He followed that column with another one laying out a plan to rehabilitate Gibson's image, begging religious right-wingers like Jackie Mason, Pat Boone and Michael Medved to work with him: "It is a cause begging for leadership, and it could become his greatest public accomplishment."
And thus, having done his conservative duty, Bozell and the MRC flushed the Gibson unpleasantness down the memory hole. As was the 2010 release of audiotapes showing Gibson being verbally (and possibly physically) abusive to an ex-girlfriend.
In a 2015 column bashing the existence of the "Fifty Shades of Grey" film, Bozell (by this time officially crediting Graham as the actual writer of his columns) praised Gibson's "Passion," touting its intent to "persuade the viewer to consider (or reconsider) the Christian faith in a very secular world." He mentioned nothing about Gibson's ugly personal life.
Gushing over Gibson
Fast forward to 2016, and Gibson is back in good graces in Hollywood -- and at the MRC. At its "news" division CNSNews.com, a "blog reporter" named Mark Judge is positively giddy about shilling for Gibson. Judge gushed in a June 10 CNS post:
The Hollywood Reporter is reporting that Mel Gibson and writer Randall Wallace are working on a sequel to the 2004 blockbuster "The Passion of the Christ."
That's the entirety of Judge's post. No mention whatsoever of Gibson's notorious past.
Judge followed up with a July 29 post touting how "Lions Gate has just released a trailer for 'Hacksaw Ridge,' the forthcoming film directed by Mel Gibson." Again, no mention of Gibson's ugly personal history.
(Meanwhile, the MRC's Kristine Marsh was unironically complaining that CNN's Brian Stelter quoted former CBS anchor Dan Rather while not mentioning "his botched attempt to create a scandal surrounding then-sitting President George W. Bush as the election loomed a scant few months away." She unironically added that "Reversing Rather’s reputation seems to be one of the media’s priorities in recent months.")
Judge struck again in an Aug. 31 post highlighting that " Mel Gibson recently addressed rumors that he is making a sequel to his 2004 blockbuster 'The Passion of the Christ.'" Judge also worked in a plug for Gibson's "upcoming film 'Hacksaw Ridge' about Desmond Doss, a pacifist medic in World War II who saved as many as 75 soldiers during the Battle of Okinawa. It releases November 4." Again, Gibson's past is censored.
Judge effectively duplicated that post on Oct. 24, writing that Gibson "recently talked about the sequel to his blockbuster 2004 film 'The Passion of the Christ.'" Again, Judge made sure to keep mum about Gibson's ugly past.
Judge got an assist in the Gibson-fluffing game in the form of a Nov. 28 CNS column by Eric Metaxas, who gave a glowing review to Gibson's new film "Hacksaw Ridge," declaring it "an amazing, powerful film about one man who was willing to give his life, but whose conscience and deeply held religious beliefs would not allow him to take the lives of others." But like Judge, he too failed to discuss Gibson's ugly past.
Which is strange, given that "Hacksaw Ridge" is viewed as something of a "comeback" film for Gibson after all that ugliness. And it turns out that's still a pretty touchy subject -- he was asked about it several times in doing press for his film, and he (like Judge and Metaxas) really doesn't want to talk about it, complaining at one point that "for one episode in the back of a police car on eight double tequilas to sort of dictate all the work, life’s work and beliefs and everything else that I have and maintain for my life is really unfair." Like it or not, Gibson's ugly past is part of his history, and it's part of the story of his new film and future projects.
But Judge is determined to pretend otherwise. A Dec. 12 post touting how "Hacksaw Ridge" was nominated for three Golden Globe awards obsequiously added: "Gibson won the Golden Globe for best director in 1995 for 'Braveheart,' then went on that year to win the Academy Awards for Best Picture and Best Director." No mention of the ugly stuff.
Judge served up more fawning praise in a Jan. 24 post noting how "Variety is reporting that 'for the first time in 20 years, Mel Gibson is back in the Oscar fold.'" because "Hacksaw Ridge" received six Academy Award nominations.
But as with all of Judge's fanboy works, a crucial and relevant part of Gibson's past is missing. It was even right there in the Variety article he was citing. Let's see what Judge censored:
After his nomination, and eventual win, for Best Director in “Braveheart,” Gibson became embroiled in several scandals, turning many in Hollywood against him. He was arrested in 2006 for a DUI, during which he unleashed a drunken tirade capped with him shouting “fing jews” at the police officer. He was later sentenced to three years probation.
Most people would consider that relevant. But Judge doesn't -- he has chosen to be Gibson's unpaid PR agent, it seems.
Unlike CNS, Federalist writer Titus Techera did briefly mention Gibson's ugly past. The key word here is "briefly"; it merited just a single sentence: "Secondly, Gibson made several awful comments when stopped for drunk driving."
The rest of Techera's article was devoted to slobbering over "Hacksaw Ridge" and insisting that "America’s award institutions actually reward a patriotic movie that shows Christianity in American society as a source of hope and unity, rather than fear and division."
On the big night, "Hacksaw Ridge" won two minor Oscars, for sound editing and film editing. How did Judge lionize this small victory?
Well, he didn't. Anticlimactically, Judge left CNS at the end of January; strangely, CNS has blocked public access to the archive of his stories. No other CNS writer saw fit to devote space to documenting the achievement.
Dang. We were looking forward to a little more Gibson worship.
Judge did, however, pop up earlier in February at the pop-culture website Splice, where he lamented losing his job at "a long-established D.C. conservative media group" due to "budget fluctuations." The bulk of his article, though, is dedicated to telling conservatives they should cover pop culture seriously, "not as watchdogs or sarcastic Twitter guerrillas, but as serious journalists. It’s time for us to not simply note the stupid things Lena Dunham says, but to penetrate the entertainment industry with deeper and more in-depth coverage."
Judge didn't discuss how his worship of Gibson at CNS while censoring his ugly past played any role in forwarding that mission.