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The MRC's War on Journalists, Part 1: Katy Tur

After priming President Trump's attacks on her, the Media Research Center seems to think that the NBC correspondent deserves to fear for her safety for failing to be a Trump sycophant.

By Terry Krepel
Posted 9/11/2018

Katy Tur

The Media Research Center is so anti-media that not only does it despise journalists who don't reliably spout pro-Trump talking points, it doesn't seem to care whether those journalists live or die. That's a disturbing development at a time when the president of the United States has declared the media to be the "enemy of the people."

Indeed, not only did the MRC lay the seeds for Trump's denunciation by spending millions upon millions of dollars over the past 30 years attacking the media, it also appears to be egging him on by highlighting targets for him.

In December 2016, the MRC's Tim Graham huffed that "Donald Trump correctly felt NBC reporter Katy Tur was hostile to him on the campaign trail." Graham didn't mention how the MRC played a big role in ginning up the idea of that purported hostility.

The previous month, Donald Trump singled out Tur during a pre-election rally, complaining about the purportedly "dishonest" media before shouting at Tur: "There's something happening. They're not reporting it. Katy -- you're not reporting it, Katy. But there's something happening, Katy. There's something happening, Katy." Tur responded afterwards by pointing out that while attacking reporters is part of Trump's "schtick" on the campaign trail, and his complaints about how the media covers the rallies is false, "it does make the crowd very angry and it does concern a lot of folks about the safety of journalists."

This wasn't the first time: Tur wrote that after Trump targeted her in a December 2015 rally, the Secret Service had to walk her to her car for her protection.

Did Trump get advice for choosing Tur as a target from the MRC? Let's look at the evidence.

In an October 2016 MRC item, Nicholas Fondacaro complained that "The 'Big Three' networks (ABC, CBS, NBC) put their undying loyalty to Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton on full display Monday evening, as they completely blacked out two news stories with explosive consequences for the campaign," in contrast to the reporting of pro-Trump Fox News. He sneered: "NBC Nightly News led with Clinton fangirl Andrea Mitchell talking about how comfortable Clinton is with her lead, then pivoting to Katy Tur who mocked the GOP candidate." Curiously, Fondacaro provided no evidence whatsoever of the "mocking" he claimed Tur did.

That seemed to be a catalyst for Trump's Nov. 2 attack on Tur, but the MRC has long bashed her for not being a right-wing shill throughout the 2016 presidential campaign:

  • In a September 2015 post, Ken Shepherd huffed that Tur "trashed Values Voters Summit attendees as the 'far right' of the GOP" (though Shepherd doesn't prove otherwise), but he cheered when she "was interrupted by an attendee who told her to quiet down."
  • In December 2015, Curtis Houck asserted that Tur "hyped that the crowd at the Trump rally on Monday 'was anything but merry and bright' as reporters like her were 'booed and cheered' by the 'riled up and angry' crowd."
  • On March 11, 2016, Houck was upset that "Tur took to MSNBC to air a multitude of concerns about the growing number of violent incidents at Trump rallies to go along with Tuesday’s alleged bruising of Breitbart’s Michelle Fields by Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski."
  • On March 30, Kristine Marsh complained that Tur "slammed" Mike Huckabee as a "hardline anti-abortion rights conservative," declaring that "anti-abortion" a "biased" term (even though it's a more accurate term since all "pro-life" activists are, in fact, opposed to abortion).
  • In May, Mark Finkelstein grumbled that Tur suggested that it's "veiled sexism" to suggest that Hillary Clinton lacked the stamina to be president, arguing that it wasn't sexist because Trump said the same thing about Jeb Bush.
  • Marsh cheered in July when Trump "shushed" Tur for "continuing to press her question after he briefly answered it then shifted the focus to Hillary Clinton," justifying Trump's rudeness by declaring that "Trump is universally brusque to reporters regardless of gender."
  • Sam Dorman complained in August that when Tur reported on Trump's sketchy tax plan as revealed in a speech, she "framed it as an attempt to appease disgruntled republicans."
  • On Sept. 26, Kyle Drennen was angry that Tur pointed out that Trump was trying to "game this system" by pre-emptively bashing media debate coverage"; according to Drennen's interpretation, Tur "denounced Donald Trump’s campaign team for demanding fair treatment from the press ahead of the upcoming debate."
  • An Oct. 2 post by Nicholas Fondacaro complained that Tur "seemed outraged that being able to write off net-losses on taxes was legal."

The MRC -- as its agenda dictates -- had a definite interest in painting Tur as hostile to Republicans in general and Trump in particular, even though much of the criticism was because Tur accurately reported events in a way that didn't advance the agenda of Trump and Republicans. It wasn't necessarily "correct" -- it was a politically motivated campaign.

The MRC was determined to paint Tur as "hostile" to Trump simply because she was not a Trump sycophant And it appears they made Trump know that Tur was not a sycophant, which encouraged him to single her out with anger on the campaign trail.

Justifying threats

It seems that fear is the preferred state in which the MRC would like journalists to stay. In a September 2017 MRC post, Kyle Drennen wrote dismissively of Tur's legitimate fears of violence against her and other journalists:

Promoting her new book about covering Donald Trump during the 2016 campaign, on Tuesday’s NBC Today, correspondent Katy Tur told co-host Matt Lauer that the then-presidential candidate’s public criticism of her reporting was “jarring” and “scary.” Lauer shared her fear as he recalled the “intense feeling” he got at Trump rallies when the Republican nominee would attack the liberal media.


Tur responded: “At first, he was very charming. And when he realized that his charm wasn’t going to change my reporting, he would go on the attack....What I did every day though...was go out and try and honestly report on what was happening and hold him accountable for the things that he said.”

Lauer continued to paint Tur as the victim: “You said you kept a diary. I would love to go back and read the entry in the diary on that day that he called you ‘little Katy Tur’ and you were ‘dishonest’ and things like that.” Tur melodramatically declared: “Well, that is in the book. And you can go back and read exactly what it felt like in that moment. It was jarring, it was scary, and it was one of those feelings that I don’t think I’ll ever be able to shake.”

The morning show host commiserated with her: “Yeah, I was at a few of his rallies when he would target the press. And although he never mentioned me by name, I do remember the entire room turning around and looking at the press pool....And it was a very intense feeling.”

Tur breathlessly explained: “We had to have armed security. And it wasn’t just NBC, it was the other networks as well. I think everyone except for Fox and CBS. The crowd would all – they would turn on us and they would yell. And he riled them up to do that.”

She clarified: “I’m not saying Donald Trump’s supporters were violent, angry people. Many of them were lovely and wonderful when you talked to them one-on-one.” However, Tur then warned: “The concern was what if there’s one person in that crowd who might take this too seriously? Who might feel like this is not just a show or part of the act and take it further.”

Earlier in the segment, the reporter laughably claimed that her lack of experience in political reporting before being assigned to cover Trump’s presidential run actually made her a fairer journalist:


In reality, throughout the campaign and in the first year of the Trump administration, Tur has consistently been on the attack. Back in February, she even suggested that the President’s criticism of the press went down a “dangerous path” that could lead to “suspicious deaths of journalists.”

A link on “suspicious deaths of journalists" goes to a February MRC post in which Fondacaro declared that Tur's fears of violence against journalists are "vile," huffing that "It’s reporting like this that helps to create the circumstances for the violent rhetoric we’re seeing from the left, such as Madonna talking about blowing up the White House and Sarah Silverman calling for a military coup." Interesting that Fondacaro thinks reacting to the anti-media atmosphere Trump creates is "vile," but not the actual creation of it.

(We could find no reference to anyone at the MRC being similarly offended when a writer for Newsmax called for a military coup against Obama.)

Drennen followed up the next day by seemingly justifying threats of violence against Tur because she doesn't like Trump:

“The room goes wavy. My stomach churns. I can feel the bile in the back of my throat.” That reaction to Donald Trump winning the 2016 election didn’t come from Hillary Clinton’s new memoir, it came from the pages of NBC correspondent and MSNBC anchor Katy Tur’s book about covering the campaign.

The Hill’s Joe Concha read through a copy of Unbelievable, in which Tur bemoaned Trump’s victory: “I’ve heard him insult a war hero, brag about grabbing women by the pussy, denigrate the judicial system, demonize immigrants, fight with the pope, doubt the democratic process, advocate torture and war crimes, tout the size of his junk in a presidential debate, trash the media, and endanger my life.”

Appearing on Tuesday’s Today show to hawk the book, Tur similarly described how “jarring” and “scary” it was when Trump would criticize her biased coverage during campaign stump speeches. “We had to have armed security,” she hyped.

Beyond recalling her nausea, Tur also pushed her bizarre fear that Trump would become a lifetime dictator: "I have a vision of myself at sixty, Trump at a hundred, in some midwestern convention hall. The children of his 2016 supporters are spitting on me.”

After expressing her loathing of the President in such detail, does anyone really believe Tur can be an objective journalist?

So Tur should be grateful to Trump for endangering her life and maliciously belittling her profession? Is that the way Drennen would treat someone who did that to him?

More personal attacks

As we've seen, most of the MRC's "media research" on Tur is mostly just personal attacks.

A Dec. 19 post by Curtis Houck carries the hyperbolic headline "Grab Your Popcorn: Katy Tur Gets Annihilated by Dave Brat in Tax Policy Debate." But there's little actual "annihilation" going on; right-wing Republican congressman Brat simply disagrees with her. Houck was condescending to Tur throughout his post, accusing her without evidence of holding "far-left economic views," ranting about her purported "smug factor" and mocking her status as a "MSNBC host extraordinaire" who's supposedly an idiot because she "grew up in a family of journalists." Perhaps Houck needs to be reminded that petty personal attacks on someone you don't like are not "media research."

Just as condescending and spiteful was Houck's MRC colleague Chris Reeves, whose Dec. 27 post ridiculously called Tur an "uber-liberal partisan" (what is an "uber-liberal"? Reeves never defines the term) and ranted that she was "fomenting political tribalism by promoting rank partisan propaganda" and is "a repeat offender when it comes to pure, unadulterated liberal lunacy."

One purported example of this, according to Reeves, is that Tur had recently, and accurately, pointed out that President Trump has not held a full solo press conference since February. This, needless to say, sent the MRC into spin mode. Tim Graham retorted, "Trump has held a series of press conferences this year, but most of them have come with foreign leaders, and only two American reporters and two foreign reporters are allowed to ask a question. That’s a fraction of a press conference, perhaps, but it’s wrong to say he 'hasn’t had a press conference.'" Reeves joined in: "In reality, Trump’s last press conference was on October 16th, and the President regularly answers press questions in informal sessions on the White House lawn. This hardly constitutes a “laughable” fear of the press, as Tur characterized it." But that presser was an impromptu one, held in the White House Rose Garden with Sen. Mitch McConnell -- again, not the formal, planned press conference Tur was talking about.

The personal insults have continued to fly:

  • On Feb. 21, Fondacaro ranted that Tur "has a glaring habit of letting her anti-Republican hatred run wild while confronting and slamming GOPers on issues she knows little about."
  • On March 13, Scott Whitlock asserted that "An angry Katy Tur on Monday hailed Hillary Clinton as far more religious than Donald Trump," then "became increasingly unhinged," ultimately sneering, "It’s getting harder and harder to tell MSNBC from Democratic National Committee talking points."
  • In a July 25 post, Ryan Foley was still forwarding the idea that Tur's book was some sort of left-wing polemic: "In her campaign book Unbelievable, Tur claimed her 'honestly pursued' journalism at MSNBC was "objective truth." She also less-than-objectively claimed that Donald Trump exploited the 'flicker of misconduct' that was Hillary's private e-mail server as Secretary of State and became the "Arsonist-in-Chief" with it. While the rise of advocacy journalism has made the distinction between activism and reporting a lot less clear, MSNBC, which served as an 'amen chorus' for President Barack Obama has no business lecturing people on the matter."

Again: Personal attacks do not qualify as "media research" -- except, apparently, at the MRC.

The hatred the MRC has for journalists in general and Tur in particular seemingly borders on the pathological. No wonder Tur justifiably fears for her safety just for doing her job.

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