MRC on Massacres, Part 2: Freakout Mode
The Media Research Center felt the need to blame Dr. Seuss for the Dayton massacre, amid other odd rants and misfires -- plus a pre-massacre post that didn't age well.
By Terry Krepel
ConWebWatch has documented how the Media Research Center peddled typical conservative pro-Trump and pro-gun narratives in the aftermath of the El Paso and Dayton massacres. But it had some weird freakouts as well.
First up: blaming Dr. Seuss.
The MRC loved to attack media outlets that put the blame on President Trump's anti-immigrant rhetoric for the El Paso massacre, in which the white supremacist suspect has expressed similar anti-immigrant sentiments and said he was targeting Hispanics. But the MRC weirdly has no problem going farther afield to assign blame -- namely, Dr. Seuss.
Corinne Weaver ranted in an Aug. 6 MRC post:
You can’t buy a Confederate flag on Amazon, but you can read literature that helped inspire one of the deadliest shootings in the United States.
Yes, Weaver is really agitating for Amazon -- and, presumably, bookstores and libraries all over America -- to censor and ban "The Lorax" ... and she actually contacted Amazon for comment. She also apparently can't tell the difference between a children's book and a website filled with explicitly worded hate.
Oddly, Weaver seemed much more conciliatory toward 8chan, putting "lawless" in scare quotes and lamenting that it was "punished" for being chock full o' racists like the El Paso shooter. (Then again, Weaver thinks that Gab, another haven for white supremacists, is merely about "free speech.")
The MRC was weirdly committed to this talking point, by the way. Joseph Vazquez huffed in a post the same day:
Following the murder of 20 people by a racist terrorist in El Paso, Texas, the liberal media cherry-picked portions of his alleged manifesto to connect him to the right. But some ignored portions that cited The Lorax as an inspiration for his views a book and movie the liberal media used to love to promote because of its environmental agenda.
Strangely (or maybe not so strangely), neither Weaver nor Vazquez cited any particular passage in "The Lorax" that could possibly be interpreted as encouraging a white supremacist to murder Hispanics. Perhaps because, you know, there isn't any and the MRC is just trying to spin away Trump's much closer connection to the attitudes in the shooter's manifesto.
The CNN townhall freakout
It wouldn't be the MRC if it wasn't trying to exploit the massacres to push its anti-media agenda, and it lives down to that.
When CNN announced it would host a townhall later this week like it did after the Parkland massacre in 2017, the MRC's Nicholas Fondacaro went unhinged -- after all, a big part of the MRC's anti-media narrative is to attack CNN at every possible opportunity. "CNN Announces New Anti-Gun Show Trial, Hosted By Antifa Backer," he sneered in the headline of an Aug. 5 piece. He whined:
The victims of the El Paso and Dayton mass shootings were set to become the next soapbox for CNN to stand on and shout at Second Amendment supporting Americans. On Monday, CNN announced they will host yet another anti-gun town hall on Wednesday to emotionally exploit grieving families. If that wasn’t slimy enough, the town hall was going to be moderated by Prime Time host and Antifa supporter Chris Cuomo.
Really, Fondacaro was just mad that pro-gun activists like Loesch were in the unusual position of being criticized to their faces. In his post on that townhall, Fondacaro attacked Parkland survivor Cameron Kasky with pejoratives, claiming he "smeared" and "spat" and "browbeat" and "chided" -- seemingly oblivious to the fact that he had just survived a massacre and arguably earned the right to be a tad upset. Fondacaro huffed at the end of his post: "This is CNN. No objectivity. Just a naked ratings grab and gun ban push."
But Fondacaro wasn't done pre-ranting about the upcoming townhall. He then aimed his venom at the moderator, Chris Cuomo:
The other disgusting thing about CNN hosting this new town hall was the fact that the “moderator” was going to be Chris Cuomo. He’s the same CNN host that insisted last year that the left-wing terrorist group known as Antifa was “morally” superior. He also equated the terrorists with the soldiers who stormed the beaches at Normandy in WWII.
Fondacaro is deliberately taking Cuomo's words out of context to suggest that Cuomo supports recent violent events involving Antifa, which Cuomo has not said he supported (something Fondacaro undoubtedly knows). As the link supplied by Fondacaro shows, Cuomo was speaking about Antifa activists at an alt-right "Unite the Right" rally last year who, the MRC gleefully reported, attacked an NBC reporter covering it. (Funny how the MRC cares only about a journalist's safety when non-conservatives are inciting violence against them.) Weirdly, Fondacaro offered no condemnation at all of the alt-right neo-Nazis who created the rally that Antifa was protesting in the first place -- you know, kind of like the person who perpetrated the El Paso massacre. Does his silence equal approval? You be the judge.
Needless to say, Fondacaro's boss, Brent Bozell, is fully on board with this unhinged hate, puling his own publicity stunt to call the townhall "a partisan political ratings stunt" that will "politicize this tragedy for ratings." As if Bozell wasn't planning to be all over right-wing media in the hours before the townhall screeching these attacks and bashing the townhall afterwards no matter what actually happened during it.
Afterwards, Fondacaro robotically called it a "show trial" again, complaining that Cuomo "lashed out at the National Rifle Association for not subjecting themselves to the hate and rhetorical torture session they were treated to at the Parkland shooting town hall last year." As we noted, this can also be interpreted as the NRA's refusal to leave the conservative media bubble where it knows the MRC and its media allies will ever say an unkind word about it.
To paraphrase Fondacaro: This is the MRC -- not letting a couple dozen murders get in the way of getting on Fox News to push its anti-media narrative.
The New York Times headline meltdown
As part of its narrative-invoking coverage of the massacres' aftermath, the MRC had a meltdown over a headline.
Following President Trump's speech following the massacres, the first edition of the print edition of the New York Times carried a front-page story about it with the headline "Trump Urges Unity Vs. Racism." But for the second print edition the headline was changed to "Assailing Hate But Not Guns." Never mind that it's hardly unheard of for newspapers to alter headlines between editions (not that anyone at the MRC would know that, since so few of them have ever worked for the type of news operation they attack every day) -- the MRC smelled conspiracy. Never mind that the second headline is arguably more accurate because it reflects Trump's failure in his speech to mention anything about guns, though more than 30 people were shot to death in those massacres.
Clay Waters, the MRC's designated Times-basher, ranted that the Times succumbed to "left-wing Twitter pressure" by changing the "accurate" headline to something more "Trump-skeptical" (which Waters doesn't deny is also accurate). This was an "ignominious retreat," Waters insisted.
Needless to say, MRC chief Brent Bozell was compelled to rant as well, and he ran to Fox Business for an easy platform. The "hard left" that allegedly forced the Times to change the headline is "clearly out of control," Bozell huffed, forcing the times to move away from a headline that told “the truth” even though it went “against” their alleged anti-Trump narrative. Of course, Bozell has an anti-media narrative that he gets paid well to promote. And for good measure, Bozell shouted down a rare liberal panelist by putting words in his mouth.
Bozell also agreed with a Fox Business correspondent that the new headline was "fake news," sneering that "the left has so much power that they can change truth in a newspaper like The New York Times." He offered no evidence that the new headline wasn't true or had anything "fake" in it.
(In a fit of corporate synergy, Bozell's rant also got summarized at his "news" division, CNSNews.com.)
But Waters still couldn't let it go, beginning another post attacking the Times for something else by referencing the headline controversy: "The New York Times has learned its lesson on front-page headlines, making sure it injected plenty of anti-Trump context to lead its Thursday edition, after being vilified by the left for insufficient hostility toward Trump (and quickly changing a banner headline) on Tuesday."
At the MRC, the narrative is all, and the Times has always been a target. Let's not pretend Waters and his buddies care a whit about journalism.
BONUS: A post that didn't age well
Some right-wing attack pieces don't age well. For instance, a July 25 MRC piece by Gabriel Hays attacking HBO's upcoming "Watchmen" series for focusing on white supremacy. Hays wrote:
What’s one more woke comic book action series in the litany of woke comic book action series? HBO is set to premiere its new mainline superhero series based on the legendary Watchmen graphic novel in the fall, and guess what societal threat our crime fighters will be dealing with this time: White supremacy.
Hays then attacked Ta-Nehisi Coates, whose work apparently informed the writers for the series, as a "radical race author" and a "premier race-baiter" (and, for good measure, a "Trump-hater"). After the series' creator David Lindelof pointed out how the anti-black Tulsa race riots had been mostly suppressed from history, Hays huffed:
The power of being embarrassed by something he’d never done was so strong for Lindelof that he made sure the new iteration of Watchmen would be about the “formidable” power of white supremacy, a premise that makes older sci-fi/action villains look like kiddie material, apparently. Lindelof stated, “In a traditional superhero movie, the bad guys are fighting the aliens and when they beat the aliens, the aliens go back to their planet and everybody wins. There’s no defeating white supremacy. It’s not going anywhere, but it felt like it was a pretty formidable foe.”
How tense, how thrilling! White supremacy will never not be a viable strawman for these progressive showrunners. Their idea that “there’s no defeating it” allows for an eternity of depicting white men as brutal overlords.
Nine days after Hays dismissed the issue of white supremacy as a "strawman" invoked by "progressive showrunners," a man who expressed white supremacist ideas murdered more than 20 people in El Paso, many of them Hispanics, for whom the killer declared his hatred.
Nope, this didn't age well at all.