The MRC Parrots Trump's War on Journalists
The Media Research Center isn't imaginative enough to do any "media research" -- it's just transcribing and gushing over the president's attacks on reporters during his coronavirus briefings.
By Terry Krepel
In the Media Research Center's gaslighting narrative, President Trump has behaved perfectly throughout the coronavirus pandemic, and any reporter who asks him even a remotely challenging question during his daily press briefings is a hateful liberal who's trying to showboat and tout his or her own ego (as if they could be more egomaniacal than Trump).
Let's look at who Trump -- and, thus, the MRC -- has deemed to be their enemies, complete with fawning, hyperbolic stenography on the part of the MRC.
On March 18, the MRC's Kyle Drennen complained that PBS NewsHour reporter Yamiche Alcindor "worked together" with another reporter "to claim that President Trump’s use of the term 'Chinese virus' was 'racist' and 'puts Asian Americans at risk.' Alcindor even touted rumors of an unknown administration official using an offensive term to describe the disease." Drennen further complained that Alcindor force a "biased line of questioning" to Trump.
Two days later, Curtis Houck sneered that Alcindor was a "taxpayer-funded reporter" and insisted that her question to Trump about the message he sends to other countries by lashing out at reporters was "another entry into the NewsBusters files and provided yet another audition tape to be deemed the female Jim Acosta." Houck lectured: "This may seem crazy to some, but it is entirely reasonable and possible to set aside whatever you want to believe about the President rhetorically smacking reporters and still think that there’s no profession that loves itself more than the liberal media. And, beyond that, one can also set aside the President and conclude that many journalists are incredibly thin-skinned when presented with criticism from outside their Statist bubbles in New York and Washington D.C."
When Trump had a meltdown March 29 over a question from Alcindor, Houck was practically orgasmic:
The White House Coronavirus Task Force was back Sunday with a briefing and, after a lull, the fireworks also returned as President Trump tussled with multiple reporters, most notably another throwdown with PBS NewsHour White House correspondent Yamiche Alcindor.
Houck is not going to tell you that Alcindor was correct that Trump said what he now denied saying. After all, it's an article of faith at the MRC that Trump never does anything wrong and his criticism of reporters who challenge him is honest and insightful and not mean and petty.
Houck also called her a "lefty" in his headline, but made no effort to prove that asking questions of Trump that he didn't want to answer equated to her being a "lefty."
The next day, Scott Whitlock chose to interpret a comment by Alcindor about solidarity among journalist as an expression of anti-Trump bias:
Basking in another contentious coronavirus White House press briefing, PBS reporter Yamiche Alcindor on Sunday night told MSNBC’s Ali Velshi that covering Donald Trump is a “team sport” for the press and that journalists must “have each other’s back” in opposition to the President. Much of the interview was spent lamenting that Alcindor only initially got one question out at the briefing before a CNN journalist used his question to allow her to ask another.
That's not what she said, Scott, but you be you.
That same day, Drennen laughably described Alcindor's questioning of Trump as "hostile" and complained that other reporters were coming to her defense. He further deliberately misinterpreted Alcindor's words, insisting that she "proudly proclaimed that bashing Trump during White House briefings was a 'team sport' among the press corps."
Drennen returned on April 10 to attack NBC's Seth Meyers for refusing to repeat the MRC's anti-media attacks while having Alcindor as a guest. he huffed that Meyers was "pushing the laughable fantasy that ego-driven journalists never want to make the news about themselves" and "talked about how much he liked watching reporters gang up on the President during the pressers" (never mind that he didn't actually say that)," finally grousing: "Reporters know that they be as incendiary and irresponsible in the briefing room as they want because the rest of liberal media will always be there to defend them and cheer them on."
Drennen and the rest of the MRC hate journalists like Alcindor so much -- and they are so dedicated to their anti-media agenda -- that they must manufacture a caricature of her that conforms to their preconceived, agenda-driven notions of what a journalist is.
On Monday, CNN chief White House correspondent Jim Acosta stepped back in the ring for Monday’s White House Coronavirus Task Force daily briefing and, as usual, he made a fool out of himself.
It's indicative of the MRC's highly skewed sense of politics that Houck dropped a reference to "Real Clear Politics White House correspondent Philip Wegmann (who’s a real reporter)" -- never mind that Wegmann has a history of writing for biased conservative outlets such as the Daily Signal and the Washington Examiner and is very much a conservative operative, having received the 2018-19 Tony Blankley Fellowship for Public Policy and American Exceptionalism from the conservative Steamboat Institute. Blankley was the onetime editorial page editor for the conservative Washington Times.
Houck served up more Acosta derangement -- and held tight to pro-Trump talking points -- in an April 3 post:
Acosta inquired at 6:03 p.m. Eastern about the whereabouts of the NIH’s Dr. Tony Fauci, likely seeking to follow up on a CNN report flashing as a chyron during the briefing that Fauci had been purposefully sidelined from appearing.
The idea that "China (and only China) should be blamed for the severity of the coronavirus pandemic in the U.S. is a Trump talking point that the MRC has dutifully parroted.
Houck further showed that Acosta lives rent-free inside his head by dedicating yet another post to Trump being unable to handle Acosta's questioning (not that Houck would ever admit that, of course), perversely proud that he could use violent metaphors in claiming Trump "nuked" and "obliterated" Acosta:
It was Good Friday, but the White House Briefing Room saw quite the duel when President Trump nuked CNN chief White House correspondent and opposition party figure Jim Acosta for taking issue with what he felt was too much hope and optimism amidst the coronavirus pandemic and not enough negativity.
Houck also inserted pro-Trump talking points here too, declaring that "Obviously, Trump said he would listen to [experts], but he had to repeat it over and over so as to debunk the liberal media notion that Trump would put money over lives."
Houck's Acosta obsession continued even when he didn't appear at the briefing. In a April 14 post, Houck sneered that Acosta is a "liberal hack" for pointing out Trump's obvious distractions from criticism over his handling of the coronavirus pandemic and self-aggrandization about his performance that was so blatant that Acosta called him "Baghdad Bob"-- which, of course, only served to incense Houck even more, actually claiming that he had "sided with communist China" by pointing out Trump's distractions.
That's the state of "media research" at the MRC these days -- if you don't hand out unquestioning praise of Trump, you're a dirty commie.
Another victim of the MRC's biased, fanciful portrayal of journalists is NBC's Peter Alexander. Here's how Kyle Drennen described Alexander's reasonable March 30 questioning of Trump, under the hyperbolic clickbait headline "Trump SMACKS DOWN NBC’s Alexander for Being ‘Terrible Reporter’":
During Friday’s coronavirus press conference at the White House, NBC correspondent Peter Alexander decided that it was more important to get into an argument with President Trump than actually keep the American people informed about the global pandemic. The reporter began his nasty line of questioning by accusing the President of spreading “false hope” until Trump shut him down.
In other words, Drennen is complaining that Alexander wouldn't be a stenographer for Trump and push whatever the talking point of the day was.
In case you didn't really believe that the MRC thinks that merely questioning Trump makes a reporter a liberal egomaniac, a post the same day by Houck cited Alexander as the purveyor of "another embarrassing display of self-centeredness by groaning journalists about how President Donald Trump doesn’t like them,"going on to sneer that "there’s no profession that loves itself more than the liberal media" and "many journalists are incredibly thin-skinned when presented with criticism from outside their Statist bubbles in New York and Washington D.C."
Houck, of course, is ensconced in his own right-wing media bubble in which any journalist who isn't a Trump shill is an enemy.
Never mind that Alexander was tossing Trump a softball question, as he pointed out later, "an opportunity to reassure the millions of Americans, members of my own family and my neighbors and my community and plenty of people sitting at home." That Trump's response was as unhinged as it was, Alexander wrote, showed that "this is a president whose experiences in life are very different than most Americans across this country right now," not someone who has ever worried about finances or his future or paying bills.That, of course, did not go over well at the MRC either. Drennen complained that Alexander's statement "implied that Trump is too rich to relate to people." Drennen didn't otherwise try to disprove that notion.
Nicholas Fondacaro, meanwhile, lost it when CNN's John King called Trump's unhinged behavior against Alexander a "bullshit attack," going on to huff that "Alexander’s question was an underhanded attempt to accuse the President of spreading “false hope” in a time of crisis. As things got heated, Trump responded by accurately noting Alexander was engaging in sensationalism." Fondacaro went on to sneer: "Without evidence, [CNN's Dana] Bash also suggested Alexander was an 'objective reporter,'" then touted a profanity-laced attack on Alexander by right-wing Fox News commentator Brit Hume, who huffed, "Legitimate question my a**. It was the kind of bullsh*t gotcha question which hack WH reporters have been asking for decades." Fondacaro laughably claimed that Hume was "bringing a taste of reality back to the situation."
Tim Graham served up his own version of the Alexander-Trump exchange:
When reporters challenge Trump, they are presumed to be brilliant. NBC’s Peter Alexander asked about potential drug treatments to inhibit the virus: “Is it possible that your impulse to put a positive spin on things may be giving Americans a false sense of hope by misrepresenting the preparedness right now?” Trump admitted he was talking about “a feeling” he had. Then Alexander insisted “Nearly 200 dead, 14,000 who are sick. Millions, as you witnessed, who are scared right now. What do you say to Americans who are watching you right now who are scared?”
That's the story the MRC has to tell themselves and their followers: Every question that sets Trump off is "loaded," and Trump is always justified in being set off.
Also joining these folks on the MRC's enemies list is CBS White House correspondent Weijia Jiang. On April 3, Houck complained that Trump moved from the "manufactured nonsense" of Acosta to Jiang:
Jiang came four questions later and wondered why senior adviser Jared Kushner referred on Thursday to “the federal stockpile” (containing Personal Protective Equipment and ventilators) as “our stock pile,” as if to suggest states wouldn’t have access.
In fact, as Jiang pointed out in her questioning (per the transcript that Houck didn't otherwise quote from), Kushner served up a very different definition of the the national stockpile that what has been traditionally accepted, and after Kushner made his statement, the longstanding Department of Health and Human Services website page on the stockpile was altered to align with Kushner's new definition. But in Houck's eyes, Trump is perfect and Jiang is evil and biased for daring to question Dear Leader.
In an April 20 post, Houck showed how deeply he has drunk of the anti-media, pro-Trump Kool-Aid the MRC has on tap:
During Sunday’s White House Coronavirus Task Force briefing, President Trump clashed with two usual suspects in CBS’s Weijia Jiang and CNN’s Jeremy Diamond after loaded, snarky questions on behalf of their fellow liberal media firefighters, acting with supposed bravery and perseverance.
Houck should have been saying "Yikes" about Trump's embarrassing, hostile display, but he and the MRC can't get enough of Trump's embarrassing, hostile media-bashing. They share a fantasy world in which Trump is never wrong and the media is never right to challenge him.
They get paid well to push this partisan nonsense, and Houck's hyperbolic language and overenthusiastic bolding suggest he may be getting a thrill from it that borders on the sexual.
ABC's Jonathan Karl got targeted a couple times. Kyle Drennen complained on March 19 that "Karl attempted to scold President Trump for having “lashed out” at Democrats who were politicizing coronavirus. Trump shut down the line of questioning by pointing out he has to “respond” since liberal politicians “have the media on their side.” Drennen added: "Missing from Karl’s question was any acknowledgment of how Democrats have worked to politicize the pandemic response."
On April 22, Curtis Houck wrote that "Karl found himself in a shouting match with President Trump about whether the media would ever praise him on testing and their coverage on the increased production of ventilators," then cheered Trump's attack on him while defending Trump's "imperfect" analogy:
Trump drew Karl’s ire with a litany of “that’s not true” and when he insisted in a hypothetical that even if every American were to be tested ten times for the virus, the press would ridicule him for not giving Americans an 11th test.
Needless to say, Houck made no effort to fact-check Trump's claim.
The President was fiery, but hadn’t resorted to calling her “fake” or any other name. That would change as he punched back:“Look, look. You know you’re a fake. You know that. Your whole network, the way you covered is fake and most of you --- not all of you but the people are wise to you. That's why you have a lower --- a lower approval rating than you ever have before times probably three.”
Houck postively gushed over Trump attacking another reporter the MRC has historically hated, Brian Karem:
Having seen Yamiche Alcindor, Jim Acosta, Peter Alexander, and even Paula Reid make scenes during White House Coronavirus Task Force briefings, CNN political analyst and Playboy writer Brian Karem reasserted himself Tuesday over the press corps and sought to remind Americans of his nonsense. Naturally, it ended with President Trump calling him a “loudmouth” and “showboat” and threatening to end the briefing early.
The usual MRC hallmarks are there: failure to fact-check anyone, especially Trump; the mind-reading of the purported state of mind of the journalist asking the question; the assumption that Trump is always right and the correspondents are always wrong.
Houck offered even more creepily fawning praise of Trump's unhinged media attacks under the headline "Phil Rucker Gets LEVELED by Trump":
Ahead of Thursday’s NFL Draft, there was a rhetorical pummeling at the White House Coronavirus Task Force briefing as the horribly biased Washington Post White House bureau chief, Philip Rucker found himself flattened by President Trump as “total faker” after he insisted that it was “dangerous for you to” encourage people to go outside as the temperatures warm up despite the presence coronavirus.
Houck, of course, offered no evidence that Rucker is "horribly biased"; he only whined that Rucker's question was "obnoxious."
Touting how Trump insulted journalists is not "media research"; it's stenography.
Update 5/4/2020: As if to prove our point, a May 1 item by Houck and Bill D'Agostino summarized these Trump tirades under the headline "Here Are the BEST Trump Smackdowns of Journalists at Coronavirus Briefings," attacking the reporters as "camera-hawking, far-left egotists" and gushing that "conservatives found it refreshing that a President would take on the press directly. They touted how "MRC analysts combed through our archives of the briefings to resurrect the most amusing and stinging responses Trump lobbed at the suddenly mealy-mouthed media elites."