Conspiracy-Mongering For Trump
The Media Research Center constructs its own elaborate conspiracy theory to prove President Trump should have won re-election -- through hiring Trump's own pollsters and bizarrely claiming that pre-election media polls showing Trump losing big were faked.
By Terry Krepel
The Media Research Center is not taking the fact that Joe Biden won the presidential election very well -- so much so, in fact, that it has constructed its own version of the conspiracy theory the Trump campaign has pushed that the election was stolen.
The day after the election, MRC chief Brent Bozell issued a statement ranting that polls about the election were "deliberately wildly wrong" in order to "suppress the vote" for Trump:
“While votes are still being counted and the outcome of the election is undetermined, there is one thing we can say with certainty: once again, the polls weren’t just wildly wrong, they were deliberately wildly wrong.
Needless to say, Bozell offered no evidence to back up his paranoid conspiracy theory, and he has offered none in the weeks afterward.
Bozell also issued a video claiming that the MRC is "going to show the suppression that took place," as well as other conspiratorial claims to be made in an upcoming "explosive report" that will purport to prove that "the national news media stole the 2020 campaign."
Nevertheless, the MRC spent the days immediately after the election gloating that the polls showing a Biden blowout were wrong. Jeffrey Lord proclaimed that "the media and the polls blew it. Big time," and Tim Graham devoted an entire column to ranting that pollsters "are damaging the legitimacy of our democracy, not helping it. When they’re this off base, they lead to both sides of the divide feeling the system is rigged. What's obviously rigged are these polls, easily categorized as an alternative reality. It’s hard not to see intentional rigging, not some kind of accidental bias."
So it might be a little surprising to learn that the first part of the "explosive report" Bozell promised, in the form of an anonymously written Nov. 9 piece under the headline "FACT: Big Media and Big Tech Stole the 2020 Election" is actually based on ... a poll:
A new post-election poll from the Media Research Center, conducted by McLaughlin & Associates, shows 36 percent of Biden voters were NOT aware of the evidence linking Joe Biden to corrupt financial dealings with China through his son Hunter. Thirteen percent of these voters (or 4.6% of Biden’s total vote) say that had they known these facts, they would not have voted for the former Vice President.
Obviously, the MRC is not going to mention that McLaughlin has long been a notoriously unreliable pollster -- receiving a C/D rating from FiveThirtyEight.com, and perhaps best known for a 2014 poll for then-House Majority Leader Eric Cantor that showed him up by 34 points two weeks before a Republican primary against opponent Dave Brat; Brat ended up defeating Cantor by 11 points.
But there's one other thing the MRC is not telling you: McLaughlin & Associates worked for Trump's re-election campaign. That's a blatant -- and undisclosed -- conflict of interest. Indeed, in June McLaughlin & Associates issued a memo on behalf of the Trump campaign claiming that polls showing Trump losing are "skewed," adding, "Let’s prove them wrong again."
(It's also not the first time the MRC has done business with McLaughlin while it was also working for Trump. In June, it commissioned a poll claiming that "60% of likely voters, both liberal and conservative, believed some members of the media would like to see the shutdown drag on so that it hurts President Trump's chances of reelection in November." It didn't disclose McLaughlin's Trump ties then, either.)
Despite being on record denouncing the entire polling process as shoddy and biased, MRC put out a statement from Brent Bozell proclaiming the results of its own poll as "indisputable fact":
“It is an indisputable fact that the media stole the election. The American electorate was intentionally kept in the dark. During the height of the scandal surrounding Hunter Biden’s foreign dealings, the media and the big tech companies did everything in their power to cover it up. Twitter and Facebook limited sharing of the New York Post’s reports, and the liberal media omitted it from their coverage or dismissed it as Russian disinformation.
It cannot be true that all polls are inaccurate except the ones bought and paid for by the MRC. But that's the fiction the MRC is going with.
Bozell appeared on the Nov. 10 show of his favorite right-wing radio host, Mark Levin, to peddle the conspiracy. He ludicrously asserted that the dubious story of Hunter Biden's laptop was "a hundred times bigger" than the Watergate scandal and it shouldn't have been ignored by the non-right-wing media. He didn't tell readers that the McLaughlin polling firm whose results he was pushing at the time was also working for Trump's campaign, raising questions about conflicts of interest and polling bias. Nevertheless, Levin laughably asserted that Bozell made "an incredibly compelling case."
Bozell went on to reference the MRC's claims of "monthly negative coverage of the president" -- but as ConWebWatch has documented, these MRC studies examine only a tiny sliver of media coverage and falsely extrapolates them into an indictment of all non-right-wing media (whose coverage is exempt from MRC scrutiny). Levin went on to ridiculously claim that Biden was engaging in "tyranny" by accurately describing himself as the president-elect, while Bozell responded that this was "false advertising on his part."
(The "news" organization Bozell leads, CNSNews.com, also dutifully reported on its boss' radio appearance, as well as the original poll the MRC did, which also censored the fact that McLaughlin also worked for Trump.)
A new biased poll
On Nov. 24, the MRC came out with a "special report" by Rich Noyes under the overheated headline "The Stealing of the Presidency, 2020":
The left-wing news media didn’t just poison the information environment with their incessantly negative coverage of President Trump going into the 2020 election. They also refused to give airtime to important arguments of the Republican campaign both pro-Trump and anti-Biden which meant millions of voters cast their ballots knowing only what the media permitted them to know about the candidates.
Let's examine where all this goes wrong.
First: Noyes didn't mention the fact that the MRC denounced election-related polling immediately after the election, and he gave no reason why this poll should be trusted when the others couldn't be.
Second: Noyes didn't disclose the fact that The Polling Company was founded by former Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway, raising the issue of another conflict of interest. Conway sold The Polling Company to Republican PR firm CRC Public Relations in 2017 after joining the Trump White House, giving her a windfall of up to $5 million; further, CRC is a company to which the MRC has paid more than $3 million for its services over the years.
Third: The MRC poll was not only not objective, it was clearly designed to push respondents toward Republican narratives. At one point, Biden is referred to as "the Democrat candidate" -- a deliberate grammatical error designed to denigrate Biden. The poll also asked biased pro-Trump questions like:
The Nobel Prize stuff is effectively meaningless because a large number of people can make nominations (and Trump didn't win anyway), and one person who nominated Trump is a right-wing Norwegian lawmaker who's notoriously anti-immigration who has likened Muslim headscarves to Ku Klux Klan uniforms. Meanwhile, the stuff about social media "censoring" Trump and not Biden is MRC-directed language and censors the fact that Trump violated Facebook's and Twitter's rules while Biden did not.
Fourth, and most crucially: The poll did not ask respondents about their news-watching habits, so the poll could not possibly determine that the "left-wing news media" didn't sufficiently push GOP talking points. It also did not ask respondents whether they knew about negative attacks on Trump -- it asked about the sexual misconduct allegations against Biden from Tara Reade, but made no mention of the sexual assault accusation made against Trump by E. Jean Carroll -- so there is not a baseline upon which to establish how much the "left-wing news media" allegedly didn't report about Biden.
Of course, this is all getting the play inside the right-wing bubble that the MRC wants. Rush Limbaugh touted it, of course, making sure not to ask the questions that we did. MRC chief Brent Bozell also appeared with podcaster (and MRC board member) Bill Walton. Bozell didn't disclose that McLaughlin was Trump's pollster but did admit that the Polling Company was "Kellyanne Conway's old company (but didn't mention that Conway was a Trump adviser), then laughably claimed that both pollsters were "highly, highly respected" (The Polling Company has a middling B/C grade from FiveThirtyEight). Bozell also crowed that these results were "scientific," but he made no mention of (and Walton didn't ask about) his own attack on pre-election polls as deliberately fake. Presumably since he's on the MRC board, Walton did almost no pushback on Bozell's increasingly outlandish and dubious claims.
MRC executive Tim Graham contributed as well with a Nov. 25 column touting the poll and alleging a conspiracy: "This would have swung the swing states the other way. That's why the media hit the Mute button." Brittany Hughes ranted in a Nov. 28 MRCTV video touting the poll: "You want to know how to rig an election? This is how. The media just did it. And we can prove it." Like her MRC colleagues, Hughes didn't mention that The Polling Company was founded by Kellyanne Conway, nor did she mention her employer's trashing of pre-election polls as fraudulent and manufactures -- both of which give normal people good reason not to trust this poll.
n a Dec. 3 video, Bozell showed how much of a Trump dead-ender he is by stating that Trump's fraudulent claims that the election was stolen from him are "very serious" and "something that has to be investigated very seriously." He then rehashed all the above claims, ranting in an apparent attempt to keep right-wing activism centered around attacking the non-right-wing media, which helps keep the MRC in business:
Here's the point, folks: The news media cost Donald Trump this election. They deliberately -- this was not accidental -- they deliberately chose not to report these stories and we've proven that, how they didn't cover these stories. And now the polling shows that it worked, that Biden voters didn't know about it, and as a result they voted for Biden and had they known, they would have voted for Donald Trump. Folks, make that the biggest part of the conservation for the conservative movement, what to do about this weft-wing press that has become so militant that they are actually tipping campaigns, presidential campaigns. That's the biggest priority now for the conservative movement.
Bozell's emphasis on how what he and the MRC does should be the "biggest priority" of the conservative movement suggests that this is more a funding ploy to keep his organization viable during the upcoming Biden years -- as Trump, they candidate they steadfastly supported over the past four years, collapses into his own morass of lies and conspiracy theories -- than any sort of serious "media research."
Bozell ended by claiming "what we're going to break next week is going to blow you away."
'Big Tech' bashing
Well, it took two weeks for that revelation, and frankly, we felt little more than a mild breeze. A Dec. 17 "special report" by Corinne Weaver expanded the MRC's conspiracy theory to "Big Tech":
Big Tech companies, outraged at President Donald Trump’s win in 2016, put everything they had into ensuring that he would lose in 2020.
The not-so-special "special report" is just a rehash of the MRC's anti-"big tech" victimization narratives over the past year -- much of which we've already discredited. The complaint that Twitter "censored" Trump and his campaign while not doing the same to Biden overlooks the inconvenient fact that the MRC has never provided evidence that Biden violated Twitter's terms of service the way Trump has and, therefore, deserved to be "censored" in the same way (in reality, most of Trump's violating Twitter posts are simply flagged as false and remain visible to readers).
Weaver is clearly gaslighting with this victimization narrative -- but then she accused others of gaslighting by pointing out that there's no evidence social media outlets are exclusively targeting conservative content:
But Big Tech denies it censors conservatives every time while finding new ways to suppress, label, and remove information posted on their platforms. The liberal media insist that tech companies are not removing content, but still urge Facebook, Twitter, and Google to do more to remove ideas and opinions that go against their established narrative. From criticism of mail-in ballots to satirical posts about Biden, Big Tech took them all down. YouTube’s latest policy that will ban content that contests the 2020 election results is proof of the overwhelming direction toward censorship.
Weaver added more conspiracy-mongering:
Companies like Facebook, Google, and Twitter picked sides before the election and used all their power to further the win.
Weaver is -- as the MRC has long done this year -- falsely conflating political donations by individual employees of a company with corporate donations. And Weaver ignored that the alleged fraud in a local election in New Jersey McDaniel was hyping actually showed that the system for detecting such possible fraud worked ... and demonstrated exactly how difficult it would be to do so on a national scale without detection the way Trump's "censored" Twitter posts have claimed.
Weaver concluded by fully buying into to Trump's false stolen-election narrative: "If liberal Big Tech companies have so much power and influence to manipulate an election, can any election really be fair? That’s the question that both political parties, Congress and the federal government must address. Before the next election." Because the MRC has decided that the very integrity of elections must be undermined -- despite no solid evidence to back it up -- in order to preserve Trump's legacy.
With all these conspiracy theories, it seems the Trump years have made the MRC even more WorldNetDaily-like than ever.