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The Trump Talking Point Reinforcement Center

If the Trump re-election campaign needs a talking point hammered home -- no matter how untrue it is -- the Media Research Center has demonstrated themselves to be partisan enough and lacking enough scruples for the job.

By Terry Krepel
Posted 7/29/2020

The Media Research Center proves itself to be more of a Trump lackey every day, reinforcing the president's claims and narratives across right-wing media no matter the accuracy of those claims.

A June 3 post by Brad Wilmouth claimed that CNN commentators "spread misinformation and freaked out over the dispersal of rioters in Lafayette square before President Donald Trump's speech on the riots across the country," asserting that "the group incorrectly claimed that the protesters were all peaceful and that tear gas was used against them." He added:

Introducing the segment at 6:16 a.m. Eastern, co-host John Berman stated that "we all saw attacks on peaceful protesters" who were "tear gassed so that President Trump could take a picture in front of a church."

After liberal political commentator Bakari Sellers cracked that "George Wallace is probably looking up at him with a smile," Camerota also claimed that "peaceful protesters" were "fired on with tear gas" so that "President and his attorney general and Ivanka in her heels and big designer bag could cross the street, and the President could try to figure out how to hold a Bible."

But Park Police have denied that the dispersal was done because of the President's speech or that tear gas was used, noting that the decision was made because some protesters turned violent and were hurling objects at police.

To support this, Wilmouth linked to an MRCTV post by Brittany Hughes, who similarly complained that "Multiple news outlets from local outlets to national news platforms ran with reports that the smoke plumes from the police were tear gas, and that the protesters were peaceful" and touted how the Park Police were "disputing the narrative."

But as actual news outlets reported, the Park Police stated that they used smoke canisters and pepper balls -- which, it turns out, are the functional equivalent of tear gas, since pepper balls are designed to be a chemical irritant. Meanwhile, another actual news outlet discovered tear gas canisters at the scene, further undermining the Park Police's story. The Park Police later admitted that tear gas was used, but denied that it was the ones that used it.

As of this writing, Wilmouth has not corrected his post. He's not alone, unfortunately, because his MRC co-workers peddled the same falsehood as well.

In a June 2 post, Kyle Drennen complained about the media "hyping the 'outrage' over President Trump visiting the church" and reports that tear gas was used on protesters, further huffing: "The Park Police dispute that version of events, denying that they used tear gas and claiming that they were unaware of the President’s plan to exit the White House and walk across Lafayette Square to St. John’s." He closed by complaining, "If journalists want to criticize the timing and optics of Trump visiting a church, they should at least be as outraged by rioters who set that church on fire a day earlier."

Maybe Drennen should question his swallowing a false narrative before attacking others.

In another post the same day, Curtis Houck ranted about a "juvenile diatribe" on CNN that noted the flash-bang grenades going off and tear gas in the air," huffing in response: "As we later found out, the use of tear gas was a complete lie."

The following day, Houck grumbled that "CNN chief White House correspondent and resident quack Jim Acosta predictably inserted himself into Wednesday’s press briefing, taking up over four minutes lamenting about Monday night’s events in D.C.’s Lafayette Park and refusing to denounce violence against police officers. And just as predictably, White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany made him look like a fool." He claimed Acosta was trying to "filibuster" when he responded to McEnany's (false) denial that no tear was was used by pointing out that "chemical agents were used,"and he gave a pass to McEnany's falsehood by declaring, "Thankfully, McEnany put a stop to it and laid out the timeline and rationale for clearing Lafayette Park."

A June 5 post by Ryan Foley included a transcript from "Late Nigh with Seth Myers" that includes the McEnany-Acosta exchange and another CNN clip pointing out the false tear-gas claim. But Foley doesn't mention it in his post; instead, he attacks Meyers for criticizing Republican Sen. Tom Cotton's notorious New York Times op-ed calling for military force to stop "looting and rioting."

That's the only time -- buried in a transcript -- that the falsehood of the tear-gas narrative is noted. As with Wilmouth, none of these other posts have corrected the record, and their promotion of the Trump administration's false narrative remains.

Antifa and unrest

Antifa is a convenient bogeyman for right-wing activists because they're scary-sounding and can be used to play guilt-by-association with liberals. The specter of Antifa popped up again in the wake of the police-caused death of George Floyd, and right-wingers were more than happy to fearmonger about them again, especially since President Trump declared he would declare Antifa a domestic terrorist group (despite it being amorphous, unorganized and leaderless). Among them, needless to say, were the loyal pro-Trump lackeys at the Media Research Center.

Between May 31 and June 5 -- during the height of the Floyd protests -- the MRC referenced Antifa in 21 separate posts, usually as a way to attack anyone who expressed sympathy for the protesters.

Under a headline blaring "Friends of Antifa," Nicholas Fondacaro complained that people on NBC "scoffed at claims from the White House and the Department of Justice that Antifa was partially to blame for violent rioting across the county, corrupting protests demanding justice for George Floyd" by accurately pointing out that no evidence was offered to back up the claim. Fondacaro insisted that "journalists on the ground at the riots have extensively documented Antifa’s involvement in the current violence," citing right-wing writer Andy Ngo. He didn't mention that Ngo may have been collaborating with the right-wing protesters that were clashing with Antifa protesters who he claimed attacked him during a 2017 protest, after which the MRC tried to turn him into a cause celebre.

Kristine Marsh attacked the idea that the Floyd protests have been "mostly peaceful," huffing that "The networks went out of their way to protect violent left wing mobs like Antifa rioting and looting." She later claimed that NBC's Andrea Mitchell "defended Antifa" and "claimed without evidence, that it was actually the 'right wing' at these demonstrations to blame for the violence," despite linking to a Vice article reporting that right-wing extremists were, in fact, taking part in the protests; she merely dismissed them as a "fringe militia group."

(Meanwhile, in real life, an actual news outlet reported that most people arrested in the initial wave of Floyd protests in Minneapolis were local residents unaffiliated with any radical group -- undermining the right-wing narrative that Antifa-linked "outside agitators" were to blame -- and some had even proclaimed their support for Trump.)

CNN-deranged Curtis Houck insisted that CNN host Chris Cuomo -- whom he immaturely and unprofessionally insists on referring to as "Fredo" -- was "an outspoken Antifa supporter," linking to rants by Fondacaro, and claiming that Cuomo was "offering implicit endorsements for the rioting." Fondacaro also engaged in the juvenile name-calling of Cuomo and claimed he "emphatically argued that protests were under no obligation to be peaceful."

Tim Graham got mad at PBS correspondent Yamiche Alcindor for having "dismissed Trump's focus on violence caused by Antifa and urged him that 'in reality,' he should be focused on 'overwhelmingly peaceful people' at the protests," cheering that she "drew a vigorous Twitter rebuttal from conservatives."

Geoffrey Dickens served up some more of that useless "media research" the MRC is known for, claiming that "President Donald Trump’s decision to label Antifa a domestic terrorist group – after he blamed them for vandalism and violence in the George Floyd protests – comes after three years of liberal journalists either ignoring or downplaying the far left organization’s history of violence."

Alex Christy huffed:

While some have tried to pretend that Antifa is not that bad-- after all, it's short for anti-fascist," so how bad can they really be?-- others have asserted without any evidence that it's actually white supremacists posing as Antifa that is responsible for the violence across the country. On Tuesday's CNN Newsroom, hosts Poppy Harlow and Jim Sciutto claimed to have found the evidence needed: a lone tweet from a since banned Twitter account.

Christy didn't mention that this same tweet (which was actually connected to a European white nationalist group) was actually cited by one of its favorite right-wing journalists, Lara Logan, as evidence that Antifa was involved. Nor did he mention all the other evidence that right-wingers are trying to foment violence at the protests.

MRC chief Brent Bozell even worked Antifa into his latest politics-driven attack on Facebook, alleging that Facebook employees "haven’t made the same demands about truly repugnant and violent groups like Antifa, which have been allowed to proliferate on social media platforms without consequence" as they have in wanting Trump's Facebook posts regulated.

Finally, Marsh returned to accuse the Washington Post of publishing "Antifa propaganda" because an op-ed columnist argued that "being an anarchist means dreaming of a kinder, more equitable society.”

The MRC is not enlightening anyone here -- they're just pushing a narrative to serve their boss, Trump. Plus it appears that narrative is false -- not that it kept the MRC from pushing it.

Intern Duncan Schroeder used a June 19 MRC post to dismiss criticism of the then-upcoming Trump rally in Tulsa as coming from a "local liberal politician," then got mad at CNN host Jim Sciutto for bringing up the possible threat of far-right extremists disrupting the atmosphere surrounding the rally:

Sciutto then blamed white supremacists for the violence that has broken out at recent protests and suggested that this could be a concern in Tulsa: "There has been concern that demonstrations in the wake of George Floyd have attracted extremist groups including white supremacist groups that have deliberately sparked violence. Are you concerned about that in Tulsa this weekend?" Hall-Harper proclaimed: "Absolutely. Absolutely. We know that, that Trump has a pretty large following of, of extremists."

The anchor made such statements despite far-left activists such as Antifa being responsible for much of the violence at recent protests. In fact, since the death of George Floyd, leftist protesters have injured and killed a significant number of police officers.

As proof of his statement that Antifa is "responsible for much of the violence at recent protests," Schroeder linked to the above-noted post by Marsh that referenced "left wing mobs like Antifa rioting and looting," but she offered nothing back up her claim. In fact, there's little evidence that anyone affiliated with Antifa, given how arrest records showed virtually no record of Antifa affiliation, and a fact-checker concluded that "There has not yet been a single confirmed case in which someone who self-identifies as antifa led violent acts at any of the protests across the country." It can be argued that more right-wing extremists have been arrested in connection to planned or perpetrated violence than anyone connected to Antifa.

Tim Graham took his shot at flogging a false narrative in a June 25 post complaining that a Washington Post op-ed pointed out the inconvenient fact of a lack of evidence linking Antifa to the unrest, as well as giving Trump a four-Pinocchio rating for blaming Antifa. As a lazy "media researcher," Graham can't be bothered to disprove the Post, so he tried to insult it instead:

Perhaps we could suggest that left-wing “news” sites could try to investigate Antifa and identify their activities with one-hundredth the ardor they chase after tiny factions of Klansmen. Instead, we get octopus-ink articles claiming Antifa is formless, shapeless, and blameless.

Graham further displayed his immaturity by feeling the need to mock the name of the Post's op-ed writer, a German university professor named Curd Knupfer, tossing out the juvenile insult of "Cheesy Curd." Graham also described Knupfer as a "leftist" but provided no evidence to back up his claim, unless he's assuming that anyone who researches the content of right-wing media is automatically "leftist" by defintion.

Despite being, again, a lazy researcher, Graham felt the need to attack Knupfer's valid research method of using software to "scrape" Antifa-related articles from right-wing websites: "'Scraped' the articles? Does that mean someone actually read them? Or just used crude computer analytics? Why are the leftists to averse to actually reading when they analyze media?"

Graham got further enraged when Knupfer pointed out that these right-wing websites spoke of Antifa only in vague terms and never quoted anyone identifying themselves with the group:

Dear Curd: This might be a little tough when they dress up in black masks and don't hand out business cards. Black-bloc hooligans are more likely to beat on camera crews than do interviews. Clearly, this man thinks negative writing about Antifa somehow fits into a framework of "criminalizing dissent." Instead of, say, criminalizing criminal activity, like vandalism and fighting cops.

The MRC, meanwhile, designs its "media research" methodologies to further its right-wing anti-media narrative rather than to conform to accepted research standards, so maybe Graham doesn't have a lot of moral standing to criticize Knupfer, who -- unlike anyone who works at the MRC -- is a trained and experienced academic researcher.

Violence against police

A corollary to this was the MRC's attempt to suggest that all violence against police can be blamed on leftists and Antifa. In a June 11 item, Bill D'Agostino complained that "ABC, CBS and NBC have churned out a massive amount of coverage for protests during the past two weeks (1,042 minutes on their morning and evening news programs), but these same networks have spent almost no airtime letting viewers know about the injuries and death inflicted on police officers during these two weeks of social unrest." He cited two incidents in particular:

On the night of May 29, federal law enforcement officer Dave Patrick Underwood was killed in a drive-by shooting while providing security at a U.S. courthouse in Oakland. The incident was labeled “an act of domestic terrorism” by Acting Deputy DHS Secretary Ken Cuccinelli. Underwood’s death received just 10 seconds of airtime from NBC; the incident received 14 seconds from CBS and 19 seconds from ABC.


Another police killing -- the June 6 ambush and murder of a sheriff's deputy in Santa Cruz, California -- was not immediately linked to the protests and social unrest, but it also received miniscule coverage: 2 minutes, 14 seconds on ABC; 50 seconds on CBS; and 46 seconds on NBC.

The MRC has yet to tell you, however, that the man arrested in both killings is a right-wing extremist.

Steven Carrillo, an Air Force sergeant who is apparently affiliated with the far-right Boogaloo movement -- which seeks to ignite a second civil war in the U.S. -- was arrested on June 11, the same day as D'Agostino's post, for the Santa Cruz ambush, then was charged five days later with the killing of the Oakland officer.

The MRC has invoked both incidents to suggest that left-wing Antifa activists are responsible for these officers' deaths:

  • A June 3 post by Kristine Marsh claimed Underwood's death was an example of how "The media also largely ignored when another black man was killed last week during the riots.
  • A June 4 item by D'Agostino invoked Underwood's death in a similar "study" on law enforcement deaths that were "glossed over or were ignored outright by the broadcast networks."
  • In his June 6 column, Jeffrey Lord referenced "the murder of Dave Patrick Underwood, a black federal security officer in Oakland" as an example of the "looting and burning."
  • Nicholas Fondacaro complained in a June 7 post that "ABC chief global affairs correspondent Martha Raddatz appeared on Good Morning America claimed Trump wanted to bring 'combat troops' to bear against peaceful protesters. But while ABC was mischaracterizing Trump’s use of active-duty military, they completely ignored the ambush of sheriff’s deputies in Santa Cruz, California, where one was murdered and two more injured."
  • Fondacaro used the Santa Cruz incident to attack Raddatz in another post the same day: "But even though a Santa Cruz County sheriff’s deputy was killed and two others were injured in an ambush the previous night, Raddatz indignantly declared: 'There have not been too many examples in the last few days.'"
  • Schroeder's June 25 post, as proof of his claim that " leftist protesters have injured and killed a significant number of police officers," linked to D'Agostino's post.

The MRC should tell its readers the full story about the incidents it cites -- you know, what it demands from the media outlets it criticizes. But it won't subject itself to its own standards.

'Marxist' Black Lives Matter

Even after the failure to blame Antifa for the unrest, Trump must still be served, and a scapegoat was still needed. Thus, the MRC glommed onto a new target: Black Lives Matter.

Because some early founders of BLM had stated they were "trained Marxists," that purported extremism became the new MRC narrative. The MRC rushed to defend Fox News host Tucker Carlson paranoid rant that Black Lives Matter "is definitely not about black lives, and remember that when they come for you, and at this rate, they will." Joseph Vazquez harrumphed his approval of Carlson's rant -- "No kidding" -- and bemoaned that advertisers were dropping ads on his show because did not want to be associated with such extremism. Vazquez didn't put it that way, of course, portraying Carlson as a victim who is "under threat of ad boycotts for not catering to the hive-minded mob." And Nicholas Fondacaro gushed like a schoolgirl a few days later under the hagiographic headline "Unfazed By Thought Police, Tucker Carlson Speaks Truth to BLM Power," effusing over how Carlson "was unfazed by the liberal thought police as he delivered a 17-minute-plus opening monologue Monday night speaking truth to the power of the Black Lives Matter movement. He called out their bullying tactics, manipulation of our moral values, and the brutalization of anyone who even offered mild criticism of the group."

A few days later, Clay Waters huffed: "Black Lives Matter (as opposed to the truistic slogan 'Black Lives Matter') is a political organization that has controversial positions, including defunding the police, reparations, and 'a reconstruction of the economy to ensure our communities have collective ownership' that are up for debate in a free society." And the malicious rebranding campaign was on:

  • Gabriel Hays insisted that you must "recognize Black Lives Matter for what it truly is, a militant marxist movement – reminiscent of Mao’s China – aimed at shaming weak-minded individuals into denouncing their western way of life under the guise of appeasing some manufactured racial grievance." (Not wanting to be killed by police is a "manufactured racial grievance"?)
  • Hays returned to rant that "Teen Vogue is really pushing to indoctrinate young people into the Marxist designs of the Black Lives Matter movement."
  • Julie Mitchell complained that the BET Awards was "promoting the marxist Black Lives Matter movement."
  • Kyle Drennen grumbled that "Apparently NBC’s idea of patriotism is cheering on a radical Marxist organization determined on bringing about “revolution” across the United States."
  • Curtis Houck touted how White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany delivered a screed against journalists who had purportedly decided to "defend the anti-family, hateful, and Marxist Black Lives Matter organization over the Constitution and accusing the President of racism for disagreeing with BLM."
  • Duncan Schroeder asserted that "Black Lives Matter, which is a radical, Marxist organization that is responsible for the rioting, looting, and violence in recent protests." Schroeder's evidence that BLM "is responsible for the rioting, looting, and violence" is a link to a Tucker Carlson monologue that offered no proof to back up the claim.
  • Hays returned again to attack BLM as a "Marxist radical outfit."
  • Drennen equated having BLM activists on TV with "enabling Marxist radicals who preach violent action."
  • Fondacaro regurgitated a Fox News segment with Mark McCloskey, the St. Louis homeowner who along with his wife were recklessly waving weapons at protesters walking past his house, in which he stated that BLM and other groups are "Marxist and oppose everything I stand for and I hold dear and near."
  • Hays (again) huffed about "Marxist Black Lives Matter tenets."
  • Fondacaro ranted: "For almost 50 days, Black Lives Matter Marxists have been engaging in almost nightly battles with federal agents outside the federal courthouse in Portland, Oregon, effectively turning the streets into a war zone." Fondacaro offered no evidence that BLM played a role in the protests, even as he went on to brand the unrest as "Black Lives Matter riots."
  • Schroeder praised Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler for "correctly describing BLM as a radical Marxist organization."
  • Jay Maxson groused about "the Marxist anarchist Black Lives Matter movement," uncritically quoting MRC sacred cow Mark Levin asking if pro athletes "know they are embracing a Marxist-anarchist movement."
  • Scott Whitlock pretended to care about civil rights in his attack: "CBS This Morning rightly honored the life and legacy of civil rights icon John Lewis on Monday. Yet, they dishonored this tribute with a softball interview of the radical, Marxist, dictator-supporting co-founders of Black Lives Matter."
  • Maxson whined that baseball players "took a knee Monday ... in solidarity with the Marxists of Black Lives Matter prior to a game."

All this reads like someone fed MRC writers talking points and their job was to use it as many times as possible. Indeed, it appears to have come straight from the top: A July 1 piece by Brent Bozell (no, we didn't see Tim Graham's byline anywhere) at the Daily Caller attacking BLM included this screed: "Black Lives Matter was founded by radical extremists who are perfectly pleased with the rioting, looting, vandalism and violence that have plagued our cities for the past several weeks. ... These are Marxists following the Maoist playbook in China during the late ’60s and early ’70s. The Maoist revolutionaries vandalized temples, tore down statues and destroyed artifacts. The opposition was marched to re-education camps."

Because the MRC has marching orders to fulfill, they're not going to tell you the truth about BLM; it must fall to actual fact-checkers to do so. Just because the BLM founders described themselves as "trained Marxists" doesn't mean the organization today operates as a Marxist group and that all who associated with it are automatically Marxists, let alone the strict Maoists that Bozell thinks they are. A scholar at the conservative Hoover Institution has pointed out that BLM's support for "gender identity politics sets it apart from historical Marxism," and it has not declared itself to be "expressly anti-capitalist."

The MRC is not offering any sort of cogent, reasoned analysis of the issue; it is engaged in partisan name-calling that defies facts. It knows exactly what it's doing, and who it's doing it for.

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