California Recallin' At The MRC
The Media Research Center predictably shilled for right-wing radio host Larry Elder in the lead-up to the California recall election -- and was presumably glad it no longer had to suppress its transphobia to support early GOP front-runner Caitlyn Jenner.
By Terry Krepel
The MRC began by touting Elder's chances against the incumbent facing recall, Democrat Gavin Newsom. On July 28, Scott Whitlock gushed that Fox News was touting Elder was emerging as the front-runner in a "perfect storm" against Newsom (and that non-right-wing media outlets weren't reporting on an state election that was a month and a half away). On Aug. 12, Kyle Drennen complained that non-right-wing outlets weren't reporting that Newsom "was beginning to crack under the pressure of an upcoming recall election that looks increasingly likely he may lose." Kristine Marsh wrote on Aug. 16 that CNN "tried to help out the embattled Democrat Governor Newsom with a puff piece that completely ignored his critics and glossed over his failures" while it "actually helped Newsom attack his conservative competitor, radio host Larry Elder, as the next Trump." Marsh didn't dispute that characterization.
But as Elder started drawing more attention -- much of it negative -- the MRC got upset. On Aug. 18, designated New York Times-hater Clay Waters whined that the paper was "smearing the idea of the recall and Newsom's leading conservative opponent, black conservative talk show host Larry Elder" and that it was "calling Elder a liar for accurately stating that no one knows how much human action contributes to rising global temperatures." Brad Wilmouth then came to Elder's defense over a sexist view he had once espoused that CNN correspondent Kyung Lah highlighted:
After showing a couple of clips of Elder -- one complaining that welfare has hurt women, and the other complaining about the many accusations of racism and sexism made by the left -- Lah read from a piece published by Elder in May 2000 in which he asserted that women are less informed about political issues than men. The CNN correspondent recalled: "In May 2000, Elder penned this editorial, writing, 'Women know less than men about political issues, economics and current events,' adding, 'The less one knows, the easier the manipulation.'"
As criticism of Elder mounted, the MRC made sure to emphasize the more strident ones, thus suggesting that all criticism of Elder was outlandish:
Tim Graham complained of the "mudslinging tactics" of Los Angeles Times columnist Erika D. Smith that called Elder "the Black face of white supremacy." Graham huffed that "No 'fact checker' will check any of this lying garbage," but he identified no "lies" that needed to be fact-checked.
Marsh claimed that an MSNBC guest and newspaper columnist painted Elder "as an apostle of white nationalism who would “make life harder” for black and Latino Americans," going on to smear the commentator as someone Divorced from any sort of rational analysis" and "believes voters can’t think for themselves," and adding that she shows "just how far removed liberal journalists are from the average American" (though she's a columnist, not a journalist).
But even the MRC couldn't ignore accusations about Elder's history with women -- so that meant it was time to downplay those claims. Waters was first up, complaining that an ex-girlfriend's claim that Elder showed a gun to her while high on marijuana was merely "personal attacks and speculation in a way that under-substantiated allegations made against Democrats never get (see: Tara Reade)." Does this mean we can say the MRC was indulging in "personal attacks and speculation" when it uncritically repeated and breathlessly touted Reade's accusations?
Graham similarly played Reade whataboutism -- and 30-year-old Anita Hill whataboutism -- in an Aug. 26 post:
NPR's public editor Kelly McBride confessed in 2020 that NPR was slow to address Tara Reade's sexual assault allegations against Joe Biden. But NPR wasn't slow at all to highlight an ex-fiancee's allegation that black conservative California gubernatorial candidate Larry Elder waved a gun at her while high on marijuana during a breakup in 2015. It dominated their segment on the California recall on Wednesday's Morning Edition.
Graham added: "The ex-fiancee is Alexandra Datig, who has endorsed Republican Kevin Faulconer in the recall election. Politico's Carla Marinucci first reported Datig's claims on August 19. What about the timing? California expected counties to begin sending mail-in ballots on August 16." Funny, we don't recall Graham or anyone else at the MRC questioning Reade's motivations or her timing.
Marsh returned on Aug, 27 to mock Smith for highlighting the hate mail she received about her "Black face of white supremacy." Jeffrey Lord followed with an Aug. 28 column attacking Smith and another Los Angeles Times columnist, and he too played Anita Hill whataboutism -- while being completely silent about the accusations Elder's ex-girlfriend made.
Meanwhile, Rich Noyes went back in time by rehashing a complaint about how the media covered the 2003 recall in California: "Arnold Schwarzenegger is no conservative, but the liberal media are smearing him as if he were." But the MRC also defended Schwarzenegger as if he were, playing Clinton whataboutism to complain that it was "last minute dirty tricks" for the media to cover accusations of alleged sexual misbehavior (and Schwarzenegger praising Hitler).
Gabriel Hays whined that actors are donating money to Newsom:
Hollywood is dead. The movies are derivative and most of the industry’s big name personalities have destroyed their popularity with their incessant leftwing politics. Though that doesn’t seem to stop them. In a mad dash to kill off whatever remaining dignity any of them had, several actors, producers and showbiz moguls are campaigning for Gavin Newsom (D-CA), one of the worst governors in American history.
Actually, the article to which Hays linked to back up his claim stated that "only about a quarter of the electorate supports" Elder, which would not be a "sizable lead" in any real election.
Kyle Drennen complained that MSNBC "brought on far-left Los Angeles Times columnist Jean Guerrero to hurl invective at the organizers of the effort and leading Republican contender Larry Elder. She ranted that the recall was fueled by “anti-immigrant nativists” who would spell doom for California and the Democratic Party," adding that she "was particular aghast [sic] that the conservative Republican wanted to rollback radical left-wing policies like sanctuary laws, driver’s licenses, and in-state tuition for illegal immigrants." Drennen complained that "Guerrero was never challenged on any of her outrageous rhetoric against Elder or Republicans in general" -- though he didn't factually dispute anything Guerrero said either.
Kristine Marsh groused that MSNBC host Joy Reid couldn't hide her disdain for black conservative radio host Larry Elder, on her show last night while talking about California’s upcoming recall election. The Chicken Little commentator panicked that if Elder was elected governor, the state would go to hell in a handbasket (as if it wasn’t already?) and turn into “nightmare” states California [sic: Florida] and Texas."
Marsh returned on Sept. 9 to try to make a big deal out of someone throwing an egg at Elder:
The big three networks this morning didn’t seem to care that a black man running for office was assaulted by a white woman in a gorilla mask yesterday. Probably because that man was conservative radio host, Larry Elder, running for governor in the blue state of California.
This was followed by Curtis Houck giving Ben Shapiro a platform to complain about "the liberal media refusing to give real airtime to the egg attack."
We would remind Houck and Marsh that the MRC has amply demonstrated its indifference to the safety of journalists who aren't also right-wing activists, so perhaps they should sit this one out.
Tim Graham served yet another whine-a-thon about Brian Stelter in a Sept. 12 post:
Brian Stelter just adores new Los Angeles Times columnist Jean Guerrero. He put her on his Reliable Sources podcast and now he's put her on his Reliable Sources show to keep repeating her smears of black conservative California gubernatorial candidate Larry Elder. On Sunday, she repeated the slur that he's the "black face of white supremacy."
Then again, Graham spent the past four years attacking fact-checkers for daring to fact-check Trump while refusing to concede that Trump ever lied about anything, so perhaps he needs to sit this one out as well.
None of these posts, by they way, mentioned the credible accusations of sexual harassment and gun-waving made by an ex-girlfriend of Elder. The MRC was doing quite a job of trying to shove that down the memory hole.
The day before the Sept. 14 election, Houck attacked MSNBC's Joy Reid for criticizing Eider:
MSNBC’s The ReidOut host Joy Reid continued the liberal media’s meltdown over the possibility of Governor Gavin Newsom (D-CA) losing Tuesday’s recall election, warning Friday that Republican candidate Larry Elder would not only bring a far-right vision to California, but he will have exploited recall process with help from “right-wing activists” and “wealthy conservative donors” to infect Californians with deadly bouts of COVID.
Houck made no effort to disprove anything Reid said.
Meanwhile, Scott Whitlock was praising actress Rose McGowan -- whom the MRC was attacking just a few years ago as among the "wealthy celebrities" who showed "lack of empathy" by calling for new gun regulations after the Las Vegas massacre -- for her endorsement of Elder:
Normally if a movie/TV star endorsed a Democrat and made a blockbuster claim about a prominent Republican, journalists and network outlets would be anxious to repeat and promote the claim. But when actor and activist Rose McGowan endorsed Larry Elder and the recall effort against Gavin Newsom, there was a collective media yawn from ABC, CBS and NBC.
In other words, Whitlock got mad at MSNBC for doing to McGowan what the MRC had done a few years earlier.
Nicholas Fondacaro ranted: "The Monday night before California’s recall election, two of the broadcast networks were solidly backing embattled Governor Gavin Newsom as they downplayed his COVID hypocrisy and tried to stoke fear of Republican front runner and radio host, Larry Elder."
After the election
And that was it for the MRC's electioneering. But when the election results showed decisively supporting Newsom and rejecting the recall, the MRC went into sore-loser mode afterwards. Whitlock whined:
The media on Wednesday are cheering how Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom won his recall election, but that's not at all how some media liberals reacted when it was a Republican Governor, Wisconsin's Scott Walker, who won his recall back in 2012. Then, they grumbled about the defeat of a union-backed attempt to remove the conservative, lamenting all the money spent.
Whitlock served up some whataboutism as well:
This is a quite a contrast to the tantrum thrown by journalists when the people of Wisconsin rejected a recall of Walker. On the June 6, 2012 Nightly News, then-anchor Brian Williams contemptuously lectured that "money flowed into that state from all over the country, from people who had never been to Wisconsin, had no connection to Wisconsin.”
Wilmouth returned to serve up a different brand of whataboutism, this one of the Fox-fluffing kind:
As the California recall campaign closed, New Day and other CNN shows ignored news reflecting unfavorably on Democrats while going negative against Republican candidate Larry Elder until the very end.
Wilmouth offered no evidence that the egg incident was "racially charged." Instead, he continued to praise Fox News for hyping the "racist egg attack," while complaining that CNN "jump[ed] on Elder for suggesting 'shenanigans' by Democrats might cost him the election, with CNN host Brianna Keilar calling it 'the little big lie' on Monday's show."
Given that no credible evidence has surfaced to back up Elder's pre-emptive claim of voter fraud, it can be argued that CNN was right to point that out. Strangely, Whitlock didn't question why Fox News chose to censor that.
Then again, the MRC knows what side its bread is buttered on. As it so happens, it has been publishing Elder's syndicated column since early this year. Elder suspended the column during his campaign, but he returned with two columns on Sept. 29 and Oct. 1 reflecting on his failed campaign -- and the MRC published those without comment.
SIDEBAR: The MRC actually defended Caitlyn Jenner
It was just a couple years ago that the viciously transphobic MRC hated Caitlyn Jenner so much that a post attacking her -- promoted under a headline insulting her as a "trannie" -- was deemed so offensive that it was deleted without explanation. When Jenner announced early in the recall process that she was running for California governor as a conservative Republican, the MRC was forced to do the unthinkable: defend a transgender woman.
It started out dismissive of her chances, of course. In a April 7 post, Tierin-Rose Mandelburg complained that "It’s interesting that she thinks she is qualified for a role like governor. For crying out loud, she’s never had a place in the political sphere but her drive for transgender activism as a Republican is apparently enough credibility," adding, "But honestly, when are celebrities going to stay in their own lanes?" Did Mandelburg (or anyone else at the MRC) ever say that about Donald Trump?
But as Jenner's conservative leanings became more apparent, the MRC decided she was worthy of defense, as Veronica Hays did in an April 26 post:
A celebrity with no political expertise who is also a transgender woman running for California Governor? That’s a match made in heaven. But add in the inconvenient fact that she’s running as a Republican and this liberal fantasy is destroyed.
Um, doesn't the MRC condescend to non-conservatives and insist on telling them what to do?
When Jenner strangely came out against transgender youths taking part in sports, she felt even more MRC love. Mysterious sports blogger Jay Maxson -- who is so transphobic that he (or she) was the author of the above-mentioned Jenner-smearing post that the MRC had to delete -- complained on May 4 that a sports blogger declared that "Jenner is trash because the California gubernatorial hopeful says it’s unfair for boys to compete in girls’ sports." Of course, Maxson stopped treating Jenner like trash for the exact same reason.
The same day, Curtis Houck lumped Jenner among "minorities who refuse to be pigeon-holed" when MSNBC's Joy Reid criticized her stance, then without a shred of irony attacked Reid as "someone whose entire show has existed to prime viewers to hate those on the opposite side the of spectrum and rage about how they are to blame for what ails the country." Houck might as well have been talking about himself.
On May 6, Veronica Hays gushed over Jenner and her right-wing views following a Fox News interview:
As if the Hollywood left didn’t have reason enough to hate Caitlyn Jenner, the former man, Olympian and reality star now running for California governor gave Sean Hannity an hour-long interview on Wednesday night.
Hays returned on May 11 to complain not only that comedian Sarah Silverman criticized Jenner on her stance on transgender athletes but that Yahoo News backed her up by pointing out that the bans "are backed by no real-world evidence, with Republican lawmakers unable to give examples of this issue outside their own heads." She concluded by whining, "Will any of the LGBT community stand up for Jenner? No." Weird, Hays and the rest of the MRC hates the LGBT community whenever it stands up for anything. Two days later, Hays touted how right-wing commentator Dave Rubin "ripped into comedian Sarah Silverman on Tuesday for dragging Caitlyn Jenner during her podcast," adding, "The rest of intelligent society is likely to agree."
Of course, the MRC would be trashing Jenner the way it complains "the LGBT community" is trashing her if her political views were even remotely liberal.