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How The MRC Embraced Trump's Bogus Election Fraud Conspiracy

The Media Research Center took Donald Trump's election loss almost as badly as Trump himself did, and it helped Trump by promoting his never-proven claims that the election was "stolen."

By Terry Krepel
Posted 2/18/2021


Let's be clear: The Media Research Center was very much in sync with President Trump's baseless crusade to portray the 2020 presidential election as "stolen" from him. So much so, in fact, that the MRC developed its own companion conspiracy of purported election theft, which relied on biased conservative pollsters, one of which actually worked for Trump's campaign, and Brent Bozell's never-supported assertion -- let's call it what it is: a lie --that the media's pre-election polls showing Biden with a big lead over Trump were fake.

So simpatico was the MRC with Trump's bogus narrative, in fact, that its online store was selling bumper stickers saying "Biden Won ... And Pigs Fly" and "Roses Are Blue. Pigs Fly. And Biden Won." Even after the Capitol riot spurred by Trump's false claims of election fraud, the MRC was still selling them. Only after ConWebWatch noted the sale did the MRC stop selling those stickers but continued to sell a different one claiming "Biden 'Won' Because The Media Lied," which pushes the dubious narrative of its own conspiracy theory.

The MRC promoted Trump's election conspiracy in other ways as well. Let's look at how it did that.

Sore losers

The MRC took Trump's election loss poorly in the days immediately after the election as Joe Biden's victory became more apparent. That bitterness was demonstrated in a Nov. 6 post by Alex Christy in which he lashed out at CNN for acknowledging Joe Biden's win:

With Joe Biden on the verge of being declared the winner of the 2020 presidential election, CNN's Friday afternoon coverage took the time to insist that all Americans should celebrate the historic glass-shattering moment of Kamala Harris becoming vice president. In addition, one of their elitist, leftist partisans informed us that we must also subscribe to the electoral conclusion that Biden has a mandate while ignoring the Democratic Party's horrid performance in House and Senate races.

The same day, Nicholas Fondacaro huffed in defiance of reality (and Trump's mutual defiance of same): "As the ballot counting dragged on Thursday in key states around the country and President Trump continued to fight for a second term, the partisan 'journalists' at NBC News had grown obviously irritated that they couldn’t declare their candidate the winner. At no time was this more blatant than their primetime coverage when they demanded Trump be 'conciliatory' and handle his concession like former Vice President Al Gore did in 2000." Fondacaro went on to call the request that Trump concede "ridiculous" -- a description that became more ridiculous as Biden's lead over Trump expanded, ultimately winning by more than 6 million votes.

Fondacaro then served up more bitterness: "The Sunday after Democratic nominee Joe Biden was declared the apparent president-elect, ABC’s Good Morning America was working really hard for their nominee. While ignoring Biden’s history of demonizing his opponents, they celebrated him as a great uniter that would end the rancor. They also trotted out Cindy McCain to urge the current president to concede to her nominee."

Curtis Houck added:

Despite the fact that it was not a victory speech as news outlets had yet to declare him the 46th President, CNN reacted Friday night with nothing but admiration for Joe Biden, calling their candidate's remarks a “big,” “optimistic,” “presidential,” and “soaring” speech “about America” that “applauded democracy.”

This all stood in stark contrast to their collective meltdown over President Trump's Thursday night remarks, which were widely condemned by figures such as CNN senior political commentator and former Senator Rick Santorum and Fox News Channel host Bret Baier and Martha MacCallum (and with a level of sobriety most Zuckerville residents lack).

Houck linked back to a earlier post he did on CNN's response that, in fact, made no mention of Baier's and MacCallum's response to Trump's speech. Perhaps he, as NewsBusters managing editor, can look into that reporting gap and detail that "level of sobriety" for us.

The MRC was also embittered by the idea that Biden did well enough to have a mandate from the American people or that Trump was in any way repudiated:

  • Joseph Norris whined that "Despite the razor-thin election results, CNN is still trying to promote the fake news narrative that Tuesday's election was a 'huge rejection' of President Trump." Again: A 7-million-vote victory is not "razor-thin."
  • Brad Wilmouth complained that one commentator "insisted Democrats have a 'mandate' to do as they see fit." Curtis Houck similarly complained about another commentator who "proclaimed" that Biden had "'a mandate' to implement his agenda."
  • The MRC also published a Nov. 12 column by Ben Shapiro, who huffed: "On Saturday evening, presidential frontrunner Joe Biden — who doesn't actually become president-elect until vote counts are certified — gave a preliminary victory address. In that address, he spoke of his mandate to govern: a mandate, he said, that extended to marshalling the 'forces of decency ... fairness ... science ... hope.' Which is a pretty vague mandate, as it turns out."

The MRC also defended Trump's increasingly desperate efforts to deny the fact he lost by launching specious legal attacks over vote counts in states. Duncan Schroeder grumbled that "On Sunday evening’s CNN Newsroom, host Ana Cabrera and national security analyst Samantha Vinograd nastily attacked President Trump for daring to question their candidate’s vote counts. Cabrera accused Trump of “a dangerous attempt to undermine” voting and Vinograd vehemently declared that “someone needs to FedEx President Trump a copy of the Constitution.”Schroeder also asserted that Cabrera was "crazily ranting that Trump desires 'to undermine' voting" -- as if it was perfectly sane for Trump to try to disqualify millions of votes.

Norris returned to complain: "On CNN’s New Day, the leftist network completely dismissed Donald Trump’s claims of voter fraud and election interference in the 2020 presidential election. Rather than report on the ongoing investigation, we are apparently supposed to trust CNN’s judgement and credibility on this one." Norris offered no evidence that any of Trump's claims about election fraud were, in fact, credible; he played a mixture of handwaving and whataboutism by adding that "it remains to be seen if there is any more validity to the claims of voter fraud and misconduct, than there was about the litany of other scandals and claims made about Trump."

Bill D'Agostino tried to falsely compare this situation to the 2000 presidential when, he claimed, "TV journalists indulged losing candidate Al Gore’s protracted attempts to overturn the election, treating his lawsuits and requested recounts with great respect." In fact, the 2000 elected was determined by a 537-vote margin in Florida (which Gore lost, despite winning the popular vote), while Trump was actively trying to throw out thousands of votes across several states by making false claims.

Meanwhile, the MRC continued to indulge Trump's protracted attempts to overturn the election. P.J. Gladnick responded to one commentator's concern that Trump was trying to steal the election by retorting, "It's not 'stealing' if legal challenges throw into serious question the way the voting was conducted."

Gladnick also complained in a Nov. 27 post that "The mainstream media, rather than cover in any real detail the serious allegations of voting fraud that were presented at a Gettysburg hearing of the Pennsylvania Senate Majority Policy Committee on Wednesday, instead mocked and dismissed the event," further huffing, "Why the obvious desperation of the mainstream media to childishly attempt to invalidate the Gettysburg hearing while not going into any detail of what was revealed there by multiple witnesses?"

Treating questions as reasonable

One of the things the MRC did early on was deny that promoting conservative misinformation about the presidential election was misinforming anyone. Alexander Hall ranted in a Nov. 10 post:

A liberal tech writer has blasted Facebook for allowing conservatives to ask honest questions about the controversial 2020 election. He also lamented that Facebook has allowed conservative posts to become wildly popular.

New York Times tech columnist Kevin Roose tweeted screenshots of multiple trending stories on Nov. 9 that showed allegations of voter fraud. Roose lamented above the screenshots: “Facebook is absolutely teeming with right-wing misinformation right now.” He followed up by later conceding that “The tricky thing, for Facebook, is that some of the most viral stories aren't strictly false.” He continued to complain: “But they are feeding a stolen election narrative that is going to be hard to dial back.”

Yes, Hall actually claimed that deliberate conservative misinformation was merely asking "honest questions" about the election. He then crowed that "Roose was then scorched by The Babylon Bee CEO Seth Dillon for brazen hypocrisy," but all Dillon actually did was play whataboutism, whining that Roose "never mentions 'left-wing misinformation.'"

Hall went on to portray conservative misinformation as normal -- note his biased dichotomy between conservatives "swaying public opinion" and "far-left influencers indoctrinating" people"-- but he's also forced to concede that not only does Facebook not actually censor conservative views to the extent the MRC insisted it has, conservative posts dominate the site:

Roose was disturbed not only by the fact that conservative news outlets are able to speak, but also at how popular they are. He mentioned what he called, “A Newsmax video full of debunked voter fraud conspiracy theories (dead people voting, poll watchers barred, software glitches)” and remarked on how it “is the 3rd most-shared post of the past three days. 15 million views, 345,000 shares.”

Roose acknowledged that Facebook has labelled conservative posts in an attempt to discredit them, but derides that tactic as useless:

[...]

To Roose, it seems that any conservative swaying public opinion is radicalizing people, whereas far-left influencers indoctrinating them is just creating upright citizens. He has frequently tweeted lists of Facebook’s trending topics and users, complained that the platform is often dominated by conservative commentary.

Having admitted that, Hall then labored to return to the misleading right-wing narrative by huffing that "Contrary to Roose’s recent accusation of Facebook enabling conservative election skeptics, Facebook has cracked down on conservative information in the past year." But he cited only one example, that of the New York Post's dubious Hunter Biden story -- and he won't even vouch for the veracity of the story, stating that it was based on "purported emails."

Hall did the same thing in a Nov. 12 post claiming that "A Biden campaign staffer is furious that conservatives are still allowed to question the integrity of the 2020 election online" and was "slamming the platform for giving conservatives a voice." In fact, the staffer accurately pointed out that "Donald Trump voter fraud and election victory lies represented 17 of the top 20 posts on FB between 11/3-11/8. While Twitter disabled sharing of Trump’s election disinformation, Facebook continued to actively promote the posts in feeds." Hall again claimed that "Contrary to liberal critiques, Facebook has cracked down on conservative information in the past year, specifically that which could hurt former Vice President Joe Biden’s bid for the presidency," but again he cited only the New York Post story.

It appears that Hall wants conservatives to be able to mislead and lie with impunity.

Promoting a bogus researcher

The Media Research Center's Joseph Vazquez thinks he got a big "EXCLUSIVE" scoop in a Nov. 23 post:

Big Data Poll Director Richard Baris slammed both Big Tech and the liberal media after being silenced by Twitter for speaking out about voter fraud in the 2020 election.

Baris was blocked from his Twitter account earlier this month for sharing research pointing to the possibility of voter fraud. He said his wife Laura and his polling firm were also blocked from their respective accounts as well. Baris’s account has since been restored.

In a new interview with MRC Business, Baris warned about the interference of Big Tech and the liberal media into the 2020 election by hoodwinking the American people into believing that there’s no evidence of voter and election fraud. His main message to the press trying to black out the issue: “Media should stop lying to the American people about the reality of both voter and election fraud. There are examples of both in every election. ” Baris continued: “The question this year has never been whether there was fraud, but rather how widespread it was and whether it was enough to impact the outcome of the election in any of these critical battleground states.”

Of course, Vazquez isn't going to tell you that Baris has been pushing falsehoods about alleged election fraud. Most notoriously, Baris has claimed that 132,000 voters in Fulton County, Ga., had been flagged as possibly ineligible, a claim Fulton County officials have called "false and baseless."

Baris has also claimed that "Joe Biden underperformed Hillary Clinton in every major metro area around the country, save for Milwaukee, Detroit, Atlanta and Philadelphia" -- which is also false.

Vazquez was not about to tell that part of the story, of course -- he had a victim narrative to peddle. And he was certainly not going to connect the dots and point out that one reason Twitter might have suspended his account was his peddling of false claims, which runs against Twitter's terms of service. Vazquez then wrote:

Just the News founder John Solomon released a report today arguing that “a mountain of evidence has been amassed in private lawsuits alleging there was, in fact, significant and widespread voting misconduct.” In Baris’s view, “the states in question essentially used Covid-19 as a predicate to put a moratorium on election integrity laws, including long-standing established laws and verification procedures.”

In fact, one reporter who looked into Solomon's claims found him to be "profoundly misleading" and the claims he makes left out information that discredits them. Vazquez also failed to mention that Solomon's overall work is suspect because of his shady dealings with Russian and Ukranian sources to launch thinly sourced smear campaigns against critics of President Trump.

In short: There is no reason Vazquez had to give an "EXCLUSIVE" interview to a dishonest writer who is seeking to perpetuate the fraud that the election was stolen from Trump -- unless perpetuating that fraud is the MRC's current editorial policy.

MRC's "sports blogger" joins in

The mysterious Jay Maxson is usually hectoring athletes and sportswriters for injecting politics into sports in his MRC writings (when he's not going on anti-LGBT tirades, anyway). But Maxson has become an MRC leader in pushing wildly dubious claims of election fraud by the Trump campaign.

On Nov. 13, Maxson grumbled that USA Today sportswriter Christine Brennan asked golfing legend Jack Nicklaus -- who endorsed Trump before the election -- to offer advice to the president on "how to accept defeat." Maxson huffed that Brennan "blew off the whistle blowers and -- like other media lemmings -- dismissed any evidence of voter fraud," adding: "Many in the media derided Republicans for using a landscaping business in Philadelphia last weekend to announce forthcoming election-related lawsuits. But now a left-stream media lemming is pathetically trying to use a golf tournament and an octogenarian golfer to settle the outcome of a disputed presidential election."

In a Nov. 28 post, Maxson complained that the Washington Football Team "mocked President Donald Trump on their uncensored Twitter account Thursday. The team's political statement about an election night remark by Trump prompted Newsweek magazine to pile on and promote the left-stream media theme that there is no evidence of election fraud," further whining that Newsweek was trying to "perpetuate the left-stream lie about Republican efforts to prove election fraud." Maxson then started channeling his/her inner Sidney Powell:

Victory according to whom? Biden's compliant media, of course.

Dead people voting is of little concern to left-stream media, who attempt to deny it.

Disenfranchising millions of Americans who cast legitimate ballots is of no concern to Cancian, either. They think that only Black voters are disenfranchised.

A lack of transparency for GOP election observers over mail-in ballots? A trifling matter.

Hundreds of eyewitness accounts of troubling polling place irregularities get a pass, too.

This is further proof that sports media should stick to sports.

[...]

There is plenty of evidence and eyewitness testimony on election fraud, but many in the media prefer to ignore it and stick it to the president.

In a Dec. 8 post, Maxson accused legendary Washington Post sportswriter Thomas Boswell of "guzzling the Democrats’ spiked fair election Kool-Aid" by arguing that Trump should just admit he lost the election:

Boswell insists each generation improves the methods of monitoring cheating. Especially when it comes to preventing voter suppression and re-districting, oft-cited diversions used by the far Left party. He omitted dead voters and says it’s just about counting votes (rather than manufacturing and re-counting illegitimate ballots).

As a matter of Boswell’s checkered facts, America is “damn good” at preventing election cheating. Republican and Democrat election observers are allegedly making sure of that. Except for polling places in Atlanta, Detroit, Milwaukee, Philadelphia and other locations where irregularities have been reported, where GOP observers were out-numbered, harassed and removed. Hundreds of thousands of regular, decent people are maintaining the honesty of the process, if one doesn’t believe testimony to the contrary in Georgia, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Nevada and Arizona."

One might say that Maxson's blatant shilling for the Trump campaign is further proof that sports media should stick to sports.

Pushing more bogus claims

In  Dec. 7 post, Kayla Sargent grumbled that "Facebook is continuing to crack down on what it has decided is misinformation about the election. A Facebook fact-checker marked an article that Congressman Jim Jordan posted on December 4 as “Partly False Information” for the apparent sin of calling the results of the 2020 election into question." Sargent was unhappy that a fact-checker pointed out that a list of purported irregularities "relies on falsehoods and unproven theories," ranting that "This is just the latest example of Facebook picking and choosing who is allowed to have a voice on the platform, and who is not."

Heather Moon complained in a Dec. 21 post that was one in a series tallying how many times Trump's Twitter account had been "censored" (read: his lies about election fraud were flagged as such):

Peter Navarro, director of the Office of Trade and Manufacturing Policy and a presidential advisor, released a 36-page report alleging election fraud that was “more than sufficient” to flip the election. Twitter labeled a tweet to a story about Navarro’s report and a video clip of a Fox News segment in which Navarro discussed his conclusions. The platform labeled both tweets with a statement that said, “This claim about election fraud is disputed.”

An Antrim County, Michigan judge ordered the release of an audit report conducted on the Dominion Voting Systems machines in that county. Twitter labeled both Trump’s tweet about the judge’s order and his tweet that linked to the report itself as disputed claims about election fraud. Twitter also found a story about a video from the same county allegedly showing the Michigan Secretary of State telling volunteers to count “multiple ballots with the very same signature” to be a disputed claim.

Moon censored the fact that Navarro's report is filled with false and unproven claims, and the Dominion "forensic audit" report, according to Dominion, made accusations about vote-changing that are "technologically impossible," while even Michigan state officials have said the audit is "critically flawed, filled with dramatic conclusions without any evidence to support them."

Dominion conspiracy theories

The MRC censored any mention of Fox News' abrupt walkback of the election-fraud conspiracy theories it had peddled for more than a month that focused on electronic voting systems from Dominion and Smartmatic, prompted by a lawsuit threat from Smartmatic. This was followed by a similar lawsuit threat from Dominion.

Being loyal Trump sycophants, the MRC had no problem with nudging those bogus conspiracy theories forward:

  • On Nov. 16, Hall complained that Trump was "censored" on Twitter for "sharing a clip discussing how Dominion voting machines could be hacked."
  • He complained again three days later that a Twitter user hiding behind a fake name for "censored" for tweeting a video on how "Detroit Dominion IT worker describes exactly how poll workers inflated Biden vote tallies."
  • On Nov. 21, Jeffrey Lord suggested that the fact that Dominion had "lawyered up" and backed out of a biased hearing on purported election fraud in Pennsylvania was evidence of nefarious doings by the company.
  • On Nov. 23, Kayla Sargent uncritically repeated Trump-adjacent lawyer Sidney Powell's claim that the election was "stolen by massive fraud through Dominion and Smartmatic" while complaining that Twitter briefly suspended her account.

The MRC wasn't exactly a profile in courage in going along with bogus conspiracies -- and doubly so in censoring those who pointed out the bogusness. Of course, there's likely a good reason the MRC didn't want to note that Fox News has been caught doing the same things he was lashing out at the Times for doing: Reporting the full truth might mean that MRC talking heads never appear on their favorite news channel again.

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