MRC, Fact-Check Thyself
The Media Research Center keeps getting busted by fact-checkers for the less-than-truthful memes it tries to spread -- and it can't stop whining about it.
By Terry Krepel
For instance, MRC executive Tim Graham began an April 21 post by intoning:
PolitiFact is well known for hammering conservatives far harder than liberals. We have offered a series of snapshots of their pro-Democrat tilt. What happens when they attempt to flag a conservative group for falsehood...and then walk away? Let us speak from some of our own recent experience.
Is PolitiFact really "hammering conservatives far harder than liberals," or is that merely a perception Graham and the MRC have labored mightily to achieve? Given how often they ranted about Donald Trump being held accountable for his falsehoods, it's the latter.
What followed was a tale that started with PolitiFact -- whom Graham obviously hates with a passion -- contacting the MRC for substantiation of numbers it used in a graphic it posted on Facebook (which the MRC still insists is biased against conservatives despite all evidence to the contrary) attacking President Biden's claims about immigration. Weirdly, the person at the MRC who handled PolitiFact's request was not Graham or any of the researchers under his stead but, rather, the head of marketing, Ed Molchany.
Graham then rather vaguely wrote: "Then Molchany noticed that the chart needed an update, because it was an estimate. The Facebook page was updated." In other words: The MRC got a number wrong, and he's trying to soft-pedal it -- something he would never do if someone in the "liberal media" had done something similar.
PolitiFact ended up doing nothing further regarding the graphic, which set Graham off:
So what happened? Nothing! Kertscher and PolitiFact never posted a ruling that the MRC chart was acceptably truthful. It might have helped PolitiFact to show good faith after this exchange of facts. I contacted Kertscher for comment, and Kertscher said he forwarded to PolitiFact editor Angie Drobnic Holan. There has been no comment sent back.
Graham didn't explain why PolitiFact should act in good faith -- despite not proving any lack of such -- when Graham and the MRC has never acted in good faith toward PolitiFact, seeing it only as just another target for his partisan right-wing agenda. Graham is the one who should be acting in good faith by not raging at PolitiFact over any perceived slight and not trying to make it a target of his wrath and assume "liberal bias" where none may actually exist.
Indeed, Graham should really be thanking PolitiFact -- after all, would it have fixed that incorrect number in its graphic if PolitiFact hadn't asked about it? And shouldn't Graham be grateful that PolitiFact didn't pounce on the MRC for that false number the way the MRC attacks mistakes in the "liberal media"?
Show good faith and you get good faith. Hasn't Graham learned that yet? Or does he think he's exempt?
When the Associated Press fact-checked a graphic the MRC posted on Facebook -- you know, the place where MRC content does phenomenally well despite all the purported censorship of right-wing views -- Kayla Sargent devoted an April 22 post to complaining about it, mainly that the AP busted the MRC for making overblown claims that lack context:
Facebook’s fact-checkers are covering for the left’s huge election power grab in H.R. 1. A far left AP fact-checker spent 850 words trying, and failing, to debunk a graphic about the bill.
Ah, yes, "context" -- the thing the MRC loves to bust others for omitting but denounces when it comes to fact-checks of itself and its friends. If a statement requires caveats to be accurate, it's not an accurate statement -- and because of that, the AP dismantled Sargent's assertion that the post wasn't "disproven."
As if whining about getting busted for context issues wasn't enough, Sargent personally attacked the fact-checker for purportedly being "far-left":
Fraser’s biased analysis of MRC’s graphic is typical for far-left “journalists.” His bio on AP’s own website said that he “has worked for VICE Media, The Marshall Project and ProPublica,” three very liberal organizations. The Marshall Project has published articles such as “How Biden Can Reverse Trump’s Death Penalty Expansion” and “Why Is It So Hard To Prosecute White Extremists?”
By the same standard, Sargent and her MRC colleagues fail the objectivity test for being so utterly partisan. But Sargent will never bring that little fact up while attacking the alleged "liberal bias" of others -- indeed, she wants you to think that the MRC is not biased at all, a laughable fantasy.
Cry, cry, cry
Kayla Sargent served up served up a pity party over another fact-check of the MRC in a June 14 post:
Facebook has slapped an unfair fact-check label on yet another post from the Media Research Center.
At no point did Sargent explain what, exactly, was "unfair" about Health Feedback's ruling -- but also notice that she didn't directly quote what Hughes said that got her in trouble with the fact-checker. Here's what Hughes ranted:
Meanwhile, [Fauci] was busy covering his own butt in telling the public that [coronavirus] originated naturally, all while telling them to smother themselves with face masks that he was also telling his own co-workers didn't actually work. Now, we learned all this from a giant email dump that's come out while the administration is busy trying to bribe half the country to get a vaccine that millions of people have already decided they don't want to get. Why? Well, see, billy goats don't like being bossed around by little narcissistic trolls who think the run the universe, and the American people are really sick of being lied to.
Sargent also failed to tell readers what, exactly, Health Feedback said about the claim that Fauci was lying about the effectiveness of masks:
It is important to note that Fauci’s statements above are consistent with mask-wearing guidance at that point in time, when masks weren’t recommended for the general public. This was because health authorities were concerned about a potential shortage of masks, which are needed to protect healthcare workers at high risk of contracting the disease.
In other words: Hughes is attacking Fauci for old guidance that evolved as new facts about COVID were uncovered. She's mad he changed his mind as the situation changed. So, yes, there's nothing unfair at all about this fact-check -- it's well deserved.
Because Sargent doesn't have a case, she decided to attack Facebook and its fact-checkers, rehashing old talking points:
Facebook clearly has not learned its lesson from censoring information about COVID-19. Early in the pandemic, Facebook and its “fraudulent” fact-checker program censored claims that COVID-19 was manufactured in a laboratory in Wuhan, China. However, the platform later reversed course and confirmed that it would no longer censor the Wuhan laboratory theory in light of new information. “In light of ongoing investigations into the origin of COVID-19 and in consultation with public health experts, we will no longer remove the claim that COVID-19 is man-made from our apps,” a Facebook spokesperson told MRC Free Speech America in a statement.
Hughes is not known for her honesty. We caught her a few years back making a Fox News appearance in which she hyped a claim that illegal immigrants committed a crime, but she refused to apologize when the claim turned out to be false.
Taking revenge on a fact-checker
After getting busted again for pushing bogus data, the MRC is taking its anti-fact-checker tantrums to the next level. First, Alexander Hall grumbled in an Aug. 9 post:
Facebook’s approved fact-checker PolitiFact rated a graphic from the Media Research Center as “FALSE,” even though the image merely shared a chart from the Center for Disease Control.
Hall omitted the fact that it was using the incomplete CDC data to push the right-wing narrative that the Delta variant wasn't that bad and didn't warrant any special attention or directives to keep the variant from spreading, and "the media" was making much ado about nothing. Because the graphic's data lacks the context that it's only a tiny number of the total amount of cases, the graphic's message is false.
Having been caught red-handed peddling misinformation, Hall then tried to play victim and attack PolitiFact -- and, irrelevantly, the Poynter Institute because PolitiFact's editor in chief once wrote a piece published at Poynter calling for further crackdowns on misinformation, a commonsense idea that Hall felt the need to maliciously interpret as "more censorship." Hall did not explain why he thinks lies and misinformation are "free speech."
But the MRC's tantrum didn't stop there. An Aug. 25 post went into full victimhood mode, declaring that "Media Research Center President Brent Bozell, in conjunction with the Free Speech Alliance, joined 10 other conservative leaders in demanding the International Fact-Checking Network remove PolitiFact as a fact-checker for violating IFCN’s Code of Principles. More than 40 conservative leaders have signed on to the open letter led by the Free Speech Alliance and MRC’s Bozell."
The letter rehashed Hall's complaint -- and his omission that the incomplete data the MRC used was done so in order to forward a false agenda, huffing that "This is an egregious, unmerited and overtly biased action against a viewpoint the liberal PolitiFact disagrees with." The letter provides no evidence that PolitiFact "disagrees" with the MRC graphic's message because it's "liberal."
The letter never explicitly claimed that PolitiFact's fact-check of the MRC violated the IFCN's principles -- instead, it hauled out other grievances against PolitiFact to list the principles it claimed were violated, then went on an unsubstantiated partisan tirade:
PolitiFact’s crusade against conservatives is especially troubling given the ubiquitous censorship of conservatives on social media. The backdrop of this controversy is a huge push by the federal government to censor online content. The White House disturbingly announced that it was colluding with social media companies to censor so-called “disinformation” regarding COVID-19. This coordination has overwhelmingly harmed conservatives who are naturally more skeptical of Big Government mandates.
Yes, the MRC is once again trying to justify lies and misinformation by conservatives as "free speech." The IFCN should be able to easily see through the MRC's partisan ranting and see their complaint has no basis in reality.