Loving Levin -- And His Right-Wing Rants
Radio host Mark Levin can take comfort in knowing that his buddies at the Media Research Center will always have his back, amplifying his misplaced outrage and whitewashing his errors and falsehoods.
By Terry Krepel
It's no secret that the Media Research Center is best buds with right-wing radio host Mark Levin -- it defends him from critics, and its "news" division, CNSNews.com, essentially serves as his PR representative by uncritically posting rants from his radio and TV appearances. The MRC has continued to use that cozy relationship to generate more questionable content by amplifying misplaced outrage and whitewashing his mistakes.
MRC executive Tim Graham began a September 2019 post by gushing:
Fox & Friends invited author and national talk-show host Mark Levin on Sunday to discuss the budding effort by House Democrats to impeach President Trump. Levin ripped the media repeatedly, and protested the idea that the Democrats are going to try and remove the president from office by using an anonymous "whistleblower" who didn't even have first-hand access to the events that are allegedly impeachable.
Graham somehow didn't mention that Levin also has a show on Fox News, which means this was never going to be a contentious interview -- it would serve as a platform for Levin to push his anti-media narrative at a friendly venue.
L. Brent Bozell and Mark Levin hang out during Levin's visit to MRC headquarters in 2013. (Source: MRC Facebook page)
But "President Obama and his government" did not spy on Trump's campaign -- it was gathering information on Trump campaign officials who had contacts with Russian operatives.
Graham didn't note that Levin didn't bother to answer Henry's question, instead uncritically quoting Levin changing the subject by saying that Trump "wouldn't have to raise the issue" of the Bidens if the media "would do your damn job."
Bozell on Levin vs. public radio
In February 2020, MRC chief Brent Bozell made a dopey comment about public radio stations vs. Levin affiliates:
“Why one needs to have three NPR stations in Washington, DC; four in New York City, six in Seattle and the list goes on and on. Why not just have one station in each city?
For all his attacks on public radio, Bozell clearly doesn't understand how it works. NPR is not a monolithic national network with a 24-hour format that all its stations must air; in fact it owns no radio stations at all. All are locally owned; most are owned by college and universities and the rest by community-based boards or public TV operations. As NPR further explained:
Each Member Station determines its own format and schedule. In creating their broadcast schedule, Member Stations have several options. They may choose to select from NPR programs such as Morning Edition, All Things Considered or Wait Wait...Don't Tell Me!; pick up programs distributed by other public radio producers, stations or networks; and/or create their own local programming. Stations create their schedules based on the interests and needs of their local audience. Some stations focus on news and information while others follow a music format with programming ranging from classical, to jazz, to AAA or world music.
Let's look at the formats of the NPR affiliates in the Washington, D.C., area (Bozell claims there are three; NPR lists two). One station appears to run a large selection of NPR-provided news and talk content, while the other is very heavy on classical music and related original programming and appears to air little NPR-generated content.
Bozell's other claim that there should be "only one station for national public radio" is even more ridiculous; the average FM radio station has a broadcast radius of 40 miles, so one station can't possibly cover the entire country. Apparently Bozell thinks radio is like cable TV.
Bozell made sure to make Levin look like a victim by omitting the fact that Levin's show airs on approximately 400 radio stations across the U.S., so he has nothing to complain about. Further, all of NPR's affiliates are nonprofit stations, which have different FCC license requirements than the commercial radio stations on which Levin's show airs.
Levin's cancel culture
The MRC thinks "cancel culture" is a bad thing -- unless it or its fellow right-wingers are the ones doing the canceling. Graham tried to pull some cancel culture in a July 26 post, complaining that the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation's request that President Trump stop using a commemorative coin set featuring him and Reagan as a giveaway for donations to his re-election campaign is somehow illegitimate because the head of the foundation's board, Frederick Ryan, is also the publisher and CEO of the Washington Post.
Graham quickly pushed for canceling Ryan: "This raises the question: why didn't the Post insist that Ryan drop his Reagan Foundation responsibilities when he became publisher of this very anti-Trump, anti-Reagan newspaper? And why didn't the Reagan Foundation see a liberal-media conflict?" He then sneered: "This makes about as much sense as the CEO of Fox News running the Jimmy Carter Center." This may be the first time Graham has admitted that Fox News has a right-wing bias.
Graham then called for cancel-culture backup from Levin, who ranted of Ryan's employment that "given the Washington Post's leftist agenda, and the conservative legacy of the great Ronald Reagan, this appears to me to be a huge conflict" and huffing, "Mr. Ryan, decide who and what you want to be, but it's obvious you cannot be both the Washington Post publisher/CEO and the Reagan Library board chairman when there's a clear conflict."
What neither Graham nor Levin bothered to do, however, was contact anyone who's actually close to the Reagan family or foundation for their opinion. Newsmax talked to the guy who's best known these days for keeping the Reagan flame alive -- his adopted son Michael -- and found that his view was different from the MRC cancel culture:
The Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Institute is "100% correct" in its pushback against President Donald Trump's campaign for its use of a photograph of President Ronald Reagan and Trump shaking hands to market an embossed coin for prospective donors, the late president's son Michael Reagan told Newsmax TV on Monday.
So Ryan is not just some random guy at the foundation -- he was Reagan's post-presidency chief of staff. That's a connection neither Graham nor Levin noted.
Meanwhile, Ryan's Post bio shows he's eminently qualified for both jobs. Not only does it note that before he became Reagan's post-presidency chief of staff, he worked in the administration from 1982 until its end -- something that Levin, whom Graham touted as a "Reagan administration alumnus," almost certainly knows but chose not to mention in his rant -- he was for nearly 20 years president and chief operating officer of Allbritton Communications, which owned several TV stations, including one in Washington D.C., before selling them a few years back, and also operates politically-obsessed publication Politico, for which he served as president and CEO.
We don't recall a whisper of complaint from conservatives about Ryan in either of those positions when he held them, or his current job at the Post until now -- and he's been at the Post since 2014. But now that it's been revealed, the MRC's cancel-culture squad has come for him.
The fact that absolutely nothing has happened on this front since -- even the MRC hasn't done anything further with it -- shows how weak the MRC's game is on this front.
Levin later tried to put the cancel culture shoe on the other foot by playing victim. He was mad that Facebook put a block on the falsehoods he published on his page there. And, of course, his MRC buddies were eager to give Levin a platform to vent that anger. Alexander Hall did the stenography job in a Nov. 2 post:
Popular conservative talk radio host Mark Levin was targeted by Facebook on the evening before the 2020 U.S. presidential election.
Notice Hall's framing there. In his telling, the Grenell post that Levin reposted wasn't objectively, indisputably false; it's just that fact-checkers "claimed" it was false. Despite that framing, Hall offers no evidence to contradict anything the fact-checkers found.
Hall let the whining continue:
Levin tweeted about another fact-check he had received earlier on November 2 as well:
The Hot Air article “Biden Stumbles Through Another Campaign Speech: ‘America Is Dead Because Of COVID-19’” included a link to a clip of Democratic nominee Joe Biden speaking about COVID-19 at a rally, proclaiming: “America is dead because of COVID-19.” But that Hot Air article now begins with an editor's note correcting the record: "The original version of this article stated that Joe Biden had said 'America’s Dead' during a campaign speech. In reality, Biden said 'Americans dead' in reference to the number of deaths caused by COVID-19. The incorrect references have been removed." And, yes, fact-checkers concur.
In other words, Levin was lying about what Biden said.
Despite the fact that Levin is 0-for-2 here and Facebook was entirely justified to limit the exposure given to his false claims, Hall still had to push the MRC's dubious victimization narrative. So he huffed that "Big Tech has been doing everything it can to protect Biden as the 2020 election approaches" -- while not explaining how shutting down Levin's falsehoods equated to "protecting Biden" -- and spent the rest of his post rehashing how social media limited the spread of the still-unproven New York Post story about Hunter Biden's "alleged scandalous dealings" with Ukraine.
Then again, the narrative is more important than the truth as far as the MRC is concerned -- perhaps even more so when it comes to its buddy Levin.
Loudly leaving Facebook
Alex Schemmel gave him space to whine again in a Nov. 19 post:
Mark Levin, the host of Fox’s Life Liberty & Levin, has had enough social media censorship. After getting throttled yet again by Facebook, Levin has said he will “probably” be leaving the platform “by the end of the year.”
"Legitimate source" or not, Levin has, in fact, been using Twitter and Facebook to spread false information. Notice that Levin didn't actually deny spreading false information -- which, as documented above, he has. He's just mad he got caught.
Also notice that Schemmel wouldn't admit it either; he claimed Levin is being flagged for spreading "what it considers false news." The MRC pulled that dishonest rhetorical trick last time too.
Another thing Schemmel didn't mention: Levin was in the middle of a month-long binge of writing daily posts on Twitter and Facebook about how he was "probably" going to leave Twitter and Facebook at some undetermined time in the future. When finally called out on it, Levin huffily asserted that he would be leaving Facebook at the end of the month. Of course, conservatives using Twitter to vocieferously tell us they're leaving Twitter for Parler while not actually getting around to leaving Twitter is a staple these days.
And, as usual, Schemmel's plug for Parler censored the conflict of interest that a key Parler investor, Rebekah Mercer, is also a key funder of the MRC and on the MRC board of directors.
Schemmel served up more PR work for Levin in a Dec. 30 post:
Talk radio star Mark Levin told his social media audiences that he would be leaving Facebook.
Schemmel devoted two paragraphs to Levin touting his Parler page without disclosing that the MRC and Parler share a major funder in Rebekah Mercer, who also sits on the MRC's board. But Schemmel saved the kicker for his very last paragraph: "Levin has continued to post to his Facebook account following the announcement."
In other words, this is all performative PR. Just what you'd expect from an organization whose leader considers himself a close from of Levin.
A soft landing
When Levin felt the need to rant about coverage of a new directive from the company that syndicates his radio show following the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, Tim Graham had a pillow for him to cry on:
Early on Monday morning, Washington Post media reporter Paul Farhi posted a hot story headlined “Talk-radio owner orders conservative hosts to temper election fraud rhetoric.” It said “Cumulus Media, which employs some of the most popular right-leaning talk-radio hosts in the United States, has told its on-air personalities to stop suggesting that the election was stolen from President Trump or else face termination.”
Neither Levin nor Graham wanted to concede that the basic story is true -- Cumulus did, in fact, issue a memo to that effect. Whether Levin personally received a copy is irrelevant. Indeed, the question is whether Levin is receiving special treatment; the company's directive appears mostly directed to local hosts, while national hosts like Levin are apparently not being held to it.
But Levin wasn't done whining to Graham:
Levin also told NewsBusters the Post was “unprofessional” in another story last Thursday suggesting he somehow played some role in a protester dying of a heart attack at the Capitol: “Greeson appeared to have an account on the right-wing social media site Parler filled with recent obscene and violent posts, fueled by misinformation spread by right-wing radio host Mark Levin, the Proud Boys and others.”
It wasn't clear what specific case Levin is referring to, but actual scholars of constitutional law (which Levin also claims to be but apparently isn't) have said that courts have discretion to interpret election law.
Also, it's hilarious that Graham is mocking the Post reporter for declining to comment on his gotcha question when the MRC routinely refuses to publicly comment on controversies regarding it, i.e., the fact that MRC chief Brent Bozell spent years slapping his name on columns Graham ghost-wrote. Y'know, Tim, it's never too late to share your opinion about that with the world.
UPDATE 6/15/21: Graham gave Levin a pass again in a February 2020 post, lashing out at a Mediaite piece pointing out Levin's wacky attack on Bernie Sanders as having "deep-rooted anti-Semitism" and "Islamo-Nazi mentality," whatever that is. Graham was offended that the Mediaite writer had the temerity to point out the inescapable fact that "Bernie Sanders is Jewish," going on to huff: "He said nothing about Sanders and his surrogates, and their controversial statements." Graham concluded by complaining that Mediaite "hat-tipped the Fox-haters at Media Matters as the source of his item," even though Levin's rant took place on his radio show, not his weekly Fox News program (and as if the transcription was somehow less accurate or more suspect because the MRC's more professional left-leaning rival found it first).