The MRC's School Wars, Part 2: Exploitation
The Media Research Center aggressively hyped a story about a sexual assault in a Virginia school to push an anti-transgender agenda and get a Republican elected in the state -- while burying the much more complicated reality behind it.
By Terry Krepel
Nicholas Fondacaro ranted in an Oct. 12 post:
In a bombshell report from The Daily Wire on Tuesday, reporter Luke Rosiak exposed how the controversial Loudoun County School Board (located in the Virginia suburbs of Washington) allegedly covered up the rape of a 14-year-old girl in the girls’ bathroom at the hands of a boy in a skirt just so they could pass a transgender bathroom policy. It was a truly disturbing story that quickly rose to national attention, yet none of the broadcast networks or the liberal cable outlets gave in any airtime.
Fondacaro didn't explain why anyone outside Loudoun County is supposed to care about a very local incident. But he did make it clear how issue is being immediately exploited on the right, giving out gold stars for it in the process: "Fortunately, the Fox News Channel’s Tucker Carlson gave the story the airtime it deserved and interviewed Rosiak to get more details. And a few hours later, FNC host Laura Ingraham spoke with Scott Smith, the father of the victim. He was beaten and arrested at a school board meeting for trying to bring up what happened to his daughter."
Tim Graham touted the transphobic angle for his Oct. 13 podcast, making it clear that the MRC and other right-wingers want you to believe that all transgender people are sexual predators in training: "This story is a nightmare for the liberals, because it's a real-life allegation when conservatives often complain that letting "gender-fluid" men or "trans women" into bathrooms or locker rooms could make them unsafe for actual women. This is a story they want to cancel, censor, ignore, squelch, or bury six feet under." Fondacaro followed with whining about "day two of the liberal media’s total television blackout," ridiculously calling Fox News "a more serious new [sic] network" because it pounced on this story.
Fondacaro returned on Oct. 14 to complain that the Washington Post's coverage of the story wasn't as transphobic as he demanded:
Late Wednesday night, The Washington Post became the first liberal news outlet to report the disturbing high school rapes going on in Loudoun County, Virginia. Burying it in their “local” section, the paper ignored key aspects of the story that made it a major scandal for liberal policies: the school board tried to cover it up, had the father of a victim arrested for attempting to speaking out, the attacker was “gender-fluid,” and the school board was trying to get a trans bathroom policy passed.
Of course, Fondacaro didn't mention that the Daily Wire is as transphobic as the MRC is.
You know the MRC is under orders to exploit this issue when Brent Bozell weighs in on it, and he did just that in a softball Oct. 14 appearance on Fox Business:
Appearing on Fox Business Network’s Varney & Company Thursday morning, Media Research Center President Brent Bozell denounced the leftist media for refusing to cover two alleged rapes in Loudoun County Virginia high schools directly attributable to the radical transgender bathroom policy pushed by the left-wing school board there. He went through the disturbing timeline that lead up to the shocking alleged crimes.
Bozell apparently didn't explain why this local story warranted national coverage outside of his transphobia and desire to get Youngkin elected.
The same day, Kathleen Krumhansl bizarrely attacked Spanish-language news networks for ignoring the story, even though she could identify no reason why a Spanish-language news network should cover it beyond whining that "Univision goes out of its way to defend transsexuals and the use of non-binary nouns such as (widely rejected) Latinx for continental Latinos as part of its LGBTQ agenda.
Meanwhile, presumably following orders from his boss, MRC executive Tim Graham devoted his Oct. 15 column to summing up the right-wing narrative:
This is a story that any liberal media outlet would want to spike, censor, ignore, squelch, and bury six feet underground. It’s a vivid illustration of what liberals consider a false stereotype. They assume automatically, ideologically, this could never happen -- that a sexual predator would proclaim himself gender-fluid and enter a bathroom or locker room to commit a sex crime.
Graham is being disingenuous. The reason why the right-wing scare tactic that transgender people would routinely assault women in bathrooms was considered as "lie" was because no evidence was ever offered that this has happened. And given that what had been revealed about this incident at this point has come from highly biased, transphobic sources, there was a lot of unknowns, including about the alleged assailant. But, remember, Graham wants you to believe that all transgender people are sexual predators, and they do all their predatory work in public bathrooms.
So important was this issue for the MRC to exploit that Bozell appeared on TV again -- this time on Fox News -- on Oct. 17 to spread the narrative with his buddy Mark Levin:
Appearing on Fox News Channel’s Life, Liberty and Levin Sunday night, Media Research Center President Brent Bozell hammered the leftist media for “aiding and abetting” in the “cover-up” of the devastating impact of radical left-wing policies. Specifically, Bozell detailed the horrific case of a 14-year-old girl being allegedly raped by a male student in a Loudoun County, Virginia high school following the far-left school board implementing a highly controversial transgender bathroom policy.
But for all his "naming and shaming," Bozell never explained why media outlets must be forced to dance to the tune of right-wing activists like himself on this issue. He then absurdly claimed that the media are "so in the back pocket with the American Marxist movement." Huh? There's an "American Marxist movement" that is so organized that it has that name?
Fondacaro and Geoffrey Dickens officially brought in the Youngkin angle in an Oct. 21 post:
All across this country parents are rising up and fighting against leftist policies being forced on them from ultra-liberals in the public school system.
In short: The MRC wants this story covered because it helps advance right-wing narratives and boosts a certain candidate in Virginia -- not because it's inherently newsworthy outside of the place where it happened.
Kristine Marsh ranted in an Oct. 24 post that, among other things, complained that Youngkin was being called out for "seizing on" the assault and managed to work in the hoary old bogeyman of George Soros:
Sunday night MSNBC went all out smearing parents in the Northern Virginia suburbs of Loudoun County as domestic terrorists. On Alicia Menendez’s American Voices, the MSNBC host and her far-left guest cruelly painted parents standing up to school boards, including a father whose daughter was allegedly raped by a transgender student on campus because of the schools' liberal policies, as radical rioters who were like the January 6 “insurrectionists.”
First: Marsh's wild accusation of a "cover-up" rests on a Fox News story by Sam Dorman -- whom ConWebWatch caught hurling biased gotcha questions in his stint as a CNSNews.com intern, so he's hardly an objective source of responsible reporting -- highlighting an email from the school district superintendent to the school board alerting them to the incident; the school board told Fox that the email lacked specific details and the board did not receive further updates on the incident. Some "cover-up," eh?
Second: Does Marsh or anyone else at the MRC really care about the "victimized student" beyond her usefulness as a partisan political tool? Unlikely.
Fondacaro cranked out another one of those "the non-right-wing media isn't reporting stories that advance the right-wing agenda" articles in an Oct. 25 item -- and, of course, praising his favorite biased outlets for exploiting it:
In Virginia on Monday, the Smith family announced the Loudoun County Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court had found the “gender-fluid” boy who raped their daughter in a girl’s bathroom guilty. With the second alleged rape making its way through the legal system, the liberal broadcast networks continued their total blackout of the story, including the cover-up by the liberal school board. And before the news broke, the Associated Press tried to cast doubt on the validity of the case.
Fondacaro -- who lies about many things -- is lying about Obama. He didn't say the incident itself "wasn't real"; according to the right-wing tweet to which he linked, Obama called out "these phony trumped-up culture wars, this fake outrage, the right-wing media's pedals to juice their ratings" surrounding the Virginia election -- which is true, seeing as how Fondacaro and his buddies are paid to do just that.
Fondacaro also falsely accused the Associated Press of suggesting that the assault claim was false because a story called it a "murky case." In fact, it's a murky case because juvenile records are typically sealed and not made public, and the only statements that have been made public about it have come from the father of the alleged victim -- hardly an objective source.
Fondacaro followed up the next day with another story demanding national coverage of a local issue:
The Loudoun County “gender-fluid” rape story was a raging fire the liberal media were desperately pretending wasn’t happening as their candidate for governor Terry McAuliffe (D) was floundering. But on Tuesday, county high school students staged a walkout to protest the liberal school board that tried to cover up the attacks. The walkout and a guilty ruling against the attacker went unmentioned by the broadcast networks.
Fondacaro failed in his job as a researcher by refusing to tell readers about Fox News' political slant -- if he can tag other networks as "liberal," there's no reason for him not to identify Fox News as "conservative" -- or explaining the channel's motivation in pushing the story in trying to get Youngkin elected.
A couple hours later, Fondacaro was ranting about an even more obscure story the "liberal" networks weren't reporting on:
As NewsBusters has been reporting in recent days, the broadcast networks were going all-in on trying to keep Democrat Terry McAuliffe’s dwindling chances to win the gubernatorial in Virginia alive. But while they take McAuliffe’s side against Republican Glenn Youngkin, they were leaving him completely unvetted. Luckily we had The Daily Wire to investigate the Democrat’s ties to a law firm that fights against rape victims and with which he has taken a paycheck as recently as this election year.
Fondacaro did not describe the Daily Wire as "going all-in on trying to keep Republican Glenn Youngkin's chances to win the gubernatorial in Virginia alive." Perhaps he should explain the justification for that biased, dishonest writing someday. And while he's at it, he should also explain why he's flaunting just how politically driven he is by wanting to put the Virginia governor's mansion in Democratic hands -- blatant electioneering that may very well be a violation of the MRC's nonprofit tax status.
On Oct. 27, Fondacaro was screeching about how others have pointed out how Republicans (like himself) are politically exploiting a alleged crime:
The liberal TV news blackout of the “gender-fluid” rapes in Loudoun County, Virginia was finally broken Wednesday evening by NBC Nightly News and correspondent Catie Beck. But it was anything but fair as the network took to suggesting the cases and the school district were being exploited by parents as well as the state and national Republican Party as they looked for an upset in the tight race for governor and beyond.
Fondacaro still had yet to explain why a local crime must be treated as a national story outside of the fact that drawing attention to it might help his preferred candidate get elected. But he's a right-wing hack, not a legitimate "media researcher."
Censoring the full truth
Meanwhile, it was becoming clear that the MRC has been effectively censoring the full truth about the alleged assault. Katelyn Burns wrote at MSNBC:
The Youngkin campaign has taken an incident at a Loudoun County school that involved a student sexually assaulting a classmate in a girl’s bathroom and twisted it into an effective campaign talking point. This, Youngkin and his supporters in right-wing media have trumpeted, is the mythical unicorn of the trans bathroom panic. The one case, they thought, that would finally help sway the public on the trans bathroom issue they’ve been unsuccessfully pushing since 2015.
Of the numerous articles the MRC has published referencing the assault, ConWebWatch could find only two that referenced the fact that the students previously had consensual sexual relations and that the incident in which the assault allegedly occurred started out as consensual.
An Oct. 25 item by Fondacaro complained that a Washington Post article on the case was "stealth-edited" to remove the claim that the assaulting student was "gender-fluid," further complaining that the article "seemed to hint that the girl wasn’t really a victim because “the 15-year-old victim in the first case testified she had consensual sexual encounters with the defendant on two occasions in a girls’ bathroom…” In fact, the edit reflects the reality of the case and that it's much more complicated than the "depraved transsexual" narrative Fondacaro and the MRC would like to impose on it for political reasons.
(Of course, Fondacaro didn't mention the MRC's own record of stealth-editing articles, making his complaint more than a tad hypocritical.)
Still, Waters insisted on whining: "The Loudoun County school board’s shameful silence; the possibility the assault was hushed up to avoid the wrath of trans activists; the gross irresponsibility of allowing boys free access to girl’s safe spaces in the first place... .all these points Goldberg studiously ignored in the name of chipping away at a story that may prove devastating to the election hopes of Terry McAuliffe." Waters didn't mention how he and his fellow right-wing activists were hyping the story in an attempt to boost the election hopes of Youngkin.
As Waters continued to huff about the Times calling the right-wing narrative about the assault a "big lie," he is certainly not going to concede that the MRC's near-complete refusal to tell its readers the full facts of the case is a lie by omission.
Censoring information that interferes with a political narrative is not exactly a hallmark of credible "media research," is it?
Keeping the narrative alive
As the Virginia gubernatorial election drew closer, the MRC tried to stay laser-focused on putting the narrative before facts. Nicholas Fondacaro ranted in an Oct. 28 post:
Thursday was a rough one of the liberal media’s blackout of the heinous and criminal behavior allowed to happen in schools by the liberal Loudoun County School Board. There were more alleged sexual assaults at a middle school involving groping and there was new evidence that Critical Race Theory was being peddled in by the Virginia Department of Education, plus reports of the law enforcement assets the school board wanted to bear against parents. All of it went ignored by the broadcast networks.
In his Oct. 29 column, Tim Graham hyped "actual sexual assaults in the high schools of Loudoun County" and that "a Loudoun County judge ruled the assault occurred," going on to play whataboutism to attack the Associated Press for an early story calling the story around the assault "murky":
A quick search of AP archives in 2018 shows their reporters never used the word “murky” to describe Christine Blasey Ford’s completely unproven charges of sexual assault by a teenaged Brett Kavanaugh. They did report “the conservative jurist's prospects of Senate confirmation remained murky.”
You can guess that Graham didn't tell his readers the full story of the assault.
The same day, Geoffrey Dickens cranked out a summary item:
On October 11, The Daily Wire’s Luke Rosiak dropped a bombshell report that exposed how the Loudoun County, Virginia School Board covered up the rape of a 15-year-old girl in the girls’ bathroom at the hands of a boy in a skirt just so they could pass a transgender bathroom policy. It was a horrific case of an out-of-control liberal school board putting their leftist agenda ahead of the safety of students.
Dickens didn't explain why the story justified the nearly two hours of coverage on Fox News, or why he's using that as the benchmark for what other news channels should have done on the story.
Kristine Marsh huffed in a Nov. 1 post:
The media are desperately trying to salvage Democrat Terry McAuliffe’s chances in Virginia’s governor's race, after his alarming comments about parents and education have cost him in the very tight election.
Marsh didn't tell her readers that the encounter began as consensual, with the boy and girl agreeing to meet in the bathroom -- making it completely irrelevant to any transgender policy the school district had been contemplating.
Having achieved its goal with Youngkin's election on Nov. 2, the MRC largely stopped caring about the assault case -- except to cite it in criticizing non-Fox coverage. A Nov. 4 item by Scott Whitlock complained that ABC pointed out the right-wing button-pushing that helped Youngkin win:
The media blame game for Tuesday’s Democratic election losses intensified on Thursday as ABC’s Jon Karl pinned the losses in Virginia on Republicans “exploiting parents's fears” when it came to issues like crime. What, specifically, could Karl be referring to? Perhaps the rape of a young teen by a boy in the girl’s bathroom? Karl didn’t explain and the networks have been hiding the Loudoun, Virginia rape story that galvanized the governor’s race in Virginia.
There are worlds of difference between those stories, and Graham does not explain why the deaths of George Floyd and Michael Brown should not have received national notice. Nor did Graham admit that Fox and right-wing media glommed onto the Loudoun assault story to exploit their own agendas and get Youngkin elected.
Fondacaro whined the same day:
On Wednesday afternoon, Loudoun County parents, via the organization Fight for Schools, filed their petition to recall their corrupt, radical leftist school board after the members and the superintendent tried to cover up a rape in a girl’s bathroom by a “gender-fluid” boy wearing a skirt. It was the latest development in a county that has garnered national attention; but yet again, the broadcast networks skipped it during their flagship evening newscasts.
Because crowing about how well Fox News is exploiting the tragedy is more important than the tragedy itself.
Kyle Drennen used a Nov. 18 post to complain that NBC essentially did what Fox News did by focusing on issues in a school district in Texas while "it willfully ignored multiple scandals including two student sexual assaults rocking the entire Loudoun County, Virginia school system, which had a major impact on the commonwealth’s closely-watched governor’s race." Of course, Drennen would never admit that Fox was exploiting the Loudoun situation for political purposes the way he claims NBC was "relentlessly attacking" the Texas school district.
It appears the MRC has little further use for the female victim in the assault as a victim -- only as a partisan tool. Its agenda not only comes before the truth, it comes before basic human decency.