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Curtis Houck's War On Jen Psaki (And Man-Crush On Peter Doocy)

The Media Research Center writer flip-flops, turning his love for Kayleigh McEnany into seething hatred for the current White House press secretary -- and hatred of the "liberal media" into gushing over biased, hostile Fox News reporters like Doocy.

By Terry Krepel
Posted 6/17/2021

Curtis Houck

In sharp contrast to the obsequious and embarrassing fawning and gushing he did over Donald Trump's final White House press secretary, Kayleigh McEnany, NewsBusters managing editor Curtis Houck -- along with the rest of the Media Research Center -- had knives out for Biden press secretary Jen Psaki literally from the first day she started on Jan. 20.

That day, Nicholas Fondacaro whined: "As the liberal media were eagerly awaiting the first White House press briefing, chief Washington correspondent Andrea Mitchell spun a false tale about Press Secretary Jen Psaki’s “great reputation” at the State Department. Of course, what they weren’t telling viewers was that her press shop manipulated an official briefing video of Fox News catching them in a lie about the Iran nuclear deal" when she was working for the State Department in 2016. Fondacaro did not mention the numerous lies McEnany was caught in during her tenure.

Houck served up an unsurprisingly harsh review of Psaki's very first briefing that day and the media covering it:

On Wednesday night, the White House press corps made their embarrassing debut before White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki, going from raging hyenas under Kayleigh McEnany to snoozing lapdogs for Psaki with a combination of boring, straightforward, and unserious questions with only a select few probing queries.

This was in stark contrast to the first briefings from Trump White House Press Secretaries Sean Spicer, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, and Kayleigh McEnany (with Stephanie Grisham never having held an in-person briefing during her tenure).

Houck didn't admit that his assessment was in stark contrast to his own lapdog-esque behavior over McEnany's allegedly sick burns and unveiled contempt of the media she was supposed to be briefing. He then touted biased right-wing reporters who asked biased questions of Psaki:

It was following this walk-in-the-park that Fox News’s Peter Doocy got his chance and asked two of the three toughest questions of the nearly 30 Psaki faced[.]


The other tough question came from EWTN’s Owen Jensen as he grilled Psaki about what this new administration’s abortion policies will look like:


Between Doocy and Jensen, note how all three questions were tough, but free of condemnations, juvenile comebacks, and snark. Amazing how so many were unable to do that for four years.

Houck seemed genuinely amazed that reporters can ask questions "free of condemnations, juvenile comebacks, and snark" when the press secretary is also free of them.

Houck took it upon himself to do "reviews" of Psaki's press briefings. His review of Psaki's Jan. 21 briefing shows that he has found a new person to fanboy over in Fox News' Doocy:

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki returned for a second briefing late Thursday afternoon and, after Dr. Tony Fauci and the press corps had a friendly, laugh-filled chat about the evils of the Trump administration, she took her turn for yet another relatively pressure-free briefing.

However, Psaki faced a few exceptions, led by the Fox Business Network’s Blake Burman on the Keystone XL pipeline, the Fox News Channel’s Peter Doocy on Amazon and President Biden not wearing a mask at the Lincoln Memorial, and the Las Vegas Review-Journal’s Debra Saunders on religious liberty.

And with the others so pedestrian, we found it worth highlighting those that were actually doing their jobs.

Doocy had two back-and-forths and the first pertained to Biden’s blatant disregard Wednesday night for an executive order he had signed hours earlier mandating mask use on federal land (which would include National Parks).

Of course, Houck demanded "pedestrian" questions from the media under McEnany and attacked the reporters who asked the kind of questions that he now portrays as them "doing their jobs."

For the Jan. 22 briefing, Houck complained: "Despite the fact that Donald Trump is no longer the President and the liberal media now have their friends returned to the White House, the White House press corps couldn’t shake their Trump addiction. On Friday alone, Trump and his administration were pertinent to roughly 16 out of the 45 questions to Press Secretary Jen Psaki (including 15 of the first 23), according to a NewsBusters count." Houck seems to have forgotten that Trump had very recently been impeached after inciting an insurrection on the Capitol, making it very much a valid subject for questioning.

He concluded by further complaining: "So in the first three Biden White House briefings, we’ve had roasts of the Trump administration (alongside Dr. Tony Fauci), softballs, and now a Trump obsession. It’s quite the opposite of the Trump briefings, which came off like Swamp versions of UFC matches." But Houck will never admit the role that McEnany and the other Trump press secretaries played in creating that atmosphere.

Houck cemented his worship instinct shift from McEnany to Doocy a Jan. 25 post:

With liberal reporters continuing to act as no more than lapdogs for the Biden administration or attack dogs from the left, Fox News White House correspondent Peter Doocy has continued to separate himself from the pack (as he did during the campaign) by asking tough but respectful questions of Press Secretary Jen Psaki and President Joe Biden himself.

On Monday, Doocy did just that with questions about the coronavirus vaccine, left-wing violence in Portland and Seattle, and a shifting of the goal-posts on how much control Americans had over the virus.

Doocy had two rounds with Psaki and, in the first, he had three questions.


Unlike the belligerence and condescension we saw with the press corps under Donald Trump, Doocy has been able to ask tough but respectful questions of Biden and his team. What a novel concept.

Unsurprisingly, Houck absolutely refuses to award any credit to Psaki for letting a hostile reporter asks three rounds of questions -- something his beloved McEnany would never have let a "liberal" reporter do. While Houck was cheering Doocy for asking hostile questions of Psaki, he attacked reporters who dared to ask even slightly challenging questions of McEnany.

The next day, Houck was slobbering over Doocy again:

With former National Security Adviser-turned-Domestic Policy Council head Susan Rice appearing at Tuesday’s White House press briefing, the mood was one of ebullience as the liberal press corps felt at home with key allies, as Rice and Press Secretary Jen Psaki talked about creating an America based on “equity” to atone for its life of sin.

But amidst all the softballs, Fox News White House correspondent Peter Doocy came with actual questions, ranging from FEMA funding to the impeachment trial to left-wing violence (and then later question about the Olympics).

Doocy wasn’t granted a question for Rice, but he got the third spot in Psaki’s pecking order.

Again, Psaki received no credit for taking questions from a hostile reporter.

On Jan. 28, Houck was sad that Fox News was "out of the rotation for White House Briefing Room seats," but he claimed that "Thursday’s briefing left plenty of space for reporters from the liberal media to step up and commit random acts of journalism. Thankfully, some did with pointed questions calling out President Biden’s plethora of executive orders and the reality that the administration had sided with teachers' unions over 'science' when it came to keeping schools closed." Then he added: "Unfortunately, there were still reporters that were far more casual and friendly, lobbing either bland or outright softballs."

We don't recall Houck ever criticizing the right-wing reporters who asked softball questions of McEnany.

Houck offered a summary in a Jan. 29 post:

Friday concluded the first full week of Biden White House press briefings and, by this point, we’ve noticed a few trends. Aside from Press Secretary Jen Psaki refusing to answer any number of questions, two takeaways are the lack of condescension and hostility from reporters and biting responses from the press secretary. Instead, we’ve seen plenty of softballs, reverence for administration officials, bland questioning, and on Friday, the end of Brian Karem’s charade.

Whether it be FNC’s Peter Doocy or surprise entries from liberal outlets, there have been plenty of tough questions.

Houck didn't mention that McEnany was the one supplying all the condescension and hostility during her tenure. Instead, he sighed fondly "whenever Kayleigh McEnany, Sarah Sanders, or Sean Spicer schooled a reporter."

Houck never offered such a granular analysis of McEnany's performance -- he was too busy crushing on her.

Space Force quip freakout

Houck is reviewing Psaki's press briefings as a "performance," looking for ways to attack. Thus, he declared in a Feb. 2 post that she was not sufficiently reverent of the Space Force that was created under President Trump:

Tuesday’s White House press briefing was perhaps Press Secretary Jen Psaki’s most combative one yet, facing tough questions on China, coronavirus relief, illegal immigration, Israel, and schools but also softballs on topics like COVID and impeachment.


It was the Space Force question that raised the most eyebrows as Bloomberg’s Josh Wingrove simply wanted to know if President Biden “has made a decision on keeping or keeping the scope of the Space Force.”

Psaki interjected and chuckled, making a reference to a question about Air Force One from the inaugural briefing: “Wow, Space Force. It's the plane of today.”

Wingrove pushed back that this matters and Psaki further beclowned herself: “It is an interesting question. I'm happy to check with our Space Force point of contact. I'm not sure who that is and find out and see if we have any update on that.”

Hours later, Psaki tweeted in a piece of damage control that the administration “look[s] forward to the continuing work of Space Force.”

We don't recall Houck ever saying that McEnany "beclowned herself" -- he was much too enamored by her allegedly sick burns and scripted insults of the media she was supposed to be briefing (though she did, indeed, beclown herself regularly).

The next day, Houck got more mileage out of the Space Force kerfuffle while adding in a couple other pedantic attacks:

On Thursday’s episode of the White House press briefing, Press Secretary Jen Psaki refused to apologize for having mocked the Space Force a day earlier and skimped on funding schools that teachers unions have kept shuttered, and falsely claimed that Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg was the first openly gay cabinet secretary.


The daughter of astronauts, the Fox News Channel’s Kristin Fisher brought up the Bloomberg reporter Josh Wingrove’s Space Force question: “The top Republican on the House Armed Services Committee is asking you to apologize for the comments made yesterday in the briefing room about the space force. Will you apologize?”

Psaki declined, only alluding to a tweet she sent “invite members of Space Force here to provide an update to all of you on all the important work they're doing and we certainly look forward to seeing continued updates from there — from their team.”

But before the above quote, she worked in another dig at the Space Force: “I did send a tweet last night. You may not all be on Twitter. Maybe they’re not on Twitter.”
Houck then complained that "Psaki memory-holed former acting DNI Richard Grenell as having been the first openly-gay cabinet official when she boasted that the Senate had 'just confirmed as the first LGBTQ secretary in a cabinet.'" But he didn't mention that Grenell was only an acting cabinet official; Buttigieg is the first gay official to be confirmed by the Senate, nor did he mention all the falsehoods McEnany issued from the podium.

Houck also grumbled: "And yet, no one stepped up to the plate to ask Psaki about a 2020 tweet of hers calling “LadyG,” specifically). After expressing interest in past statements from Kayleigh McEnany, the press corps doesn’t seem to care about Psaki’s record." Houck didn't care about McEnany's record, and he certainly didn't mention the MRC's proud anti-LGBT record -- which included the MRC's Dan Gainor working to get Grenell fired from Mitt Romney's 2012 presidential campaign simply because he was gay.

Spinning Doocy's screwup

Houck returned to simping over Doocy in a Feb. 8 post for allegedly socking it to Psaki again:

Making his return to the White House Briefing Room on Monday for the first time since January 26, the Fox News Channel’s Peter Doocy sparred Press Secretary Jen Psaki over concerns about laid off energy workers and then a possible Biden administration directive to bar ICE from deporting illegal immigrants for crimes such as DUI and simple assault.

Doocy didn’t mince words, first asking Psaki about “when is it that the Biden administration is going to let the thousands of fossil fuel industry workers, whether it’s pipeline workers or construction workers who are either out of work or will soon be out of work because of a Biden, when it is and where it is they can go for their green job” seeing as how it’s “something the administration has promised.”

Psaki had zero remorse, seeming to suggest that such workers were concocted by Doocy’s imagination: “Well, I certainly welcome you to present your data of all of the thousands and thousands of people who won't be getting a green job, maybe next time you're here you could present that.”

Despite Twitter’s attempted clean-up on aisle 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Doocy came prepared.

Along with quoting AFL-CIO head Richard Trumka from his Axios interview and numbers on job losses from the axing of the Keystone XL pipeline, Doocy laid out the facts, but left Psaki exhibiting nothing but signs of disgust (click “expand”):

Houck then pulled a little trick: burying the contentious questioning in a partially obscured blockquote -- which hid the fact that Psaki busted Doocy on taking Trumka out of context:

DOOCY: But you said that they would be getting green jobs, so I'm asking when that happens. Richard Trumka, who is a friend — longtime friend of Joe Biden, says about the day one Keystone deal, he said “I wish he,” the President, “had pared that more carefully with the things that he did second by saying, here's where we're creating the jobs.” So, there's partial evidence from Richard Trumka.

PSAKI: Well, you didn't include all of his interview.

DOOCY: Okay. How about — okay —

PSAKI: Would you like to conclude the rest?

DOOCY: — so, so, how about this, the Labor International Union of North America said the Keystone decision will cost 1,000 existing union jobs and 10,000 projected construction jobs.

PSAKI: Well, what Mr. Trumka also indicated in the same interview was that President Biden proposed a climate plan with transformative investments in infrastructure and laid out a plan that will not only create millions of good union jobs but also help tackle the climate crisis. And as the President indicated when he gave his primetime address to talk about the American Rescue Plan, he talked about his plan to also put forward a jobs plan in the — in the weeks or months following. And he has every plan to do exactly that.

Not only did Houck not quote from the exchange in the body of his item, he then tried to claim that others who pointed out Psaki busting Doocy's context-ripping were engaging in "revisionist history":

Afterwards, Twitter’s far-left curators sided with Psaki, offering up some revisionist history: “White House press secretary Jen Psaki corrected Fox News journalist Peter Doocy after he truncated a quote from AFL-CIO head Richard Trumka while questioning her about Biden’s plan for ‘green jobs.’”

Someone have spa workers on hand to account for all the Twitter leftists (such as serial leftist hack Aaron Rupar) twisting themselves into pretzels for having through the above exchange was one of Psaki’s finest hours. Take that as a good sign that Doocy’s questioning was spot on.

Houck offered no evidence that Twitter's news curators are "far-left," beyond its failure to reinforce his far-right narrative.

It's clear that the only person engaging in revisionist history here is Houck.

Still hating (and man-crushing)

On Feb. 22, Houck attacked Psaki's appearance on a Sunday talk show, effectively accusing her of incompetence: "Along with struggling to answer basic questions during White House press briefings, Press Secretary Jen Psaki found herself paddling the struggle boat on Sunday with ABC’s This Week as chief Washington correspondent Jonathan Karl inquired about then-candidate Joe Biden’s affection for scandal-ridden Governor Andrew Cuomo (D-NY)." The next day, Houck gushed over Doocy under the overwrought headline "Doocy Demolishes Psaki on Biden WH’s Immigration Double Standard":

A day after struggling with questions about embattled OMB Director nominee Neera Tanden, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki found herself being torched Tuesday by Fox News’s Peter Doocy about the administration’s immigration policies and specifically the reopening of a detention center both President Biden and Vice President Harris derided as an abomination under the Trump regime.

Worse yet for Psaki, Doocy drew follow-ups from CBS’s Ed O’Keefe (who asked an excellent question earlier in the briefing about the Keystone XL pipeline) and McClatchy’s Francesca Chambers. Later on, she faced stiff questions from New York Post’s Steven Nelson on drones and government surveillance.

Houck served up more gushing over Doocy and sneering at Psaki in a Feb. 24 post:

After making his mark during Tuesday’s White House press briefing, Fox News’s Peter Doocy again tussled Wednesday with Press Secretary Jen Psaki over illegal immigration, wondering whether the term “kids in containers” was more apt for the detaining of illegal immigrant children since Psaki was turned off (read: triggered) by the description of “kids in cages.”

Doocy started with this: “We spoke yesterday about immigration and this facility — HHS facility in Carrizo Springs, Texas for migrant children. And you said it is not kids in cages. We’ve seen some photos now of containers. Is there a better description? Is it kids in containers, instead of kids in cages? What is the White House’s description of this facility.”

Clearly not amused, Psaki insisted she would “give a broader description of what’s happening here&rdquo where they were not and would not “separate” and “rip” kids “from the arms of their parents at the border” but instead “expand and open additional facilities, because there was not enough space in the existing facilities — and if we were to abide by COVID protocols, that’s the process and the step.”

She added how children were also having access to an education and medical care, so it was different than whatever the Trump administration did. Coincidentally, in-person education is something younger American citizens haven’t been able to get for almost a year thanks to teachers unions.

Houck then complained that "Psaki went personal by wondering if Doocy was concerned about being accurate with viewers." Never mind, of course, that Houck's beloved Trump press secretary, McEnany, regularly attacked reporters -- as did Houck because they used the same aggressive tone with McEnany that Doocy is using with Psaki.

Under the ridiculous headline "Doocy Smash," Houck's Feb. 25 post gushed even more over Doocy:

Clearly on a roll since returning to the White House Briefing Room rotation on Tuesday, Fox News correspondent Peter Doocy continued his streak Thursday of asking the tough questions to Press Secretary Jen Psaki. This time, Doocy was dogged in seeking comment on the nursing home scandal and sexual misconduct allegations against Biden ally and Governor Andrew Cuomo (D-NY).

Despite the fact that ABC had ignored it through Thursday morning (while ABC, CBS, and MSNBC waited until then with CNN first noticing in the noon Eastern hour), Doocy began his questions by invoking former Cuomo aide Linsdey Boylan’s claims in light of Cuomo chairing a virtual meeting of the National Governors Association with President Biden.

Doocy wondered if, given Boylan’s disturbing claims about Cuomo, the White House was “worried about this becoming a distraction from an important meeting about COVID response.”

Psaki’s answer was standard for a spokesperson in that she insisted Biden “has been consistent in his position” that “[w]hen a person comes forward, they deserve to be treated with dignity and respect” and “[t]heir voice should be heard not silenced and any allegation should be reviewed.”

Ruling? Pants on fire, Jen. Sure, one could say anyone and everyone should be “heard,” but as we’ve seen with Tara Reade versus Christine Blasey Ford, not all allegations are actually heard in the public square. Psaki might as well have followed up with the adage about a tree falling in the forest.

Houck is not going to mention that he and the rest of his MRC crew smeared and disrespected women who accused Donald Trump of sexual assault and harassment and care about Tara Reade not as a woman but as a tool with which to bash Biden, so Houck may not want to beg comparisons here.

Again, Houck maliciously imputed sinister motives to Psaki's side of the exchange, claiming that "a peeved Psaki insisted that Doocy of routinely engaging in disinformation." Given that Fox News is very much a disinformation mill masquerading as a "news" channel, that concern is well founded.

Houck's wildly biased assessments of Psaki's press briefings are misinformation too -- not that he or anyone else at the MRC will ever admit, of course.

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