The MRC's War on Jen Psaki (And Man-Crush On Peter Doocy): June 2021
Media Research Center writer Curtis Houck loves to help biased Fox News reporter Doocy push right-wing talking points in White House press briefings. PLUS: Houck once again covers for Doocy by burying the stupid question he asked President Biden.
By Terry Krepel Posted 9/23/2021
The Media Research Center's Curtis Houck kept up his Psaki-hating, Doocy-loving White House press briefing schtick into June. His writeup of the first presser of the month showed that he was more eager to push the right-wing talking point du jour -- this time, a release of emails by Anthony Fauci -- than offering any sort of fair or reasoned evaluation of the hearing:
Continuing to show their undying fealty to the altar of Dr. Tony Fauci, the White House press corps refused to ask Press Secretary Jen Psaki a single question during Wednesday’s briefing about the bombshell trove of emails from the NIH official from the early moments of the pandemic.
It was on the mind of at least one reporter in the room as our friend Amber Athey of The Spectator had planned to ask about them, but she wasn’t granted a question during 42-minute briefing.
Fox News’s Peter Doocy took up [NBC reporter Peter] Alexander’s line of question: “Why do you think that these ransomware attacks have been rising since President Biden took office?”
Psaki refused to answer and instead blamed the companies themselves for coincidentally getting hacked within a short time period and not listening to federal guidelines.
Doocy also brought up concerns about “a shortage of workers” in numerous sectors of the economy and the role that increased unemployment benefits could play in discouraging work, but Psaki chose to blame a continued need for workers to feel safe and increase child care facilities.
Actually, the Fauci emails weren't that big of a deal, and unemployment benefits aren't causing worker shortages. But those things are part of the right-wing narrative, so Houck must mindlessly repeat them -- and he obsessed about the Fauci emails again the next day, while adding another right-wing narrative and introducing Doocy's Fox News colleague in asking hostile questions:
A day after not one reporter called on during Wednesday’s White House press briefing brought up newly-released e-mails from Dr. Tony Fauci, three reporters stepped up on Thursday’s episode to ask Press Secretary Jen Psaki about the damning e-mails from the early days of the coronavirus pandemic and, on a related note, investigating the origins of the virus in Wuhan.
In fact, a review of the briefing transcript showed three reporters combined to ask only 11 questions on either subject out of 96 total questions from the briefing (which worked out to only about 11.4 percent).
Fox News’s Jacqui Heinrich broke the ice as the fifth reporter called on. After a series of infrastructure questions, she made the pivot and invoked the e-mail between Fauci and NIH Director Dr. Francis Collins that dismissed an April 2020 report from Special Report anchor Bret Baier about the virus escaping from a lab as a “conspiracy” theory.
Asked if that’s still “the position of the administration and their health experts that this was not engineered,” Psaki brushed Heinrich aside, saying she’s “spoken to this pretty extensively” and while she’ll let Fauci “speak for himself...he's been an undeniable asset in our country's pandemic response.”
Psaki dismissed the notion of going through what Fauci knew in the early days, calling it “obviously not that advantageous for me to relitigate the substance of e-mails from 17 months ago” when the focus should be on the intelligence community’s ongoing review.
Houck continued his -- and Fox News' -- obsession with the Fauci emails for the June 4 hearing:
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki continued on Friday afternoon to show an aversion to discussing the thousands of published e-mails from Dr. Tony Fauci, repeatedly declining to elaborate on them during Friday’s press briefing. Speaking to Fox’s Peter Doocy, Psaki insisted that, while Fauci can speak for himself, the Biden administration “wouldn’t stand by” while “attacks” are “launched” against him.
Doocy started his Friday Q&A on the subject of a congressional or presidential commission to look at “the initial U.S. response to COVID-19,” but all Psaki would commit to would be the administration’s 90-day review of the intelligence regarding the origins of the virus.
Since Psaki invoked Fauci first, Doocy used that opening to pivot to his e-mails and, after acknowledging Fauci “had his hands full at the time trying to figure out what to do,” the doctor seemed to have been “saying one thing in e-mail and then coming to this microphone and saying something else.”
“If that is the case, and if that affected the U.S. policy posture at the time, should he be held accountable,” wondered Doocy.
Houck certainly performed his duty as right-wing narrative pusher by repeatedly obsessing over Fauci's emails -- almost as if he had instructed to do so.
Houck finally gave up the failed narrative. For the June 7 briefing, Houck attacked non-right-wing reporters under the screechy headline "The Clown Show Is Back!":
The White House Briefing Room returned to full capacity for Monday’s Psaki Show and with that, Trump era carnival barkers such as Breakfast Media’s Andrew Feinberg, Playboy’s Brian Karem and The Grio's April Ryan made sure to have seats. Along with fellow far-left reporter Yamiche Alcindor of PBS, they bashed former President Trump and trumpeted the disastrous For the People Act.
National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan made a guest appearance at the start and Ryan was there to lob softballs with her first question complaining that Russian President “Vladimir Putin has already smeared [President Biden’s] name” and then suggesting passing the For the People Act was a necessity to national security.
Houck further displayed his lack of seriousness and professionalism by repeating a fellow right-winger insulting Alcindor as "the White House press corps’s most useless reporter." But Houck made sure to suck up to his man-crush, touting how "Doocy decided to show up with excellent questions about holding China accountable and Biden not speaking or tweeting about D-Day."
Speaking of sucking up, Houck unironically accused non-right-wing reporters of doing just that in writing about the June 8 briefing:
With Tuesday serving as the final White House press briefing for at least week due to President Biden’s trip to Europe, liberal reporters had one more chance to perform for the cameras and/or suck up to Press Secretary Jen Psaki. Unfortunately, PBS’s Yamiche Alcindor,The New York Times’s Katie Rogers, and The Grio’s April Ryan seemed to be more like CNN's Brian Stelter than, say, Fox’s Peter Doocy.
After Ryan hammered Psaki from the left about the right for Black Americans to vote being in peril, Rogers tag-teamed with Psaki to mock conservatives and Republicans as having “[gone] crazy” and got “worked up” over Vice President Kamala Harris’s comments about the U.S./Mexico border as well as her NBC interview.
Rogers began with a series of climate change and infrastructure questions, but that was merely lip service to what she seemed most enthused about: trashing the right.
We don't remember Houck ever complaining when his beloved Kayleigh McEnany used White House press briefings to trash liberals -- in fact, he reveled in it. Houck also sucked up to Doocy again, declaring that he "came ready to ask questions that actually advance the ball down the field." Of course, Houck means that they advance right-wing narratives.
Houck's all-too-predictible rants, hate and man-crushing have more than amply demonstrated who the real clown is here.
Houck went on vacation in mid-June, leaving Scott Whitlock pinch-hit for a couple days. on June 22, Whitlock pretended to read the minds of reporters to make the headline claim that "SULKING White House Press Whine About Implosion of Voting Bill, Nasty Red States":
The radical attempt by Democrats to nationalize voting across the country appears to going down to defeat on Tuesday. So at the White House press briefing, the assembled partisan press whined that the administration didn’t do more to save the legislation.
ABC’s Cecilia Vega spoke directly for Democrats, telling Press Secretary Jen Psaki the difficulty is with red state Republicans: “But the problem, as Democrats at least see it, is not problems in blue states, state legislatures. It's Republican-controlled states where many of these decisions are already being made. So what leverage do you actually have? And what realistically do you think you can accomplish in some of these red states?”
Talk about a Democratic cheerleader.
No, Scott: A reporter repeating what a person's or group's viewpoint is on an issue does not equal endorsement of that viewpoint. That's just laziness on Whitlock's part.
The next day, Whitlock echoed Houck's man-crush on Fox News reporter Peter Doocy:
Finally, it was announced by the White House on Wednesday that Kamala Harris would be, at long last, visiting the border on Friday. And while many journalists and media outlets have downplayed the unfolding disaster there, Fox’s Peter Doocy called out the cynical decision to send the Vice President there.
At Wednesday’s White House briefing, Doocy demanded, “So about today's announcement. Why is the Vice President visiting the border this week when earlier this month, she dismissed a trip like that, saying it would be ‘a grand gesture.’”
Houck was back the following week, meaning the Doocy man-crush could resume in full. Houck started his write-up for the June 28 briefing this way:
Monday’s White House press briefing quickly became an epic messaging embarrassment for the the Biden administration as, under questioning from the Fox News Channel’s Peter Doocy, Press Secretary Jen Psaki argued that Republicans (and not Democrats) have defunded the police and gave the White House’s blessing to America-hating Olympian Gwen Barry.
After a short exchange on President Biden’s muddled stance on the bipartisan infrastructure agreement, Doocy started with the Defund the Police movement, calling out comments from senior adviser Cedric Richmond that said Republicans had defunded the police by not supporting the stimulus boondoggle that masqueraded as coronavirus relief.
“But how is it that that is an argument to be made when the President never mentioned needing money for police to stop a crime wave when he was selling the American Rescue Plan,” wondered Doocy.
Incredibly, Psaki doubled down on the spin, saying that Republicans do indeed not support keeping police “on the beat in communities across the country” because they refused to vote for “the American Rescue Plan” and its “funding” to “help ensure local cops” kept their jobs.
Doocy called out the fact that this wasn’t the supposed focus of the package and has nothing to do with supporting police amidst a crime wave, but Psaki refused to rejoin reality[.]
Yes, the guy who is simply spouting right-wing talking points by claiming without evidence that coronavirus stimulus spending is a "boondoggle" thinks others should "rejoin reality." Houck also offered no evidence to support his claim that Barry hates America (and, no, her little protest is not evidence of that). Houck also complained that "numerous liberal journalists went full Chicken Little over the Delta variant of the coronavirus" -- a partisan assertion that looks pretty dumb now given that the highly contagious variant was quickly becoming the dominant coronavirus variant by far in the U.S. and responsible for a large increase in Americans (most of them unvaccinated) being hospitalized for COVID and dying from it (while the MRC tried to distract from the fact that the biggest group of vaccine-hesitant Americans are white conservatives and that right-wing media encourages that vaccine hesitancy).
As Mediaite's Tommy Christopher pointed out (but Houck won't), Doocy "went full-on defense attorney for congressional Republicans" during this exchange -- not exactly the kind of fair and balanced journalist the MRC claims to prefer.
Houck continued to fixate over police funding -- because it's now a right-wing talking point -- in the writeup for the June 30 briefing:
Two days after he faced shameless gaslighting from White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki over which party supported defunding the police, Fox News’s Peter Doocy was back at it during Wednesday’s briefing and pressed Psaki on her false claims that the GOP (and not Democrats) have defunded the police.
Doocy began with this carefully crafted question: “[Y]ou mentioned at the last briefing that you think Republicans wanted to defund the police because they did not support the American Rescue Plan. Which Republican ever said they did not like the American Rescue Plan because they wanted to defund the police?”
Psaki refused to change her tune and instead reiterated her reliance on blind partisanship and low-information voters by arguing that Democrats oppose defunding the police because President Biden “ran and won the most votes of any candidate in history on a plan of booster for law enforcement after Republicans spent decades trying to cut the cops program.”
She added that there shouldn’t be any further debate because it’s “a simple statement of fact” that the GOP has “also stood in the way of crucial funding needing to prevent the laying off of police officers as crime increased.”
Earth to Jen: What do cities such as Austin, Baltimore, Denver, Los Angeles, Milwaukee, Minneapolis, New York City, Oakland, and Seattle all have in common? Not only are they run by Democrats, but those Democrats have voted to defund their police departments.
Actually, all of those police departments are still in existence, so they weren't "defunded" to the point of elimination -- they merely saw some relatively minor budget cuts. Houck knows that, of course, but his mission is to forward right-wing talking points, not tell the full truth.
Houck clung to that narrative for his July 2 writeup, and he found something else to manufacture outrage about with alleged name-calling toward Psaki and man-crushing on Doocy:
With one last White House press briefing before the Fourth of July weekend, Fox’s Peter Doocy came prepared Friday afternoon with questions for Press Secretary Jen Psaki about her gaslighting on defunding the police, negative stories about Vice President Kamala Harris’s staff, and a widely-panned White House tweet urging Americans to celebrate the 16-cent decrease in the cost of food to throw a backyard get-together.
Starting with the hot dogs tweet, Doocy closed out his turn with a question about the tone-deaf tweet that ignored the fact that Americans are paying more for gas (which Psaki would acknowledge a few minutes later):“[T]he official White House account tweeted yesterday: ‘The cost of 1/4 of July cookout was down 16 cents from last year.’ 16 cents?”
Psaki didn’t hesitate in showing her Acela Corridor elitism, bragging that “there has been a reduction in some of the costs of key components of the Fourth of July a Fourth of July barbecue. That was what the tweet was noting.”
Having totally missed the point, a usually calm Doocy came off as a tad exasperated while Psaki dug in by mocking blowback to the tweet has having emanated form those that dislike hot dogs [.]
If this were a Trump administration briefing, one could safely bet that CNN and MSNBC would be doing a few segments fact-checking Psaki and decrying the administration’s lies.
But since their friends are in power, they moved right along.
If this were a Trump administration briefing, Houck would be defending the briefer as strong, unassailable and always right, while denigrating the reporter as biased and always wrong -- you know, like he did when his beloved Kayleigh McEnany (his friend in power, at least in his imagination) was at the podium.
SIDEBAR: Houck buries Doocy's screw-up
Houck hates President Biden so much that it's apparently worse than his abject loathing for CNN, upon which he's been waging a petulant war against for years. So much so, in fact, that he actually defended a CNN reporter from Biden in a June 16 post:
Closing out his week-long European trip and Wednesday’s Geneva summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin, President Joe Biden snapped at CNN’s Kaitlan Collins on Wednesday for simply wondering “why” he’s “so confident [Putin will] change his behavior.”
Not to be left out, Biden also tussled with Fox’s Peter Doocy over China when he, like Collins, interjected once Biden worked through his list of six pre-approved reporters.
With Biden talking off-stage and his suit coat in hand, Collins shouted: “Why are you so confident he’ll change his behavior, President Biden?”
Biden suddenly became inflamed and yelled: “I’m not confident he’ll change his behavior. What the hell? What do you do all the time? When did I say I was confident?”
Undeterred, Collins added that she was alluding to Biden’s claim that he’ll need “six months” in order “to determine” whether Russia has improved its behavior, but that wasn’t enough for the President.
It wasn't until the 11th paragraph of his item that Houck got back to his man-crush, Doocy, and this is all he wrote about it:
Doocy was another one of the four reporters that grabbed Biden’s attention after he finished going through his staff’s pre-approved list and, once he did, he brought up the importance of standing up to China (click “expand”):
Because Houck buried the transcript in an expansion box, it takes some work to find out that Doocy rather stupidly asked Biden if he would talk to Chinese leader Xi Jinping "old friend to old friend," to which Biden retorted, "Let’s get something straight. We know each other well. We’re not old friends. It’s just pure business." Houck clearly knows Doocy screwed up because he buried this exchange so far in his item.
Instead, Houck whined that other reporters were "were given preapproval to ask the elderly Biden relatively benign and/or unobjectionable questions." Did Houck ever call Trump "elderly" though he's only a few years younger than Biden? Not that we know of.
But then, Houck is such a Doocy fanboy that he'll never admit he does anything wrong. It's not the first time he has covered for Doocy: In April, a daily briefing review was stealth-edited to bury the fact that Doocy pushed a discredited story during the briefing.