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The MRC's War on Jen Psaki (And Man-Crush On Peter Doocy): The Profiles

Media Research Center writer Curtis Houck can't handle it when White House press secretary Psaki doesn't face hatred in media interviews -- or that Fox News reporter Doocy's right-wing bias gets called out.

By Terry Krepel
Posted 9/9/2021

Curtis Houck

Media Research Center writer Curtis Houck has repeatedly demonstrated his unhinged hatred of White House press secretary Jen Psaki, and his concurrent man-crush on Fox News reporter Peter Doocy for his near-daily hostile questioning of Psaki. That same wild bias surfaced again regarding media profiles of the two.

Houck devoted a May 5 post to ranting about a magazine profile of Psaki that didn't hate her as much as he does:

On Wednesday, Washingtonian magazine came out with a nearly-2,220 word profile of White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki that could best be described as a slobbering love letter that hailed her as a fact-based saint who refuses to play to the cameras, plays and works well with reporters, and represented a break from the belligerence and back-talking of the Obama and Trump administrations.

And unsurprisingly, the piece treaded carefully on extended criticism and pushback on Psaki and her administration colleagues until paragraph 22 out of 30. But before that? Plenty of phrases and words like “competence porn,” “personality that exudes from the podium,” “pleasant,” “unflappable,” and “well-qualified.”


Doing her part to laud Psaki, Goldstein contrasted her “measured” and “warm” tone that asked reporters how their families were doing with Trump press secretaries being “Trumpites” having “gleefully performed belligerence on camera.”

“Psaki succeeds by arguably doing the impossible: Her face and voice beam out of our screens on a regular basis, and she rarely draws attention to herself,” she later added.


On this theme of warmness, this was also a lie. Psaki caused a kerfuffle when she mocked the Space Force (and refused to apologize), dismissed the lack of action from Vice President Harris on the border, laughed at Peter Doocy's phrasing of the border crisis, questioned Kristin Fisher’s humanity as a mother and person, and was angered by the notion that Biden contributed to “systemic racism.” We could go on.

Yes, Houck certainly could -- hating Psaki is his job, after all. The Space Force "kerfuffle" is something Houck helped manufacture for no other reason to have a reason to attack Psaki. He's certainly never to to acknowledge Psaki's humanity. And, of course, nobody is allowed to ever be critical of his man-crush.

Houck even managed to take some time away from his anti-Psaki rage to work in a tribute to his man-crush:

Though falsely treated by leftists as a carnival barker worse than even Jim Acosta, Fox’s Peter Doocy showed himself to be a far better man than the actual characters like Acosta and Brian Karem that Trump spokespeople had to deal with when he told Goldstein that Psaki has run “a very low-blood-pressure briefing room.”

If only we call could aspire to that level of civility in the face of nonsense.

Reminder: Spewing hatred at Acosta because he dared to ask questions of the Trump administration was Houck's main job in the Trump years.

Which brings us to a May 7 post, in which Houck complained that a Politico profile of Doocy wasn't man-crushy enough and spent too much time (which is to say, any time) likening him to Acosta:

Christopher Cadelago’s feature “Is Fox’s Peter Doocy Just Asking Questions — Or Trolling the White House” led with the build-up to President Biden’s March 25 press conference and what ended up not being “a titanic collision between” Biden and Doocy as Biden chose not to call on him.

Cadelago described Doocy as someone who had “positioned himself as the chief foil to the administration in the press room” and developed a journalistic decorum that was “courteous, crisp, [and] oppositional” yet had offered “laconic yet spring-loaded questions” to Psaki in early briefings.


Adding that the news cycle “can be seen as a distillation, in a single reporter, of the challenge facing Fox in the Biden era,” Cadelago said that Doocy has become “a smooth yet aggressive, social media-savvy correspondent who might feel like a fresh face on TV, yet is indisputably of, by and for Fox.”

And in the world of the liberal media where Fox is the enemy, that’s almost always going to be seen as a bad thing.

Cadelago even compared Doocy to carnival barker Jim Acosta of CNN, but said Doocy “rarely raises his voice” “jump[ed] into loud, heated sparing matches.”

Later in the piece, he’d return to this implicit comparison, saying Doocy’s “relentless jousting with the Biden administration has drawn more criticism from the left and even from some journalists at other networks” with complaints that “his approach” has been “intentionally provocative, in service of his own image and the network’s, as Fox tries to make its oppositional stance clear.”

No mention, of course, of Doocy pushing fake news by asking Psaki about a false story involving Kamala Harris' book purportedly being given to immigrant children (which the MRC later stealth-edited out of an item he wrote on the exchange). Houck grew increasingly perturbed that Doocy was likened to the despised Acosta, even bizarrely lashing out yet again at CNN's Oliver Darcy and descending once more into Acosta Derangement Syndrome:

Conservative media Benedict Arnold and CNN media reporter Oliver Darcy was also predictably, insisting Doocy bears more resemblance to a divisive pundit than an actual journalist: “Doocy’s line of questioning fits neatly into the messaging pushed by Fox’s conservative newscasts and propagandistic primetime shows.”

Again, Doocy’s not someone who’d equate media criticism to death threats, meltdown over a period when briefs were audio-only or when he wasn't called on, stage a book signing, tweet a picture of himself looking at himself in the mirror, but that’s just us.

In response, a Fox News spokesperson told NewsBusters: “If you want to predict what CNN will cover, watch FOX News — it’s a good indicator of what their partisan activists will spend hours attempting to misconstrue for relevance and ratings.”

Actually, it is pretty much just you, Curt -- the fact that you can't let your rage against Acosta go appears to be some sort of mental issue. How does Houck know for sure that Doocy's not like Acosta? That's just wacky man-crushing. And why did Houck think he needed to get a comment from Fox News to respond to the Politico piece? It's almost as if the MRC is part of Fox News' PR department.

Houck concluded with one last bit of man-crushing:

Cadelago closed with an important tidbit that Doocy has largely stopped tweeting to better focus on his job and, not surprisingly “disputes the characterization of his job as one big troll.”

And perhaps most importantly, he makes clear that he’s not looking for his next break or job (even though Psaki’s tried and failed to help Resistance-types make Doocy look bad)[.]

Again, Houck doesn't know any of that. And when Doocy inevitably gets rewarded for his hostile questioning of Psaki with his own Fox News show, will he lash out at Doocy the way he did at Acosta when the same thing happened to him?

Smearing reporters who wouldn't smear Psaki

It's not just Psaki who must be abused and denigrated on a daily basis by the MRC -- anyone who doesn't treat her with that same off-the-charts level of contempt must be targeted as well. In that vein, a June 6 item by ragebot Nicholas Fondacaro is one giant screed against CNN's Brian Stelter for refusing to hate Psaki as much as he does:

As a feature during Sunday’s so-called “Reliable Sources,” CNN host Brian Stelter flaunted a pre-taped interview with White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki where he came off as a bootlicker for the Biden administrations. Stelter ultimately embarrassed himself with softball question after softball question that added up into a huff piece for the Press Secretary. He even invited her to lash the media for getting stuff wrong with their reporting on the administration.

Stelter’s first question out of the gate was him asking Psaki to rip the press of inaccuracies in their reporting about Biden. “Busy summer ahead, infrastructure, election reform, what does the press get wrong when covering Biden's agenda, when you watch the news, when you read the news what, do you think we get wrong,” he begged her.

It was just last year that Stelter and the rest of the liberal media would treat Trump Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany’s criticisms of the press as a threat to the First Amendment.

Either way, Psaki suggested that the media’s journalistic “muscles have atrophied a little bit over the last few years” because of former President Trump. She even quipped that the media had a bad long-term memory for how legislation got passed. Of course, Stelter just sat there and laughed.


But Stelter was now proud CNN had an insider as part of the Biden press office. And Psaki credited “sitting on set” with partially helping her to prepare for the role. “So, I tap into a lot of things. I had the honor and pleasure of doing in the past, including being a CNN commentator, including serving at the State Department and I know that helps me in the briefing every day,” she said.

The most critical Stelter got was when he was groveling for Biden to do more press conferences and asked if the lack of them was a strategy to project normalcy.

This is CNN.

Of course, McEnany's criticisms of the press" were actually abject hatred for any non-right-wing media outlet who tried to hold the Trump administration accountable -- and the MRC got off on it every single time she ranted about the scrutiny. This is the MRC, and Fondacaro won't admit it.

For the June 7 NewsBusters podcast, Fondacaro and Curtis Houck -- who had a major crush on McEnany -- continued to spew hate against McEnany and Stelter. Houck ranted that the interview was "cockamamie BS" and "bat guano nonsense," adding:

I don't think it's a stretch to say these people don't care about you. this is what they do with their free time instead of asking substantive questions here. ... I think this rhetoric is really dangerous -- and I want to talk about this -- because I think it could really get someone hurt. Because these people go on and on and on bellyaching about the need for conservatives to watch our tone and our words matter. Fine. But we at NewsBusters condemned what happened at CNN when they had bombs sent to them by a Trump supporter. And I don't even want to see people like Jim Acosta threatened. We're gonna make fun of them, but we don't want anything bad to happen to them. And I said this at the time, and it's still true: These goobers deserve to live in peace. Their politics are messed up as it is, they should just be allowed to live their lives. But we're not Maxine Waters here, people. That's the kind of thing we call out here at the MRC and NewsBusters. That's who they are; again, that's not who we are.

The problem is these people assume the worst and assume the worst motives of people they disagree with. You know, they seem to really enjoy this notion that families are tearing themselves apart, people cutting themselves off from family members and co-workers and what have you because they disagree with them.

Well, let's look at the record: The MRC was much more interested in shielding President Trump from responsibility for inspiring the attempted bombing than denouncing the bombs themselves. Houck himself ranted at CNN for having "lashed out at Trump, insinuating his guilt and deeming his remarks insufficient" (though he did concede that "it’s inexcusable and unacceptable for that to happen to anyone in this country"). He also whined that CNN commentators "smeared conservative media for overwhelmingly being responsible for our country’s worsening discourse," insisting that right-wingers like himself merely "bring you the latest liberal media bias," not their actual job of trashing and denigrating CNN employees day in and day out.

Nevertheless, Houck continued: "Do they even see their political opponents as human beings? Do they believe in and relish the free exchange of ideas that Chris Matthews believed in?" Well, it's more than clear that Houck and his MRC co-workers don't see non-right-wing reporters as human; their response to reporters being concerned about their safety after years of Trump (and, yes, MRC) demonization was to mock them as self-centered. Yes, thinking someone might murder you for doing your job does tend to make one "self-centered" -- people don't like to be threatened or killed for doing their job and telling the truth. Houck concluded by suggesting that any TV host who doesn't sound like Fox News doesn't love America -- so much for relishing the free exchange of ideas.

Houck even more laughably defended the MRC's attacks on CNN because "it's important to lower the temperature by identifying what's wrong." But accusing your ideological opposites of hating America is a temperature-lowering claim?

Speaking of lowering the temperature, Houck's buddy Fondacaro amply demonstrated in a June 17 post that the MRC actually interested in doing the exact opposite by absolutely loving a profane tirade by podcaster Joe Rogan:

During a very fiery segment on Thursday’s edition of The Joe Rogan Experience, the prolific eponymous podcaster and progressive YouTuber Kyle Kulinski tore into CNN media journalist and Reliable Sources host Brian Stelter for his bootlicking interview with White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki a couple of weeks ago. The two also teed off on CNN in general for not acting like “real people” and also calling for the “censorship” of their opponents.

Speaking about Stelter’s interview, Rogan was flabbergasted by what he saw. “Brian Stelter talking to the press secretary saying ‘what are we doing wrong?’ What are we doing wrong,” he exclaimed to Kulinski. “Like, hey motherfucker, you’re supposed to be a journalist!”


Rogan went further and thrashed CNN for thinking “they’re entitled to viewers” and failing to get them. “This is because the market has spoken and your show’s fucking terrible,” he chided. “That’s right. They suck. They’re terrible at it,” Kulinski agreed.

And despite Rogan comments going viral online, by the publication of the piece, Stelter had not publicly responded.

Why would Stelter respond to such a vile, obscene, vicious tirade? And why does Fondacaro think he's turning down the temperature by putting his stamp of approval of Rogan calling Stelter a "motherfucker"?

Then, the next day on the podcast, Fondacaro gushed that Rogan "made a fool of Brian Stelter," while Houck added, "that was something else." No mention of any of that temperature-lowering he was lecturing about a week or so earlier. Apparently conservatives never raise the temperature with anything they say, no matter how vile. Perhaps Houck can explain some time how that works.

But Fondacaro wasn't done lashing out at journalists who refuse to hate Psaki as much as he does. He ramped up the childish insults and condescension in a June 24 post on another Psaki interview under the deliberately hateful headline "SPIT SHINE: MSNBC’s Wallace Tries to Beat CNN in Licking Psaki’s Boots":

MSNBC Deadline: White House host Nicolle Wallace apparently saw Brian Stelter’s bootlicking interview with White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki and thought ‘challenge accepted.’

And during a Thursday interview with Psaki, Wallace rhetorically told Stelter to hold her beer as she gushed about how the mostly liberal press pool gave her “high marks,” including “some of the President's detachers” who give her “grudging respect.”

Wallace began the doting interview by opining about how she’s spoken to “folks on the frontline of trying to protect not just voting rights but avoid voter nullification which a lot of people feel is the most ominous and haunting parts of these voter suppression bills.”


The grossest praise for Psaki came when Wallace tried to relate to her. “Jen, I've walked in similar shoes to the ones you walk in together probably 23 and half hours a day. I’m guessing. How do you feel like it's going,” she wondered, speaking with the cadence of a ditzy high school girl.

Wallace seemed to up the ante from Stelter’s request to have Psaki knock around the press a bit by just telling the Press Secretary how great she was, and suggested even the opposition bowed to her grace:


At different points in the interview, Wallace expanded her bootlicking to President Biden. “He is very popular not just in the Democratic Party but, I know he and you all point out, with Republicans in the country who supported the COVID relief package overwhelmingly, whose support likely contributed to Republicans coming to the table on infrastructure,” she gushed.

Adding: Would he play a similar role in bringing Republicans to the White House to work on a bipartisan compromise on voting rights?”

This isn't "media research" -- it's partisan bile, pure and simple. It seems as if there is a contest inside MRC headquarters regarding who can hurl the most immature insults at its political enemies and the non-right-wing media. It's unprofessional and embarrassing, and if Fondacaro was capable of the emotion, he should be ashamed.

The sin of not trashing Psaki extended to a July 1 post by Geoffrey Dickens complaining that "lefty journos" committed the offense of having "sucked up to White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki with the likes of CNN’s Brian Stelter asking her 'what do we [journalists] get wrong?' and MSNBC’s Nicolle Wallace gushing, 'You get such high marks from the vast majority of the people in the [press] room.'"

McEnany resurfaces

If the MRC had ever complained about suck-up interviews at Fox News to the likes of Kayleigh McEnany, it might have a point -- but it didn't. When McEnany resurfaced for a fluffy Fox News appearance on March 2, Houck predictably gushed over his crush once more and uncritically treated her biased complaints as the indisputable truth:

In her first interview since the end of the Trump administration, former White House Press Secretary and newly-minted Fox News contributor Kayleigh McEnany spoke Tuesday about what she viewed as a “disparate” and “unfair” treatment from liberal journalists who refused to give her “a modicum of respect,” while current Press Secretary Jen Psaki had been able to skate by relatively unscathed.

Speaking with Harris Faulkner, McEnany said that, when asked to evaluate how she was treated in the briefing room, it was “disparate, unfair in the sense of....a Democrat woman standing at that podium would never have had a Playboy reporter in the back of the room shouting at her as she left, and nor should a Democrat woman ever have to face that, and nor should a Republican woman.”

Building on having name-checked carnival barker Brian Karem, McEnany added that there should be “a modicum of respect that I think reporters and those at the podium in a political role should have for one another,” but was sullied by “reporters who were more interested in being political operatives, let’s say, than journalists.”

McEnany left viewers to conjure up which reporters she was talking about and, in contrast to many of the reporters she dealt with, she took the high road by making clear that “there are some incredible reporters who, to this day, represent the kind of journalism I think is good.”

McEnany's attack on Karem is part of a grudge against him that dates back months.

What McEnany (and Houck) don't seem to understand is that respect has to be earned, and because McEnany spent her sporadic press briefings attacking reporters who ask reasonable questions and telling them lies starting from her very first day on the job, she didn't.

Houck also gave McEnany a pass for shirking her job at the end: "The interview also touched on how McEnany had wanted to give a final briefing to recap the administration’s many, many successes, but the events of (and the fallout from) January 6 inhibited that." There was nothing stopping McEnany from doing her job in the final two weeks of Trump's presidency;' instead, the day after the pro-Trump Capitol riot on Jan. 6, McEnany read a brief statement, refused to take questions, then fled the room, never to be seen again. She could have answered questions about the Trump administration's response to the riot -- which might have earned her a modicum of respect -- but she chose not to do her job.

But that doesn't matter to Houck. As for as he's concerned, McEnany is perfect in every way, especially in their shared loathing for journalists who refuse to parrot right-wing narratives.

Houck and Fondacaro inadvertently demonstrated why nobody should ever take the MRC's bad-faith "media criticism" seriously.

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