When The Story Turns, The MRC Hides The Truth
The Media Research Center loves pushing right-wing narratives. But when those narratives get overtaken by the facts and make right-wingers look bad, the MRC either gets defensive or refuses to correct the record at all.
By Terry Krepel
In a Feb.. 16 post, the Media Research Center's Kristine Marsh complained that The New York Times has quietly placed “updates” in their articles about the Capitol Police officer whom they reported had been killed with a fire extinguisher by a violent pro-Trump mob, during January 6th’s riot." Declaring the story to have been a "false scoop" and "fake news," Marsh added: "At the top of their January 8 article, Times writers Marc Santora, Megan Specia and Mike Baker affixed this vague 'update,' (note: not 'correction'): 'UPDATE: New information has emerged regarding the death of the Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick that questions the initial cause of his death provided by officials close to the Capitol Police.'"
Marsh won't tell you that the MRC has published its own share of stories that were overtaken by facts -- and it never issued proper corrections. Most notoriously, it heavily promoted a claim by Fox News anchor Bret Baier before the 2016 presidential election that Hillary Clinton's indictment was imminent; Baier walked it back a few days later, the MRC -- which had vowed to, in the words of Brent Bozell, "report developments on this continuing cover-up every hour from here on out," never did. There's also the bogus claim that CNN was scripting questions at a CNN debate, the death of a Border Patrol agent that turned out not to be at the hands of an illegal immigrant, an undocumented immigrant arrested on smuggling charges that were later dropped.
The MRC has even defended the "fake news" of others. In 2017, it hopped on the right-wing anti-immigrant bandwagon in order to exploit allegations that a 14-year-old girl at a Rockville, Md., high school was sexually assaulted by two students who were undocumented immigrants. The MRC's Brittany Hughes even scored a Fox News appearance where she "lambasted ABC, CBS, and NBC for their callous refusal to cover the alleged heinous rape of a female student in a Washington D.C. suburban high school by two men and one of which is here in the country illegally." But prosecutors later decided to drop rape charges against the two students, citing a lack of corroboration and numerous inconsistencies, while still pursuing child pornography charges against the two, apparently stemming from images the girl shared with them.
So, did the MRC feel a little sheepish about having promoted a story that was retracted? Not at all.
Curtis Houck was in full distraction mode, complaining that "After remaining silent on the alleged March rape of a teenage girl and illegal immigrant in a D.C. suburb, journalists from ABC and CBS demanded the White House on Friday apologize, 'retract' their comments on the case, and admit they 'unfairly jump[ed] to conclusions' now that prosecutors have dropped the rape charges against the two teenage boys." Houck further whined: "Again, this is coming from the same outlet that, like their fellow cohorts, sought to speculate on what happened with the Trayvon Martin, the Duke lacrosse team, and Michael Brown cases before the facts came to light."
Nicholas Fondacaro was further offended that CNN's Brian Stelter called out Fox News for not promoting the dismissal of charges as obsessively as their original filing:
Stelter never addressed the child pornography charges. He instead railed against [Fox News anchor Chris] Wallace for not talking about why it became an international news story. "The answer is his network. Too much of the coverage of this story omitted the conservative media's role in making it a national story,” he said with a clear disdain for conservative media. There was still no explanation about why the Rockville case shouldn’t be a national story.Of course, the idea that "there was little evidence that the charges wouldn’t stick" applies to stories like the Duke lacrosse case as well -- remember, much of that came from the district attorney, Mike Nifong, until it was discovered he was behaving unethically, and the case was rooted in lacrosse team members hiring a stripper -- but the MRC would never admit that because it runs counter to the MRC's anti-media narrative. Indeed, just last year the MRC's Clay Waters ranted that the Duke lacrosse case was a "racially charged rape hoax" perpetuated by the media -- something the MRC would never call the Rockville case, even though the description arguably also applies.
Jorge Bonilla tried mightily to spin the dismissal of the charges, insisting that it was "due to a quirk in Maryland's rape statute." Huh? Since when is lack of solid evidence, as stated by the prosecutors, a legal "quirk"?
Bonilla went on to lament that in coverage of the case on Univision, "The actual facts of the case took a back seat to the optics of whether 'conservative media' and Trump now look bad for having pointed out the immigration status of these youths." He then cheered, in boldface, that the remaining child pornography charges are "a very serious charge that leads to certain deportation."
Brittany Hughes -- who exploited the story on Fox News -- has yet to retract her attack on "liberal" media outlets for not covering a bogus story to her satisfaction.
Which brings us to last year and the tumult related to the coronavirus pandemic and racial justice protests. The MRC not only refused to correct a story that had changed, but also dishonestly distanced itself against extremist protests against a Democratic governor -- which it hyped as peaceful" -- when some of those protesters were implicated in a kidnapping plot against her.
MRC vs. Gretchen Whitmer
Near the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, the MRC -- like the good pro-Trump cheerleader it was all through his presidency -- defended President Trump against accusations that he was encouraging protests against state lockdown orders to slow the spread of coronavirus with tweets like "LIBERATE MICHIGAN!"
Gabriel Hays bashed "insane lefties" who "jumped to accuse the president of inciting rebellion," insisting that "Trump, like most Americans, wants the country to get back to work."
Curtis Houck was outraged that a CNN host "wondered if President Trump would be to blame for deaths of Americans who have protested economically, mentally, and physically crippling stay-at-home orders." Houck whined in another post:
Liberal media elites sure don’t seem to have a problem with life-crippling stay-at-home orders stretching through 2020 into 2021 and 2022, do they? On Friday’s Situation Room, CNN host Wolf Blitzer and chief White House correspondent Jim Acosta griped about how President Trump would not only acknowledge the mental toll that they’ve taken on the American people, but not denouncing those voicing their displeasure in various state capitals.
Meanwhile, the MRC cheered protests in Michigan against Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat, for relatively strict lockdown restrictions:
Scott Whitlock, meanwhile, played whataboutism in trying to deflect from what even he admits are "nuts and extremists" at the Michigan protests:
When there is a liberal protest with signs comparing Republicans to Hitler and calling for violence, journalists tend to carefully avoid those images on network TV. But a few bigots and nuts who attend anti-lockdown protests must be representative of the group at large. That was the message on Friday’s CBS This Morning. Co-host Gayle King ominously warned, “There are growing concerns this morning over who is turning out for demonstrations against public safety measures in the coronavirus crisis.”
In a similar fit of whataboutism, Geoffrey Dickens huffed that the "largely peaceful rallies by anti-lockdown protesters" were "smeared as “racist” “threatening” and compared to Neo-Nazis," while George Floyd protesters were described as "mere 'protesters'" when the demonstrations "started to turn violent."
As the summer dragged on, the MRC continued to attack Whitmer. A July post by Duncan Schroeder complained that an inter viewer "did not ask Whitmer about her lethal order to send recovering patients to nursing homes or about how she marched with Black Lives Matter protesters in violation of her own coronavirus orders," instead seeking to "blame Michigan’s young people, anti-shutdown protesters, and President Trump for Michigan’s struggles with coronavirus." And Graham complained that "CNN cued up Democrat [sic] Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to describe how the people protesting her restrictions were a band of scary gun-lugging extremists, maybe even Nazis and Confederates."
Fast-forward a few months, and it turns out those protesters weren't quite as "peaceful" as portrayed -- and that Whitmer was right. A group of those protesters -- some of them right-wing militia members -- were arrested for plotting to kidnap Whitmer in retaliation for Whitmer's lockdown orders, with hopes of instigating a civil war.
Needless to say, the MRC went into even deeper defense mode. In contrast to its blanket smears of everyone who participated in Black Lives Matter protests as socialist Antifa terrorists, it complained when anyone raised questions about the violent undercurrents of the anti-lockdown protests by pointing out the arrests of the kidnapping plotters:
Schroeder returned to sum up the shifted right-wing narrative:
On Saturday night’s CNN Newsroom, host Ana Cabrera collaborated with Michigan’s Democratic Attorney General Dana Nessel to forward insane conspiracies about President Trump inspiring the attempted kidnapping of Michigan’s Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer. Seemingly forgetting that some of the would-be kidnappers have expressed sentiments that are decidedly not right-wing, Cabrera stood by as Nessel declared “I know it is” Trump who inspired the kidnappers.
Unsurprisingly, there's not an ounce of self-reflection going on here -- which there perhaps ought to be given how much the MRC has attacked Whitmer and supported the summer protests against her.
More facts change, MRC stays silent
That wasn't the only instance in which the facts turned on the MRC's right-wing narratives. It was predictably outraged when rioters in Minneapolis in the wake of the death of George Floyd burned down a police precinct.
Houck regurgitated a rant from Fox News' Tucker Carlson against CNN for having purportedly (and ironically) encouraged violence, claiming that "Amazingly, CNN largely kept up this tune with a litany of analysts, commentators, contributors, hosts, and reporters until late Thursday night into early Friday when the Minneapolis Police Department’s Third Precinct was lit on fire. Only then did Don Lemon and friends repeatedly emphasize that what was going on was wrong."
Mark Finkelstein praised MSNBC host Brian Williams for having "actually criticized the Governor of Minnesota and the Mayor of Minneapolis, Democrats both, for their inaction last night in the face of the riots. Williams accused them of having 'abandoned and offered up a police precinct.'"
In complaining that Facebook has allegedly "repeatedly censored or banned groups on the right while allowing reportedly violent Antifa factions and left-wing militia organizations," Alexander Hall and Alec Schemmel highlighted a Fox News report on damage from the riots and that it "described how rioters had 'torched' a police precinct."
But the MRC's effort to blame all violence on Antifa and Black Lives Matter activists again got trumped by reality, particularly in the case of the Minneapolis police precinct burning. This happened in October:
In the wake of protests following the May 25 killing of George Floyd, a member of the Boogaloo Bois opened fire on the Minneapolis Police Third Precinct with an AK-47-style gun and screamed “Justice for Floyd” as he ran away, according to a federal complaint made public Friday.
Rather than try to rejigger its narrative to account for this inconvenient fact, the MRC did the next best thing: censored the story completely. But the MRC had been spending months trying to minimize or whatabout violent acts by the Boogaloo Bois and other far-right extremists.
When MSNBC's Chris Hayes referenced the shooting of the Federal Protective Services officer, Michael Dellano swooped into whataboutism mode: "It cannot be stressed enough that these statements from Hayes came after many acts of violence and destruction from the far left. The destruction of statues of our nation’s founders, such as George Washington, were organized acts of vandalism from the left that Hayes completely dismissed. Instead Hayes found it more important to discuss a claim that white supremacists are rapidly planning violence, to distract is viewers from the acts of violence and vandalism that have been coming from the left on a daily basis."
When a New York Times article pointed out that the uniform of choice for the Boogaloo Bois is a Hawaiian shirt, Waters sneered: "The New York Times has identified a new villain in their insane cancel culture wars. Hawaiian shirts. I kid you not. On Monday, freelancer Nathan Taylor Pemberton targeted Hawaiian shirts because some undesirable people wear them." He then launched a personal attack on the reporter: "You really need to seek help, Nathan, but please make sure that your shrink does not wear a Hawaiian shirt while analyzing you as he writes on his pad, 'Just plain nuts!'"
Houck played whataboutism on MSNBC host Joy Reid after she pointed out the existence of "white domestic terrorists like the Boogaloo Boys": "Should terrorism across the spectrum be denounced? Absolutely. Whether it’s Antifa or the Boogaloo Boys, it should all be denounced. But for Reid, she wants you to think the issue lies almost exclusive with the right."
Yet another example of this, also linked to racial unrest: In a June 11 item, Bill D'Agostino complained that "ABC, CBS and NBC have churned out a massive amount of coverage for protests during the past two weeks (1,042 minutes on their morning and evening news programs), but these same networks have spent almost no airtime letting viewers know about the injuries and death inflicted on police officers during these two weeks of social unrest." He cited two incidents in particular:
On the night of May 29, federal law enforcement officer Dave Patrick Underwood was killed in a drive-by shooting while providing security at a U.S. courthouse in Oakland. The incident was labeled “an act of domestic terrorism” by Acting Deputy DHS Secretary Ken Cuccinelli. Underwood’s death received just 10 seconds of airtime from NBC; the incident received 14 seconds from CBS and 19 seconds from ABC.
The MRC has yet to tell you, however, that the man who was arrested in both killings is a right-wing extremist.
Steven Carrillo, an Air Force sergeant who is apparently affiliated with the far-right Boogaloo movement -- which seeks to ignite a second civil war in the U.S. -- was arrested on June 11, the same day as D'Agostino's post, for the Santa Cruz ambush, then was charged five days later with the killing of the Oakland officer.
The MRC has invoked both incidents to suggest that left-wing Antifa activists are responsible for these officers' deaths:
It wasn't until July 6 -- nearly a month after Carillo's arrest in Underwood's death -- that the MRC even vaguely suggested Underwood's death wasn't at all the way it had portrayed it. A post by Brad Wilmouth attacked a PBS report "promoting the leftist campaign to boycott Facebook because it allows viral content that liberals don't like," complaining that it "mentioned a popular commentary on Candace Owens, and then in the same sentence smeared it together with a couple of members of an extremist group who murdered black federal law enforcement officer Dave Underwood in California." Wilmouth refused to identify those extremists as on his side of the political spectrum.
The MRC should tell its readers the full story about the incidents it cites -- you know, what it demands from the media outlets it criticizes.