The MRC's War On Warnock
The Media Research Center and its "news" division, CNSNews.com, formed a tag team to attack Raphael Warnock, the Democratic candidate for a Georgia Senate seat -- effectively serving as the (unpaid?) oppo-research division of his Republican opponent.
By Terry Krepel
The MRC got started early with making misleading and nit-picky attacks on Warnock. Scott Whitlock went on a misleading anti-Warnock tirade in a Nov. 18 post under a headline laughably calling Warnock "Radical Raphael":
Journalists have already shifted from attack dogs for Donald Trump to cuddly puppies in how they cover Joe Biden. But they’ve been strangely quiet on the background of a man who could help the Democratic Party win the U.S. Senate in a Georgia runoff election.
No, Scott, Warnock did not claim that "one could not serve in the military and be a good Christian." In full context, Warnock was fleshing out the old "cannot serve God and mammon" Bible verse and was speaking out against militarism, not military service.
In his Nov. 20 column, MRC executive Tim Graham declared Warnock to be an "acolyte" of Rev. Jeremiah Wright, whom the right-wing media spent years inveighing against for his links to Barack Obama. Graham also took Warnock's remarks about God and the military out of context, listing it as among his allegedly "extreme sermons" (even though it's based on a Bible verse) and sneering, "If that’s about violence, he hasn’t claimed nobody can serve God and Planned Parenthood."
Since Warnock once said something nice about Wright, that gave the MRC license to bring up all the old attacks on him, including the notorious "God damn America" quote. When someone pointed out that the remark was taken out of context and that the right-wing outrage against both Warnock and Wright seemed to stem in part from the fact that both are black, Mark Finkelstein retorted in a Nov. 23 post that "When it comes to attempting to explain away the unexplainable, nothing's more hackneyed than claiming the offensive statement was 'taken out of context,'" then insisting that Loeffler wasn't being racist by attacking black pastors: "If Warnock had been defending a pastor of pallor who made the same despicable statement cursing our country, Loeffler would surely be bringing it to the attention of Georgia voters in a similar way."
Graham returned in a Nov. 30 post for yet another nitpicky meltdown against a fact-checker for checking facts. He whined that PolitiFact ruled that Warnock's statement that Loeffler is for "getting rid of health care in the middle of a pandemic" was "half true," huffing, "By the extremely literal logic that PolitiFact often applies to the GOP, it could be interpreted that 'getting rid of health care' means 'closing all the hospitals and forbidding doctors to work.'" Of course, getting rid of the Affordable Care Act, as Loeffler wants to do, without a replacement option means that you are, in fact, getting rid of some people's health care, at least in the form and at a price they're familiar with.
A Dec. 9 post by Gabriel Hays parroted "serious conservatives and Christians" bashing Warnock for not hating abortion enough:
If there was one thing that could make it obvious that Democrat Senate candidate Raphael Warnock is a terrible choice for U.S. Senator, it would be one of his most recent tweets proclaiming himself a pro-choice Christian. Talk about living with cognitive dissonance.
Hays had the narrative patter down, including the right-wing talking point that Warnock is a "radical."
(This echoed in part Graham's Nov. 20 column, in which he also complained that conservatives were being called out for attacking Warnock's religion but tended to cry discrimination when liberals criticized the extreme religious views of their fellow conservatives.)
On Dec. 17, Kristine Marsh tried to make a big deal out of saying that Fidel Castro's legacy as Cuban dictator is "complex" as most people's legacies are, and that Castro spoke at a church 25 years ago where Warnock was youth pastor (though there's no evidence Warnock played any role in the visit).
The perpetually ragey Nicholas Fondacaro thought he had the key to destroying Warnock's campaign in a Dec. 22 post:
Georgia Democratic Senate candidate Raphael Warnock apparently got an early piece of coal in his stocking on Christmas week. According to police body camera footage exclusively aired on Fox News Channel’s Tucker Carlson Tonight on Tuesday, the radical leftist pastor was accused by his ex-wife of running over her foot with his car as she tried to stop him from driving off with their kids, last March.
Fondacaro buried the fact that officers on scene found no apparent injury on the ex's foot and that Warnock was never charged. And his complaint is doubly ironic given that neither Fondacaro nor anyone else at the MRC told their readers that the Staten Island bar owner they lionized for standing up to purportedly draconian coronavirus lockdown restrictions actually did run over someone with his car: a sheriff's deputy. Nevertheless, Fondacaro returned the next day to rant that non-right-wing networks didn't cover the minor dispute.
Then -- as if he was on the payroll as opposition researcher for Warnock's Republican opponent, Kelly Loeffler -- Fondacaro served up another Warnock attack on Dec. 28:
Even with new reporting from the Washington Free Beacon out Monday that detailed how, in 2002, a then 12-year-old boy was abused at a church camp overseen by future Senate Democratic candidate Raphael Warnock, CNN’s Erin Burnett OutFront continued to be a staunch defender. Instead of reporting on the account of abuse victim Anthony Washington, senior national correspondent Kyung Lah defended Warnock’s radical sermons from Republican “attacks.”
The story has been a key Loeffler campaign talking point, hence Fondacaro's glomming onto it. He censored the fact that law enforcement found Warnock to be "very helpful" with the investigation into the camp, blaming miscommunication for the arrest; Warnock said he interrupted a law enforcement interview of a counselor to make sure the counselor had legal representation.
Despite the fact he censored key exculpatory aspects of the story that interfered with his narrative, Fondacaro hypocritically lectured: "If CNN was going to do a report defending Warnock’s time as a church official, then they needed to take responsibility and report on his abusive camp. In this instance, the situation wasn’t political at all. It was about his time overseeing a camp that abused children and his alleged attempt to obstruct justice."
The next day, Joseph Vazquez served up his own attack on Warnock, invoking all the key right-wing buzzwords:
Outsiders are funding nearly the entire cost of Georgia’s Democrat Senate candidates Jon Ossoff’s and Rev. Raphael Warnock’s campaigns, a new report said.
Again, this was a hypocritical attack. Vazquez was silent on the source of Loeffler's donations, and there was a reason: She and her fellow GOP Senate runoff candidate, David Perdue, received 92 percent of donations from out of state, much of it from, yes, California, Texas and Florida.
On Jan. 5, the day of the election, Hays went into full jerkass mode and sneered at Atlanta hip-hop artists turning out for the Democratic candidates:
Atlanta, Georgia, the “Mecca of Hip Hop'' will be using its greatest cultural export in order to usher in a future of one party Democrat rule for our nation.
Also that day, Clay Waters complained that the New York Times was "feverishly promoting both Democratic runoff candidates ... especially Warnock, while lobbing accusations at the Republicans." Graham similarly whined: "The Washington Post explicitly advertised for Rev. Raphael Warnock’s Senate candidacy in a splashy profile on the front of Monday’s Style section. There was a huge picture of Warnock with the sun shining off his face." Both Waters and Graham portrayed the respective news articles they were attacking as free ads for Warnock -- even though the MRC's negative attacks are effectively free ads for Perdue and Loeffler.
CNS joins the attack
Following in the footsteps of its parent, the MRC's "news" division, CNSNews.com, also went on the attack against Democratic Georgia Senate candidate Raphael Warnock.
A Dec. 16 article by Goodenough featured right-wing attacks on Warnock and Jon Ossoff, the Democrat running for Georgia's other Senate seat, claiming that "ceding Republican control of the Senate would pave the way for an agenda of creeping socialism, Supreme Court packing, and attacks on religious freedom." On Dec. 21, Goodenough took offense to Warnock's claim that America was not only fighting COVID-19 but systemic racism, which he called "COVID-1619." Goodenough ramped up the prudishness over rappers supporting Warnock and Ossoff in a Dec. 28 article, though in a somewhat less dickish way than the MRC's Hays did:
An Atlanta rapper whose sexually-explicit lyrics leave nothing to the imagination campaigned on behalf of Georgia Democratic Senate hopefuls Jon Ossoff and Reverend Raphael Warnock on Monday, urging voters to “paint Georgia blue” and “get both of those Senate seats.”
Chapman returned on Dec. 30 for more fanboying over Graham, regurgitating his claim that "the soul of the nation is at stake" in the Georgia runoff election.
When Warnock ended up winning over Loeffler (and Ossoff won over Perdue), the MRC didn't take it well. A Jan. 6 post by Kristine Marsh complained that "analysts and reporters echoed each other in hailing Democrat Raphael Warnock’s win as a rejection of Republicans’ racist messaging," which tried to make him a "scary black man." Marsh offered no factual rebuttal of the claim other than to huff that "If there’s one thing you can count on, it’s that the media will never stop crying 'racism' anytime a black Democrat is challenged on their policies."
Also in a complaining mood was Curtis Houck:
Despite Tuesday night showing a Democratic sweep in the Georgia Senate runoff election, the mood on MSNBC was anything but joyous. Instead, various hosts and panelists threw a pity party for fellow leftists, bemoaning supposed Republican voter suppression efforts and insisting Republicans should be shamed from political life as un-American racists who won’t win another presidential election.
As if he and the rest of the MRC haven't been fundamentally unhappy over the past four years in attacking any perceived enemy -- even their own fellow conservatives -- on Trump's behalf.
Kyle Drennen's complaint was eerily similar, as if there was a narrative to which the MRC was directed to adhere:
On Wednesday, anchors on all three network morning shows couldn’t contain their joy over radical left-wing Democrat Raphael Warnock winning Tuesday’s Georgia Senate runoff, with each broadcast treating him to a fawning softball interview. Rather than press him on his history of incendiary comments, scandals, or far-left ideology, the hosts gushed over the Atlanta reverend’s victory being a “political earthquake” that reflected the “kind spirit of Dr. Martin Luther King.”
Warnock even got the MRC podcast treatment on Jan. 6, where "Executive Editor Tim Graham explains how the national newspapers and networks haven't so much covered Senate candidate Raphael Warnock as covered up for him. They only wanted voters to know he was the second coming of Martin Luther King, Jr, and he was 'no radical.'"
Are all these explicitly political attacks in line with the MRC's nonprofit status, which forbids explicit political activity? One has to wonder.