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The MRC's Anniversary of Distraction

The Media Research Center's coverage of the first anniversary of the Capitol riot featured nothing about its role in helping to incite it and everything about trying to deflect attention away from it.

By Terry Krepel
Posted 2/24/2022

The Media Research Center played a role in setting up the Jan. 6, 2021, pro-Trump riot at the Capitol -- first by constructing its own Big Lie about how the election was stolen from Donald Trump as a companion to Trump's own, then by providing a platform for Trump's bogus claims and whining that he was being "censored" any time a fact-checker disproved him. After the riot, the MRC continued to not cover itself in glory, with leader Brent Bozell effectively justifying the violence while his underlings attempted to distance conservatives from the spectacle.

So when the first anniversary came around, the MRC made it clear its coverage was going to be less about dealing with what happened and its role in make it happen and much more about narrative development to deflect attention away from all that by complaining that only Democrats want to remind people of what happened.

That coverage of -- or, more accurately, whining about -- the anniversary of the riot began a few days earlier. A Jan. 4 post by P.J. Gladnick, for instance, complained about "Politico reveling that the Democrats are attempting to use the occasion to engage in flat out partisanship by federalizing the elections at the state level so as to favor that party." Tim Graham preemptively whined further in his Jan. 5 column:

On the cusp of an absolute glut of liberal-media anniversary coverage of the January 6 riot, CNN media reporter Brian Stelter was cranky. “We live in a world where Donald Trump's top supporters malign the media for being ‘obsessed’ with January 6.”

You don’t have to be a Trump supporter to see it. The media obsession with January 6 is easily quantifiable. Saying there’s not an obsession is like claiming the media didn’t do enough coverage of Princess Di’s car crash and funeral. The New York Times editorial board posted an article titled “Every Day Is Jan. 6 Now,” and the daily media coverage reflects that mentality.

You don’t have to be an election denier who thinks Trump won in a landslide to acknowledge it. But Stelter maligned everyone who thinks the pro-Biden media are overdoing 1/6 as a deranged kook: “We're not a single story or smoking-gun confession or criminal charge away from snapping back to a shared reality. Instead, we're experiencing something that might be best explained by psychologists or therapists or algorithm developers.”

Graham was unable to unequivocally criticize the insurrection, choosing to play whataboutism instead: "The riot at the Capitol was a horrible event, and every thug and goon that beat a policeman should be prosecuted. But everyone knows that when thugs and goons tried to set a federal courthouse on fire in Portland with federal employees inside it last year, these self-appointed 'reality' definers didn't find an 'insurrection.' They have a double standard on violent revolts against the government...when the thugs are on the left."

Graham had originally disavowed whataboutism in the immediate wake of the riot, insisting that "this is not rioting at an Apple store. This is where our democracy lives." He appears to have gotten back in lockstep with his fellow MRC ideologues, and now apparently believes that destroying the Capitol is exactly the same as rioting in a Apple store.

The preemptive whining continued in a Jan. 5 post by Kyle Drennen:

In an effort to push the Democratic Party agenda on the federal takeover of elections and hype an anti-Republican campaign narrative ahead of the 2022 midterm elections, leftist media outlets have planned an avalanche of special coverage commemorating the one year anniversary of the January 6th Capitol Hill riot.

On Wednesday, network hosts eagerly announced plans to anchor live from Washington, D.C. on Thursday, while cable channels promised to devote hours of air time to the topic.

Bill D'Agostino kicked off the MRC's day-of coverage by constructing the right-wing talking point that any discussion of the riot is nothing more than a Democratic talking point:

After obsessing over the January 6 Capitol Hill riot for the past year, the media are now using its one-year anniversary to advocate for unprecedented, sweeping election reforms.

Democrats would have been foolish not to make political hay out of this anniversary, and so they've decided to wield it as a justification for federalizing America's elections. Naturally, their friends in the media quickly flooded the zone with articles and TV segments supporting the party's cause.


With the 6th now upon us, Americans are in for a day jam-packed with cynical political gamesmanship and overtures about Our Democracy™.

But don’t expect the press to stop haranguing about the Capitol riot once the fight over election laws is gone from the news cycle. January 6 has been the media’s favorite rhetorical cudgel for the past year, and they’re not likely to put it back on the shelf anytime soon.

And when the anniversary coverage they preemptively whined about actually happened, the MRC whined about that too. Curtis Houck huffed:

On Thursday, it was the liberal media’s Super Bowl and on the first anniversary of the January 6, 2021 riot at the U.S. Capitol as, according to a NewsBusters analysis of the major broadcast network morning newscasts, ABC’s Good Morning America, CBS Mornings, and NBC’s Today spent roughly 90 minutes dissecting, obsessing over, and painting the 75 million-plus Trump voters as enemies.

The networks specifically combined for 89 minutes and 31 seconds and, of that, a whopping 50 minutes and 28 seconds came from CBS Mornings with co-host Tony Dokoupil anchoring from outside the U.S. Capitol, introducing and/or leading ten of the 11 January 6-related segments.

Houck didn't explain to readers why the anniversary wasn't newsworthy -- he simply whined that it was covered.

Clay Waters similarly complained: "The New York Times is making hay during the intense Democratic politicization of the one-year anniversary of the violent Capitol Hill riots of January 6, 2021, what an online headline called “the worst American attack in democracy in centuries.” (How many centuries are we talking about here?)" He also grumbled that the Times blew up the right-wing whataboutism narrative that Graham used, claiming without evidence that the reporter "tortured the data to downplay the summer 2020 riots over the police killing of George Floyd."

Targeting Biden's speech

The day-of coverage continued by lashing out at President Biden's speech on the anniversary and at anyone who happened to like the speech. Drennen ranted at NBC's Chuck Todd for liking it, then praised other network commentators for being somewhat less effusive:

During NBC News special coverage of President Biden’s divisive speech using the anniversary of the January 6 Capitol Hill riot to attack Republicans, Meet the Press moderator Chuck Todd absurdly claimed the screed was not partisan “if you’re pro-democracy and pro-America.” He also predictably hailed the address as Biden at his “best.”

“I thought it was an important moment that he did do this....This is important for now and it’s important for the history books here,” Todd gushed over Biden’s remarks. The journalist then promptly dismissed anyone criticizing the speech for being divisive:


In sharp contrast to Todd, CBS Mornings host Tony Dokoupil described Biden’s address this way: “He ended the speech with a reference to the United States of America, underlining that word ‘united.’ But much of the speech was anything but a unification message.” Though to be clear, Dokoupil wasn’t criticizing, he was thrilled: “[Biden] called the former president a defeated president and ticked off three lies that he laid at the feet of that former adversary...trying to restore the country’s attention to a particular set of facts that are important and are high-stakes for future of this nation.”

Meanwhile, during ABC’s special coverage of the presidential address, World News Tonight anchor David Muir proclaimed: “You could clearly hear the passion in his voice as he told the American people what’s at stake as we mark this one year mark since January 6th. Articulating the case that this democracy is fragile and must be protected.” Correspondent Cecilia Vega applauded: “...these were his strongest words yet on former President Trump since he has taken office....these attacks were personal and they were one after the next...”

On NBC, Todd cheered Biden as nonpartisan. On CBS and ABC, the President was celebrated for being highly divisive and launching personal attacks. Were they all watching the same speech?

A few hours later, Drennen lashed out at Todd again:

The cavalcade of leftist media idiocy regarding the one year anniversary of the January 6th Capitol Hill riot reached a new low on MSNBC Thursday afternoon as anchors Chuck Todd and Andrea Mitchell ridiculously wailed that current divisions in the country were worse than during the Civil War. Todd went so far as to utter the historically illiterate nonsense that “Lincoln’s election was more accepted in 1860,” than Joe Biden’s election in 2020.

“The election, the peaceful transfer of power, something that since the Civil War, we have never argued about, we have never had a disagreement about – actually, since the founders,” Mitchell proclaimed early in the 2:00 p.m. ET hour. That prompted Todd to chime in: “Yeah, Lincoln’s election was more accepted in 1860.”

Apparently Todd missed history class the day it was taught that half the country seceded following Lincoln’s electoral win in 1860, sparking the Civil War, which killed 600,000 people. In April of 1865, just months after being reelected in 1864, Lincoln was assassinated.

Rather than challenge such an insane and blatantly false assertion from Todd, Mitchell agreed: “Exactly. And I was just thinking about that, even the Civil War, we did not disagree with the passing of power.”

Drennen didn't mention that his employer -- through its promotion of a version of Trump's Big Lie -- does not accept Biden's election.

Houck similarly lost it in bashing another speech-lover:

Continuing Thursday’s theme of news organizations allowing all nutty comparisons to fly on the anniversary of the January 6 riot, ABC News presidential historian Mark Updegrove proclaimed after President Biden’s “powerful” speech that it belonged alongside those from “FDR after Pearl Harbor,” “Lyndon Johnson after Selma,” “George W. Bush after 9/11,” and, most egregiously, Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg address.

Appearing on the network’s streaming platform and asked by host Kyra Phillips whether “history” can “be rewritten,” Updegrove replied that “the future of the country is at stake” without heeding Biden’s words (and thus his agenda), which served as “a powerful statement about democracy.”

“This was FDR after Pearl Harbor. This is Lyndon Johnson after Selma. This is George W. Bush after 9/11. Joe Biden wasn't able to make a statement after – after January 6th,” Updegrove said, adding that Biden had “wanted to unite the nation” at his inauguration, but it was time for a change.


Unfazed by the insanity that, as per his logic, Trump supporters are akin to al-Qaeda hijackers and Japanese bombers, Phillips invited him to explain “why is it so important for us to continue to remember this moment in history as we move forward.”

Having sufficiently lashed out at Biden and anyone who likes him, it was Nicholas Fondacaro's turn to lash out anew at more coverage of the anniversary:

As NewsBusters documented Thursday morning, the anniversary of January 6 was their Super Bowl as the broadcast networks (ABC, CBS, and NBC) spent nearly 90-combined-minutes obsessing over the riot at the Capitol like their political careers depended on it. That infatuation cared over through half-time (to stick with the football nomenclature) to their evening newscasts where CBS and NBC each gave it over 80 percent of their total airtime.

NBC Nightly News was arguably the most political invested given their ties to MSNBC. Of their total airtime dedicated to delivering the news (18 minutes and 33 seconds) they spent 15 minutes and 27 seconds, or 83.3% on January 6 and stories related to it.

Not included in these time tallies are the opening teases, pre-commercial teases, teases of upcoming network content/reports, and commercials.

Curiously, Fondacaro did not count up the amount of time Fox News devoted to the anniversary -- you know, for comparison purposes.

Kevin Tober, meanwhile, was upset that NBC's Lester Holt did an interview with Nancy Pelosi:

NBC News has always been in the tank for the Democratic Party, and Thursday was no different. On NBC Nightly News during an exclusive interview with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on the topic of the anniversary of the January 6 Capitol Hill riots, Lester Holt gave her a fluffy softball interview that was a borderline therapy session.

The first question was probably the most sycophantic toward Pelosi where he asked about President Biden's divisive speech earlier in the day where he attacked former President Trump. Lester praised Biden's speech and wondered why he hadn't given it sooner:


Next up, Holt played therapist instead of journalist and asked Pelosi to share her experience on January 6 and how she felt: "I want you to take me into that day if you will. We all remember you being quickly escorted off the podium. I’ve heard you talk about it before. You didn't want to go." Holt empathized: "Do you think now, though, knowing what you know, do you think about what would have happened had you stayed?"

Tober went on to pretend to be appalled that "Holt would try to portray partial-birth abortion-loving Pelosi as some kind of devout Catholic," going on to rant: "She has always been a bitter divisive partisan Democrat. The fact that Lester Holt would let her get away with this act shows how far in the tank he is for the liberal agenda."

Then again, Tober and the rest of the MRC crew are bitter, divisive, partisan Republicans, so maybe their media criticism isn't worth much.

Protecting Fox News (and failing)

The MRC's coverage then reached the stage where it tried to make Fox News look good by attacking CNN and MSNBC. Mark Finkelstein got mad that MSNBC highlighted Republican criticism of the riot:

The enemy of my enemy is my friend, per the ancient adage. And thus, as Democrats aggressively marked the anniversary of the January 6 riot to condemn Donald Trump, MSNBC took a moment to praise Liz and Dick Cheney and Karl Rove for taking a stand with the Democrats in condemning the riot. As if other Republicans didn't.

Fondacaro, meanwhile, had a meltdown over CNN's special on the riot because it called out Fox News' role in stoking it:

For years now, the liberal media have been telling us the country is in a “cold civil war” or a “neo-civil war” because people and policies they don’t like have popularity. But according to CNN’s Anderson Cooper during the network’s January 6 primetime special (Live From the Capitol: January 6th, One Year Later) it was the folks at “other networks” – aka Fox News – that were “relishing the idea” of sparking another civil war in America.

But rather than offer any defense of Fox News, Fondacaro bizarrely focused on CNN's failure to say the words "Fox News" in its criticism, even though we all know who they're referring to: "Speaking of bravery, why couldn’t either of these men speak up and name names? Who was calling for a civil war? Who was against the police? That’s because if they did, then they would need to prove their accusations."

Houck, meanwhile, grumbled about how much time CNN and MSNBC spend on anniversary coverage:

It was bound to be a nauseating day for anyone who turned on CNN or MSNBC Thursday during their voluminous coverage for the first anniversary of the January 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol and, according to a NewsBusters tallying of their live programming (20 hours on CNN and 19 hours on MSNBC), they didn’t disappoint.

All told, the two far-left channels spent 1,653 minutes marking the occasion and demonizing all 75 million-plus Trump voters.

With the formal total clocking in at 1,653 minutes and two seconds (and translating to 27 hours, 33 minutes, and two seconds), MSNBC’s 838 minutes and 33 seconds surprisingly beat out the perpetually degrading and perhaps most insufferable CNN, which had 814 minutes and 29 seconds.
It's bizarre that Houck thinks telling the truth of what happened that day is "nauseating" -- what about the truth sets off that nausea? -- and the act of doing so makes one "far-left." And it's curious that Houck didn't serve up the amount of time Fox News spent on the anniversary. After all, wouldn't a comparison of coverage with his favorite TV channel be useful here?

Houck also sneered at a riot victim, huffing that "retired Capitol Police officer Michael Fanone — who’s cashing in on his service and anti-Trump rhetoric by becoming a CNN law enforcement analyst, proclaimed on New Day that the right’s 'still engaging in the same violent rhetoric' from a year ago, adding that Republicans are 'insurrectionist' 'jackasses.'" Houck didn't mention that rioters attacked Fanone with a stun gun, while another rioter yelled, "Kill him with his own gun!" Houck did not dispute any characterization of the rioters by Fanone, and for him to claim Fanone is "cashing in" on being severely beaten by a pro-Trump mob is sickening.

Houck tried for an sad little pro-Fox own in another post:

CNN and MSNBC spent over 1,600 minutes Thursday obsessing over the first anniversary of the January 6 riot on the U.S. Capitol, but it failed to translate into any success in the ratings department.

Thanks to early numbers from Nielsen Media Research, the Fox News Channel cruised to an easy victory in both total viewers with roughly 1.567 million and 245,000 in the 25-54 demographic.

According to a Fox News press release, FNC defeated CNN “in every hour across both categories” as the Jeff Zucker-led channel was only able to fetch 742,869 total viewers overall and 139,202 across Thursday in the demo.

MSNBC was able to best CNN in total viewers with about 1.049 million viewers, but narrowly lost in the 25-54 group as the Comcast-owned property garnered just 136,019 viewers.

Houck made sure not to mention the fact that CNN and MSNBC's coverage together beat Fox News, which demonstrated there was a bigger audience for that content. And, again, Houck didn't elaborate on the contents of Fox News' coverage (aside from mentioning a supposedly "challenging and substantive interview" with Liz Cheney on Fox) or how much time it spent on the anniversary.

Odds and ends

Gladnick tried to invent a conspiracy theory in a Jan. 7 post:

On January 6, the media was chock full of stories about the events at Capitol Hill on the day of the riot. One potentially big event that could have overshadowed what happened at the Capitol building was a couple of pipe bombs planted near the Democratic National Committee and the Republican National Committee buildings. Fortunately neither bomb went off, but the mystery remains of who was the pipe bomber that still remains at large.

Because of the January 6 anniversary, several media outlets were speculating about the mystery of who the pipe bomber was and why the FBI has not found him despite conducting an intensive investigation. You can see stories about the investigation into the pipe bomber suspect at such sources as CBS News, the Associated Press (via PBS), and The Atlantic.

One thing the stories all have in common is what appears to be a lack of curiosity why the FBI hasn't used a very common investigative technique to identify the bomber.


Why hasn't the FBI attempted to track the pipe bomber's GPS movements via the phone pinging off the cell phone towers? We know the suspect used his cell phone at least five times since his movements were tracked by surveillance cameras such as in the one provided by the FBI below.

And since the suspect's locations and times were known from video surveillance it should be a rather easy matter to find out where he started out from and where he went after he planted the bombs via GPS tracking as well as perhaps what phone number(s) he called.


So if the FBI can use cell tower tracking to identify grandmothers just standing around at the Capitol building on January 6, why haven't they used the same technology to find the pipe bomber?

Of course, Gladnick doesn't know that the FBI hasn't done this -- he's just baselessly suggesting that it has something to hide by not having arrested anyone yet. Curiously, Gladnick offered no evidence that anyone in the right-wing media has done what he demands "the media" do, "pick up a phone and call the FBI or the January 6 Committee to ask them about this."

(We would also remind Gladnick that the MRC used to not care about the pipe bomb at the DNC, fretting only about the one at the RNC.)

Brad Wilmouth used a Jan. 8 post to maliciously reframe remarks by reporter Yamiche Alcindor. She pointed out the inescapable fact that most of the Capitol insurrectionists were white and that a similarly violent crowd of people of color would have been treated much more harshly by law enforcement; Wilmouth twisted this to claim that Alcindor was "possibly disappointed that more of the 1/6 Capitol Hill rioters were not shot by Capitol Police."

Meanwhile, Graham was the designated MRC whiner about Vice President Kamala Harris' 1/6 speech. First, he complained that Harris' likening of the riot to 9/11 and Pearl Harbor was not fact-checked, whining that Snopes dinged right-winger Todd Starnes for falsely claiming she said the riot was "worse than" 9/11. "They didn't fact-check the leftist. They fact-checked the conservative," Graham huffed; note his description of Harris as a "leftist" but not Starnes as merely a "conservative" even though he holds very extreme views.

(Also, we don't recall Graham demanding a fact-check when a Fox News contributor likened the burning of the channel's Christmas tree to Pearl Harbor.)

Then, he complained that PBS interviewer Judy Woodruff didn't trash Harris like a Fox News employee would:

On January 6, Vice President Kamala Harris shamelessly attempted to compare the Capitol riot to Pearl Harbor and 9-11. Later that day, she was interviewed by Judy Woodruff on the PBS NewsHour, who asked absolutely nothing about that rhetoric. Instead, Woodward complained to Harris about election lies and poor attitudes and "deep polarization" -- as if the media have no role in all this. She began with a series of 1/6 softballs:


Then Woodruff heralded Liz Cheney for holding Trump fully responsible for creating the Capitol riot -- that he "summoned this mob, assembled the mob, and lit the flame of this attack" -- and asked "Is she right?" Then Woodruff suggested (as a flock of "objective" journalists have) that Trump should face criminal prosecution: "If that's the case, then does that not mean there will have to be serious consideration of a criminal prosecution?"

This is the exact opposite of how she repeatedly shamed Mike Pence at the GOP convention in 2016, that "lock her up" talk was too vicious. (Unlike "lock Trump up.")

Graham didn't explain why Pence should not be held to account for what his running mate said.

Graham also spent his Jan. 7 podcast summing up all the whining the MRC has done about the anniversary coverage, the description of which was summed up in the NewsBusters post promoting it: "What makes the 1/6 coverage so inauthentic is that the liberal media does not object to all rioting. They object to Trump backers rioting. When leftists riot for 'racial justice,' they are fine with it, and dress it up in terms like 'rebellion' or a 'racial reckoning.' If the media were actually interested in building "shared facts" then they might share the fact that all rioting is horrible."

In the podcast, Graham went into a whataboutism rant: "We are not going to be be lectured on Jan. 6 about rioting and rebellions from people who want to defund police, who want to defund ICE, who want to abolish the prisons. You don't get to talk to us about insurrections!" He then went on to deny that Ashli Babbitt, the rioter who was killed by law enforcement inside the Capitol, was a martyr -- then complained that the Associated Press published a "snotty piece... attacking her character."

There was more: He whined that the anniversary got more coverage than the Benghazi attack, then falsely asserted that the person who shot Republican congressman Steve Scalise was "inspired by Rachel Maddow and Bernie Sanders." And he served up an old-school rant about Barack Obama's connections to Bill Ayers.

The MRC was STILL whining about the Jan. 6 coverage five days later, when Geoffrey Dickens did a Jan. 11 roundup piece grumbling that "STILL to this day the media are exploiting the Capitol Hill riots as a way to push the Democrat’s agenda on everything, especially their desire to federalize elections." Apparently, Fox News isn't part of "the media."

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