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Accountability Makes The MRC Mad

The Media Research Center spent the summer raging against the House committee hearings on the events leading up to the Capitol riot and parroting right-wing talking points, attacks and distractions.

By Terry Krepel
Posted 8/28/2022

Before the start of the House committee hearings into the Capitol riot in June, Axios reported that Republican officials were planning "counterprogramming" to distract from them, and the Republican national Committee issued talking points for like-minded followers, which included "Attack Nancy Pelosi's committee and its members, portraying them as partisan, illegitimate, and a distraction for real issues," "Brand these as rigged hearings" and "Define Democrats being the real election deniers."

The Media Research Center is nothing if not a loyal follower of marching orders from the RNC or whatever dark-money right-wingers run the show there, so its coverage of the hearings largely followed that dictate. The MRC clearly had its talking points to enforce: Pretend that the public hearings being put on by House committee looking into the Capitol riot are meaningless and biased, and that conservatives should spend more time being fed right-wing propaganda instead of watching them. The flagship piece for this narrative was a June 6 item by Curtis Houck lashing out at non-right-wing outlets for covering the first hearing, which carried the desperate-sounding headline "No One Cares":

Amid a decaying culture, rampant crime, record-high inflation, struggling wages, and surging gas prices (among other things), Monday’s CBS Mornings and NBC’s Today want Americans to focus this week on a different issue: primetime hearings from the House Select Committee on January 6. On Monday’s shows, the two combined for five minutes and 37 seconds of coverage doing the bidding of their loyal source, Congressman Adam Schiff (D-CA).

CBS co-host Tony Dokoupil boasted that come Thursday, his fellow liberals are “promising to show Americans never-before-seen evidence of the most violent assault on the capitol in more than 200 years.”


NBC’s Today was also enthused at a pet project that matters little to those outside insufferably elite and liberal newsrooms and The Swamp.

A post the same day from Tim Graham complained that the committee made use of a former ABC News executive to help polish their presentation:

Now imagine if the Republicans stacked an investigative committee and then hired a Fox News president as an "unannounced adviser" for prime-time hearings. The liberal outlets would all scream that there's no difference whatsoever between the GOP and Fox. So, in this case, there's no difference whatsoever between Pelosi's hand-picked committee and ABC, and CBS, and CNN, and so on. ABC News apparently has no concern that Goldston's advising will hurt the image of ABC News.

Actually, the Trump administration did hire former Fox News executive Bill Shine as an adviser. Graham was mad that people pointed out that this revolving door showed just how tight Trump and Fox were.

Three days later, Alex Christy dismissed the hearings as a "made-for-TV spectacle" because of the ex-ABC executive's hiring. He didn't mention that Trump also hired a TV executive to help turn his administration into a made-for-TV spectacle.

A post by Kevin Tober groused that CNN's Brian Stelter pointed out that right-wing outlets Fox News and Newsmax would not be airing the first hearing live despite the word "news" in their channels' names:

CNN and particularly Stelter always want to dictate what the rest of the media should or should not be covering. Why would Fox News cover a hearing where Republican congressional leadership’s appointments to the committee were rejected by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi?

Also the committee and their Democrat allies have repeatedly lashed out at Carlson and his network, so why would they give them airtime? Stelter doesn’t get to demand what Fox News puts on air.

Um, isn't the MRC's main job demanding that non-right-wing media outlets cover things that advance right-wing agendas? Graham similarly played dumb in a June 6 podcast echoing Tober's Stelter-bashing.

The MRC did a lot of other whining about the hearings both before and after the first hearing:

And as usual, the MRC also tossed around agenda-driven ratings numbers. A June 10 post by Bill D'Agoistino cherry-picked numbers to portray the first hearing as a failure:

The preliminary broadcast network ratings are in for last night’s January 6 committee hearings, and they paint a disappointing picture for Democrats and their media pals.

Based on the most recent ratings data, January 6 hearing coverage on broadcast networks (ABC, CBS, and NBC) drew significantly smaller audiences than those networks’ own evening newscasts generally do on a standard weekday. Evening newscast audiences on any given night last week were 1.6 times larger than the total number of broadcast viewers who tuned into the hearings on Thursday.


Perhaps CBS morning host Tony Dokoupil was right when he proclaimed on Friday morning: “Obviously, January 6 is the big story today.” But based on the numbers, it certainly wasn’t the big story last night.

Graham pushed the same talking point in his podcast that same day, sneering: "Democrats talked all the networks (except Fox News) into a breathless hearing (or retelling) of January 6. But it felt like a summer rerun."

Meanwhile, back in reality, the first hearing drew more than 19 million viewers across all channels that aired it, dwarfing Fox News' non-coverage. And Fox News was so afraid that viewers might be distracted enough to change channels to the hearing -- and, thus, learn that Fox News has been lying to them about the riot and the events (and bogus claims of election fraud) that led up to it -- that it didn't run any commercials during the regularly programming that it ran instead of the hearing, costing it hundreds of thousands of dollars if not millions in revenue.

The meltdowns continue

Mark Finkelstein tried a weird, desperate bit of whataboutism on the hearing's ratings in a June 13 post (needless bolding and italics in original):

There are some ratings that Morning Joe likes to trumpet -- and others they prefer to bury.

Take today's episode. The first half-hour went on—at length—about how the first night of the J6 committee hearings attracted 20 million viewers. Mika and Joe repeatedly made invidious comparisons between that viewership, and the ratings scored by Donald Trump's Apprentice shows. We counted no fewer than 14 times in the first half-hour that the r-word was used.

But then there are the ratings that Morning Joe definitely doesn't  like to discuss. During Trump's time in office, every dip in his ratings became the subject of delighted discussion. But since Biden took over, his calamitous favorability ratings, such as these, have disappeared from Morning Joe's radar screen.

But since they obsess over Trump, they compared the ratings for the 1/6 hearings on ALL channels to the Trump reality shows, that only aired on NBC.


And then there are the ratings . . . for Morning Joe itself. Check out this chart of the show's Nielsen ratings. As of the end of May, Morning Joe's ratings, compared to two years ago, are down a disastrous 41%. Sad!

As the hearings went on, the MRC continued to whine that legitimate media outlets were covering them. In a June 17 post, Aidan Moorehouse complained that Watergate reporter Carl Bernstein "made the outrageous claim on CNN’s Friday morning New Day that Donald Trump’s actions in the leadup to and during January 6 were worse than Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederacy" and called it "worse than Watergate." Moorehouse tried to write it off this way:

Just think about this comparison for a minute. Bernstein is seriously comparing Donald Trump’s — admittedly legally dubious — efforts to prevent the electoral college results from being certified and to be sent back to the states for recertification with the aim of remaining in office, to the unilateral secession of eleven states with the primary aim of preserving the institution of slavery. 

Following Bernstein’s logic, what that would make Trump supporters? Are they also engaged in sedition by the very act of supporting the man politically? 

Of course, Trump isn't just acting in a "legally dubious" manner -- he incited people to try and overthrow the government because he can't accept that he lost an election. Moorehouse didn't mention that his employer helped Trump perpetuate that "legally dubious" fiction.

The same day, a post by Tober ranted about "the ongoing partisan January 6 committee hearings" and "the two Democrat-appointed turncoat 'Republicans' who are on the January 6 committee." in fact, those Republicans remain Republicans.

Graham chortled in a June 19 post that "NBC News went to the voters voting in primary elections in Nevada to see how those 'bombshell' January 6 committee hearings with all the live network coverage are being received. The answer is: they're going nowhere, or in the 'opposite direction,'" highlighting a claim by one voter that it's "all political and designed to try to prevent Donald Trump from running for president again":

You can believe Biden won the election and that Trump really should have conceded by Christmas in 2020, and still agree with these statements. They are factually true. The Democrats and Cheney are clearly seeking to "get Trump off the ballot," if not indicted on criminal charges. There is no Republican on the committee that is allowed to question what Speaker Pelosi might have done to prevent the rioters from penetrating the Capitol.

But Graham really doesn't believe Biden won the election or that Trump should have conceded, given that he has not retracted the MRC's embrace of Trump's Big Lie. He's also leaning into the bogus right-wing conspiracy theory that Pelosi somehow stopped additional law enforcement from deploying that day.

Attacking a hearing witness

How devastating was former Mark Meadows aide Cassidy Hutchinson's testimony at the June 28 hearing of the House committee looking into the Capitol riot, particularly her account of Donald Trump lunging at the steering wheel of a presidential vehicle driven by a Secret Service officer when told he was being taken back to the White House instead of to the Capitol to egg on rioters? The MRC saw fit to deviate from its agenda of ignoring the content of the hearings to attack Hutchinson. Kevin Tober led the attack:

On Tuesday, it was revealed that former President Trump had allegedly lunged at his Secret Service limo driver and attempted to grab the steering wheel on the morning of January 6, 2021, when he was told he wouldn’t be allowed to go to the Capitol after his speech at the White House Ellipse.

This was made public by former top aide to White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, Cassidy Hutchinson during Tuesday’s congressional hearing into the January 6 Capitol riots.

Predictably all three evening news broadcasts led with the allegations against former President Trump. Six minutes before the three networks went live, NBC’s chief White House correspondent Peter Alexander tweeted that both Secret Service agents involved “are prepared to testify under oath that neither man was assaulted and that Mr. Trump never lunged for the steering wheel.”

CBS Evening News anchor Norah O’Donnell and congressional correspondent Scott MacFarlane were quick to hype the now false allegations[.]


While ABC’s World News Tonight and NBC Nightly News both reported on the testimony given by Hutchinson but each noted that the Secret Service denies it and both agents are willing to testify under oath.

On World News Tonight, chief justice correspondent Pierre Thomas reported that “a source close to the Secret Service just told me to expect that the Secret Service will push back against any allegation of an assault against an agent or President Trump reaching for the steering wheel.”
Note that Tober immediately labeled Hutchinson's testimony "false" despite having no evidence in hand to prove it. And doesn't the MRC repeatedly warn us about the "liberal media" citing anonymous sources -- no alleged Secret Service agent purportedly willing to testify against Hutchinson was identified by name -- as being self-serving and designed for ratings? Nevertheless, Tober self-satisfyingly ranted: "All three networks have spent the entire duration of the Pelosi-picked January 6 hearings hyping every allegation that it spewed. With the fact that none of these hearings allow for any cross-examination of witnesses, a blunder like this was only a matter of time."

Tober's post did not age well. The Secret Service agents who declared they would testify to the committee that Hutchinson was lying have yet to do so; instead, they have lawyered up and refused to testify and they have been identified as Trump loyalists and yes men. Meanwhile, other witnesses have corroborated key parts of Hutchinson's testimony.

A June 29 post by interns Wallace White and Michael Ippolito compiled right-wing tweets attacking Hutchinson, none of which prove her wrong. Curtis Houck did a time-count follow-up later in the day:

With the liberal media all-in on Tuesday’s January 6 Committee hearing featuring former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson, it wasn’t a surprise Wednesday morning to see the “big three” networks of ABC, CBS, and NBC downplay the strong pushback from the Secret Service regarding Hutchinson’s tall tale that President Trump assaulted a Secret Service agent and tried to seize the steering wheel of his presidential SUV on January 6.

A NewsBusters analysis found that ABC’s Good Morning America (GMA), CBS Mornings, and NBC’s Today spent four minutes and 42 seconds on Hutchinson’s claim, but only two minutes and 33 seconds on the pushback from her colleagues and the Secret Service, including offers from the latter to have the agents involved testify under oath that none of that was true.


The liberal media have harped on the January 6 Committee and its members as harbingers of truth. But if they’re unwilling to firmly call out and push to correct the record on a claim that’s on rapidly thinning ice, it should serve as a reminder that they continue to suffer from Trump Derangement Syndrome (TDS).

Yeah, that one's not aging well either.

Mark Finkelstein served up some serious whining in a July 2 post:

Never pass up an opportunity to plug your book—even when discussing what you consider to have been a grave national crisis! That would appear to be Mika Brzezinski's credo. On Wednesday's Morning Joe, Brzezinski managed to work the title of her book into her praise of Cassidy Hutchinson, the former Trump White House aide who testified before the House January 6 committee hearing on Tuesday.

The praise for the anti-Trump witness was extravagant. Joe Scarborough called it "some of the most compelling testimony on Capitol Hill since Watergate." Willie Geist touted "a White House aide became the conscience of the nation! She's a couple years out of college, and she was the adult in the room, surrounded by those ostensible adults and ostensible leaders of our country who stood by and let it happen."

Aside from a couple passing references, the MRC hasn't touched Hutchinson's testimony since. And it has offered nothing so far beyond passing references to new revelations that the Secret Service deleted text messages from its agents that day. Remember, the MRC's mission is to protect Trump and Republicans, not to do "media research," so don't expect them to correct the record.

SIDEBAR: Defending GOP congressman's tour

After all this time, the MRC is continuing to fend off criticism of Republicans surrounding the riot -- such as an effort to defend a Republican congressman accused to leading a tour of the Capitol complex in which suspicious behavior occurred. In a June 15 post, Kevin Tober clung to a Capitol Police investigation that allegedly cleared Republican Rep. Barry Loudermilk of wrongdoing while downplaying additional evidence the committee released:

On Wednesday’s CBS Evening News, anchor Norah O’Donnell and congressional correspondent Seth MacFarlane erroneously linked Republican Congressman Barry Loudermilk (GA) to an alleged advanced reconnaissance inside the Capitol building prior to the January 6 riots at the Capitol. This despite Capitol Police stating that nothing suspicious or out of the ordinary was spotted on surveillance cameras.

Not letting facts get in the way, O’Donnell hyped the report claiming “there's some new developments in the January 6 investigation. The House Select Committee today released stunning new video that's raising questions about whether there was advanced reconnaissance inside the capitol the day before the insurrection.”

She then went to the January 6 obsessed MacFarlane who claimed “the committee investigating the attack on the U.S. Capitol is focusing on the man in the gray sweatshirt. Seen on surveillance video taking photos of staircases and hallways in the Capitol complex on January 5, the day before the attack.” Adding that “a day later, they say he was recording this video amid a crowd marching to the capitol.”

Nicholas Fondacaro did the same thing in a post the next day:

With the Democrat-led January 6 Committee dredging up the long-debunked conspiracy theory that Republicans Congressman Barry Loudermilk (GA) was involved in helping the Capitol rioters plan the attack, ABC’s The View had all they needed to gaslight their viewers with lies and disinformation designed to smear Republicans. They even lashed out at the Capitol Police who exonerated Loudermilk after their own investigation found that neither he nor anyone in the tour group did anything wrong.

“So, Loudermilk insists, like last night, that the Capitol Police already investigated and found nothing shady, and he doubled down that it was just a wholesome family tour,” co-host Whoopi Goldberg announced in a mocking accent.

Following a soundbite of Loudermilk on Fox News explaining the nature of the tour group and how the Capitol Police had investigated and found no wrongdoing, self-proclaimed “Republican” Ana Navarro, who’s not known for her oversized wit, proclaimed Loudermilk should change his name to “lying butter.”


Gripping her tinfoil hat as tightly as she could, Hostin praised the committee for battling the Capitol Police. “And I'm not sure why they did that, but then in response to that, the January 6 Committee released some of that video that we saw,” she touted.

And just like that, the Capitol Police, who were portrayed as the bravest of paladins fighting off the Trumpist hoards, were suddenly relegated to the trash and called liars just because the Democrats on the committee have a false narrative to weave.


“They have all their stuff in order,” Goldberg touted the committee as the play-off music sounded. “Here's the proof. How you can deny stuff that's on tape, always knocks me out.”

The real question is, how can any sane or non-politically motivated person look at the Capitol Police’s findings and still push a debunked conspiracy theory?

Neither Tober nor Fondacaro commented on the fact that newly released evidence like this -- that the tour participants took photos of non-touristy things and one of them was part of the Capitol riot the next day -- tends to raise questions about previous denials and the Capitol Police's clearing of Loudermilk, which presumably did not have access to this video. As the Washington Post noted, Loudermilk long -- and falsely -- denied there was any tour at all and has made statements about the tour that seem to contradict the new evidence.

Despite the discrepancies, the MRC's defense of Loudermilk continued. Mark Finkelstein complained in a June 16 post:

Such a tough hombre, that Joe Scarborough! On Thursday's Morning Joe, Ragin' Bull Scarborough twice fantasy-bragged about what he would do if he saw someone taking photos of security areas in the Capitol, claiming he'd threaten them with feeding them the camera.

Joe's flight of macho fantasy came in the context of a discussion of a Capitol tour Republican Rep. Barry Loudermilk of Georgia had given the day before the January 6 riot. Video later emerged of a member of the tour taking pictures during the tour. Scarborough claimed it was of security areas such as metal detectors. But as NewsBusters analyst Kevin Tober has noted, that is apparently not true. The Capitol Police reviewed video of the tour and found nothing suspicious.

And in his hyping of staffers from "The Late Show With Stephen Colbert" being arrested in the Capitol complex allegedly without authorization, Tim Graham used a June 18 post to quote a writer from the right-wing RedState claiming it was "incredibly ironic that Democrats went after Rep. Barry Loudermilk (R-GA) for just having guests at the complex taking pictures of the artwork." As ConWebWatch documented, the MRC portrayed the staffers' arrest while filming comedy skits as the next Capitol riot but censored the fact that charges against them were dropped because they had, in fact, been properly let into the Capitol but not accompanied by an aide as apparently required.

After the summer wave of hearings ended, the MRC continued to whine about them. A July 22 post by Graham whined that they were discussed on a late-night talk show:

On CBS, The Late Show with Stephen Colbert went live on Thursday, so Colbert could do a live review of the hearings -- like a Talking Dead aftershow -- and express his fascination with the show.

Colbert spent 17 minutes monologuing about it with a pile of hearing clips, and then aired another three segments (adding up to 14 minutes) with leftist MSNBC host Chris Hayes. 

The most notable chunk was Colbert and Hayes co-gushing about what a Masterpiece Theater of politics this was. And so wonderfully unanimous! No distracting dissent from the Pelosi Narrative!

And Waters used a July 26 post to complain that the New York Times examined how right-wing media attacked the hearings on Trump's behalf and described them as his "Praetorian Guard of friendly media."Waters mostly played whataboutism rather than engaging in actual criticism, writing things like "While the liberal media march in Trump-loathing lockstep, Peters complained of the 'uniformity' of the pro-Trump press." Of course, Waters and the rest of the MRC demand press uniformity on their own side -- and it's their self-appointed job to enforce that uniformity.

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