Psaki-Bashing And Doocy-Fluffing At The MRC: The Finale
The Media Research Center's Curtis Houck made sure to get his final licks in before he no longer had Jen Psaki to kick around as White House press secretary.
By Terry Krepel
According to Puck News’s Dylan Byers on Wednesday, a real Psaki Show could soon become a reality as CNN and MSNBC have been jockeying to hire the current White House press secretary as a full-time host (and not as a commentator, like she did from 2017 to 2020 at CNN).
Because Houck can't abide anyone saying nice things about Psaki, he grumbled that "Byers gave syrupy praise for Psaki" by putting her in the company of other former White House staffer who have gone on to greater things, then whined that "Of course, Byers left out the affable and widely-respected Dana Perino of Fox News." He then complained that "Byers boasted that 'many of whom credit her with restoring dignity to a lectern that had been ravaged and abused by Sean Spicer, Sarah Sanders and Kayleigh McEnany. And her daily briefing has become appointment viewing for fans who eagerly await her pithy retorts to reporters[.]'"
He did, however, repeat Psaki tweaking Doocy during that day's press briefing:: "On Friday afternoon, Today News Africa’s Simon Ateba asked Psaki about the report, to which she replied with a nod to Fox’s Peter Doocy: 'I have more than enough on my plate here and so, you can't get rid of me quite yet. Sorry, Peter, for you on that.'"
When Psaki's next gig at MSNBC was reported on April 1, Houck made sure to insult her on the way out the door, though no departure date was announced:
Psaki host of what we’ve referred to as The Psaki Show has spent the entirety of the Biden presidency as perhaps its most public face (aside from the President himself), left to answer, lie, and spin her way through the many controversies, crises, and gaffes.
Actually, the only juvenile behavior we saw in the White House briefing room during the Trump years were attempts by the administration to expel reporters whose aggressive reporting press secretaries the Trump crew frowned on, like Jim Acosta and Brian Karem.
Since he gets paid to trash Psaki at every opportunity, Houck used his briefing writeup that day to trash her for not confirming reports about her departure and purported ethics questions about negotiating a new job while still in the old one:
Hours after Axios’s Sara Fischer broke news that White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki would be joining MSNBC, Psaki faced a slew of questions in Friday’s briefing about the ethics behind such a swift move and negotiating a job while still in government. CBS’s Ed O’Keefe broke the ice, but he was followed by future Psaki colleague Kristen Welker of NBC, who questioned whether she should be allowed to stay at her post.
By contrast, Houck was completely silent when his beloved Kayleigh McEnany arguably violated ethical employment practices by refusing to do her job at the end of the Trump administration, holding absolutely no press briefings lest she be forced to answer questions about the Capitol riot her boss helped to incite.
When Psaki's departure date of May 13 was announced, Houck unsurprisingly took a shot at her -- while, of course, engaging in a little Doocy-fluffing -- in a May 5 post, claiming that "ending a 17-month run that saw her become a household name with spin of the administration’s struggles and presidential gaffes and viral exchanges with Fox’s Peter Doocy." Because for Houck, it's all about Doocy-fluffing, not about Psaki.
Houck then obsessed over the sex life of Psaki's replacement, Karine Jean-Pierre -- whom he had previously smeared as a diversity hire because she's black and LGBT -- making sure to highlight that "Jean-Pierre is the partner of longtime CNN correspondent Suzanne Malveaux (with whom they share a daughter)."
The final two weeks
Given Houck's visceral hatred for Psaki for being good at her job, he certainly was not going to stop hurling the insults and denigration that has sustained during his 14-month war on her. After the May 4 briefing, it was cookie time for his longtime man-crush:
Wednesday afternoon on The Psaki Show, Fox’s Peter Doocy held the White House press secretary under duress with questions on the Biden administration’s reaction to the leaked Supreme Court opinion on abortion, including the President’s claim that Republicans could ban gay students from being in the same classroom as straight students and his phrasing of abortion involving “a child.”
In Houck's view, the "real issue" is a right-wing reporter cherry-picking words to obsess over for partisan gain.
For the May 5 briefing, the right-wing talking point du jour was outrage over protests outside the homes of Supreme Court justices following the leak of a draft ruling that would overturn Roe v. Wade. And Houck made sure that Doocy got his cookie:
The Psaki Show got off to a late start Thursday, owed to Jen Psaki announcing she’s leaving the press secretary position (while still playing coy about going to MSNBC). Despite this delay, Fox News White House Correspondent Peter Doocy grilled her on the issue of leftist activists doxxing the conservative Supreme Court Justices and planning to assail their homes (opening them up to possible violence) over the leaked draft decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. But Psaki wasn’t concerned.That was followed by a post whining that a reporter didn't hate Psaki's designated replacement, Karine Jean-Pierre, --whom, again, Houck has smeared as a diversity hire for the sin of being black and LGBT:
Minutes after White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki gave the Biden administration’s blessing Thursday for progressives to stage protests outside the homes of Supreme Court justices, NPR White House reporter Franco Ordoñez sucked up to Psaki’s successor Karine Jean-Pierre, by wondering if she could share “what this means to you” and comment on both “the historic nature” of her appointment and advice for “young girls” and “minority communities.”
Houck kicked off his final week of having Psaki to kick around by writing about an "exit interview" she did with Fox News' Howard Kurtz, cheering how Kurtz hit right-wing talking points by asking about "media access to President Biden, rumors about her move to MSNBC, and Twitter being a liberal echo-chamber." Houck didn't mention that McEnany would never have sat for an exit interview with, say, CNN's Brian Stelter.
Houck returned to anti-Psaki hostility in writing about the May 10 briefing, maliciously interpreting Psaki's words while fluffing the latest person in the briefing room's Fox News seat:
Filling in for Fox’s A-Team of Peter Doocy and Jacqui Heinrich, correspondent Alexandria Hoff joined The Psaki Show on Monday and Tuesday, as Jen Psaki began her final week at the podium, and Hoff made it count by joining other reporters in grilling her on the threats to Supreme Court justices due to the leaked draft opinion on abortion.
"Mental terrorizing"? Isn't that what Houck has been doing to Psaki for the past year and a half?
Houck used his summary for the May 12 briefing to tout the latest manufactured right-wing outrages:
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki went before reporters Thursday for her penultimate press briefing and she made it one to remember as she falsely claimed it’s “a conspiracy theory” taxpayer dollars are funding free crack pipes despite intrepid reporting from the Washington Free Beacon that government-funded “safe smoking kits” contain crack pipes.
Houck kicked off Psaki's last day, on May 13 by lashing out yet again at Psaki (while backhandedly admitting she did a good job) while praising Doocy and all the other right-wing reporters who lobbed biased questions at her:
Friday marked the end of an era with White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki departing the Biden administration after over 200 editions of The Psaki Show, filled with humorous and tense moments. Simply put, Psaki was effective in having served as the chief spin officer and lying propagandist for President Biden amid a litany of crises as he himself has spent much of his presidency hiding from sustained questioning.
This was followed by a Doocy-heavy list of top "moments" from Psaki's tenure.
Houck ended things with a whimper, though, waiting three days before writing up the final Psaki press briefing, spending much of it complaining about her making "gooey platitudes" and an "emotional, eye-rolling series of thank you’s" before going on to seemingly endorse disruptive "heckling" from a reporter from Today News Africa.
Houck was silent on the fact that this was a much classier way of ending a tenure than McEnany, who read a brief statement the day after the Capitol riot, fled the podium without taking questions and never held another presser in the final two weeks of Trump's presidency.
The attacks never stop
Houck wasn't the only MRC employee getting in some final licks at Psaki. His boss, Tim Graham, devoted a May 13 post to complaining about "liberal-media tributes" to Psaki, but cited only CNN's Brian Stelter and actual media research organization Poynter, which are only "liberal" when viewed from Graham's aggressively right-wing perspective. He was particularly annoyed that Poynter writer Tom Jones accurately pointed out that "Psaki was certainly a welcome change from her immediate predecessor, Kayleigh McEnany, who goes down as one of the most incompetent press secretaries ever. (McEnany’s daily pokes at Democrats and the media now fit right in at Fox News.)" He huffed in response:
This is a revealing quote from Jones: "competence" and "pokes at Democrats and the media" are apparently opposites. Liberals want a press secretary who treats liberal reporters as the wisest people imaginable as they suggested Trump was responsible for every coronavirus death: "If an American president loses more Americans over the course of six weeks than died in the entirety of the Vietnam war, does he deserve to be re-elected?"
Graham clearly thought McEnany was a great press secretary, even though she lectured reporters more than she answered their questions and abandoned her job after the Capitol riot. He also doesn't believe that Psaki faced no hostility whatsoever from biased right-wing reporters like Doocy -- or even that Doocy is biased.
He even complained that it was pointed out how Psaki held more press briefings than all of Trump's press secretaries combined, whining that "Stelter and Co. should acknowledge that Psaki's regular press briefings were a strategy for defusing any protests that they were hiding Biden from press conferences and interviews." He then flaunted his own partisanship by spouting dictation from his Republican overlords: "As the Republican National Committee often tweets, Biden hasn't granted an interview since February 10, more than three months ago."
Even Psaki being gone from the White House couldn't stop Houck from attacking her. He spent a May 20 post discussing her first appearance outside the job at the University of Chicago’s Institute of Politics, where she "dished on her affinity for Peter Doocy, threats to her family (and not expressing concern for what Supreme Court justices have faced), some of her mistakes, and how a Hillary Clinton administration press office might have had less on-camera briefings." He then cheered that "during the Q&A portion, Psaki spared with a conservative student from the venerable Chicago Thinker over her encouragement of protests against the justices" in going into self-proclaimed "Peter Doocy mode." Houck declared those peaceful protests to be "harassment" -- something one can assume he never said about any anti-abortion protest, and he certainly didn't apply that to the threats Psaki said she has received. (Is Houck secretly rooting for physical violence against Psaki and her family?)
Houck also got annoyed that Psaki pointed out how Doocy's questions "were worked out with people he worked with at Fox. They represented what Fox was talking about on that day," and he dismissed as a "liberal narrative" the idea that "Fox questions were somehow less legitimate." He's obviously under orders to never admit how manufactured right-wing narratives are.
Houck took one final shot at Psaki (for now) in a May 24 post on MSNBC's formal announcement of its plans for her:
In one of Washington’s worst-kept secrets that raised all sorts of ethical concerns, MSNBC finally announced Tuesday that former White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki would not only be joining the network “this fall...all the network’s programs on cable and streaming,” but she would be appearing on NBC and launching a real-life, yet-to-be-named Psaki Show on NBCUniversal’s streaming platform Peacock in 2023.
Of course, Houck wouldn't know a fact-based and thoughtful conversation about politics if it came up to him and gave him a fist-bump. Shameless spin and hate is all he has ever offered to her -- and there's no reason to believe he'll treat her successor at the White House briefing room any less harshly.