The MRC's Hypocritical Herschel Embrace
The Media Research Center labored to deflect from and excuse Herschel Walker's personal baggage before he became a Republican senatorial candidate. When it was revealed he paid for an abortion, the anti-abortion MRC tried to deflect that too.
By Terry Krepel
Maxson's cheerleading for Walker began last April by helping Trump encourage a Walker Senate run:
We don't know what kind of U.S. senator Herschel Walker would make, but all the right people already hate him. Deadspin and Democrat partisan Dustin Foote is on high alert over news reports that former President Donald Trump urged the football great to run for the U.S. Senate in Georgia. Walker was selected as one of Deadspin’s 2020 “Idiots of the Year,” he believes in God and is a good friend of Trump’s. In other words, he’s a real nightmare.
Taking a shot at current Georgia Sen. Raphael Warnock, Maxson huffed, "Walker’s considerable fame and reputation in his home state of George greatly surpass that of Sen. Warnock." Unlike Walker, though, Warnock currently lives in Georgia, something Maxson didn't see fit to mention.
Maxson slobbered all over Walker in a September 2021 post under the gushy headline "Herschel Walker Shines for Conservativism at Save America Rally":
Former University of Georgia and National Football League star Herschel Walker is fast becoming one of the leading ball-carriers for the conservative movement. He appeared in Perry, Ga., Saturday with former President Donald Trump and other conservatives at a “Save America” rally.
Maxson again failed to mention that Walker has not lived in Georgia for years. Nor did he mention that a guy who help foment an insurrection against the government of the United States is perhaps not the best character witness for anyone, let alone a potential political candidate.
It should not be considered “news” that a Major League Baseball owner donates money to Republican political candidates. But then there’s California’s wildly left-of-center media that contends it is newsworthy. The San Francisco Giants’ owner Charles Johnson supported the Georgia Senate campaign of Herschel Walker, and now he’s getting raked over the coals.
Maxson concluded with this bizarre assertion: "Give the Chronicle well-deserved 'F' grades for journalistic fairness and failing to recognize Johnson's right to free association, along with an 'A' grade for doing the Democrats’ bidding." What grade to we give a guy who's so in the tank for Walker he might as well be on the campaign payroll -- and who so blithely dismisses credible accusations that he's a spousal abuser?
As Walker continued to show how poor a candidate he is who is merely coasting on his fame as a football player, the defense switched to the MRC's resident New York Times-hater, Clay Waters, who spent an April 19 post whining that the Times devoted an article to the unsavory backgrounds (and current behavior) of certain prominent GOP candidates. When the article turned to Walker, he retorted with whataboutism:
[Reporter Jonathan] Weisman poked through old domestic abuse accusations against Herschel Walker, football star turned Republican candidate for Senate in his home state of Georgia. That's funny! Walker is running against Sen. Raphael Warnock, and they were too busy promoting the Democrat to discuss his ex-wife's allegations that he ran over her foot. (Warnock had "fact checkers" fight for him.)
Waters didn't explain why false claims should not have been fact-checked.
The whataboutism continued with Waters bringing up a politician who hasn't held political office in more than 20 years:
The name “Bill Clinton” somehow was unmentioned, a Democrat president who notoriously escaped allegations of sexual harassment and rape thanks to a compliant press that willingly smeared and disappeared his accusers.
it's not a smear to point out the fact that Broaddrick has lied under oath -- either to deny a sexual assault by Clinton or to claim one happened -- meaning that she does, in fact, have credibility problems.
Waters played Warnock whataboutism again in a May 22 post complaining about a "hostile" Times profile of Walker:
Walker is a flawed candidate, prone to exaggeration, as the Times has consistently documented this year, while mostly avoiding Democrat Warnock’s own flaws. Weisman (a white reporter, noted only because race is so important to Weisman here) still managed to be unfair to the black Republican.
Waters isn't the only MRC employee stuck having to defend Walker. Tim Graham used a May 8 post to grumble about a Washington Post "hit piece" on Walker declaring that "you could tell it would accentuate the negative" just from the headline. He continued grumbling that "The quotes [the reporter] uses are overwhelmingly negative, from furious liberals and from local Republican skeptics." Graham was particularly upset that reporter "highlights how Walker isn't always up to speed on policy or politics, such as referring to late congressman John Lewis as a Senator," furiously spinning in response: "Walker's not always wrong, but the liberals pretend he is."
At no point did Graham identify any factual inaccuracy in the article. instead, he handwaved Walker's worst behavior with, you guessed it, Warnock whataboutism:
Rosengren dove deeply into Walker's memoir where he talked of playing Russian roulette and thought about shooting a man who was late in delivering a car he ordered, as well as how officials granted a restraining order after his ex-wife said he threatened to kill her. That's some serious stuff. But you can be sure the Post wasn't digging into allegations from his opponent Sen. Raphael Warnock's ex-wife who claimed he ran over her foot.
Graham wants you to think that what Warnock is alleged to have done (of which there is no police evidence, meaning that the MRC's standards, it didn't happen) is just as bad as what Walker has done. It's not, and Graham is being dishonest by claiming moral equivalence.
Meanwhile, the bad news for Walker keeps piling up. Illegitimate children keep coming out of the woodwork, and he said there are 52 states. The MRC has been silent so far, because it's OK if you're a Republican.
When it was exposed that Walker had paid for an abortion for a former girlfriend, the MRC quickly assembled to play defense for Walker again -- even though the MRC is a hive of anti-abortion extremists (to the point that it wants an Orwellian surveillance state to monitor women who might have one).
Scott Whitlock made the usual MRC complaint in a Oct. 4 post that non-right-wing media covered the story, with added whataboutism regarding his Democratic opponent, Raphael Warnock:
Less than 12 hours after being posted on a liberal website, the ABC, CBS, MSNBC and CNN morning shows on Tuesday devoted 24 minutes and three seconds to Daily Beast claims that Republican Georgia Senate candidate Herschel Walker paid for an abortion in 2009. Back in 2020, the networks weren’t interested in domestic dispute police video of Walker’s Democratic opponent.
Whitlock didn't explain why right-wing operations like his are trying to distract from the Walker scandal despite abortion being a hot-button right-wing issue.
Mark Finkelstein played whataboutism of a different sort, while dismissing the story as nothing but a biased "October surprise":
"Hypocrisy?" We got your hypocrisy right here, Morning Joe!
Of course, by Finkelstein's logic, the non-right-wing media were right to dismiss stories about Hunter Biden's laptop because they were an "October surprise" issued by a partisan right-wing publication, the New York Post -- but that's not the argument the MRC is making. Finkelstein then bizarrely attacked Scarborough for going from "a perfect pro-life voting record" as a congressman to having "sounded more like a Planned Parenthood spokesman," inventing a conspiracy theory: "Could there be something in Scarborough's past that would expose him as a hypocrite regarding his erstwhile pro-life position?"
If Finkelstein can't substantiate his conspiracy theory, perhaps he should shut up lest Scarborough slap him with a defamation suit.
The next day, Whitlock again invoked Warnock whataboutism to whine about the coverage:
The media-backed October surprise is finally here. In the 24 hours since the liberal Daily Beast posted an accusation that Georgia Republican senatorial candidate Herschel Walker paid for an abortion in 2009, the ABC, CBS and NBC morning and evening newscasts devoted almost 21 minutes to hyping the allegations.
Finkelstein returned for another post attacking Scarborough to distract from Walker, complaining that while Scarborough is "upset that pro-lifers would stick to supporting Herschel Walker in the U.S. Senate race in Georgia," Scarborough himself didn't list opposition to abortion as an attribute that makes him conservative: "So why do you think Scarborough markedly omitted abortion from his list of conservative credentials?" Finkelstein, meanwhile, made no argument in favor of conservatives sticking with a man credibly accused of paying for an abortion.
Whitlock also complained that James Carville pointed out how Republican indifference to abortion when one of its candidates get caught paying for one "exposes the massive, staggering humanity of conservative evangelicals. I’m not going to call these people Christians, because I don’t think they embrace very much of Christianity." He didn't rebut Carville's remarks, just complained that he said them, putting the word "HATER" in all-caps in the headline to describe him.
Maxson tried his (or her) own form of whataboutism in an Oct. 6 post, then gave Walker a pass for purportedly having changed:
Ex-ESPN reporter Darren Rovell on Monday slammed the supporters of conservative Republican Senate candidate Herschel Walker as “vile,” and he labeled the former Heisman Trophy winner possibly the worst political candidate ever. Rovell and Walker’s opponent, Senator Raphael Warnock (D), have skeletons in their own respective closets, but those were ignored.
Yes, Maxson is cheering that "he’s on the right side" of the issue, his personal history to the contrary.
Maxson then attacked Rovell for having "issues of his own" that are completely irrelevant to the issue at hand. Leave it to the MRC to turn a critique into a personal attack.
The next step, of course, was attack mode. An Oct. 7 post by Kevin Tober ranted that the story was a "smear" -- despite it being factually accurate, Tober's protestation that it is"uncorroborated" notwithstanding -- and lashed out at anyone who dared to criticize Walker's dubious sense of judgment:
The leftist media’s smears against Georgia Republican Senate candidate Herschel Walker continued this week as MSNBC’s All In host Chris Hayes, and Bulwark editor Tim Miller decided Thursday to accuse him of being mentally unfit for office. While much of the media this week spent considerable airtime accusing Walker of being a hypocrite for opposing abortion while allegedly paying for a woman’s abortion over a decade ago, Hayes and Miller took the nasty partisan attacks a step forward.
Tober deflected from the elephant in the room -- that the MRC and right-wingers, known for their anti-abortion extremism, are giving a pass to a candidate who paid for an abortion -- by cynically declaring that "Sometimes elections are a choice between the lesser of two evils."
Alex Christy similarly hated it when critics pointed out Repubilcans' hypocrisy, offering only whataboutism in response:
MSNBC’s Katie Phang used her Saturday show to allege that the Republican response to the Herschel Walker-abortion allegations prove that they aren’t really pro-life because “it was always about being pro-power.” Co-host of the Democracy-ish podcast, Danielle Moodie agreed, claiming Republicans use that power to be the party of “cruelty and oppression” for “millions of people with uteruses.”
Christy also nonsensically argued that electing right-=wing hypocrites would somehow end the hypocrisy: "Neither Phang nor Moodie realized that if Republicans are successful in passing pro-life laws they will make it illegal, or at least much more difficult, for them to be hypocritical on the issue."
Scott Whitlock served up his own whine in an Oct. 8 post:
The networks found their 2022 October Surprise, a Republican candidate to pounce on and work to destroy the GOP’s chances in the midterms. In less than a week, ABC, CBS and NBC have devoted over 27 minutes to the Herschel Walker story and whether the Georgia Republican senatorial candidate paid for an abortion in 2009.
Instead of explaining why it's not wildly hypocritical for anti-abortion Republicans to stick with a candidate who paid for an abortion, Whitlock then rehashed old complaints -- going way to to 2012 -- that the media covered Republican Senate candidate Todd Akin's remark that women who suffer "legitimate rape" don't get pregnant.
Christy complained in an Oct. 11 post about the over the two strains of Christianity displayed by Walker and Warnock, who is an actual Christian pastor:
On her Tuesday show on MSNBC, Chris Tensing portrayed the Georgia Senate race between Republican Herschel Walker and Democrat Raphael Warnock as a contest between two different versions of Christianity. Naturally, Walker was said to represent the bad “right-wing” version, while Warnock represents the good “Southern tradition of faith-based civil rights” version.
Whitlock returned to whine that the non-right-wing media was still covering Walker while ignoring right-wing attack narratives against Warnock:
All three networks last week eagerly covered the allegation that Republican Senate candidate Herschel Walker paid for an abortion in 2009. But this week, with the claim that Democratic Senator Raphael Warnock a pastor at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Georgia is part of evicting the disadvantaged, the poor, and veterans from a church-owned apartment complex, they’ve shown no such zeal.
Funny, we remember when the MRC justified evicting people to keep landlords from going bankrupt due to having to house tenants who lost their jobs during the COVID pandemic and had nowhere else to go. Whitlock also ignored evidence that none of the people who received eviction notices at the apartment building have actually been evicted.