The Mayra Flores Boomlet
The Media Research Center and its "news" division CNSNews.com heavily hyped a Latino Republican after she won a special election for a congressional seat in Texas -- but had trouble admitting that she lost the seat in the midterm elections.
By Terry Krepel
Republican Mayra Flores’s win over Democrat Dan Sanchez in the special election to replace Rep. Filemon Vela (D-Texas), who resigned in March, spells the end of the Democrat Party [sic] in the Rio Grande Valley, Rep. August Pfluger (R-Texas) told Fox Business’ “Mornings with Maria.”
Craig Bannister quoted her directly the same day:
Hispanics in her Southwest Texas district want border security, financial security and the economy to take priority over immigration reform, says Republican Rep.-elect Mayra Flores, who flipped a House seat in Tuesday’s special election.
Arter returned for more Flores stenography in a June 20 article:
Congresswoman-Elect Mayra Flores (R-Texas) told Fox News’s “Sunday Morning Futures” that the Democrat Party took the people of South Texas for granted, which is why she won the special election to replace Rep. Filemon Vela (D-Texas).
The next day, Bannister wrote an article hyping that "Hispanic voters in southwest border states disapprove of President Joe Biden’s job performance and, nationally, the younger the Hispanic voter, the greater the disapproval, a new survey shows," adding that "The results come in the wake of last week’s special election upset victory by Mexican-born Rep.-elect Mayra Flores, who became the first Republican ever to win a U.S. House seat in her predominantly Hispanic California [sic] district."
But CNS censored the fact that Flores has far-right views and has been QAnon-curious, putting the QAnon hashtag in tweets; she also spread the conspiracy theory that the Capitol riot was caused by Antifa in since-deleted tweets. Instead, it seized upon an incident at Flores' swearing-in in order to smear Nancy Pelosi. Bannister hyped in a June 27 article:
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) allegedly elbowed the young child of Rep. Mayra Flores (R-Texas) at a photo op at Flores’ swearing-in ceremony last week.
Bannister waited until the next day before bothering to balance the story by telling the other side of it, which he disingenuously framed as "damage control":
After video of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (R-Calif.) elbowing and hip-checking the young daughter of Rep. Mayra Flores (R-Texas) went viral on Monday, Pelosi’s deputy chief of staff took to Twitter to do damage control.
Yes, CNS generated two "news" stories out of this minor incident, for the apparent sole purpose of attacking Pelosi.
Meanwhile, the Flores party at CNS continued:
As Flores faced another election bid to permanently fill her seat in the fall midterms, CNS cranked out some more stenography for her in October, in addition to including a comment from her among right-wingers praising Tulsi Gabbard for officially leaving the "Democrat Party":
Flores ultimately received the coveted victim designation in an Oct. 28 article by Bannister:
When the nation’s first Mexican-born congresswoman tried to join the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC), she was told she couldn’t, because she didn’t fit its stereotype of Hispanic values and party affiliation.
Bannister offered no evidence that a right-winger like Flores ever expressed any previous desire to "build bridges and work in a bipartisan manner."
That, however, was the last pre-election hurrah for Flores at CNS: Flores lost the election to permanently fill that seat to a Democrat Vicente Gonzalez by more than 8 percentage points during a campaign that included Flores refusing to debate Gonzalez and a local Republican official being accused of sexual assault.
Still, CNS tried to make Flores happen. A Nov. 10 article by Lauren Shank about conservatives complaining that Republicans didn't sweep the midterms as expected included Flores rage-tweeting "The RED WAVE did not happen. Republicans and Independents stayed home. DO NOT COMPLAIN ABOUT THE RESULTS IF YOU DID NOT DO YOUR PART!" But it didn't mention that Flores lost her election. Meanwhile, Arter wrote in a Dec. 7 article:
Rep. Mayra Flores (R-Texas) told reporters at a Capitol Hill press conference on the Border Patrol suicide rates on Wednesday that Border Patrol agents feel abandoned by the Biden administration.
Arter didn't tell her readers that Flores lost her race and would be out of Congress by the end of the month, making her words somewhat meaningless.
Boosting Flores at the MRC
Similarly, CNS' parent, the Media Research Center, stopped doing "media research" and went into right-wing cheerleader mode for Flores. Curtis Houck gushed in a June 15 post:
On Tuesday night, history was made in southeast Texas as Republican Mayra Flores won a special election in Texas’s 34th Congressional District, becoming the first Mexican-born woman to be elected to Congress and did so by winning a district President Biden won by 13 points in 2020.
Of course, if a Democrat had won the seat, Houck and the MRC would have censored all mention of it. Nicholas Fondacaro kept up the gushing -- and attacking anyone who wouldn't gush like him -- later in the day:
The cast of ABC’s The View was in something of a panic Wednesday after several congressional primaries revealed which Republican candidates would be squaring up against Democrats in November in what’s likely to be a massive red wave victory for the right. But the coven was in such denial that they aggressively shot down any mention of the red wave and completely ignored the historic win by Latina Republican Mayra Flores in a special election flipping a seat occupied by Democrats for over 100 years.
However, Houck and Fondacaro -- as did its CNS compadres -- were censoring the fact that Flores is much farther to the right than they would have readers believe: Flores used QAnon hashtags in posts on Facebook and Instagram, despite hollow denials that she's a conspiracy theory enthusiast. When MSNBC's Joy Reid pointed out this inconvenient fact and called her "QAnon-curious," it was up to Aidan Moorehouse to go into damage-control mode and pretend her denials were meaningful in a June 16 post:
Apparently, Reid still thinks Q is relevant which is hilarious on its own but what makes her claim all the more ridiculous is that the only connection between Flores and Q seems to be, according to The Texas Tribune, the use of Q-related hashtags in social media posts already containing a shotgun blast of conservative hashtags meant to generate clicks on the right, such as putting #secondamendment on an Instagram post about COVID-19.
A June 18 post by Jorge Bonilla brought things back into denial-and-censorship mode, cheering that "a Univision newscast spoke glowingly of the election of a conservative" and "closed out the report on the election of a Texas Republican with 'Latino pride'. A huge shift is underway."
Bonilla returned on June 28 with a bizarro-world complaint: Flores' Democratic opponent in the general election, Vicente Gonzalez, sounded like a Republican when he pointed out that Flores is an immigrant who came the U.S. at age 6 while he"was born in South Texas, the son of a Korean war veteran." Bonilla would normally cheer such remarks, but he melted down here:
So not only does “real Texan” González attack Flores for being an immigrant, but he then tries to clean it up by saying that he was actually calling her out over her stance on immigration- which he did by coming really close to an accusation of race treason. Now, where’s the corporate Latino media on this? Because if an Anglo Republican had said that he was the “Real Texan” in a contested race against an immigrant from Burgos, Tamaulipas, Mexico, I guaran-dang-tee you that Univision and Telemundo run multiple A-block cycles on the story and would’ve led their newscasts with it on the day that Carrasquillo’s piece first ran.
We'd ask why Bonilla isn't living by the anti-immigrant rules created by his employer, but we already know that at the MRC, trying to own the libs takes precedence over ideological consistency. Indeed, he rehashed his complaint on Tim Graham's July 1 podcast.
In a June 30 post, Kathleen Krumhansl embraced the right-wing clickbait of Nancy Pelosi purportedly elbowing Flores' child at her swearing-in:
The national Latino networks exist to serve the Latino community first and foremost, right? Wrong. Hispanics actually come a distant second behind their corporate interests, as was confirmed with their coverage of the historic swearing in of Congresswoman Mayra Flores (R-TX) by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA).
When the New York Times cited Flores' QAnon-curious activism to call her a "far-right Latina," Bonilla greivance-mongered in a July 7 post ranting that the Times was trying to "other" Flores:
The purpose of yesterday’s disgusting New York Times hit job on Texas congressional candidates Cassy García, Mónica de la Cruz, and Congresswoman Mayra Flores (R-TX34), titled “The Rise of the Far-Right Latina”, was to signal them as race-traitors to the rest of the Acela Media, and have that as the frame of how they are covered going forward. But such efforts are not likely to succeed.
Yes, Bonilla used the term "Acela media" three times, as if that means anything to people outside his right-wing, anti-media bubble.
The MRC's designed Times' hater, Clay Waters, cranked out his own whining piece on the Times article two days later, this time invoking his employer's hatred for the new White House press secretary:
Latina Republican Mayra Flores’ historic win in a Texas congressional district in the Rio Grande Valley was greeted by the Times not with celebration but bitterness and denial. This is the same newspaper that loves to mark such supposed ethnic milestones on the Democratic side, as shown in the nauseating tributes to Sen. Kamala Harris and Biden press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre.
While both Bonilla and Waters block-quoted the part of the Times article that pointed out Flores' use of QAnon hashtags, they didn't comment on them further or try to downplay it -- which would seem to be a quiet, grudging acceptance that the "far-right Latina" descriptor is, in fact, not inaccurate.
An Aug. 1 post by Mark Finkelstein tried to blame Flores' opponent, Gonzalez, for a blogger whom the campaign had paid for advertising services referring to Flores as "Miss Frijoles," huffing, "Gonzalez wasn't paying for advertisinghe was paying for slursand the blogger delivered." He went on to complain that "Due to redistricting, the district is now considerably more favorable to Democrats than when Flores won it by three points last month."
After that, however, the only notable reference to Flores before the midterms was a Sept. 22 post by Kevin Tober highlighting an NBC News report on Hispanics allegedly shifting more Republican, quoting the reporter noting that "Republicans proudly tout Mayra Flores, a Latino Republican who recently won a Democratic-held House seat in largely Hispanic south Texas."
But when Flores lost to Gonzalez and the much-hyped "red wave" never materialized, it was Bonilla's turn to go into damage control mode. A Nov. 13 post (also in Spanish) complained the "sexist" Gonzalez went on Univision where he "spike[d] the ball with a series of baseless and bigoted statements what went unchallenged by [host] Jorge Ramos." More damage control on Flores' loss followed:
You would think that Ramos would’ve immediately called González out after talking about “hatred and racism”, whether for the publication of misogynistic statements against Flores by a blogger paid with campaign funds, or for González’ claim to be the “real Texan” in the race vis-a-vis the immigrant Flores. But you’d think wrong. Ramos did none of the things that he would’ve certainly and relentlessly done had there been an R after González’ name. Instead, he meekly wrapped up the interview. Mission accomplished.
Bonilla repeated his declaration that Flores "overperformed" in another post that day (also in Spanish) complaining that "the left and the media (pardon the redundancy) are working overtime to conflate the very real and ongoing Hispanic shift with the big 'Red Wave' that ended up not materializing beyond Florida."