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Classified Document Double Standards at the MRC: The Biden Flip

After defending Donald Trump over a raid on Mar-a-Lago to retrieve classified documents, the Media Research Center went on the attack when documents were found at offices belonging to Joe Biden ... until it was revealed Mike Pence had some too.

By Terry Krepel
Posted 3/31/2023

After the FBI raid on Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago to retrieve numerous classified documents that he had refused to return despite repeated requests from the National Archives, the Media Research Center was slow to respond to the story, then quickly moved into defense-and-deflection mode. When a handful of classified documents were discovered among Joe Biden's papers at private offices outside the White House and his Delaware home -- which, in contrast to Trump, he immediately returned when they were discovered -- the MRC moved exponentially faster and immediately went into full pounce mode. A Jan. 9 post by Kevin Tober kicked things off, with the usual MRC complaint that non-right-wing media was failing to embrace right-wing narratives -- and, even worse, pointed out that the Biden and Trump situations were different:
On Monday afternoon, CBS was given an exclusive that revealed that classified documents were found at President Biden's private office at the Penn Biden Center in Washington D.C. After the amount of handwringing and nonstop negative coverage of the news that Trump had classified documents at his home in Mar-a-Lago, you would think the media would take this story seriously. Predictably, they sought to downplay the news and deflect blame from Biden and distance him from any comparisons to what happened with Trump's storage of classified documents.


Meanwhile, on CBS Evening News, national correspondent Adriana Diaz ran to former federal prosecutor Scott Fredericksen to get assurance that what Biden reportedly did was different from what Trump was accused of.

“How significant is it that these documents were self-reported, and voluntarily turned over?,” Diaz asked.

Predictably, Fredericksen let Biden off the hook by explaining “the self-reporting here is probably the single most important part of this situation. It indicates a lack of intentional conduct. It's completely different from the Mar-a-Lago case, which tends, based on reporting, to indicate there was intentional activity to take those documents.”

Yes, so "predictable" to point out differences between the two.

A couple hours later, Tober found someone to peddle a conservatively correct narrative:

On CNN's Anderson Cooper 360, senior political commentator Scott Jennings slammed President Joe Biden over his reportedly mishandling classified documents at his private office at the Penn Biden Center in Washington D.C. What made this revelation especially rich was the fact that Biden was so outraged at former President Trump allegedly having documents marked classified at his home in Mar-a-Lago. Jennings even got in a Michael Scott reference during his Monday night appearance.

The pouncing continued in full force the next day:

  • Alex Christy complained that CNN's Don Lemon (accurately) pointed out that the story has "already been politicized by those on the right."
  • Mark Finkelstein whined that MSNBC's Joe Scarborough also pointed out the difference between the Trump and Biden situations.
  • Nicholas Fondacaro grumbled that the hosts of "The View" defended Biden over "newly revealed fact that he stole classified documents." Did anyone at the MRC ever state that Trump stole classified documents?
  • Fondacaro returned to complain that CNN "sought help from former members of the CIA and FBI to defuse the situation Biden has found himself in."

Curtis Houck, meanwhile, served up the requisite daily take that non-right-wing media aren't sounding like Fox News:

Along with the Monday night network evening newscasts, the Tuesday morning broadcast network news shows tried to dial back the heart rates of liberal viewers by insisting there’s no there there to classified documents being found in the Washington D.C. office of President Biden’s University of Pennsylvania think tank. Instead, it was a case of Republicans “pounc[ing]” despite “key differences” between Biden and what they hope to be the jailing of former President Trump for classified documents found in Mar-a-Lago.

And predictably, none of them mentioned how the Penn Biden Center has received over $50 million in money from communist China.

In a Jan. 11 post, Christy looked at the reaction of late-night comedy hosts, complaining in particular that Jimmy Kimmel pointed out that "for the MAGA crowd, this was like Christmas and the McRib coming back at the same time." Other coverage complaints continued, again largely focused on non-right-wing media not attacking Biden like right-wing media would (and did):

Tim Graham's Jan. 11 podcast pretended that the "liberal media," not right-wingers, are the ones with the real double standard:

CBS broke the news on Monday that Biden's lawyers disclosed they have discovered classified documents in an office at the University of Pennsylvania’s Biden Center in the nation's capital. The "roughly 10" documents are from President Biden's vice-presidential office at the center, which opened in 2018.

This triggered serious news coverage....and a rash of comparisons suggesting Joe Biden couldn't possibly be half as careless with classified information as Donald Trump. Journalists implied Biden’s a seasoned professional who understands national security, while Trump is the King of Recklessness. On NPR and other networks, they insisted you couldn't compare these two incidents "apples to apples."

NPR media reporter David Folkenflik argued "There really haven't been a ton of scandals during the Biden presidency affecting Joe Biden himself, beyond his troubled son, Hunter. So consider it a little bit of a media test case." Just like they said for Obama, there aren't many Biden scandals...because they're not looking for any Biden scandals. After all, it was NPR that insisted in the last weeks of the 2020 campaign that any focus on Hunter Biden was a "pure distraction."

Fact check: Right-wing media, including the MRC, have been pushing attacks on Hunter Biden precisely because they are a distraction from everything Trump (whom the MRC will never completely repudiate, despite instigating a violent insurrection).

Meanwhile, Fondacaro unironically ranted:

On Thursday morning, news broke that the second batch of classified documents President Biden took when he was vice president was found in the garage of his Wilmington, Delaware home, next to his Corvette. And conspiracy theories flew around the set of ABC’s The View as the co-hosts whine about how these documents just appeared, with some apparent suggestions that Republicans were “behind” them getting into the garage and the President’s former office at the Penn Biden Center.

Fondacaro somehow forgot mention that Trump himself accused the FBI (or, at least, the "Marxist thugs" therein) of planting those classified documents at Mar-a-Lago. You'd think he'd acknowledge there's precedent for such a view, but we know Fondacaro is not an honest guy.

The MRC did find a couple instances of non-right-wing outlets sounding sufficiently like Fox News to be worth promoting:

But it still found other instances of non-Fox-News media behavior to complain about:

P.J. Gladnick, meanwhile, got assigned the duty of complaining that Republican (and MRC) double standards on possession of classified documents were being called out:

ABC News appears to be in such a state of urgency to defend Joe Biden in the wake of the documents scandal that they regurgitated a term that was thought to have been mocked out of existence. The worn cliché, "Republicans pounce" or as the title of ABC News reporter-producer Ben Gittleson's story put it on Wednesday, "GOP pounces," as you can see in "Biden leaves questions unanswered on classified documents, as GOP pounces."


If Gittleson did not write the title to his story, then he needs to warn the editor who did to never again use the "GOP pounces" in a title since it has long ago become a worn cliché that now only serves as a red flag for mocking any article using that term. Even its replacement "Republicans seize" has already become another cliché.

Perhaps Gittleson and his ABC News editors should consult the thesaurus for a suitable replacement. "Republicans swooped." That could work... but only for a brief time until it joins "GOP pounces" and "Republicans seize" in the stale cliché category.

Despite whining about the phrasing, Gladnick did not dispute that Republicans are exhibiting a double standard.

Jeffrey Lord gleefully declared that it was a "media misfire" that Biden got a special counsel to look into his document situation the way Trump got one for his in his Jan. 14 column:

Joe Biden’s Trump-hating liberal media allies can take a bow. By their insistence that a Special Counsel be appointed to investigate Trump because he had classified documents at Mar a Lago, the revelations that Biden did exactly the same thing - three times over! - has now won their hero a Special Counsel of his own, plus a congressional investigation. All this along with the revelation that his Penn Biden Center has been financed by millions in Chinese dark money. And also raising the question, of course, of how much of that Chinese money was laundered through the Biden Center before going in the Big Guy’s pocket.

The MRC played up a couple more instances of non-right-wing media criticizing Biden over this (oblivious to the fact that it discredits its narrative that these outlets are hopelessly biased):

Then it was back to whining that people keep pointing out the difference between the Biden and Trump situations. Bill D'Agostino huffed in a Jan. 16 post:

The rapidly unfolding nightmare of President Biden’s document scandal prompted desperate talking points from Democrat-friendly cable networks last week, the most prominent of which was the claim that Biden’s classified document issues bore “night and day” differences to those of former President Trump.

Pundits were clearly rankled that Republicans were drawing comparisons between Biden and Trump, and they endeavored at every turn to point out the differences between the two cases.
D'Agostino didn't dispute that there is a difference; instead he parroted Lord by noting that "despite the corporate media’s protests, a Special Counsel has been appointed. One suspects he will not receive the same high praise with which the media routinely showered Robert Mueller."

Clay Waters similarly whined later that day:

Public television’s idea of a balanced political debate: Friday's PBS NewsHour punditry found little daylight between “conservative” New York Times columnist David Brooks and liberal Washington Post columnist Jonathan Capehart, nodding in agreement that the new Biden classified document controversy had no comparison to Trump’s.


The Post’s Jonathan Capehart pretended the relative raw number of top secret documents found in the possession of Biden as compared with Trump was a significant comparison, though we don’t yet know what was in the Biden documents, calling the comparison "apples and basketballs."


Capehart tried to compare Biden’s woes favorably to Trump, saying the Biden team “have been cooperating. They have been transparent....The former president [Trump] stands accused basically of obstruction of justice. That is not what is happening with President Biden.”

Despite complaining that it was said, Waters also didn't dispute the accuracy of the assessment.

Curtis Houck repeated the MRC's sub-complaint, that it's being pointed out how Republicans are hypocritically using the discovery to attack Biden:
The Biden documents scandal entered its second week Monday and, on the flagship broadcast network morning news shows, ABC’s Good Morning America remained in a defensive mode for Team Biden by repeatedly insisting the White House will be cooperative and transparent with the special counsel, fretting “Republicans...are now pouncing,” and boasting Republicans will never be able to find out who’s been visiting Biden at his Wilmington, Delaware home.

Senior White House correspondent Mary Bruce may have tried to seem tough, but she was her usual self in falling on the grenades. She noted that “the White House is hardly being forthcoming,” but then said in the next sentence that “[t]hey are being extremely cautious” and fretting a “sense of drip, drip, drip” has set in.

After passing along the weekend’s developments with more documents found last week at Biden’s personal residence having triggered “more questions,” Bruce went into attack mode: “Republicans, who have shown little interest in investigating Donald Trump's handling of classified documents, are now pouncing on the President.”

It's "attack mode" to point out Republican hypocrisy?

Alex Christy sounded like a PR flack for a Republican congressman in a Jan. 17 post: "It is still unknown what exactly was in the documents, how they ended up at the Penn Biden Center and his Delaware home, and why it took months for the public to be made aware of the documents’ discovery. Those are real questions that have nothing to do with the Trump case that deserve answers." Yet we don't recall Christy demanding similar answers from Trump.

Houck returned to repeat his narrative: "ABC’s Good Morning America fought a surprisingly lonely battle Tuesday in carrying water for President Biden and the White House amid their classified documents scandal, repeatedly touting the administration as 'firing back' at Republicans wanting to learn more and making requests of the regime because...Donald Trump." Again, despite the complaints, Houck made no attempt to argue that there wasn't hypocrisy. More complaints followed:

While most normal people had moved on by this point, the MRC wasn't going to yet, as evidence by Brent Bozell rushing to Fox Business for a softball interview to desperately keep the story alive:

Media Research Center Founder and President Brent Bozell joined the Wednesday edition of the Fox Business Network’s Varney & Co. to sound off on the liberal media’s coverage of President Biden’s classified documents scandal and, for Bozell, it boiled down to six stages of behavior.

Host Stuart Varney began with highlights from Tuesday’s firecracker of a White House press briefing before asking Bozell: “[H]as the media finally turned against the White House, in your judgment?”


The scandal only grew, meaning a stage three with the press “turning reluctantly against Biden after the first — after the second group of — of — of boxes were found.”

Bozell added stage four had the liberal media becoming “even more skeptical of Biden” last Thursday when Attorney General Merrick Garland appointed a special counsel ahead of five and six: “Stage five is the interesting — this is where there are right now. They've grown frustrated with the White House. They know the White House is stonewalling. They know the White House is not forthcoming. Stage six is what's going to happen next.”

If there was any mention of Trump's document scandal, it was not deemed important enough to be referenced in the item.

But even that last-ditch effort didn't help, and the MRC got bored with it too, as the posts on it slowed to a trickle over the next few days:

Perhaps even the MRC realizes there was nothing there in the first place.

Pence ruins the fun

After a solid two weeks of attacking President Biden over classified documents found at his properties, the MRC was angry to see all that manufactured outrage go to waste when classified documents were discovered at the home of former (and Republican) Vice President Mike Pence. Kevin Tober complained in a Jan. 24 post:

Like a bunch of five-year-old children, CBS Evening News anchor Norah O'Donnell and chief White House correspondent Nancy Cordes appeared to be beside themselves with excitement Tuesday over the news that former Vice President Mike Pence had about a dozen classified documents at his home in Indiana. Since they presumably see their jobs as serving as apparatchiks of the Biden regime and the Democrat Party [sic] at large, O'Donnell and Cordes were clearly relieved to know Pence was also reportedly guilty of having mishandling classified documents.

"In a pair of letters to the National Archives, lawyers for former Vice President Mike Pence said they searched his home in Indiana last week out often an abundance of caution. There, they discovered a small number of documents bearing classified markings that were inadvertently boxed and transported to Pence's home at the end of the last administration," Cordes breathlessly reported.

Cordes then jumped at the chance to portray Pence as dishonest by noting how "the search came just days after Pence assured multiple journalists, including CBS's Robert Costa, that he had been more responsible about documents than President Biden was."

Once Cordes was done with her report, O'Donnell was giddy with excitement when bringing Cordes in to discuss the story further: "Nancy Cordes joins us now from the White House. So did they say anything there today about all this?"

Equally ecstatic, Cordes replied that "publicly, the White House had absolutely no reaction, but behind the scenes, several officials actually expressed relief that Mr. Biden is now not the only former Vice President to discover that he had some classified documents stored in an unsecure area."

You can be sure that the leftist media will use the Pence situation to shield Biden from his own irresponsibility in mishandling documents. Since there's no excusing Biden's behavior, leftist activists like O'Donnell and Cordes will point to Pence in order to distract the public from the Biden documents scandal.

Of course, by that definition, the MRC has been acting like a bunch of five-year-old children in spending two weeks hyping Biden's document issues while portraying Donald Trump as a victim for refusing to cooperate with archive officials to such an extent that an FBI raid became necessary to retrieve the documents he took. Tober made sure not to bring up Trump's name here.

But Tober and the rest of the MRC didn't really want to talk about Pence either. Thus, a Jan. 25 post by Nicholas Fondacaro based on yet another hate-watching of "The View" tried to turn the focus on a co-host he particularly hates for not loving Trump enough:

Faux conservative and co-host of ABC’s The View, Alyssa Farah Griffin used to work for the Department of Defense and former Vice President Mike Pence during the Trump administration. And on Wednesday, after it was reported that Pence had classified documents at home, Farah Griffin had the spotlight of scrutiny (jokingly) placed on her. But she couldn’t confirm nor deny that she had classified documents there.

The cast wasn’t critical of Pence retaining classified documents in an unsecured location; after all, this helped to provide cover for President Joe Biden and they chalked it up to him having to frantically pack after January 6 and the “hang Mike Pence” chants from the rioters.

“I think it was the chaotic nature of the transition. When I resigned in December, staff was being threatened, don't look for new jobs, don’t pack your offices. Because they were not preparing for a transition,” Farah Griffin recalled.

Farah Griffin assumed the documents ended up with Pence’s personal things as a result of a “staff error” due to “last-minute” packing.

Kathleen Krumhansl served up further whining that the Pence discovery undermined right-wing narratives in a Jan. 26 post:

To take it from Joseph Malouf, Telemundo's in-house “Constitutional Law Expert”, Christmas came a month late for Donald Trump on January 23 when classified documents were found at former Vice President Mike Pence's Indiana home.

“Now that you have three people -- three people recently serving the country -- with classified documents; it's the best news Trump could have asked for; it's Christmas for him,” Malouf told D.C. correspondent Cristina Londoño the day after the story of Pence's documents broke.


Does “Christmas for Trump” lead to Springtime for Biden? Telemundo sure seems to think so!

As it turns out, the Pence discovery so deflated the MRC that it has not done any more posts focused on Biden's classified documents for the next few weeks -- and it certainly did no more on Pence's classified documents. Still, the MRC was desperate enough for any possible anti-Biden dirt it could find that Curtis Houck did serve up some really thin gruel, however, in a Feb. 16 post:

Late Wednesday, CNN’s Paula Reid revealed the FBI had conducted multiple searches of President Biden’s records at the University of Delaware from his Senate tenure (and “ recent years") that have been held in secret since their donation in 2012. While they reportedly didn’t find any classified documents, it was worth sharing as it marked another chapter in his classified documents scandal, but CBS Mornings saw no reason to mention it on their Thursday editions.

ABC’s Good Morning America wasn’t much better as they snuck in an 11-second brief on the search, which topped the 18 seconds spent on their overnight show, America This Morning. In contrast, NewsNation’s flagship AM show Morning in America had a full report in each of their three hours.

Yes, Houck really demanded full wall-to-wall coverage of a search in which nothing was found, just because right-wingers could use it to bash Biden. That's how we know the MRC is first and foremost a partisan political organization, not anything seriously dedicated to "media research."

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