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The MRC's Childish War On CNN

Juvenile insults? Gloating over the failures of CNN+? Gleefully cheering for layoffs and creating scandals that don't exist? This lame CNN-bashing is what passes for "media research" these days.

By Terry Krepel
Posted 1/6/2023
Updated 1/18/2023

One of the Media Research Center's missions is to obsessively hate all things CNN and gloat like spoiled children every time the channel stumbles, as its obsession with mocking the channel for insufficiently good ratings amply demonstrates.

Curtis Houck indulged in such petulant childishness in a January 2021 post cheering the shutdown of the CNN Airport Network:

While the first 12 days of 2021 have served as a continuation of 2020's misery, Tuesday provided us with some extremely welcomed media news as CNN’s airport TV monopoly would come to an end on March 31, thus ending CNN’s years of cruel and unusual punishment against air travelers nationwide.

In an email to CNN employees, CNN head, “Dwarf King,” and puppetmaster Jeff Zucker announced the decision, citing a “steep decline in airport traffic because of COVID-19, coupled with all the new ways that people are consuming content on their personal devices.”

Therefore, Zucker added, there’s less of a “need for the CNN Airport Network.” As an aside, there’s a question that has to be asked: Was it ever necessary to begin with?

Houck then regurgitated an old attack on the network by Fox News' Tucker Carlson, sneeringly adding, "Almost two years later, his wish had been granted. And perhaps Americans can begin to regain some of their sanity."

At no point did Houck cite any Airport Network content he found objectionable, nor did he quote Carlson pointing out any allegedly objectionable content -- it was simply a chance to dunk on CNN because Houck is paid to do so. Houck's post was also headlined "VICTORY" despite offering no evidence that it had ever issued any previous criticism of the Airport Network.

(Also: Note that Houck once again indulged in the anti-Semitic "puppetmaster" trope without reason; he didn't explain the "Dwarf King" insult, making it dumb and superfluous.)

When the channel announced plans for a streaming service, the MRC was on the attack from the beginning. In a July 2021 post on the announcement of the service, Tim Graham was quick to brand it as biased even though it didn't exist yet: "So you’ll be able to watch Kamau Bell ask giggly softballs to Antifa or the CNN Films love letter to RBG, but “it’s not going to be ideological.” Morse claimed people turn to CNN for 'trust,' for 'credibility,' for "authenticity," for programming that's 'smart and entertaining.'" When CNN's Brian Stelter pointed out that Fox News' streaming service Fox News was filled with "right-wing opinion programming" but billed as "entertainment," Graham didn't dispute the description but instead deflected: "It's obvious that "growing the CNN brand" is going to rely on 'left-wing opinion programming' and 'entertainment product,' since they will expand on shows like actor Stanley Tucci's foodie tour of Italy." Of course, if Graham really did care about bias in the media, he'd be attacking Fox Nation the way he was bashing a CNN service that wouldn't exist for months.

When Chris Wallace announced in December 2021 he was jumping ship from Fox News to join the CNN venture, Nicholas Fondacaro lamented that "Wallace’s recent years with the network were a bit of a mixed bag" -- MRC-speak for complaining that he stopped being a complete right-wing shill.

The actual launch of CNN+ at the end of March was drama-free at the MRC. But when rumors of trouble surrounding the service started popping up, it was quick to pounce. Curtis Houck used an April 12 post -- with a snotty "You Hate To See It" headline -- to hype a report that "massive cuts are expected at CNN+ in the near future after a spectacularly poor rollout" and the amount of money that had been put into "what former CNN puppetsmaster Jeffrey Zucker had tried to paint as the network’s future." (Yes, the MRC still couldn't stop hurling the anti-Semitic "puppetmaster" trope at the Jewish Zucker.) Fondacaro later added an update with more bad news about allegedly low subscription numbers, claiming that "this paltry number only gives credence to the notion that CNN’s new parent company Discovery will have even more leverage in extracting both budget cuts and changes to the liberal news outlet." Fondacaro sneeringly concluded, "To make a point of sarcasm, this all couldn’t have happened to a nicer, more positive and constructive group of people."

The MRC then rushed to hasten the death knells. On April 14, in an echo of its immature gloating on the ratings of various CNN shows, Houck and Kevin Tober cobbled together a list of "Eight Things More Popular Than Epic Failure CNN+," adding:

It was revealed on Tuesday that, according to CNBC, CNN+ has fewer than 10,000 active users on the streaming service a scant two weeks since its launch. Add in a report of looming budget cuts and layoffs and CNN and its executives found a way to make the brand even more pathetic and launch something even more of a failure than the parent cable network.

To reiterate the insanity of this entire venture, consider the fact that CNN thought there would be a robust market paying $5.99 a month to watch the likes of Brian Stelter, Chris Wallace, Jemele Hill, and Anderson Cooper when practically nobody watches them on regular cable?

With there being more pagans and witches out there than CNN primetime viewers, we saw this coming from miles away.

This was followed by an April 19 post by Houck cheering that the marketing for the service had been suspended, sneering that "When it rains, it pours for the most poisonous name in news." And when CNN announced it was shutting down the service after less than a month -- seemingly due more to management changes as CNN gets absorbed into new owner Discovery than an allegedly slow launch -- it was unseemly grave-dancing time at the MRC (just like it did when Zucker left the company). Houck was first out of the hate gate:

CNN+, launched March 29 as a flaming heap of failure and narcissism, is set to be killed off come April 30. CNN and parent company Warner Bros. Discovery confirmed the death late Thursday morning. The move came a month after its birth and reportedly went off despite objections from Discovery.

Its cause of death was due to public disinterest with liberal punditry and paying money to hear more from the likes of Anderson Cooper, Don Lemon, and Brian Stelter. Interest was so low that CNN+ reportedly only brought in& fewer than 10,000 daily users and only 150,000 subscribers.

For a network whose daily users are less than the reported number of Jedi in Australia and brought in less revenue than a kickstarter for a random guy making potato salad, it was unsurprising that this hilariously bad idea will soon meet a fitting end.


With the exception of those of us at NewsBusters (who watch things like CNN+ so you don’t have to), one had to have been a masochist for parting with hard-earned money to watch CNN+ for pleasure.

Another post by Houck promoted a Discovery executive criticizing the service, then tried to justify the hate spewing from the MRC over it: "If this were Fox Nation going under, it’s safe to say both outlets wouldn’t be so somber." That doesn't justify the childish hate emanating from the MRC, of course -- Houck is simply making excuses to be unprofessional.

This was followed by a post from Scott Whitlock listing things that lasted longer than CNN+, like New Coke and Tom Brady's retirement, but he didn't mention that it lasted longer than Anthony Scaramucci's tenure as communications director in the Trump White House. After that -- speaking of unprofessional -- the MRC touted Fox News folks unprofessionally bashing the competition:

On April 22, Fondacaro attacked Stelter for making the obvious point that CNN+ was shut down before it could have a chance to be successful, substituting right-wing anti-CNN hate for any effort at reasoned argument:

Instead of addressing the fact that they were struggling to get subscribers, had uninteresting content, and were just so full of themselves that they couldn’t see it as the folly that it was, Stelter laid the blame on conflicting visions with the new leadership:


In reality, we’ve seen the reports that CNN+ had under 10,000 daily users and barely 150,000 subscribers despite them throwing over $300 million at the pipedream and hiring talent they couldn’t support.

(A few months later, Fondacaro and the other boys at the MRC would gleefully dance on Stelter's media grave after CNN fired him and canceled his show "Reliable Sources.")

Jeffrey Lord devoted his April 23 column to trashing CNN+ in general and Wallace in particular for not buying into the right-wing narrative that the 2020 election was stolen from Trump:

The real problem here is that Wallace lives in the liberal media bubble – and to be on a network with others who not only do not live in that bubble but challenge the Left’s so-called “truths” finally was just to much. “Unsustainable” in Wallace’s words.

Read his words again. “But when people start to question the truth — Who won the 2020 election? Was Jan. 6 an insurrection? — I found that unsustainable.”

The fact that there are plenty of Americans who question Wallace’s “truth” – the results of the 2020 election – is not simply real world reality. The fact is that serious films, books and articles by serious people have emerged or are about to come out that exactly questions those results in detail.

Rather than blithely dismiss as “unsustainable” the issue of who won the 2020 election, a serious journalist with his own television show on CNN+ would invite, say, The Federalist’s editor Mollie Hemingway on his new CNN+ show and grill her about her book Rigged: How the Media, Big Tech, and the Democrats Seized Our Elections.

Mollie Hemingway is a journalist’s journalist. Her book is a decidedly serious, seriously detailed look at the 2020 election and the massive shenanigans that went on to, as her title proclaims, rig an election. Mollie should have been high on a Wallace list to talk to. It would have been great television! But no, instead he dismisses the argument about 2020 out of hand.

In fact, Hemingway's book is highly biased and little more than right-wing catnip.

The hate continued. When Stelter made his not-enough-time argument in a CNN discussing, Fondacaro headlined his post on it "Through the Heart: Stelter Gets Confronted with CNN+’s FAILURE." Houck mocked a claim that "the liberal network hilariously claimed there are '29 million ‘CNN super fans’' out there willing to pay up for the soon-to-be-deceased streaming platform." When the service was shut down on April 28, Fondacaro felt the need to post video of what "what the final moments of CNN+ look like since you more than likely never bought a subscription like most Americans." Whitlock cranked out a post on what the money spent on CNN+ could have bought elsewhere, like pizzas and Teslas.

And the MRC couldn't stop slagging the service weeks after it was shut down. A May 16 item by Whitlock summarized an article by its fellow conservatives at the Wall Street Journal declaring that, in Whitlock's words, "It was even worse than anyone thought. At any one time, there were as few as 5000 people watching. That's in a country of 329 million." Of course, no context is provided for that number with audience counts from other streaming services in their startup phases.

That's the MRC approach to CNN+ (and CNN in general) in a nutshell -- juvenile gloating and immature dunking on a designated enemy comes before any sort of cogent analysis that could be described "media research." Perhaps the MRC should be renamed the Hateful Hot Take Center.

Making up stuff

How much does the MRC irrationally hate CNN? Houck actually tried to make up stuff regarding another CNN personality in an Oct. 6 post:

Matt Lauer anyone?

The Daily Mail reported in an exclusive late Wednesday that weekday morning CNN Newsroom co-host and former Obama official Jim Sciutto has been sent off on a leave of absence from the struggling network so he can “address personal issues” stemming from a mysterious trip to Amsterdam with a producer earlier this year after having been covered the war in Ukraine.

“CNN mainstay Jim Sciutto has been off air after network bosses ordered him to address a ‘personal situation’ stemming from a 'serious fall' he suffered while in Amsterdam earlier this year,” said Daily Mail reporter Paul Farrell. He explained that, after having co-hosted Monday morning’s CNN Newsroom with Poppy Harlow, he hasn’t been seen since.

Farrell added that “a media source has told” them Sciutto “is now on ‘personal leave’” and “CNN has not responded to requests for comment.”

Houck name-dropping Lauer was effectively an accusation that Sciutto had engaged in some sort of untoward sexual misbehavior -- something for which he has presented absolutely no evidence and something not even hinted at in the Daily Mail story. Sciutto returned to CNN a few weeks later, suggesting that whatever "personal issues" he may have had were addressed during his leave. The MRC has yet to acknowledge Sciutto's return.

If Sciutto has not, in fact, been credibly accused of sexual misbehavior as Houck snarkily suggested, Houck probably needs to retract that baseless allegation lest he and the MRC find themselves on the wrong end of a defamation lawsuit.

Houck served up even more chortling in an Oct. 28 post at the prospect of more CNN layoffs:

In both a memo to staff and a story about the network on, CNN boss Chris Licht marked six months this week with the struggling liberal network by announcing he’s been tasked with cost cuts and layoffs as, according to CNBC, CNN’s profit “is set to drop blow $1 billion this year” and Warner Bros. Discovery is aiming to layoff 1,000 people from its 40,000-workforce.

In objectively welcome news, CNBC also revealed Licht will continue to move CNN back toward reality and away from what Licht called “the quick sugar high of ratings and outrage.”

Licht said in a memo Wednesday that he’s conducted “formal business reviews with senior staff to identify areas where we should make changes, investments, and reductions” and, as part of that, he’ll “reduce or eliminate areas that aren’t core to our mission.”

Then came the key lines as Licht said “that work will accelerate” in “the next several weeks” and, to accomplish that and “factor” in the state of the global economy, there will be “noticeable change to this organization...affect[ing] people, budgets, and projects.” All told, Licht said he hopes “these decisions” are “made by the end of the year.”


Not surprisingly, Licht has found winning the trust of employees to be a challenge with many still worshipping his predecessor, Jeff Zucker, who was more or less the network puppetmaster.

The MRC loves to tag the Jewish Zucker as a "puppetmaster" -- a vile anti-Semitic trope.

This childishness and gossip is what passes for "media research" at the MRC these days.

Promoting bogus lawsuit against Lemon

UPDATE 1/18/23: When a man sued CNN host Don Lemon over alleged sexiual assault in 2019, the Media Research Center couldn't move fast enough to cover the salacious details. Curtis Houck yelped in a post touting the lawsuit:

Mediaite managing editor Aidan McLaughlin broke the news early Tuesday night that CNN Tonight host Don Lemon is facing a lawsuit by a man seeking damages after he claimed Lemon assaulted him at a Long Island bar in July 2018.

Put simply, the news couldn’t have come at a worst time for CNN. Along with their hideous ratings and constant ridicule, Monday night featured the release of the now-viral video of Cuomo Prime Timehost Chris “Fredo” Cuomo being confronted and trolled by two individuals, which escalated to Cuomo going on an expletive-laden rant threatening to throw them down stairs.

McLaughlin reported that the lawsuit “was filed in Suffolk County on Sunday and seeks unspecified damages for ‘emotional pain and suffering.’”

In a statement to McLaughlin, a CNN spokesperson chose not to decline comment citing an ongoing legal matter. No, sir! Instead, they bashed plantiff Dustin Hice that he’s “previously displayed a pattern of contempt for CNN on his social media accounts.”

The CNN shrill [sic] added that Hice’s lawsuit “follows his unsuccessful threats and demands for an exorbitant amount of money from Don Lemon” and that Lemon “categorically denies these claims.”

Of course, Houck is paid by the MRC to heap "constant ridicule" on CNN.

The MRC continued to follow the lawsuit and make reference to it when it felt Lemon needed to be taken down a notch for refusing to be a right-wing shill (which, as you'll note above, Houck couldn't quite spell correctly). In a September 2021 post, Nicholas Fondacaro went the whataboutism route to lash back at Lemon for committing the sin of criticizing Fox News: "Lemon had some nerve to warn that lies ruin lives, when just last year CNN had to settle a defamation lawsuit brought by Covington High School student Nicholas Sandmann after they spent days smearing him as a racist. Especially since he was facing a sexual assault suit." As ConWebWatch has noted, it's likely that the Covington students didn't get much more than token go-away money given that CNN never had to issue a correction or apology to the students.

The next day, Fondacaro uncritically parroted a Fox News story on a lawsuit update (and, like Houck, appeared to get off on repeating the graphic claims made in the lawsuit:

According to a Fox News Digital report Tuesday, the sexual assault accusations against CNN’s Don Lemon is expected to land in court sometime in January 2022. This development came just as allegations of sexual harassment were raised against Lemon’s close friend and fellow CNN prime time host Chris Cuomo last week.

“The attorney for the man who accused fellow CNN host Don Lemon of a sexually charged assault expects the case to finally end up in court early next year after a prolonged legal process,” said senior media reporter Brian Flood.

The report noted that it’s been two years since the lawsuit was filed in August of 2019 “accusing the ‘CNN Tonight’ host of assault and battery at a bar,” and three years since the alleged incident took place. A combination of a “lengthy discovery process and the coronavirus pandemic” was what had kept them from getting to court.

The details in the lawsuit were graphic and showed a side of Lemon not seen during his normal show, but perhaps his annual drunken benders as part of CNN’s New Year’s Eve debauchery:


And in a statement to Fox News, accuser Dustin Hice called out the sexist double standard being applied to his allegations because he’s a man and not a woman:

In November, Fondacaro touted Lemon's accuser appearing on the radio show of a former Fox News host, both of whom trashed Lemon:

Don Lemon accuser Dustin Hice made an appearance on Megyn Kelly’s SiriusXM radio show on Monday to detail the alleged sexual assault he experienced at the hands of the CNN anchor in 2019, which is the subject of an ongoing lawsuit. Hice also disclosed that Lemon has made three settlement offers through his legal team, which were rejected because “money is not what I’m after.”

After noting that CNN had labeled him as an “extortionist,” Hice declared: “Money is not what I’m after here. I just want to not live the rest of my life in regret, and to have a clear conscience, and to have closure from this situation.”


As part of an examination of how Lemon disparages people on his show and refused to practice civility while proclaiming his own greatness, Kelly shared a montage of some of Lemon’s lowest moments. In his reaction, Hice lamented: “The man, his moral compass points right into the gutter.”

In his comments about CNN, Hice called out the network for filling their ranks with sexual deviants:

Again, Fondacaro repeated the graphic claims Hice made against Lemon.

But it turned out that all of the MRC's salaciousness and hatred spewed at Lemon went for naught, as Fondacaro was forced to tacitly concede in a May 2 post:

The closely watched and highly salacious sexual assault case against CNN host Don Lemon has been dropped according to reporting by Puck News co-founder Dylan Byers and a statement from his accuser admitting he misremembered what happened. Lemon’s legal team lashed out at media outlets for ever daring to report on the allegation, calling it a “case-study in unethical and uninformed reporting.”

According to a statement from accuser Dustin Hice, he claims he misremembered the events of the night in question and seemed to be withdrawing his lawsuit.

“After a lot of inner reflection and a deep dive into my memory, I have come to realize that my recollection of the events that occurred on the night in question when I first met CNN anchor Don Lemon were not what I thought they were when I filed this lawsuit,” he said.

Of course, Fondacaro censored the full story of how bogus Hice's claims proved to be. Not only was Hice order to pay Lemon $77,000 for legal fees, he refused to comply with discovery requests and two of the witnesses Hice planned to call ended up becoming witnesses for Lemon's side after they changed their stories.

Fondacaro then repeated the discredited graphic claims AGAIN, even though he had just written a couple paragraphs earlier that they were discredited.He sure seems desperate to believe the worst about Lemon -- perhaps because he has been inculcated by the MRC to believe the worst about anyone who's not as right-wing as him.

Fondacaro then tried to invent a nonexistent scandal by engaging in a dubious between-the-lines reading of the statement issued by Lemons' sttorney: "Curious. Does that mean Lemon has had other such accusations leveled against him that haven’t been reported?" He then whined that Lemon's attorney called out the right-wing media for jumping on the story in an attempt to slime Lemon by breathlessly hyping uncorroborated claims:

The statement closed was an attack on the media that covered the story. “I hope that many in the media have learned their lesson on misreporting the facts and jumping to conclusions,” the law team huffed, despite admitting earlier in the statement they advised Lemon to be quiet. “The reporting on this story by many outlets has been a case-study in unethical and uninformed reporting.”

Byers suggested that this part of the statement was “likely referring to Fox News, Megyn Kelly who gave it oxygen.”

In his interview with Kelly, Hice said he was having a difficult time getting witnesses to testify because people were scared of Lemon since celebrities like him wield a lot of power in the Hamptons.

It's rather hypocritical of Lemon to decry reporting on apparently false accusations against him when he was all-in on the lies against Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

Needless to say, Fondacaro didn't admit he was one of the right-wing hype men pushing those bogus allegations. Also, Fondacaro is effectively complaining that Lemon's attorney did what the MRC did a few months earlier when it tried to delegitimize non-right-wing media outlets that reported on Juissie Smollett's claim of being a victim of a hate crime before additional reporting raised questions about the veracity of his claim. Also, the claims of sexual assault against Kavanaugh have never been definitively proven to be false, however much Fondacaro hopes (or has apparently been brainwashed into believing) this is the case.

Then again, Fondacaro has long had trouble telling truth from lies.

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