The MRC's Childish Ratings War Against CNN
If you're immaturely gloating that CNN's ratings are bad (and smearing its leader with anti-Semitic tropes) while cheering about how much better Fox News' ratings are, you're not involved in doing "media research" -- you are partisan hacks.
By Terry Krepel
In March 2021, Houck immaturely cheered under the sneering headline "How Refreshing":
Showing just how far CNN has fallen as they continue to struggle with symptoms of Trump withdrawal, Reliable Sources and host Brian Stelter suffered their worst rating of the year on Sunday as Nielsen Media Research showed a scant 936,000 total viewers subjected themselves to his hour of hate against Fox News and conservative media.
Houck went on to huff: "On this past Sunday, Stelter’s show was more of the same, spewing hate in his never-ending quest to send Fox News employees to the unemployment rolls" -- as if Houck isn't trying to do the same to Stelter and every other CNN employee -- and complained he said of Fox News, “Bottom line here, you are what you watch and it could make you sick.” Houck retorted, "Trust us, Brian. The feeling is mutual."
In April 2021, Houck chortled under the immature headline "Sad Trombone":
On Monday, CNN’s Brianna Keilar began her new gig as New Day co-host after just over two years helming CNN Right Now and the weekday afternoon edition of CNN Newsroom, where she had come to establish herself as a condescending, far-left, Fox-hating, smug pundit with commentaries masquerading as journalism.
Houck was back in May to mock CNN ratings again:
Along with its ongoing ethical problems, a deceptive marketing campaign, and a continued hatred for non-liberal voices, it’s been a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad year for the Jeffrey Zucker-led CNN. And as per the latest Nielsen ratings, CNN has continued to hemorrhage viewers with primetime and entire day total viewership down over 70 percent since January.
Houck loves to portray Zucker -- who is Jewish -- as CNN's "puppetmaster," an anti-Semitic trope. Of course, Roger Ailes did the exact same thing at Fox News as Zucker was being accused of at CNN, and Houck presumably had no problem with at all. Houck actually used the racially charged "puppetmaster" insult to mock CNN's ratings again in a June 2021 post:
On Monday, one could have diagnosed CNN’s New Day co-host Brianna Keilar deciding to eat cicadas as the show’s “shark jumping” moment, but that would have meant that the show was successful to begin with when, in reality, it’s been a dumpster fire since its April 19 reboot.
Houck's weird CNN-hating obsession continued later that month:
When it rains, it pours. And when it comes to ratings at the Jeffrey Zucker-led clown show known as CNN, it’s a monsoon. The second quarter’s ratings came out on Tuesday and the immature, noxious, and repugnant network suffered its worst month in total viewers and the 25-54 demo since June 2019. And that's not to mention that primetime ratings have tumbled 71 percent in total viewers and 78 percent in the demo since January.
Scott Whitlock took the CNN mocking stick from Houck for a July 2021 post: "Apparently, Americans don’t want to watch 80 minutes of CNN’s Don Lemon sucking up to Joe Biden. The July 21 town hall special bombed the ratings, losing not only to Fox News (which would be expected), but even MSNBC."
So pathological is the MRC's hatred of Stelter that it even tried to blame him for tanking the ratings of someone else's show, as Abigail Streetman did an an Aug. 13 post:
Stephen Colbert is wrong about a lot, but his biggest mistake yet was allowing Clown News Network’s Brian Stelter onto his show this week. The Late Show saw a drastic decrease in viewership during Colbert’s segment with the news anchor who scrambled helplessly in an attempt to defend Chris Cuomo.
Yet the MRC wants to be treated as serious "media researchers." Go figure.
Curtis Houck indulged in his juvenile smears again in a September 2021 post:
In a hilariously epic fail for the liberal media, Fox News finished the month of August with 94 of the top 100 cable telecasts in total viewers amidst a monumental month of news with Gutfeld! scoring its first-ever victories over CBS’s The Late Show while, at the other end of the spectrum, MSNBC scored its lowest total day and primetime in the 25-54 demo since December 2015.
Note that Houck is literally regurgitating a Fox News press release, showing how much of a slave he is to right-wing narratives.
A few days later, Houck had another fit of Acosta Derangement Syndrome:
In what might be one of the least shocking developments to be published on NewsBusters, CNN carnival barker Jim Acosta’s tenure as late weekend afternoon CNN Newsroom host has gone less than swimmingly as, since he took over April 3, the timeslot has lost almost half its viewership.
Houck was up for more gloating in another post that month, again sourced from a Fox News press release:
The more things change, the more things stay the same. Such was the case with this week’s ratings release for the third quarter of 2021 as, to the shock of no one, the Fox News Channel was victorious with its 79th straight quarter as the top cable news channel while CNN and MSNBC saw numbers tank to levels not seen since Barack Obama’s second term as President.
We don't recall anyone at the MRC ever portraying Fox News as "Ailesville."
Houck had a fit of Stelter Derangement Syndrome as well in an October 2021 post:
On the latest edition of CNN’s lead Fox hatefest known as Reliable Sources, the Brian Stelter-helmed show suffered another pitiful showing in the ratings as, amongst all viewers in the 25-54 demographic (and not just those inside his elitist, far-left bubble), Stelter fetched only 85,000 viewers.
And if there's ever a remake of "Mean Girls" focused on media criticism, Houck would have a starring role, as someone who has nothing better or more productive with his life than to take petty potshots at people he's paid to hate -- and believes that this is substantive "media research."
Later that month, Houck sneered under the headline "Bottoms Up: CNN's 'New Day' Loses to Shows on Cars, Glaciers, and...Moonshine?!":
Yes, you read that headline correctly. On Wednesday, CNN’s hideously-rated New Day had its worst viewership of the year as, according to Nielsen Media Research, it fetched only 304,000 total viewers and 63,000 of those via the 25-54 demo. Among the shows that drew more people on Wednesday, they included Discovery’s Moonshiners, ESPN’s Get Up, History’s Counting Cars, and Game Show Network’s People Puzzler and Family Feud.
As if Houck and the MRC aren't doing the exact same thing.
Houck brought the immature hate again in a Jan. 21 post:
CNN’s New Day co-host and insufferable liberal pundit Brianna Keilar received her turn this week to audition for the vacant 9:00 p.m. Eastern slot and, instead of it being called CNN Tonight, it was labeled Democracy in Peril. According to Nielsen Media Research, no one seemed to care as she drew fewer viewers than shows like Food Network’s Worst Cooks in America, Game Show Network’s Chain Reaction, TLC’s My 600 Pound Life, and reruns of The Andy Griffith Show.
Since the MRC has made CNN's Jim Acosta its longtime personal enemy, it's no surprise that lazy potshots were taken at him too. Kevin Tober whined about Acosta's turn in that timeslot for a Jan. 24 post:
If you are like the overwhelming majority of Americans and did not tune into Jim Acosta’s debut of the low-rated CNN show Democracy in Peril, you weren’t missing much. In fact, you can probably guess what was said by Acosta and his conga line of leftist guests.
Tober made no effort whatsoever to disprove or counter anything that was said on the show, so maybe it's not as "crazy" as he would like us to believe.
Sure enough, a few days later, Houck served up another dose of immaturity in mocking Acosta's ratings:
Following New Day co-host Brianna Keilar’s spectacularly bad week hosting CNN’s poisonously partisan Democracy in Peril special, carnival barker Jim Acosta received his chance to audition for the primetime slot formerly held by Chris Cuomo and, through three days, Acosta did even worse. Among the shows he lost to, Acosta fell behind a Hallmark movie, History’s Forged in Fire, a rerun of Everybody Loves Raymond, Property Brothers, and, yes, My 600 Pound Life.
Yes, Houck sure seems to find fat people eminently mockable, doesn't he?
This petty gloating doesn't exactly make people want to the MRC seriously -- Houck comes off as a jerkass partisan, not a person anyone should take serious.
When Don Lemon was moved from prime time to a reworked morning show, Houck spent a Sept. 15 post laboring to portray this schedule-shuffling as a demotion:
CNN announced Thursday morning that, after a nine-year run, their morning show New Day would be canceled this fall as new CNN boss Chris Licht and new parent company Discovery continue to remake the far-left, low-rated network and replaced with a yet-to-be-named newscast starring longtime CNNers Don Lemon and Poppy Harlow and chief White House correspondent Kaitlan Collins.
Actually, Fondacaro cares little about facts (and nobody finds him humorous). Houck offered no evidence to back up his assertion that both CNN and Lemon are "far-left." That's just name-calling to pander to the MRC's right-wing audience.
The headline of Houck's piece insisted that Lemon was being "demoted" by moving from prime time to mornings, and the MRC was deadly serious about keeping it, so it was pleased when its favorite right-wing media critic on Fox News embraced it, as documented in a Sept. 18 post by Kevin Tober:
With the news this week of low-rated leftist CNN host, Don Lemon's demotion to mornings, Fox News MediaBuzz host Howard Kurtz noted the glaring double standard in media coverage of the move. Kurtz pointed out how there was barely any mention of Lemon's divisive and hyper-partisan commentary nor mentions of how being moved from primetime to early mornings is a serious demotion for Lemon.
Tober doesn't mention that Kurtz is never going to criticize Hannity or Carlson because, like them (and Tober), he's a right-wing propagandist as well as a fellow Fox News employee. Also, being a morning host does require a certain set of skills that nobody has ever accused Hannity or Carlson of having -- and neither Kurtz nor Tober (or Houck, for that matter) offer any evidence that Lemon does not have those skills.
It took both Fondacaro and Geoffrey Dickens to take even more lame shots at Lemon in a Nov. 1 post as his morning-show stint began:
Don Lemon will be starting his totally-not-a-demotion stint on CNN’s revamped morning show CNN This Morning this morning. So we at NewsBusters thought it would be nice to take a stroll down memory lane and look back at Lemon’s heinous remarks that the network would prefer were memory-holed.
This was joined by a "brief montage of Lemon’s primetime blathering" from Bill D'Agostino. So it actually took three MRC employees to spew this nastiness.
Talking trash and childish mocking is not "media research." The MRC does not seem to understand that.
Fluffing Fox News
By contrast, the MRC collectively squees like fangirls over Fox News' ratings being better than its competition, as ConWebWatch has documented. A sampling from recent years:
In an August 2021 post, Toto touted that The Fox News program Gutfeld!, a cable show with zero A-list stars and a modest budget, just beat Colbert’s “Late Show” in the ratings for the first time," adding: "The fact that it happened while Colbert ran defense for what might be the biggest foreign policy blunder of the modern age may not be coincidental. Chances are more than a few viewers were curious what a right-leaning comic had to say about President Joe Biden’s blunder as opposed to Colbert’s typical fawning."
In dismissing Colbert as a "far-left propagandist," it's clear Toto prefers the stylings of a far-right propagandist like Gutfeld. So he served up a full-throated love letter to Gutfeld -- whom he describes only as a "comic provocateur" -- in a post the following month:
The right-leaning outlet unleashed Gutfeld! earlier this year. The news-driven comedy show offered exactly what’s missing on late night TV, albeit without A-list stars and broadcast-level cash:
Toto was referring to the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, but Fox News reflexively defended Trump for four years no matter how indefensible his actions were and Toto never criticized that. He called Colbert a "liberal hack" in his headline, but he didn't explain why Gutfield shouldn't be considered a right-wing hack. Nevertheless, he went on to huff:
Will audiences eventually tire of Gutfeld! and restore Colbert to his late night throne?
Of course, Toto can't even admit Gutfeld is at least as biased as the "far-left" late-night hosts he loves to attack. He simply can't see any bias when it comes from his ideological fellow travelers.
The bashing continues
The anti-CNN sniping and Fox-fluffing continued into 2022. Graham spent a Feb. 7 podcast bashing Stelter yet again for defending his employer from right-wing sniping about ratings and pointing out that those pushing it are "not watching CNN" but just "watching complaints about CNN on other channels." Graham huffed in response:
Now, as people who watch CNN for many hours a day, this is just false. ... Brian can cartoon our conservative argument as we're saying they're all talk or all opinions all the time, but he can't claim his critics aren't watching CNN. We found when we studied it that the cable news networks are doing news in the traditional defintion about 20 percent of the time. And that doesn't mean the other 80 percent is garbage, it just means the nature of cable news today is much more cable opinion, analysis and speculation. Reporting is not what they do most of the time. You know, it's much earlier to hear Brian talk about CNN and wonder if he's ever watched CNN.
Graham is referring to a 2021 MRC "study" that buried the crucial finding that Fox News carries even less news than CNN, making Graham's argument rather hypocritical because he will never criticize Fox News for doing the same thing as CNN but to a even greater degree.
Later on, Graham ranted: "What Brian Stelter doesn't like is when we say, 'Your global news brand sucks.' They think democracy is under attack whenever anybody says CNN sucks. Well, CNN sucks! Live with that! We get to say that! The First Amendment and democracy starts with us having the freedm to say CNN sucks!"
When Stelter further called out the "bullshit on Fox" attacking CNN's ratings, Graham grumbled that Fox News couldn't be criticized by Stelter as having all opinion when CNN has opinion content too.
Graham gloated in a June 21 post:
Fox News media reporter Brian Flood might have been wearing a grin as he reported on the ratings chasm between CNN and Fox News.
Graham notably didn't call out Flood for bias or a conflict of interest in denigrating his employer's competition.
Graham raved and taunted even more in his Aug. 3 podcast:
The New York Times reported on the front page of its Business section on Wednesday that CNN's ratings are terrible and their financial picture looks rough. But reporter Benjamin Mullin wrote absolutely nothing about the network's liberal tilt, or losing its daily fearmongering about Donald Trump.
Houck took a whack at former Fox News host Chris Wallace in a Sept. 27 post, gloating about how his show's debut on CNN proper "tanked" following a run on the short-lived CNN+. The MRC mocked both Wallace leaving Fox News and the demise of CNN+.
Again, this is not serious "media research" -- it's partisan hackery laden with double standards.