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The MRC's Trump Indictment Distraction Game

The Media Research Center played all its usual cards in the face of Donald Trump's (first) indictment -- distraction, whataboutism and outright dismissal -- along with more attacks on the prosecutor as "Soros-backed."

By Terry Krepel
Posted 7/14/2023

The Media Research Center's coverage (and equivocation and dismissal) of Donald Trump's latest round of legal troubles began with an odd flashback to the 1990s -- read: a lingering case of Clinton Derangement Syndrome -- courtesy of Tim Graham, who huffed in a March 14 post:
On Monday's Good Morning America, co-host George Stephanopoulos grilled Trump lawyer Joseph Tacopina about the Manhattan District Attorney apparently pressing forward with an indictment for a $130,000 payment made to porn star Stormy Daniels in 2016 to squash a National Enquirer story about her alleged affair with Trump.

As usual with Trump's prosecutors, Stephanopoulos never told the audience that the current and former Manhattan DAs are elected Democrats. Typically, the people still investigating Trump are elected Democrats, and typically, the media imply they are simply prosecutors without a party. The news here was that Tacopina said Trump will not accept an invitation to participate in the grand jury proceeding. The invitation usually implies an indictment is coming.

You don't have to believe Trump is innocent here to find a role reversal. For about five years, this was what George Stephanopoulos did for Bill Clinton. Hillary Clinton trusted him to squash "bimbo eruptions," to claim Bill Clinton was innocent and partisan persecutors were trying to destroy him with lies about sex. Why would ABC pick Stephanopoulos to be the interviewer on this? Are they saying the other hosts aren't qualified?

Four days later, Graham's CDS was still inflamed, so he went after Stephanopoulos again, complete with another "bimbo eruption" reference:

It happened again. First, ABC Good Morning America co-host George Stephanopoulos interviewed current Trump lawyer Joe Tacopina about a hush-money payment to porn star Stormy Daniels. Then on Friday, Stephanopoulos returned to the bimbo-eruption beat to interview former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen.

George was much milder this time. He sounded like he was prepping Cohen for the hard work ahead. He began: “So you have spent days with prosecutors. Based on all that, are you convinced an indictment of President Trump is coming? Are you prepared for cross-examination?”

Cohen said “absolutely,” and added “I talk about the credibility issue that everybody wants to attack me on. They want to attack me on the five counts of the tax evasion or the misrepresentation.”

In his toughest line to Cohen, he noted “Well, you are a convicted liar.” Cohen objected, naturally, saying he lied for Trump, so you should believe him now.

Mark Finkelstein played whataboutism to distract from Trump's violent rhetoric in another March 18 post:

On her MSNBC show this morning, Katie Phang and two lawyer guests all suggested that Trump's Truth Social post calling on people, in response to his apparently imminent arrest, to "Protest, Take Our Nation Back," could be the basis for additional criminal charges against him.

Are the MSNBC folks aware that not long ago, another prominent politician repeatedly used a virtually identical phrase? Indeed, that politician actually gave a speech entitled, "Taking Our Country Back," employing that phrase no fewer than six times in the course of remarks. The speech repeatedly called on people to "fight!"

Even more shocking, the speaker bragged to the audience, "I come to you with bloody knuckles" after 120 days of fighting the Trump administration.

Bloody knuckles? Such violent imagery . . . Kamala Harris! Yes, it was Harris who, as a US senator, gave that speech to the California Democrat [sic] Convention, just two years before launching her ill-fated, short-lived quest for the White House.

Finkelstein didn't mention that Harris, unlike Trump, has no record of inciting supporters to launch a violent insurrection because of a mental inability to accept an election loss.

The following day, Finkelstein spun away another commentator's argument that Trump's words had a violent intent by insisting the commentator had "a vivid imagination" -- again, ignoring that Trump has previously incited an attempted insurrection -- and even tried to justify Trump's tone by claiming that "Trump is trying to gin up outrage at an elected Manhattan Democrat [sic] district attorney arresting a former president of the United States for political reasons." He offered no evidence of those purported "political reasons."

Graham served up a different (though more current) brand of whataboutism distraction in promoting his March 20 podcast:

Over the weekend, Donald Trump proclaimed on Truth Social he would be indicted by a Manhattan grand jury and "arrested on Tuesday," leading to many hours of speculation on TV news channels over the weekend about how the walls were closing in again. The network Sunday shows on ABC, CBS, CNN and NBC aired almost 47 minutes on the topic, and zero seconds on the latest Biden family cash-grabs from China.

Most politicians throw red meat at their supporters, but Trump is throwing red meat at his enemies in the press. They expressed horror that Trump asked his supporters to protest, which they suggested was another incitement to rioting. Who exactly is the president now? These networks could have covered both Trump and Biden, but the protection racket for the Bidens looks intense in this contrast.

After Trump's proclaimed arrest date passed with no arrest, Nicholas Fondacaro grumbled in a March 22 post that this "annoyed the cast of ABC’s The View on Wednesday, as they whined about being duped and getting their hopes up to see him in cuffs and his mug shot." And, yes, Fondacaro libeled co-host Sunny Hostin yet again as a "racist" because he doesn't understand how metaphors work.

Finkelstein returned to whine on March 27 that MSNBC host Joe Scarborough urged Republican voters to ditch Trump and support Ron DeSantis:

"Endorsed by Joe Scarborough!" -- Not something you're likely to see in any Ron DeSantis GOP presidential primary ads anytime soon.

But Scarborough did come close to doing that on today's Morning Joe.

Condemning Trump for what he described as his disregard for the rule of law, Scarborough addressed himself to Trump supporters, saying, "go to DeSantis." His notion was that DeSantis represents policies similar to Trump's without posing what Scarborough sees as Trump's threat to democracy.

Scarborough, presumably mentioning DeSantis because he's closest to Trump in preliminary polling, suggesting "it could be anybody." Maybe he's hoping for Larry Hogan to enter the race?

Finkelstein further complained that "This is a departure from most ex-Republican Trump haters, who are currently hating DeSantis with the same ardor that they hate Trump." But he didn't explain why anyone should stick with Trump in the first place.

Whining continues after indictment

When prosecutor Alvin Bragg's indictment of Trump finally came down on March 30, the MRC spent a lot of time whining that it was being reported on. Alex Christy complained that jokes were told about it:

For the late night comedy show hosts and their audiences, the Thursday indictment of former President Trump was more of a chance to enjoy a cathartic experience than anything else. However, buried beneath their joy was the sense that they haven’t completely thought through the ramifications.

CBS’s Stephen Colbert could not contain his glee as he opened The Late Show, “Ladies and gentlemen today I'm feeling a little extra American. One reason, today is baseball's Opening Day! Here in New York—here in New York—here in New York it was 40 degrees, but I still ate ice cream out of a baseball helmet. Why? Oh, just a little something worth celebrating today because literally three minutes before I walked out on this stage here, the New York Times reported a New York grand jury voted to indict former President Donald J. Trump.”

Colbert was so happy that he broke his self-imposed embargo on mentioning Trump’s name. After over 30 seconds of cheering from the audience during which he did eat ice cream out of a baseball helmet, Colbert declared, “he was right, we're finally saying Merry Christmas again!”

Curtis Houck got his pro-Trump "Soros-backed" talking points on Bragg out and whined about a certain Democratic senator opined on it:

Friday’s CBS Mornings featured a whopping 24 minutes and 53 seconds on the indictment of former President Trump by far-left, Soros-backed Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg and it included their latest nauseating interview with Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA). Co-host and Democratic donor Gayle King steered much of the conversation with softballs on Trump and a plea for gun control with her co-hosts touching on banking and TikTok.


She later added she found it “Trump is calling for, in his words, death and destruction” along with “allies to rally behind him” and “show out.”

“Are you worried about violence in the streets,” she asked.

Co-host Nate Burleson chimed in to decry Trump using “dangerous rhetoric,” which gave King a shot to reemphasize her concern: “Yeah. It’s very – I'm very concerned about that.”

“It is dangerous,” Warren replied, “and violence is never the answer. This is part of the reason we have a court system so that we don't resolve these things in the streets.”

A forlorn King made one last plea on Trump: “Are you worried about it? Are you worried about it?”

Of course, Warren said she’s “always worr[ied] about violence.”

Houck didn't explain why Americans shouldn't be worried about a threat of violence from Trump, especially when he instigated an attempted insurrection.

Christy returned to complain some more:

With former President Trump being indicted there was bound to be some cable news historian who reached for an outlandish analogy while attempting to wax poetic on the news and Douglas Brinkley delivered on Friday’s CNN Newsroom, declaring Trump’s upcoming mugshot will be like the wanted poster for John Wilkes Booth.


Getting to Trump specifically, Brinkley claimed, “Now we're set up to see the biggest reality show that's actually real come to life and watching a the-- I can't even think of an artifact except maybe wanted John Wilkes Booth after the Lincoln assassination of a wanted poster or a mugshot that's going to be circulating around the world in the kind of way that this one of Donald Trump is.”

It says more about Brinkley and his fellow liberals that they would analogize the alleged falsification of business records with the assassination of a president. More to the point, New York doesn’t release mugshots, so those wanting that “artifact” should prepare to be disappointed.
Kathleen Krumhansl similarly groused that "While the Latino networks quickly buried Monday's deadly Nashville school shooting when it was learned that the assassin was a deranged transsexual, the prospect of a dream coming true in the shape of a Donald Trump mug shot was too much to ignore." As it turned out, the person who really wanted a Trump mugshot was Trump himself, whose own online store started selling a T-shirt with a fake mugshot on it.

Kevin Tober laughably attacked the hosts of "The View" as "immature and vindictive" when talking about Trump while, at the same time, immaturely and vindictively describing their audience as made up of "suburban liberal wine moms":

Ignorant legal commentary and gloating over Trump’s reported indictment was the theme Friday on ABC’s The View as the clucking hens who make up the cast made sure to let their audience know how immature and vindictive they were.

After setting their audience up to believe the coven was about to discuss the indictment of Trump, a soundbite of the jury in the Gwyneth Paltrow case was aired. That got a laugh from the suburban liberal wine moms in the audience.

“In other legal news,” co-host Joy Behar announced before gloating how “the twice impeached, one term, once indicted, but who's counting? Former President is reportedly facing more than 30 count them—criminal charges.”


Butting in once again to showcase her chronic hatred of the former President, Navarro said she wanted to “thank this special grand jury” because they are “regular New Yorkers” and “not people with a political agenda.”

Getting in another juvenile shot at Trump, she shouted that he “finally won a popular vote yesterday. The Grand Jury voted to indict him!”

Tober couldn't even settle on an animal insult for the "View" hosts, starting off by sneering they were "clucking hens" but at the end declaring they were "hyenas." Looks like Kevin is the real juvenile here.

Finkelstein spent an April 1 post bashing "Morning Joe" for talking about it (even though talking about the news of the day is what shows like "Morning Joe" do):

From fascism to the Forbidden Fruit, and more, Morning Joe had it all on Friday when it came to the indictment of Donald Trump.

Al Sharpton gloried in the fact that Alvin Bragg, "a black man whose great-grandfather had no rights," could indict the former most powerful person in the country. Obviously, if a black Republican indicted a Democrat, this wouldn't be celebrated as cosmic comeuppance on MSNBC.


In a country-club allusion, Meacham referred to mainstream Republicans like Gov. Glenn Youngkin of Virginia: "These are men's grill enablers, right? These are 19th hole enablers of a quest for power above all." Jon the Preacher suggested our American experiment could die because Republicans obsess over "tax rates above all."

Joe Scarborough, fulfilling his contractual obligation to work "fascism" into every conversation concerning Trump, then added "the men's grill enablers of Trumpism, a form of fascism. Hope those drinks on the 19th hole are enjoyable for 'em."

Morning Joe and the rest of the liberal media might revel in Trump's predicament. But our country is headed into uncharted waters from which no one might emerge a winner. At least Willie Geist was willing to suggest that it's possible that a judge will dismiss the whole thing.

Nicholas Fondacaro attacked "The View" again for talking about the Trump indictment in an April 3 post, asserting that co-host Whoopi Goldberg spread "disinformation" in suggesting that Trump was "lying to the FEC" by bragging about how much money he has raised in fund-raising done since the indictment. He didn't explain what, exactly, was "disinformation."

Arraignment day

When the day of Trump's arraignment came on April 4, the ranting ramped up. Houck hit all the required talking points -- Bragg-bashing, Biden whataboutism -- in complaining about that a former president facing a criminal indictment is somehow considered newsworthy:

Since Thursday evening, the media profession somehow found a way to even further embarrass itself by taking a steroids-induced trip back to 2015 and 2016 with wall-to-wall Trump coverage in light of his indictment by Soros-backed Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg on charges related to the infamous 2016 payments to Stormy Daniels.

As such, a litany of stories that have significant bearing on the country have been ignored and one story has been reporting that the Chinese spy balloon did, in fact, gather intelligence on some of our country’s most sensitive military installations. ABC and CBS have shown zero interest in highlighting this, ignoring it on their flagship Monday evening and Tuesday morning news shows.

Graham whined that NPR was committing the offense of covering news, with an added fit of Hunter Biden Derangement Syndrome:

On Monday night's All Things Considered newscast, co-host Mary Louise Kelly covered the indictment of Trump as a serious conundrum for the media. She was pandering to the leftist audience, angered that Trump will probably get away with all this again, that he's just milking this indictment for fame and fortune and another Republican nomination for president. Kelly brought on NPR vice president and executive editor Terence Samuel to think out loud about how the coverage might disappoint the audience.

Samuel promised they would "flood the zone," as they say. "And what we have now is we have two reporters in the courtroom. We have two reporters outside the courtroom because the world is completely different now, and we will have to update that story as it's happening online in our newscast....It is constant and ongoing. We want to be authoritative. We want to be complete. And we're going to be relentless."

Now for conservative critics of NPR, Terence Samuel is infamous for proclaiming in 2020 that the Hunter Biden laptop was "not really" a story, a "pure distraction" that NPR shouldn't cover. They never wanted to be "complete" on that subject. None of that came up in this conversation, obviously.

When commentators on a couple of networks raised questions about the charges against Trump -- despite the fact that all the evidence has not been made public -- Tober spun: "You know the charges against former President Donald Trump by the corrupt Soros-backed prosecutor Alvin Bragg are in trouble when even ABC and NBC are skeptical about their legal standing. ... The case is in serious jeopardy if this is the way two of the three liberal broadcast networks are covering these charges against Trump." Tober returned later to defend Trump and inject the "Soros-backed" talking point:

During MSNBC’s special live coverage of former President Donald Trump’s speech where he gave his initial reaction to the Soros-backed Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg charging him with 34 counts of falsifying business records, co-host Stephanie Ruhle had a diva-like tantrum over Trump daring to fundraise off the controversy. Ruhle should check her emails because this writer has received dozens of fundraising emails from Democrats since Trump’s indictment Tuesday.

Ruhle has no problem with being a hypocrite. Instead, she lashed out at Republicans for claiming this ordeal was good for Trump: “right-wing media has been saying scandal after scandal this is great for Trump. It is never great for Trump politically.”

“It's a win-in-one-place and one-place-only: fundraising,” Ruhle claimed. She then went into meltdown mode over how Trump has solicited donations:


No understanding the difference between a grift and fundraising for a presidential campaign. Ruhle cried that for Trump “this is always about the grift and fundraising.”

Why can't it be both? Tober didn't ask that question.

Houck came back to exhibit a fit of CNN Derangement Syndrome:

Call it their Super Bowl, the greatest day of their lives, or the pinnacle of their careers. Either way, CNN went wall-to-wall Tuesday with coverage of former President Trump’s arrest and arraignment on charges by far-left, Soros-backed Manhattan D.A. Alvin Bragg in relation to payments made to Stormy Daniels. and, as such, CNN’s coverage showed a network relapsing back to its Trump-centric days of 2015 and 2016 with imbecilic hot takes masquerading as expert analysis.

NewsBusters suffered through Tuesday afternoon so you didn’t have to and below represents ten moments (in chronological order) from the embarrassing display of CNN’s non-existent status as a news organization.

CNN is "non-existent" as a news organization? Doesn't that description more accurately apply to Fox News, which actually lied to its viewers about election fraud?

The MRC's coverage on April 5 started with a post from Finkelstein cheering that "the former lead prosecutor of Robert Mueller's Russia-Russia-Russia investigation of Trump" raised questions about Trump's prosecution despite the fact that, again, not all of the evidence has been made public. Clay Waters complained that right-wing attacks on Bragg and his prosecution were called out, complete with 25-year-old whataboutism and an upgraded smear of Soros to an "international billionaire":

National Public Radio’s media reporter David Folkenflik, who has been on an anti-Fox News kick of late, went off on “right-wing media’s” “apocalyptic” coverage criticizing the legal case against Donald Trump and their attacks on Manhattan district attorney Alvin Bragg, who has brought charges against Trump involving payments to former porn star Stormy Daniels.

Earlier, Trump and his conservative defenders were baselessly accused on Friday’s PBS NewsHour of both racism (Bragg is black) and anti-Semitism (for accurately pointing out Bragg’s campaign for district attorney was funded by left-wing international billionaire George Soros).


Left out of these agitated takedowns were any sense of historical context – such as when media outlets like NPR and PBS went “apocalyptic” and “extreme” in defense of Democratic president Bill Clinton when he was supposedly persecuted by special counsel Kenneth Starr for lying under oath about his own hushing up of his affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky. Go here for a taste of the way the press reacted to Starr’s attempt to follow the rule of law in pursuit of a president accused of sexual misconduct. It’s safe to say Alvin Bragg won’t be getting the Starr treatment.

The MRC continued to hype any little thing that could be considered to be pro-Trump:

Graham summed up the day's bias in his podcast (unironic bolding his):

The media's Trump obsession overflowed on Arraignment Day in New York City. They loved analyzing Trump's grumpiness in photographs taken in the court room, but they didn't love the substance of the actual indictment once it was widely released. The legal analysts expressed concerns that Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg didn't explain how misdemeanors could be promoted into felony counts, and there could be problems with the statute of limitations.

NewsBusters Associate Editor Nick Fondacaro joins the show to discuss all the video tweets we put out to analyze the events. At first, analysts like CNN's Jamie Gangel were excited to note from photographs that Trump looks like "he's in custody. He's in their control. I think this is very striking." But then lawyers who hate Trump -- like his former appointee John Bolton -- announced on CNN "I'm extraordinarly distressed by this document...This is even weaker than I feared it would be."

It was especially funny when Rachel Maddow announced MSNBC would be running no live coverage of Trump's speech in Florida, because it's the usual routine of "lies" and "grievances" about his "perceived enemies" (like he has none). But then she says MSNBC is such a serious news network: "there's a cost to us as a news organization of knowingly broadcasting untrue things."

Needless to say, Graham didn't mention that he didn't really didn't want to talk about the fact that Fox News had been recently exposed as knowingly broadcasting untrue things to its viewers.

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