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The MRC's Trump Indictment Distraction Game, Round 3

For Donald Trump's third indictment, the Media Research Center first insisted that it wasn't newsworthy, then played its usual distraction-and-whataboutism routine.

By Terry Krepel
Posted 11/21/2023

As it had before with his previous indictments, the Media Research Center rushed to defend Donald Trump after his third indictment with the usual distractions and whataboutism. An Aug. 1 post by Kevin Tober whining that that the non-right-wing media covered additional charges under a previous indictment:
Late Tuesday afternoon, Biden DOJ-appointed special prosecutor Jack Smith announced yet another indictment against former President Donald Trump on four separate counts. This time related to his alleged actions in the run-up to the January 6 riots at the United States Capitol. In stark contrast to their dismissive coverage of Hunter Biden’s criminal activity, the three networks spent a combined 24 minutes and 36 seconds on the third indictment of Trump.

ABC’s World News Tonight was the worst offender when it comes to the obsessive network coverage. In total, the network spent 11 minutes and 56 seconds harping on the news. Their total airtime dedicated to reporting the news (minus teases and commercials) was 19 minutes flat, which meant over 60 percent (62.8%) was about Trump.

Tober didn't explain why a former president getting indicted yet again wasn't newsworthy. An Aug. 2 post by Alex Christy similarly complained about newsworthiness:

If CNN has a line on hyperbolic rhetoric about former President Donald Trump, law enforcement analyst and former D.C. police officer Michael Fanone almost crossed it on Tuesday’s CNN Tonight when he compared Trump’s new indictment related to the aftermath of the 2020 Election to the death of Osama bin Laden. Even liberal host Laura Coates was shocked by the comparison.

After Coates asked Fanone his thoughts, he recalled that, “When I first learned about the indictment, I had a long conversation with a friend of mine, Ryan Reilly, and I told him how proud I felt to be an American at that moment. Much in the way that I did when I learned that our military had killed Osama bin Laden. I just felt incredibly proud.”

Amid some crosstalk, a confused Coates sought clarification, “These two seem comfortable to you?... I'm sorry, I don't want to cut you off, but why that comparison in particular?... In what way?”

Doubling down, Fanone declared, “Osama bin Laden was a terrorist who committed a horrific act against American people and against our republic. And I believe that Donald Trump is a terrorist who committed horrific acts against the American people.”

Curtis Houck played Hunter Biden whataboutism on indictment coverage:

With Tuesday’s third indictment of former President Trump, the “big three” networks of ABC, CBS, and NBC had their ticket out of having to acknowledge the scandals surrounding the Biden family, including reasons to continue skipping Burisma bribery claims and no longer probe Monday’s testimony from Hunter Biden’s former business partner, Devon Archer.

Between their flagship Tuesday evening (24:36) and Wednesday morning news shows (46:05), they’ve spent a whopping 70 minutes and 41 seconds obsessing over the charges filed against Trump relating to January 6 riot and claims about the 2020 election.

All three networks were within two minutes of each other with NBC at 22 minutes and 17 seconds, CBS at 23 minutes and 28 seconds, and then ABC on top at 24 minutes and 56 seconds. Each of these networks far exceeded what all three put up for post-Archer hearing coverage, which was only eight minutes and 32 seconds.

Mark Finkelstein groused about another Osama bin Laden reference to Trump's indictment:

On Wednesday's Morning Joe, liberal historian Michael Beschloss said that the indictment of former President Trump "fits perfectly into the American story" because there has been a history of "monsters" seeking to destroy American democracy. Beschloss cited the Confederacy, the attack on Pearl Harbor, and Osama Bin Laden.

In the context of commenting on the new indictment of Trump relating to January 6th, an apparently panicked Beschloss [see screencap] described Trump as a "monster" like Bin Laden. And in a bit of unhinged scare-mongering, Beschloss warned that if elected, Trump will institute a "presidential dictatorship" and "take away our democracy."

"9/11/2001, Osama bin Laden and other terrorists hated our democracy, tried to destroy it. You see where I'm going," he proclaimed.

Finkelstein was giddy at the prospect that his fellow normally law-and-order right-wingers will accept that their favorite presidential candidate is a criminal:

Beschloss didn't offer any evidence in support of his claim that Trump has said that the would institute a "presidential dictatorship," or that he would "take our democracy away."

As for the indictment somehow saving America from Trump being elected: even a conviction would not legally bar Trump from running and serving, and Trump has indicated that would be his intention. Indeed, this indictment, which even the National Review has editorialized "shouldn't stand," could be the very thing that propels Trump back into the White House.

Be careful what you wish for, Michael Beschloss and the rest of the liberal establishment!

Houck took over the MRC's Aug. 2 podcast to rehash his complaint about "the astounding totals of coverage on ABC, CBS, and NBC" of the Trump indictment," again asserting that this "has given the networks the perfect excuse to wave goodbye to any and all Biden scandals for an indefinite period of time."

Houck whined again that Trump's indictment was treated as news, with added Biden whataboutism, in an Aug. 3 post:

On Wednesday afternoon, NewsBusters brought you the tally of broadcast network coverage of the third Trump indictment as having stood at roughly 70 minutes (70:41) on the flagship morning and evening newscasts of ABC, CBS, and NBC. Unsurprisingly, the coverage ballooned ahead of Trump’s arraignment Thursday afternoon on charges relating to his conduct on and prior to January 6. The total this time? Roughly 112 minutes (111:57).

Another pattern held serve as, thanks to this third Trump indictment and the liberal media’s obsession with all things Trump (including elevating his 2024 candidacy), the networks again had nothing on Wednesday night and Thursday morning about any of the scandals pertaining to the Biden presidency, Hunter Biden’s life of ruin, or allegations of corruption against President Joe Biden.

The three remained in close touch on the stop watch with ABC still in first place with 38 minutes and 48 seconds.

Houck didn't explain why he apparently thinks Trump's indictment should be censored.

Nicholas Fondacaro melted down over the ladies of "The View" -- whom he once again smeared as a "cackling coven" -- having an opinion on Trump's latest indictment:

With 2024 on the horizon, the Cackling Coven of ABC’s The View really wanted former President Trump out of the picture. So much so that co-host Sara Haines was flabbergasted on Thursday by the notion that he would get a fair trial and not have any potential jury pool poisoned by the Justice Department releasing information pre-trial. They also fantasized about what his imprisonment situation would be like with Joy Behar saying she would settle for him being exiled somewhere, anywhere.

Referencing an interview Trump Attorney General Bill Barr gave to CNN the previous night, Haines couldn’t wrap her mind around why Trump deserved to have a fair trial, admitting it “blew my mind”:

Fondacaro again referenced "Racist co-host Sunny Hostin," apparently still under the delusion that his inability to understand how metaphors work justifies the smear.

Tober returned to rant that someone said nice things about Smith:

During CBS’s live coverage of former President Donald Trump’s arraignment on charges related to the January 6 riots at the United States Capitol and his alleged attempt to “overturn” the results of the 2020 presidential election, anchor Norah O’Donnell and correspondent Robert Costa heaped sycophantic praise for the corrupt anti-Trump prosecutor Jack Smith. O’Donnell took a break from analyzing the multiple indictments Trump was facing as they were speaking to Beclown herself by swooning over Smith and his so-called “grit” and “determination.”

“Also in the courtroom is a special counsel, Jack Smith,” O’Donnell observed. “He is essentially who Donald Trump is up against in multiple of these indictments,” she said referring to Smith. “The two of course the classified documents and the January 6 one. And they're sitting across from each other inside this courtroom.”

Tober offered no evidence to back up has assertion that Smith is "corrupt," unless he's arguing that merely indicting a Republican is evidence of "corruption." Instead, he closed by huffing: "The media is enjoying this saga way too much. They can’t be trusted to report on these indictments and trials objectively. It’s all a game to them." But that falsely suggests that Fox News is somehow not part of "the media" -- Tober didn't tell us how Fox News is covering the indictment -- and it ignores that Tober and the rest of the MRC can't be trusted to report on Trump's indictments objectively because its anti-media agenda is nothing but a game to them.

More whining from Tober appeared in a Aug. 3 post:

All day long Thursday, as reported extensively by NewsBusters, the big three evening news broadcasts were beside themselves with glee over the third arraignment of President Joe Biden's political opponent Donald Trump. Between the motorcade chases broadcasted live, and breathless coverage of every detail large and small, it's clear this was seen by the networks as a ratings-grabbing television production rather than the federal government prosecuting the leading challenger to the Biden regime's power in the upcoming elections. The show continued during the big-three evening newscasts, where each network's anchor relayed the day's events to anyone who wasn't already watching.

All in all, the networks were so obsessed that their total coverage of the Trump indictment was now up to 132.5 minutes (2 hours, 12 minutes, and 28 seconds). 20 minutes and 31 seconds of that total occurred on Thursday alone.

Houck got mad that it was pointed out how Republicans failed to do their job in refusing to convict Trump in an impeachment trial for helping to incite the Capitol riot:

Amid the O.J. Simpson Bronco chase-like idiocy on the broadcast and cable networks Thursday afternoon surrounding former President Trump’s third criminal arraignment, NBC’s Meet the Press moderator Chuck Todd suffered a near-emotional, weapons-grade meltdown seething at the Republican Party for putting America on the precipice of collapse because the GOP “refused to do” what was right and remove Trump from office in 2021 so he can never run again.

Worse yet, he claimed that, by not listening to “the Founders” who “created a process” to do right, Republicans (and not Democrats running urban hellscapes) are the reason there could be an irreparable “erosion of the rule of law”.


Sounding like he was near tears, the former Senate Democratic staffer blasted the GOP as having made “the wrong call for the Republican Party,” “the American public,” and “the justice system.”

Houck didn't rebut anything Todd said -- he simply complained that it was said at all.

Houck served up yet more Biden whataboutism in an Aug. 4 post, though he did concede that a former president being repeatedly indicted is "a huge story":

Through four days and three installments each of the flagship morning and evening news shows on the major broadcast networks, ABC, CBS, and NBC have eagerly doled out astounding 162 minutes and 16 seconds through Friday morning salivating over the third criminal indictment of former President Trump that has the potential to either land him in prison or propel him to the White House in 2024.

These numbers represent a network tally that is 19 times larger than what these same networks gave (eight minutes and 32 seconds) to Monday’s closed-door House Oversight Committee hearing featuring Hunter Biden’s former business partner, Devin Archer.

The indictment of a former President is undoubtedly a huge story, but scant attention for a person heavily involved in Hunter Biden’s life of ruin amid allegations of bribery involving Burisma, where both Archer and Hunter were on the board? Of course, the networks don’t have any time for the bribery claim.

Alex Christy served up his own whataboutism-laden count:

Former President Donald Trump was arraigned for the third time on Thursday and the cable networks of MSNBC and CNN once again obsessed over the matter to the detriment of coverage of any other topic.

A study of the two networks from 5:00 a.m. Eastern to midnight Eastern on MSNBC and from 6:00 a.m. Eastern to midnight on CNN found that 91.32 percent of their news-related coverage focused on Trump’s alignment [sic], other legal problems, or reaction and analysis. The networks combined for 26 hours, 48 minutes, and 23 seconds of news coverage on Thursday, 24 hours, 28 minutes, and 50 seconds of which was devoted to all things Trump. This marks yet another instance of CNN and MSNBC spending over 90 percent of their day on a Trump arraignment.

Joe and Hunter Biden’s scandals received only 13 minutes and 59 seconds. Put another way, Trump’s problems got 105 more times the coverage than the Bidens’ or 1 percent of the total time.

Christy didn't explain why he omitted Fox News from his cable news analysis.

Houck and Nicholas Fondacaro regurgitated these complaints in the MRC's Aug. 4 podcast: "As they flood the zone with coverage, they also fill the airwaves with flaming hot takes proclaiming their anticipation of Trump behind bars or even exiled."

Jeffrey Lord went back in time in his Aug. 5 column to serve up some good ol'-fashioned Clinton equivocation (like the MRC did on Trump's second indictment):

The media love fest for the Trump-investigating Jack Smith was curiously absent when the name of the prosecutor was - Ken Starr. That would be the Special Counsel assigned to investigate Democrat President Bill Clinton. Somewhere along the way I crossed paths with him at a conservative event. A nicer, more decent and smarter guy it would be hard to find. Not that you would have learned that from the media that covered his most famous case in the mid 1990’s.

Lord went back even further to criticize special counsels for Ronald Reagan and Richard Nixon before returning to present-day complaints:

In short, as is frequently the case with the liberal media, the more things change the more they stay the same.

Special Counsel Jack Smith is now on his way into the liberal media hall of fame.


Tim Graham spent an Aug. 6 post having a fit that the contrast between our current president and our previous one, under the headline "As Trump went to court, Biden went for a bike ride," was pointed out. Graham lashed out at the reporter who made the observation, declaring that he is "one of the most flagrant Biden publicists in the White House press corps" and huffing: 'In the Trump years, White House reporters competed to see which could be more bombastically anti-Trump. Under Biden, they compete to see which one can sound the most like a White House press secretary."

Clay Waters huffed that some people see Trump's criminality more harshly than he does in an Aug. 7 post:

What's Amanpour & Co’s idea of a balanced segment on the news of former President Donald Trump’s third indictment for “conspiring to defraud” the United States for contesting his loss in 2020? Hosting a sitting liberal Democrat, Representative Joe Neguse (CO), and the ex-Republican (in all senses) Representative Joe Walsh, who ran against Trump in the 2020 primary and remained fiercely opposed.

Amanpour’s Tuesday (August 1,2023) evening show promised both sides, which turned out to be one sitting and one former congressman, both adamantly unsympathetic to Trump. From host Christiane Amanpour's show introduction: Then, how Republicans are reacting to the news with former GOP congressman and presidential candidate Joe Walsh….”

Neguse was positively placid in comparison to former congressman Walsh’s theatrically rabid attack on Trump.

Picking Walsh of all people to deliver the Republican opinion on Trump was just more evidence that Amanpour & Co. was more concerned about piling on the former President than any sense of journalistic balance.


Amanpour showed no feel for counter-arguments about an indictment that some have called an example of a two-tiered justice system, one for Republicans, and a more lenient one for Democrats like Hunter Biden.

We don't recall Waters ever demanding that Fox News show concern about having "any sense of journalistic balance."

Whataboutism double standard

The MRC had already been playing whataboutism over Trump's (third) indictment, so it was more than happy when a fellow Republican did the same thing on TV. Kevin Tober got all gushy over it in an Aug. 6 post:

The media demands everyone be as obsessed with Trump as they are, and if we don’t comply, leftists like George Stephanopoulos will scold you. More evidence of this came during ABC’s This Week when co-anchor Stephanopoulos had North Dakota governor and GOP presidential candidate Doug Burgum on the show to presumably discuss his campaign and instead insisted on haranguing him about the latest indictment of Trump. Burgum didn’t take the bait and instead pointed out how Hunter Biden and his endless list of crimes haven’t been mentioned on the show. This only set Stephanopoulos off further.

Stephanopoulos again asked Burgum his thoughts on the allegations that Trump forced then-Vice President Mike Pence to not certify the 2020 election. “Was Donald Trump wrong when he pressured Mike Pence not to certify? Was Mike Pence right when he certified?”

Burgum replied in frustration that he had just “listened to 15 minutes of legal debate on this thing and I'm sure you could run it again 7/24. But what I know is that I'm running against Joe Biden and that's what we're going to be talking about.”

“Of course, not a mention in the last 15 minutes of, you know, Hunter Biden or the laptop,” Burgum observed. “There are people on the ground that are not watching these Sunday programs that are saying, you know, why is the DOJ defending Hunter Biden and why are they attacking President Trump?”


This forced an irritated Stephanopoulos to interject: “I'm asking you what you think. Do you have an opinion on the fact that President Trump tried to overturn the election as alleged in the indictment this week by special prosecutor Smith?”

Burgum just ignored his demands and explained that President Biden loves this talk about Trump 24/7 “because then we don't have to talk about inflation or Afghanistan or the Russian invasion, the fact we're in a cold war with China. And who else loves it, China loves it when America’s divided like this and talking about the past.”

But when this right-wing whataboutism gets called out, the MRC is less than pleased. Clay Waters spent a Aug. 6 post complaining about it:

In a dream world, liberal reporters would like to beat Republican candidates with a scandal shovel and pretend there are no Democrat scandals. Bring them up? Then you're guilty of "whataboutism."

New York Times chief White House correspondent Peter Baker penned a Thursday “news analysis” downplaying the corruption accusations against President Biden and his son Hunter, while denigrating Republicans and conservative media for daring to suggest the cases were in any way comparable. The headline: “In the Court of Public Opinion, Trump Relies on a Whataboutism Defense.”

Baker led off in full snark mode, playing up Trump's issues and playing down Biden's, like a good Democrat. It doesn't matter whether the indictments or lawsuits will end up victorious. Just Democrats pressing them equals victory.'

Tober did his own whining in another Aug. 6 post:

On NBC’s Meet the Press, moderator Chuck Todd openly fretted to Maryland Democrat Congressman Jamie Raskin that the upcoming general election for president will be filled with what he described as “whataboutism” from Republicans pointing to the mountain of crimes by Hunter Biden as a way to distract from the indictments of Donald Trump. Todd worried that the appearance of what Hunter is accused of “is not good.” To Todd, it’s all about optics, not the actual crimes by both Hunter and Joe Biden.

“We're gonna have a campaign that is gonna be filled with a lot of ‘whataboutisms’. We know the Republicans are gonna talk about Hunter Biden here,” Todd worried. “And I know that the—a lot of the technical defense of the President with Hunter Biden is well, the President didn't do anything wrong.”

Todd then observed that “Michael Kinsley once said: the real scandal in Washington is not what's illegal, it’s what's legal.” Turning to Raskin, he then asked: “should there be a code of conduct, something for family members here? Because the appearance of what Hunter Biden did is not good.”

The partisan anchor chose to ignore all the evidence of actual wrongdoing by the Biden crime family and instead focused on the optics.

Is that like how Tober is ignoring all the evidence of actual wrongdoing by the Trump crime family?

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