ConWebWatch home
ConWebBlog: the weblog of ConWebWatch
Search and browse through the ConWebWatch archive
About ConWebWatch
Who's behind the news sites that ConWebWatch watches?
Letters to and from ConWebWatch
ConWebWatch Links
Buy books and more through ConWebWatch

The MRC Roots Against The Economy (And America), Part 2

It's the Media Research Center's job as right-wing activists to talk down the economy when the president is a Democrat, as it sought to blame President Biden as the sole cause of inflation while trying to distract from dropping gas prices.

By Terry Krepel
Posted 3/15/2024

Joseph Vazquez

The Media Research Center spent a good part of last year talking down the ecomony -- despite the fact that, by most traditional measures, it's doing fairly well -- because such factually dubious trash talk is mandated by its right-wing anti-Biden agenda. After all, talking down the economy under Democratic presidents is what the MRC does, even when the economy is clearly improving. Let's take a trip down memory lane and see how this has taken place.

A Feb. 21, 2023, post by Renata Kiss, for example, hyped one economist who foretold economic doom:

Former President Barack Obama’s National Economic Council Director sounded the alarm on the Federal Reserve’s inability to tame inflation and warned about “a collision or crash down the road.”

Economist Larry Summers warned the public in a Saturday interview with Bloomberg TV that the Fed’s interest rate hikes aren’t enough to cool inflation, yet he advised against hitting the brakes too hard. “The Fed’s been trying to put the brakes on and it doesn’t look like the brakes are getting much traction,” Summers said. “And when your brakes don’t get much traction, two things happen. You can be moving too fast: that’s the inflation pressure, and you can be setting yourself up for kind of a collision or crash down the road. And both of those things, I think, are real risks in this environment,” he continued.

That prediction didn't age well, since further interest rate hikes did slow inflation enough that the Fed is now mulling the idea of lowering rates.

When it was noted that the media plays a role in talking down the economy, Kevin Tober complained in a Feb. 26 post:

On ABC's This Week, co-moderator Martha Raddatz aired more of World News Tonight's exclusive interview with President Joe Biden during which anchor David Muir displayed how out of touch he is with the economic reality everyday Americans are facing due to Biden's rampant inflation and incipient recession. Not to be outdone, a "reporter" from America's state media, NPR, named Asma Khalid claimed the economy is improved from where it was six months ago. 

During the Biden/Muir interview, Muir asked Biden about the economy and seemed befuddled why Americans weren't feeling good about their financial standing. Of course, Muir made sure to add every seemingly favorable metric he could come up with: "unemployment now at its lowest level in 50 years, but you've also seen the polls. Our latest ABC News poll shows 4 in 10 Americans say they're worse off than when you were elected. Only 16 percent said they were better off. So why is that? Why aren't Americans feeling this?" 

Biden incoherently explained that Americans aren't feeling good because "it goes well beyond the economy." The octogenarian President blamed the constant negative stories Americans see when they turn on the news: "can you think of anything when you turn on the television that makes you think, God, that makes me feel good? Almost anything. Everything is in the negative."

Has there ever been a time when the news wasn't negative? Not to our memory. That's why there's the saying "no news is good news."

Tober offered no proof that Biden and only Biden is responsible for "rampant inflation," and his prediction of a "incipient recession" has fallen flat because economists now predict that the economy will come in for a "soft landing" without a recession.

When Stephanie Ruhle made the same argument, Alex Christy lashed out in a June 3 post:

MSNBC’s Stephanie Ruhle is not if not consistent in her efforts to blame the news media for the lack of confidence in the economy. On Friday’s The 11th Hour, Ruhle claimed that “we instilled this fear and unhappiness in people” right before going on to blame consumers for inflation.

During a panel discussion on the economy, REVOLT Black News anchor and managing editor Mara S. Campo made the normal observation that people do not feel confident in the economy because it does not reflect their everyday experience, “But I don't know if the messaging is getting through. Because I don't know that people feel it. You know, eggs still cost $8 a carton. A box of cereal is $10. Your credit card bills are going up every month by hundreds of dollars because the Fed keeps raising interest rates.”

Other than a gratuitous call for gun control, Campo summed up the problem with trying to convince voters the economy is doing great, “The housing market seems frozen because mortgage rates are at high sky high rates. We’re all afraid of getting shot by some lunatic with an AR-15 because no place feels safe. So, there are a lot of things that people are just feeling that don't feel good. But maybe when it comes to the economy it's not reflecting the messaging and the reality, but people are not really very enthusiastic.”

Ruhle wasn’t buying it, “But we, being the media, are somewhat responsible for that, right? Gas prices is the perfect example. When gas prices are up, like they were last year, every news organization and every reporter were standing in front of the gas station talking about it.”

Alternatively, consumers don’t need a reporter to tell them gas or egg prices are high because they see it themselves when they fill up their car or go to the store. Additionally, the media constantly tried to spin away inflation by repeating Ruhle’s point that the economy was actually doing rather well.

The MRC continued to bash the economy and anyone who noted it wasn't really as bad as right-wingers (are paid to) portray it:

The MRC was still pushing the bad-economy argument in an Oct. 23 post by Joseph Vazquez:

Liberal journos like Vox co-founder Matthew Yglesias continue to treat struggling Americans as stupid for not giving President Joe Biden kudos on his so-called “great” economy.

Yglesias published a ludicrous Oct. 22 op-ed for Bloomberg Opinion with a headline that was nothing short of comical: “Biden’s Economy Is Great Everywhere Except in the Polls.” In Yglesias’s condescending, escapist worldview, those darn average Americans just don’t know what’s good for them: “Like a lot of world leaders, the US president must contend with voters who remain unhappy even as economic conditions improve.”

Yglesias even outrageously attempted to make Biden out to be a victim of unfair public perception, despite his administration’s policies largely contributing to the inflation crisis that crippled the U.S. economy: “This is undoubtedly a frustrating situation for the president, his campaign and Democrats overall.” 

Utterly “silly,” Heritage economist EJ Antoni told MRC Business of Yglesias’ argument. “It is reminiscent of when football commentators say an NFL team is better than its record,” Antoni added. “That may be true in the initial weeks of the season, but at some point, your record is your record, and it is indicative of the team’s performance. The American people have judged Bidenomics and found it wanting.”

Vazquez didn't disclose that Antoni is a highly biased right-wing economist whose job at the right-winbg Heritage Foundation is to talk down Biden's economy in order to boost Republicans' chances of getting elected, so his arguments should be seen as partisan attacks, not sound economic analysis.

Gas prices

Because it’s the MRC’s job as a right-wing activist group to talk down the economy when a Democrat is president, it unsurprisingly labored to blame President Biden for higher gas prices earlier this year, despite offering no evidence to support the claim. When one commentator pointed out that Biden has little control over gas prices, Alex Christy complained in an Aug. 8 post:

As President Biden prepares to travel to Arizona to declare a new national monument around The Grand Canyon, MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell used her Tuesday show to lament how people’s basic needs to heat their homes and not break their wallets over gas prices have hurt his ability to cut back on fossil fuels. Mitchell and Politico White House editor Sam Stein also insisted that those gas prices have nothing to do with those high gas prices as he’s just a bystander to world events.


As Mitchell tells it, Biden had nothing to do with those high gas prices. She also does not explicitly mention the reason for the increased supply of natural gas to Europe, but the move came so that the Europeans could continue to have heat in the winter months as they seek to move away from Russian energy sources. If geopolitical realities and basic standard of living concerns force the U.S. and Europe to increase their reliance on fossil fuels, maybe that says something about the desire to move on from them.


You can do something about lower gas prices or appeal to your base. You can help the Europeans disentangle themselves from Russian blackmail or appeal to your base. For MSNBC, those, apparently, are difficult choices.

Christy, of course, is appealing to his employer’s right-wing base by suggesting that Biden has total control over oil prices.

Ana Schau used an Aug. 11 post to complain that a CNN report focused on “‘core inflation’ that removed some of the most relevant factors, such as the cost of energy and food, from the final number to bring it to a place that looked better,” though she was forced to concede that “These statistics showed that, in fact, gas prices were the only thing that had gone down, and that by enough to shift the average to a good-looking spot.”

An Aug. 31 post by Craig Bannister, taken from the desiccated right-wing blog that used to be the MRC’s “news” division, served up some RNC-approved (and cherry-picked) graphics to attack Biden’s  economy, including gas prices:

While gas prices held steady under Pres. Donald Trump (down four cents a gallon), they’ve surged 53.1% in the first 31 months of Pres. Joe Biden’s term. From January 2021 to July of this year, the average price of a gallon of gas (all grades) has increased from $2.42 to $3.71, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

By August 28, that cost had risen another 24 cents, to $3.95 a gallon, bringing the increase under Biden to more than a dollar and a half per gallon.

Bannister offered no evidence that Biden and Biden alone is responsible for gas prices.

A Sept. 13 post by Joseph Vazquez complained that the New York Times called out exactly what he was doing — cherry-picking bad inflation numbers to attack Biden:

The New York Times treated an expected spike in inflation as a problem because ... Republicans could potentially pounce on the development to criticize President Joe Biden. Yes, the leftist rag actually did that.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released a report Sept. 13 at 8:30 a.m. showing that inflation came in hotter than expected in August with a 3.7 percent spike year-over-year. A glaring statistic showed that gas prices spiked a whopping 10.6 percent in August, significantly contributing to the overall inflation rate.


[Reporter Jim] Tankersley tried to throw Biden a lifeline before the BLS report dropped by gaslighting readers. “Prices at the pump remain well below their peak in June 2022, when a gallon of gas cost more than $5 on average.”

Of course, nowhere in his propaganda did Tankersley mention that the average gas price was $2.49 cents per gallon when former President Donald Trump left office, according to economist Stephen Moore. “No matter [how] you slice or dice it, the cost of filling up is about $20 higher today than under Trump,” Moore summarized in an Aug. 16 New York Post piece.

Meanwhile, gas prices were falling, so the MRC needed to adjust the narrative to make that somehow a bad thing. When Republican Rep. Tim Scott tried to lecture NBC’s Lester Holt about how gas prices supposedly work, Jorge Bonilla tried to boost him in a Nov. 8 post:

Holt tried, he really tried. Take note of the claim. “The idea”, said Holt, of increasing production isn’t enough to decrease prices. Scott folded that premise upon Holt’s head, Inception-like, by correctly pointing out that markets respond to the perception of confidence created by regulatory certainty.

We know this is true because of what happened to the price of gasoline after Election Night, 2020. The record reflects that it began to INCREASE based on the regulatory uncertainty that came with Biden’s election. And it really began to spike after Inauguration Day, 2021, the day he signed the executive order to tighten domestic energy production.

Actually, we don’t know that — Bonilla is simply taking refuge in the correlation-equals-causation fallacy, and he offered no actual proof to bolster his assertion. And Bonilla is certainly not going to tell his readers that U.S. oil production has increased under Biden.

When another news report noted the lower gas prices, Bonilla had a conniption in a Nov. 29 post:

The pro-Biden media is doing its level best to mitigate the effects of inflation on the everyday finances of the American public: case in point, this weird report on the national gas price average.

Watch as anchor Lester Holt cheerfully frames today’s national gas price average as inflation relief:


God forbid, what happens to gas prices if OPEC cuts production or if the Biden administration’s deal with the Maduro dictatorship in Venezuela lapses due to noncompliance? Does NBC issue a correction for pretending that commodity speculation is news? 

More than anything, the report comes off as “Bidenomics” propaganda without that word, which journos openly lament “isn’t working”, ever being uttered.

Also unsaid: the reason gas prices got so high in the first place. Rhymes with Schmidenomics.

Um, wasn’t Bonilla trying to portray “commodity speculation” as news by claiming without evidence that the mere election of Biden caused gas prices to increase? And if Biden deserves blame for higher gas prices — and Bonilla offered no evidence that he was solely responsible — shouldn’t he also get credit if prices go down? Bonilla probably doesn’t want to get into that.

Bannister returned with revised cherry-picked charts in a Dec. 15 post that had to acknowledge that gas prices have gone down since his earlier propaganda effort.

Inflation scapegoat

For the past year and change, the MRC has been doing the bidding of its right-wing supporters by insisting that President Biden is the sole cause of inflation in the country as part of its efforts to talk down the economy for partisan gain. A February 2023 “study” by Rich Noyes hammered on this partisan narrative:

Among the policy catastrophes inflicted on Americans by the Biden administration, the rampant inflation of the last two years is the most devastating because its damaging effects are felt across the entire society. Yet a new study from the Media Research Center finds the overwhelming majority (84%) of TV news coverage of this inflation disaster failed to mention President Biden or his administration — and when reporters did discuss the President, they mostly depicted him as working to solve the problem, rather than blaming him for causing it.

For this report, MRC analysts looked at ABC, CBS and NBC evening news coverage of inflation from May 1, 2022 through January 31, 2023, including weekends. This period includes some of the worst months for inflation (with the Consumer Price Index, or CPI, registering a shocking 9.1% in June 2022, the highest since 1981), as well as gasoline prices reaching an unprecedented $5/gallon across the country.

All three evening newscasts spent considerable airtime documenting the distress of American consumers, with NBC Nightly News devoting the most (233 minutes) to the story during the nine months we examined. The CBS Evening News was close behind, with 216 minutes of inflation coverage, while ABC’s World News Tonight lagged, spending 93 minutes on the subject.

Combined, that’s a hefty 542 minutes of airtime, an average of about an hour every month since last spring. Virtually all of the networks’ full-length reports included multiple interviews with consumers angry about the high prices, plus families on tight budgets who were being financially crippled.

But when it came to evidence to back up his blame-Biden narrative, Noyes came up short. He whined about the “monstrous $1.9 trillion spending spree dubbed the ‘American Rescue Plan,’” but even then had to admit there was no evidence it was solely to blame:

So exactly how much of the blame can be rested at Joe Biden’s feet? “Last month, consumer prices grew at a 7.5 percent annual rate — a new four-decade high. How much of the surge in prices is due to President Biden’s $1.9 trillion March stimulus, known as the American Rescue Plan? My answer: around three percentage points in 2021,” the American Enterprise Institute’s Michael Strain, a right-of-center economist, concluded last February.

That squares with a study by the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco last March, on the impact of those stimulus checks: “U.S. income transfers may have contributed to an increase in inflation of about 3 percentage points by the fourth quarter of 2021.”

Among experts, there’s little doubt about Biden’s role in fueling a significant amount of this high inflation, and the resulting hardship to tens of millions of American families. Yet the national news media are doing the President a huge political favor by mostly keeping his name, and his blame, out of their coverage of America’s epic inflation nightmare.
Noyes conveniently overlooked the fact that while the American Rescue Plan did increase inflation, it resulted in the fastest post-pandemic economic recovery of any major nation.

Since this was a “study,” it had to be promoted in right-wing media, and MRC chief Brent Bozell did the deed on Fox News a couple days later, whining that “our news media...simply do not want to pin any blame on the donkey when it comes to looking at, at the economy, the economic numbers under Joe Biden.” He too refused to mention the fact that Biden’s policies ultimately led to a quick post-pandemic economic recovery.

The MRC spent much of the rest of 2023 complaining that its right-wing narratives were being ignored outside right-wing media. When a pair of writers pointed out that corporate greed played a role in boosting inflation, Luis Cornelio huffed in an April 14 post:

Two Bloomberg Opinion columnists claimed that American consumers and corporate greed are responsible for Biden’s inflation—because Americans have been “too accepting” of growing prices. In what world do they live?

Bloomberg Opinion columnists Chris Bryant and Andrea Felsted let their willful ignorance show when they called on U.S. consumers to get off their couches and protest consumer price increases. After all, it’s their allowance of corporate greed — not massive government spending — that is responsible for inflation. “When inflation took off in the 1960s, people didn’t just grumble about rising prices — they protested in front of local stores,” the Bloomberg authors wrote. “It’s time this generation of consumers push back harder against unnecessary price increases.”

Numerous economists have warned that inflation is caused by government spending, not by corporations. “Inflation is always and everywhere a monetary phenomenon. That’s one of the iron rules of economics,” renowned economist and author Stephen Moore told MRC Business. “If inflation is promoted by corporate greed then why is it that the two industries that have had the highest inflation rates are in health care and education that are dominated by government and nonprofit institutions?”

Moore, of course, is a right-wing economist who can be counted on to deliver partisan narratives, so his word isn’t exactly reliable.

Even as inflation started to decrease as 2023 went on, the MRC labored to place sole blame on Biden anyway. For instance:

When another writer pointed out that continued strong consumer spending is fueling inflation, Vazquez had a meltdown in a Dec. 4 post:

The leftist Atlantic actually victim-blamed Americans for the crushing high prices they’re experiencing. In the same breath, the outlet billed President Joe Biden’s ridiculously bad economy as the cat’s pajamas.

“Inflation Is Your Fault,” read the condescending headline by Atlantic staff writer Annie Lowrey. She opted for just talking down to the plebeians by simply chalking up Americans’ misery to consumer overspending.

Lowrey, doing damage control for Biden, proceeded to scold Americans: “People hate inflation, just not enough to spend less: This is one of the central tensions of today’s economy, in which things are going great yet everyone is miserable. And in some ways, Americans have nobody to blame but themselves.” Yikes. [Emphasis added.]

She didn’t bother mentioning Biden’s name at all in her piece until the last paragraph, and it was only to make excuses for his administration’s outrageous, inflation-stimulating spending policies. She appeared to hinge her entire argument on consumer spending rising 0.2 percent in October, glossing over the fact that this was a significant 0.5 percentage-point slowdown from the 0.7 percent increase in September and was the “slowest increase since May,” according to The Wall Street Journal

If “everyone is miserable,” how could things be “going great”? 


Lowrey can’t have it both ways. Either Biden’s economy is great in her mind or it isn’t, and reality clearly proves the latter. 

Actually, Vazquez is the one trying to have it both ways. If this bout of inflation has been so onerous, why have so many people continued to spend anyway?

Send this page to:

Bookmark and Share
The latest from

In Association with
Support This Site

home | letters | archive | about | primer | links | shop
This site © Copyright 2000-2024 Terry Krepel