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Debate Patrol At The MRC, Part 2

For the second GOP presidential debate, the Media Research Center tried to smear a non-right-wing moderator as "anti-American" for asking tough questions and whined that people kept talking about how Donald Trump skipped this debate too.

By Terry Krepel
Posted 2/9/2024

As with the first one, the Republican apparatchiks at the Media Research Center hyped and defended the second Republican presidential debate (which, like the first, leading candidate Donald Trump refused to attend). Jorge Bonilla kicked things off with a Sept. 27 post (also in Spanish) complaining that someone from Spanish-language network Univision was allowed to serve as moderator alongside pro-Republican Fox Business hosts, insisting that this didn't mean Univision suddenly moved to the right:
The worst part of the GOP’s inexplicable decision to invite Univision to co-moderate tonight’s presidential primary debate at the Reagan Library is that it validates Univision’s claim to represent the Hispanic community, when they very clearly do not.

Watch as anchor and debate co-moderator Ilia Calderón claims that mantle in the network’s ad promoting the debate:


Expect Calderón to ask questions on immigration, gun control, and other items from the leftwing policy pupu platter. Just keep in mind that Univision has no mandate from Heaven with which to speak on behalf of the Hispanic community, inasmuch as there is such a singular thing. In fact, polling suggests quite the opposite.

After the debate, Nicholas Fondacaro raged at Calderón for purportedly being "anti-American" for asking questions that actually challenged the candidates:

The second GOP presidential primary debate Wednesday night was a case study in why the Republican Party shouldn’t award debate moderation privileges to hostile and dishonest members of the liberal media. While Fox Business Network occupied two of the moderator positions (Stuart Varney and Dana Perino), the third was given to Univision anchor Ilia Calderón. Her questions were by far the most anti-American and dishonest; ranging from lies about gun violence being “unique” to America to blaming America for the drug trafficking at the southern border, and more.

In a question directed to North Dakota governor Doug Burgum, Calderón peddled the liberal media’s BIG LIE about gun violence: “Mental health concerns are not unique to United States. But gun violence is.”

Back here in reality, Central American and South American countries were some of the most dangerous countries in the world. Their violence was often cited as a primary driver of illegal immigration to the U.S. According to reporting from NPR, those countries have per capita violent gun death rates many times that of the U.S. In 2019, America’s rate was 3.96 while Mexico’s was 16.41 and Calderón’s home country of Colombia had 26.36.

In his rage, Fondacaro forgot to explain how that line of questioning was "anti-American." Kevin Tober similarly slurred Calderón as "anti-American" and a "radial leftist" without providing a factual basis, further attacking her as "pro-trans" for asking a question about anti-LGBTQ violence:

Fox News for reasons passing understanding, allowed radical leftist Univision anchor Ilia Calderón to co-moderate their Republican presidential primary debate. Throughout the evening, Calderón asked numerous anti-American & pro-LGBTQ questions of the candidates. Predictably, during their live post-debate coverage, MSNBC's Rachel Maddow praised Calderón's biased questions because they are something Fox's audience is "not used to hearing on Fox."

"There was also an interesting dynamic tonight with the moderators. With at least one of the moderators, Ilia Calderón from Univision she’s the only one of tonight's three moderators who has some experience moderating debates," Maddow said. "But it was Miss Calderón who actually in her questioning sort of distinguished herself by telling the listening audience tonight something they are not used to hearing on Fox," she added.

Maddow then gushed over the Anti-American and false question that American citizens are responsible for bringing fentanyl into the United States: "She mentioned, for example, that when it comes to fentanyl, 90 percent of fentanyl is caught at the U.S. Border and most is brought by American citizens. That is something Fox audiences may never have heard on their television before."

Being a lesbian herself, Maddow predictably enjoyed the question posed to Mike Pence about supposed violence against "LGBTQ+" people: "She also confronted former Vice President Mike Pence with this question about the LGBTQ community right now. It was a question, again that Fox viewers are not used to hearing, and it elicited at first, a sort of general platitude for Mr. Pence and then a somewhat chilling threat from him toward that community," Maddow proclaimed.

The MRC's DeSantis Defense Brigade weighed in with a post by Tom Olohan cheering how Ron DeSantis "stressed that keeping Americans safe from the rampant crime often intensified by radical Soros-funded prosecutors is crucial for the country’s future success." Tober returned to complain that the candidates pushing partisan attacks on Democrats on border issues was called out:

During ABC News Live Prime's post-GOP debate coverage, political director Averi Harper was clearly disappointed that Republican candidates framed the Biden border crisis as a "wholly Democratic Party failure," and bemoaned the "finger-pointing and the platitudes that were made on that stage."

Tober offered no evidence that Biden and only Biden is to blame for the border situation.

A post by Tom Kilcullen cheered how Nikki Haley "blasted censorship-loving tech platform TikTok as 'one of the most dangerous social media apps that we can have.'" Mark Finkelstein was annoyed that someone whose show he hate-watches for a living picked a debate winner:

"Nikki Haley: Endorsed By Morning Joe!"

That's hardly the kind of support that someone seeking the Republican presidential nomination would welcome. To the contrary, it could be the kiss of political death for Haley or any of the Republican contenders.

But while the praise for Haley was not overly enthusiastic, the former South Carolina governor and UN ambassador was clearly the winner of last night's debate in the eyes of today's Morning Joe panel.

Indeed, no one other than Haley was mentioned as a possible winner. Joe Scarborough, Willie Geist, Jonathan Lemire, and Elise Jordan were all in agreement: Haley was "the adult in the room."


For all this praise today, if Haley ever did become the Republican candidate, you could count on Morning Joe to train an endless stream of attacks on her!

Curtis Houck, meanwhile, whined that the lack of questions about the elephant (not) in the room was noted:

During the post-GOP presidential debate analysis on Thursday’s CBS Mornings and ABC’s Good Morning America (GMA), liberal journalists bellyached that the seven candidates didn’t obsess over the four indictments against former President Trump or fixate on a recent Truth Social post calling for charges to be brought against former Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Mark Milley.

Chief Washington correspondent and soon-to-be three-time anti-Trump author Jonathan Karl was beside himself in both hours of GMA over how, other than Chris Christie looking into the camera and referring to “your indictments,” “that was the only mention in the entire debate of Trump’s indictments.”

“There was no mention whatsoever of this week’s ruling by a New York judge that Trump’s company had committed widespread fraud,” he added.


Karl then offered this lie: “No major attacks on him from the other candidates besides, you know, suggesting that he should have been there.”

Hello, Jon? What was that clip of DeSantis talking about Trump and the national debt? Or how about the moments when DeSantis hit Trump from the right on abortion? Or Christie on the border and then Russia? Or Mike Pence on the size of the federal bureaucracy? Or Nikki Haley on China?

Houck provided no links to the actual debate transcript, so it's unclear whether the candidates were targeting Trump specifically or repeating their usual right-wing talking points.

Speaking of hate-watching, Fondacaro did his usual meltdown routine at "The View," spewing performative outrage because the hosts talked about the debate in a way that didn't follow Fox News-esque talking points:

There’s a lot of criticism that could be leveled at the second Republican presidential primary debate on Fox Business Network, particularly Univision moderator Ilia Calderón’s anti-American questions, the crosstalk, and the The View cast shared during their reaction on Thursday.

Amid their whining about Republican candidates holding Republican positions on everything from gun rights to immigration to transgenderism, racist ABC co-host Sunny Hostin bloviated about how the debate “looked like a cage fight.”

Hostin falsely suggested that there was no policy discussion about any topic at all. “I didn't hear a lot of policy. You know? You want to talk about the border and immigration, well, you want to get rid of the Affordable Care Act, so what is your plan for health care?” she scoffed.

For what it’s worth, faux conservative Alyssa Farah Griffin grew a couple vertebrae and pushed back by noting that just because they didn’t like the policy didn’t mean policy wasn’t discussed[.]

Again, Fondacaro failed to explain how asking questions that deviated from the RNC script made her anti-American. Also, Fondacaro's constant smearing of Hostin as a "racist" is based solely on her merely talking about racism and his failure to understand how metaphors work.

Nitpicking fact-checkers

The MRC also engaged in its usual sniping at fact-checkers who responded to claims made at the debate. Alex Christy, in full DeSantis Defense Brigade mode, nitpicked one fact-checker in a Sept. 28 post:

During Wednesday’s GOP Presidential Debate, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis defended his state’s history standards on slavery by labeling criticisms of them a “hoax” that has been perpetrated by Vice President Kamala Harris. Such a defense did not sit well with the fact-checking industry despite DeSantis being correct.

On CNN’s post-debate coverage, Daniel Dale told Anderson Cooper, “Governor DeSantis's hoax claim is false, Anderson. It is not a hoax. Florida social studies standards for middle schoolers includes the sentence that the moderator read to him here. And I think Governor DeSantis effectively admitted it was not a hoax when immediately after he called it a hoax, he pivoted to defending that sentence as being written by great scholars who are descendants of slaves.”

Dale continued, “So, here are the facts. Florida's new standards for sixth through eighth graders say they will -- quote – ‘examine the various duties and trades performed by slaves,’ and it gives a bunch of examples. And then it goes on to say that this -- it says that the standards say that this ‘instruction includes how slaves develop skills, which in some instances could be applied for their personal benefit.’”

However, Dale undermined his own point that DeSantis was almost certainly referring to Harris’s conclusion of the curriculum, not what it literally says, “So again, the moderator wasn't making it up, Vice President Harris didn't make it up, it is there in black and white. Now, some context, the governor, his allies and various other Republicans, I've heard an argument from our Scott Jennings, they've said that the so-called hoax is making it sound like the curriculum broadly is pro-slavery.”

Conceding that they have a point, Dale observed, “They correctly note that the standards include item after item after item about the evils of slavery in addition to this line. And they're entitled to make that argument, though some other elements have also received criticism from historians. But in this debate, you know, he was read the precise line. He made it sound like it was a line made up by VP Harris.”

So, what exactly is Dale fact-checking? DeSantis called accusations that Florida is teaching that somehow slavery was a good thing a hoax and Dale conceded that he is correct, but still labeled him false.

Christy returned a couple hours later to grumble about more fact-checks:

During Wednesday’s GOP presidential debate, the various reporters at The New York Times assembled to fact-check the various candidates and it did go well as they attacked them everything from “Joe Biden hides in his basement” to Iran to energy to transgenderism.

On former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s claim that “Joe Biden hides in his basement,” White House correspondent Michael Shear got hyper-literal, “this is false.”

Of course, Christie was speaking metaphorically about how Biden dodges accountability for things like the national debt. Christie also accused Donald Trump of hiding behind his golf clubs, but since that was obviously metaphorical and an attack on Trump, Shear left it alone.


Shear also rode to Biden’s defense when North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum accused him of setting “a price on anyone’s head who’s a tourist from America. Who’s a student from America, for kidnapping” by paying $6 billion to Iran. Shear gave this claim the dreaded “this requires context.”

Burgum’s claim is a policy opinion that handing over money to Iran encourages more hostage taking. That the money was “in Iran’s oil revenues that were sitting, unusable, in South Korean banks” doesn’t matter because if Burgum’s opinion is correct it would require the release of more sanctioned money in the future without any change in Tehran’s behavior.

But Christy made no effort to prove Burgum correct -- which means that the fact-check stands.

Joseph Vazquez spent his own Sept. 28 post complaining that Washington Post fact-checker Glenn Kessler wouldn't fall in line with right-wing narratives on the economy:

Apparently The Washington Post’s in-house fact-butcher Glenn Kessler hasn’t learned his lesson. He regurgitated one of his already-debunked arguments spinning inflation data to protect President Joe Biden.

Kessler used the second GOP presidential primary debate to once again target candidates who dared to suggest that American families lost significant spending power as a result of President Biden’s inflation crisis. Former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley asserted that Biden’s economy has cost “$7,000 more a year for families,” which Kessler got triggered over. He attributed Haley’s statement to analysis conducted by Heritage Foundation economist EJ Antoni, which the fact-checker brazenly misrepresented. Kessler falsely claimed that Antoni’s analysis was faulty because it supposedly “relied on a change in purchasing power and a change in borrowing power. The change in borrowing power relied on mortgage rates — and not every family is looking for a new home.” This isn’t the first time Kessler has done this.

Vazquez featured a lot of ranting by Antoni accusing Kessler of getting things wrong. He couldn't be bothered to obtain a response from Kessler, however, since narrative trumps facts and fairness at the MRC.

Tim Graham grumbled about how Republican debates were being treated by, well, pretty much everyone in his Sept. 29 column:

We’ve been subjected to years of lectures about how Republicans are a “threat to democracy,” but watching the post-debate reactions to the second GOP presidential debate at the Reagan Library made you wonder who exactly hates democracy. Like the first debate aftermath, journalists assert debates are pointless.

It wasn’t October yet – and about 14 weeks from the Iowa caucuses – and the horse race-obsessed prognosticators suggested that if debates don’t move any polling needles, why bother with debates? The liberal media are lining up neatly with Trump, asserting that he’s paying no price for skipping debates, so who cares?

“Does anybody see a VP in that group? I don't think so,” Trump quipped in his counter-programming speech in Michigan. Trump believes everyone daring to challenge him for the nomination is engaged in some kind of pro-Biden conspiracy, so they’re all disqualified. Only MAGA devotees are “qualified.”

Trump and the media are not completely aligned, since George Stephanopoulos on ABC was wondering why we need debates if they’re not obsessing over Trump’s allegedly damaging array of indictments and civil lawsuits. This tells you how ABC would run a GOP debate, which is why the GOP has started with Fox channels so far.

MSNBC host Mehdi Hasan tweeted the same line, that it’s not a debate if we’re not obsessing about Trump allegedly over-valuing his real estate. “Not a single candidate has said a word about it. Not a single question on it from the moderators. This is not actually a debate.”
Note Graham's conspiracy theory here: that "the media" (read: non-right-wing outlets) want Trump to be the Republican nominee because they think his numerous scandals will drag Republicans down to defeat. He didn't acknowledge that a sizable majority of Republicans also want Trump to be the nominee. Are they in on the conspiracy too? Graham then changed his story -- Trump's scandals don't affect his popularity so there's no need to discuss them at all, and the real reason the non-right-wing media opposes the debates is because they are are full of Biden-bashing:
Now imagine if we turned the logic around on the pundits and proclaimed that all these indictments and civil lawsuits aren’t damaging Trump’s standing at all, so why don’t we just call all the legal maneuvering off? Turn off the courtroom theatrics. If that sounds incredibly irresponsible if not premature, then why all this grumbling about debates being unnecessary?

With the pro-Biden press, we might imagine why they don’t like these events. It allows a national television audience to absorb an hour or two of fairly animated assaults on the competence and wisdom of the Biden team. We certainly know that these “guardians of democracy” have absolutely no interest in primary debates on the Democrat side, since they realize Biden is always 30 seconds away from a verbal face-plant. Instead, Joe Scarborough and others just denounce the debate as a “disaster” for everyone involved.

Graham concluded by whining: "If people really claim to love and honor democracy, they would let the primary campaigns and debates play out, and perhaps even suggest Joe Biden should have to submit himself to a primary debate." He's presumably referring to Robert Kennedy Jr., whose campaign the MRC had been ironically promoting because it might hurt Biden's re-election, not because Graham and Co. actually want him to be president.

For his podcast the same day, Graham rehashed the MRC's smears of Calderón for committing the offense of not being employed by Fox News like the other moderators:

The second GOP presidential debate on Fox Business took an odd turn to the Left in the questions of Univision anchor Ilia Calderon, who pressed the candidates like an MSNBC host on guns, fentanyl, '"dreamers," LGBTQ issues, and Florida's black history curriculum. The woman who co-anchors with leftist Jorge Ramos sounded like a Ramos echo.

We haven't listened to the podcast, but we can presume that Graham did not ask guest Nicholas Fondacaro to back up his vicious smear of Calderón as "anti-American" with any sort of actual evidence beyond her asking challenging questions of Republicans.

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