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Adjusting Speakers At The MRC

The Media Research Center tried to blame everyone but hard-right Republicans for the ouster of Kevin McCarthy as House speaker -- then downplayed the far-right extremism of his replacement, Mike Johnson.

By Terry Krepel
Posted 1/31/2024

When Kevin McCarthy got ousted as House speaker by his fellow Republicans, the Media Research Center was a bit desperate to blame anyone but the hard-right House members who engineered it. Kevin Tober whined that a news report accurately described them in an Oct. 3 post:
On Tuesday, a group of conservatives led by Florida Congressman Matt Gaetz ousted House Republican Speaker Kevin McCarthy (CA) over what they describe as broken promises made during McCarthy’s election as speaker. Later that evening, all three evening news networks pounded their chests in rage and shock over McCarthy’s ouster.

“Tonight, for the first time in U.S. history, the House has voted to oust the speaker. Kevin McCarthy brought down by a handful of hard-right members of his own party who were furious with McCarthy for working with moderate Republicans and the Democrats to keep the government open,” ABC’s World News Tonight anchor David Muir huffed.

Has Muir ever referred to the radical leftists of the “Squad” as hard-left members of the Democrat Party [sic]? Not to our knowledge.

Tober did not explain why "hard-right" was not an accurate descriptor of those who pushed McCarthy out.

The next day, Alex Christy was mad that it was pointed out that the House had more stable leadership when it was run by Democrats:

All In host Chris Hayes traveled over to NBC’s Late Night with Seth Meyers on Tuesday to discuss the state of the political world including the situation surrounding House Republicans, Kevin McCarthy, and Matt Gaetz. For Hayes, one of the big takeaways was that the whole episode shows just how awesome former Speaker Nancy Pelosi was.

Meyers noted that McCarthy found himself between a rock and a hard place, “This is interesting, the sort of, I guess the calculus of this moment is a reminder that because there wasn't a red wave, like Kevin McCarthy does have this very thin line. And so, you know, ultimately, yes, the, you know, Republicans won the House. But you realize the way they won it, the math just stinks.”

Hayes conceded Meyers’s point was true, but that should not be used an excuse for McCarthy, “It does, although, that's true and obviously if they had a 20-vote majority, it would be a very different situation but Pelosi had the exact same majority last Congress.”

As he continued, Hayes claimed something he thought made Democrats look good, but in reality was just the opposite, “And partly that's because not only is Nancy Pelosi an incredibly skilled legislator just in terms of the dynamics of keeping a caucus together. There's just much more of a unified Democratic governing vision. There was stuff they wanted to do.”


Arguing that the Democratic establishment and progressive radicals are closer aligned than the moderates versus progressives narrative the media usually tries spin is not the argument Hayes seems to think it is.

Suggesting that McCarthy deserved to be fired because he didn't sufficiently kowtow to the extremists in his caucus is not the win Christy seems to think it is. Still, he huffed over another positive reference to Pelosi in another Oct. 4 post trying to justify Republicans' pettiness in abruptly kicking Pelosi out of an office reserved for former speakers:

Andrea Mitchell isn’t just a midday MSNBC host, she is also arguably former Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s number one media fan, so naturally she got triggered when former communications advisors to former Speakers John Boehner and Paul Ryan, Brendan Buck defended Republicans booting Pelosi out of her office in the Capitol in the aftermath of Democrats joining with eight Republicans to unseat Kevin McCarthy.

Mitchell began, “Let me ask you about the retaliatory action that was taken within an hour or so, taking away the ceremonial rooms of Nancy Pelosi. Speakers need offices in the Capitol and they by-- I think Pelosi let John Boehner –”

Buck interrupted to add some context, “Well, Boehner left, but Denny Hastert had on office in the Capital—”

Not acknowledging that important detail, Mitchell continued, “And also let Paul Ryan keep offices for a while, not sure which happened, but she did not take the rooms away and did that in the past.”

Christy then tried to blame Democrats for McCarthy losing the speaker job:

Democrats and their media friends demanded Republicans put the country before party and< McCarthy even claimed that Pelosi declared that if a motion to vacate came up, Democrats would do just that. Naturally this did not matter to Mitchell and when given that choice on Tuesday, Democrats put their partisan self-interest first because McCarthy allegedly hurt their feelings and they think Republican dysfunction benefits them at the ballot box.

Christy conveniently ignored the fact that a sufficient number of Republicans had to vote against McCarthy in order to remove him, and Democrats could not have acted alone.

When Hayes tried to make that point, Tober lashed out in an Oct. 4 post, complaining that he "aired a montague [sic] of various media figures accurately blaming Democrats for McCarthy’s ouster. ... When Hayes returned live he mocked New York Republican Congressman Mike Lawler like a juvenile brat: “'Oh, you had a bad taste in your mouth because the Democrats didn't do what you wanted?'" Tober did not explain how it was "accurate" that Democrats ousted McCarthy when they don't have a House majority to win such a vote.

Tim Graham regurgitated Christy's labeling complaint in his Oct. 4 podcast:

The unprecedented ouster of House Speaker Kevin McCarthy caused the pro-Biden media to stick with their government-shutdown framing. The "hard right" Republicans are ruining Washington. ABC anchor David Muir said McCarthy was "brought down by a handful of hard-right members of his own party who were furious with McCarthy for working with moderate Republicans and the Democrats to keep the government open.

Then Muir added “House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries calling on Republicans to break from the extremists and end the chaos.” Democrats regular decry "MAGA extremists" and no one ever gets to call them extreme in the "objective" press.

Like Christy, Graham did not explain why "hard-right" is not an accurate label.

Christy again tried to blame Democrats for ousting McCarthy in an Oct. 6 post:

For years, NBC Late Night host Seth Meyers has demanded that Republicans put the country above their partisan self-interest, but when Republicans recently attacked Democrats for not doing so during the Speaker vote, Meyers essentially told Republicans on Thursday that they deserve it.

The reason wasn’t even a good one. For Meyers, the fact that Kevin McCarthy may have hurt Democrats’ feelings was enough:
But here's the especially infuriating thing. When this small band of GOP hardliners voted to oust McCarthy, McCarthy could have, if he really wanted to keep his job, reached out to Democrats to try to win their support, you know, the same way he made concessions to the hardliners in his own caucus to get the job in the first place. He didn't do that. He dissed Democrats, he told them to F off. So Democrats voted against McCarthy for extremely obvious reasons and yet Republicans have the gall to blame Democrats for not voting for McCarthy and bailing them out.
McCarthy never told Democrats to "F off," he did blame them for the government almost shutting down, but that is standard political rhetoric. Nevertheless, after a series of clips of various Republicans and Fox personalities blaming Democrats or labeling McCarthy’s ousting as one that was led by Democrats, Meyers ranted, “Are you out of your [bleep] minds? Democrats are in the minority while you accuse each other of downing Viagra like Pez and threaten to beat the [bleep] out of each other?”

Christy went on to whine that "Democrats, Meyers, and the media have constantly lectured Republicans about the need to marginalize 'the hardliners' for the betterment of the country. Yet, when given the choice between McCarthy and 'the hardliners,' Democrats chose the latter." Christy seems to want to deny that there are any hardliners in the Republican Party.

Rich Noyes served up an Oct. 7 "flashback" post complaining that it was pointed out that hard-right Republicans also forced the departure of John Boehner as speaker, adding: "Such slogans — 'hard-right,' 'hardline,' 'far-right,' 'ultra-conservative,' etc. — are meant to separate conservatives from what the media would consider the respectable mainstream of U.S. politics." Noyes didn't dispute the accuracy of those labels or offer an acceptable substitute.

Jeffrey Lord used his Oct. 7 column to distract from McCarthy's ouster by playing whataboutism to a completely unrelated controversy over a Republican-written New York Times op-ed.

Boosting (and defending) Jim Jordan

The MRC has long been a fan of Republican Rep. Jim Jordan -- even championing his bid to become House Republican leader in 2018 -- because he's a reliable peddler of right-wing red meat, and it's certainly not going to let credible allegations that he ignored claims of sexual abuse perpetrated by a team doctor on Ohio State wrestling athletes while he was a coach there get in the way of that. The MRC tried to defend Jordan by attacking the credibility of his accusers, a familiar MRC tactic. As Jordan continued to supply the red meat, the MRC eagerly chowed down with defense and stenography, as these items from earlier this year demonstrate:

In the turmoil that erupted after Republicans ousted Kevin McCarthy as House speaker -- which the MRC tried to blame on anyone other than Republicans -- Jordan tried one more time to obtain the seat, and the MRC returned to Jordan defense mode. Nicholas Fondacaro complained in an Oct. 5 post that Jordan's unsavory past was brought up:

With Congressman Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) out as House speaker, two Republican names had swiftly risen to the top for consideration: Representatives Steve Scalise (LA) and Jim Jordan (OH). It was the latter who drew a harsh rebuke from racist Sunny Hostin on Thursday’s edition of ABC’s The View. Hostin insisted that Jordan was a “terrorist” who “terrorized” her at a congressional hearing. She also tried to suggest he was involved in the Ohio State University wrestling sexual abuse scandal despite no evidence.

The day after she backed up moderator Whoopi Goldberg’s argument that criticism of the people prosecuting former President Trump was somehow a threat to their lives, Hostin laid her disdain for Jordan on heavy. “I would just say about Jim Jordan, he has been called by his own party, by John Boehner, a ‘political terrorist.’ He’s also been linked to the Ohio State sexual abuse scandal,” she chided.

Yes, Fondacaro still thinks Hostin is "racist" because he doesn't understand how metaphors work. As expected, Fondacaro then attacked the victims:

Toward the end of the segment, Hostin was forced to read a legal note (which the show claims are not “corrections”) by ABC’s Standards and Practices, stating: “Representative Jim Jordan has denied that he knew about sexual abuse of wrestlers during his years working at Ohio State University.”

What went unmentioned was the fact that Jordan’s two accusers had shady histories. One of his accusers was convicted of harassing the gold star widow of a Marine over a memorial fund for her husband. And the other went to prison for a $1.8 million fraud scheme.

In fact, several other wrestlers have made similar claims against Jordan, not just the two Fondacaro is trying to discredit.

The MRC then went after Hostin herself in an Oct. 9 post by Tim Graham claiming that Jordan's behavior in a congressional hearing in which Hostin took part "does NOT match Hostin's wild tale of a disheveled terrorizing monster."

Graham whined in his Oct. 18 podcast that people were reminded that one of Jordan's fellow Republicans called him a "terrorist" (while, of course, playing whataboutism):

While some media outlets -- especially "public broadcasters" -- eschew using the word "terrorist" to describe Hamas and Islamic Jihad, PBS and NBC and MSNBC were enjoying describing Jim Jordan as a "terrorist," because bitter former Speaker John Boehner smeared him in 2021.

Tuesday's NBC Nightly News included a clip of Rep. Pete Aguilar (D-Calif.) on the House floor: "Even members of his own party have called him a legislative terrorist."

PBS NewsHour reporter Lisa Desjardins offered quotes from Democrats that Jim Jordan is both a "terrorist" and an "insurrectionist." On the same show, anchor Amna Nawaz called Islamic Jihad a "militant group." Their reporter said Israel killed the "most high-profile militant" in Hamas.

MSNBC kept coming back to it on Tuesday night. As part of a softball question to Nancy Pelosi, Joy Reid pulled out the 2021 CBS clip of John Boehner singling out Jim Jordan as a "political terrorist," and then repeats the T-word,

Chris Hayes said Jordan has "no resume" to be Speaker and told Brendan Buck "your former boss, John Boehner, called him a legislative terrorist." Lawrence O'Donnell ran a longer clip of Aguilar than NBC saying Jordan is a terrorist. At least O'Donnell referred to Hamas terrorists, too.

Nowhere in this writeup did Graham explain why Boehner was wrong in his assessment of Jordan or why this makes him "bitter."

Mark Finkelstein similarly complained in an Oct. 20 post:

On the Thursday edition of her MSNBC show, Nicolle Wallace shed any pretense of compassionate or even dispassionate political analysis, and embraced her inner hatred.

Speaking about the 22 Republicans who wouldn't vote for Jordan with ex-GOP congressman and Never Trumper David Jolly, Wallace said:
"I know why I have a visceral rejection of Jim Jordan and it precedes his role in overturning the result of the 2020 election, but tell me why they hate him, the 22?"
"Visceral rejection:" euphemism for hating someone deep in your guts. As proved by her question to Jolly, asking why those 22 Republicans, in line with her feelings, "hate him."
Finkelstein didn't dispute the accuracy of Wallace's assessment, instead trying to portray Jordan as a hater of government in the tradition of Ronald Reagan.

When Jordan inevitably lost a vote for speaker on account of being hated by his fellow Republicans, Christy complained in an Oct. 20 post that this was pointed out:

Washington Post associate editor Jonathan Capehart and New York Times columnist David Brooks gathered for their regularly scheduled weekly news recap on PBS NewsHour on Friday by welcoming the failure of Rep. Jim Jordan to become Speaker of the House.

Host Geoff Bennett led Capehart with a statement rather than a question, “And, Jonathan, it speaks volumes that Jim Jordan was dismissed by secret ballot. He lost 25 Republican votes on the floor in public, but, behind closed doors, in the secret ballot, he lost 112 Republicans.”

Capehart naturally agreed, arguing that proves “the public intimidation worked, when they had to go to the floor and before their colleagues and before the nation declared their fealty to Jordan or their fealty to someone else. But behind closed doors, they were actually able to say what they really felt.”

As for Jordan himself, Capehart added, “And I'm going to jump on — jump on in support of what David was just talking about. You know, yes, Steve Scalise was an institutionalist. Jim Jordan, Congressman Jordan, is not an institutionalist. He has never been about governing. He's been about burning the place down.”

Christy did not dispute the accuracy of Capehart's assessment.

Finkelstein tried to do one last bit of cleanup for Jordan in an Oct. 21 post:

[MSNBC's Katie] Phang then raised the issue of "the normalization of violence and violent rhetoric by the GOP." Whereas Phang suggested an investigation to determine who had been threatening violence, Jacobs explicitly accused Jim Jordan of using threats of violence against other House members in an attempt to intimidate them into voting for him as Speaker.
"It should be no surprise that Jim Jordan is willing to use violence to overturn the will of the people and change an election outcome. We have seen him do that before."
This, despite Jordan having posted at X:
"No American should accost another for their belief. We condemn all threats against our colleagues and it is imperative that we come together. Stop. It's abhorrent."

Finkelstein left out the part where Republican members of Congress were, in fact, threatened with violence if they didn't vote for Jordan as speaker, an extreme-hardball tactic that backfired. Jordan distancing himself from the pressure campaign after the fact does not change the fact that people were threatened on his behalf.

Defending Mike Johnson

The MRC returned to defense mode when little-known right-winger Mike Johnson was abruptly chosen and elected as speaker. Christy grumbled in an Oct. 25 post:

Before Louisiana Rep. Mike Johnson officially became Speaker of the House on Wednesday, there was the seven-person pre-game panel on CNN’s Inside Politics. One of those panelists, senior political analyst Gloria Borger, was forced to concede that despite being “hugely conservative,” Johnson is “not the devil incarnate.”

Borger’s remarks as she recalled Reps. Jim Jordan and Tom Emmer’s failed bids, “I think he is a person who’s hard to demonize. You know, it's very easy to demonize somebody like a Jim Jordan, who’s a fire brand. He's out there and fighting and then Donald Trump can demonize an [Tom] Emmer because he didn't believe the election was rigged.”

No doubt, CNN is already busy trying to figure out how they can change that so they can include Johnson in that list, but for the moment, Borger continued, “But you had this kind, I don’t use the word milquetoast, that's not quite the right word, he's a serious person, who is not prone to getting in big, huge fights with people. He is known as a listener, I was told. He is hugely conservative, but he doesn't wear it on his sleeve all the time. So he can get along with moderates and listen to them and it will be interesting to see what happens with Ukraine aid, for example, but he’s not the devil incarnate.”

The suggestion that Jordan would have been the devil incarnate notwithstanding, CNN would never even use the words “hugely progressive” or “hugely liberal” let alone even come close to entertaining the idea that they were the Devil.

As Johnson's right-wing record became clear, Curtis Houck complained about it in another Oct. 25 post:

House Republicans were finally able to elect a new House speaker on Wednesday afternoon, selecting Congressman Mike Johnson (R-LA) to fill a 22-day vacancy. Not surprisingly, Johnson was met with a torrent of disgust and scorn on the Wednesday night network newscasts with ABC, CBS, NBC blasting Johnson as a “hardline,” “hard-right,” “ultra-conservative” who’s “staunchly anti-abortion” and “played a key role in overturn” the 2020 election.

ABC’s World News Tonight was apoplectic with senior congressional correspondent Rachel Scott already indignant toward Johnson after he ignored her questions in the last two days about the 2020 election and didn’t stop the GOP caucus from booing her.

Anchor David Muir signaled a disgusted tone in an opening tease: “Tonight, who’s the new speaker, Congressman Mike Johnson, and where does Speaker Johnson stand on key issues including abortion, funding for Ukraine and does he accept Donald Trump’s election loss?”

In the lead-in to Scott, Muir dismissed him as “a hard-right conservative” who “played a key role in efforts to overturn the 2020 election” and is “the least experienced of any speaker in more 140 years.” Scott also harped on how he’s been in office for less than a decade, as if to suggest he’ll be unable to address “huge challenges.”


CBS Evening News anchor Norah O’Donnell started the labeling from the opening tease that the show will explain “why Mike Johnson’s election is considered a win for hard-right Republicans.”

“[S]o, who is Louisiana Congressman Mike Johnson? The staunch conservative wants a federal ban on abortion rights and opposes same-sex marriage. What it means for the future of the Republican Party,” she added.

Congressional correspondent Nikole Killion described Johnson as “an evangelical Christian, former conservative radio talk show host” who’s “taken a sharp stance against gay rights and supports a nationwide abortion ban without exceptions.”


NBC Nightly News anchor Lester Holt also got the labeling going in an tease, impressing upon viewers that Republicans not only picked someone who’s “little-known,” but also “a hard-line conservative” who “tr[ied] to overturn the 2020 election.”

Despite all his complaints about labels, Houck made no effort to dispute the accuracy of them. Indeed, whining about accurate labeling of Johnson was the dominant MRC narrative in the days after Johnson's election:

Graham tried to pass off a weird comment Johnson made about his wife as perfectly normal in an Oct. 26 post:

Question: What kind of article would make the liberal New Republic magazine look absolutely clueless about Christianity?

Answer: Writer Ellie Quinlan Houghtaling suggesting new House Speaker Mike Johnson was making some sort of oral-sex joke when he mentioned his wife,,,,praying to Jesus. The headline:
New House Speaker Kicks Things Off With Crass Remark About His Wife

Representative Mike Johnson made a gross gaffe about his wife in his acceptance speech.
This doesn't seem crass at all in context. But Ellie Houghtaling had to imagine the worst:
Usually when a new speaker of the House is elected, they have major plans to unveil, recontextualizing the House’s work. Speaker Mike Johnson, however, had some other priorities. First thing on his agenda? Make a weird joke about his wife.

Shortly after the little-known congressman won the title that he claimed he never sought, Johnson took the podium to thank the hard work of the congressional staff, Speaker Emeritus Kevin McCarthy, and his wife.
Johnson thanked his wife, and noted they couldn't get a flight from Louisiana so she could be present. Then he said:
“She’s spent the last couple of weeks on her knees in prayer to the Lord. And, um, she’s a little worn out,” Johnson smirked.

“We all are,” he added.
Ellie Houghtaling and TNR made no attempt to explain how this was "gross" and "crass." Let's guess it's a Clinton-intern kind of joke. What's crass and gross is sexualizing a mention of a woman praying to Jesus. This pink-haired "breaking news" specialist just started at the magazine, and so far, she's just breaking wind.

Of course Graham made a personal attack on the writer -- that's what he does. He also didn't try to reconcile Johnson's claim of his wife praying for two weeks for him to get the job despite his supposedly not wanting it.

Christy, the MRC's resident comedy cop, spent an Oct. 31 post predictably finding no humor in late-night shows quipping that Johnson's religion may not be pious enough:

CBS's The Late Show Stephen Colbert and Comedy Central's The Daily Show temp host Charlamagne Tha God and correspondent Michael Kosta accused Speaker Mike Johnson on Monday of being a bad a hypocritical Christian because he doesn’t want to ban seafood or ostracize women during their menstrual cycles.

Colbert, whose definition of being a good Christian seems to revolve around left-wing economics dressed up as personal charity. After playing a clip of Johnson on Hannity saying his worldview can be found in the Bible, Colbert declared, “Well, okay. No, if, that’s great, if the Bible is his worldview on any issue, I don't know why progressives are nervous. He's clearly gonna ask the rich to sell all their possessions and give the money to the poor.”

As someone who professes to be a faithful Catholic, Colbert should be familiar with Romans 14:14, but he still insisted Johnson is a hypocrite for not wanting to implement Old Testament dietary laws, “And, like, being Biblically faithful is not easy for a guy from Louisiana because now he has to give up shrimp, crab, oysters, and barbecued pork.”

Over at The Daily Show, a sarcastic Kosta looked forward to a ban on seafood, “The Bible's rules are timeless and always relevant. Like, right here, shellfish must be banned as detestable abomination. Great idea. The only good part of lobster was the butter anyway. We should just be drinking the hot butter. Or what about this: God tells Ezekiel to bake bread over a fire made of dry human dung.”

Back on CBS, Colbert added, “And I'm sure he'll miss his wife when she has to be cast out of town during her time of blood, only allowed to return when she brings two turtledoves to the tabernacle for the priest to sacrifice.”

Kosta also ironically looked forward to implementing such a policy, “The menstruating woman is unclean and the righteous man shall not approach her. Let's try it, America!”

Christy went on to baselessly insist that Johnson was "correct" to claim that separation between church and state isn't to protect the state from religion but to protect religion from the state.

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