Brent Bozell must have been looking for a new cause. After all, the "I Stand With Rush" website his Media Research Center created to support Rush Limbaugh in the wake of the fallout of his three-day denigration of Sandra Fluke fizzled after a week, when the The Media Research Center shut it down without explanation. That came after Bozell quickly accepted Limbaugh's weak, inadequate apology after issuing only tepid and perfunctory criticism of him, and his MRC employees all but endorsed Limbaugh's sliming of Fluke as a "slut" and a "prostitute."
But Bozell wasn't done floundering around on the issue yet. He doubled down on his earlier attempts to distract from Limbaugh's misogyny by pointing to comments made by MSNBC host Ed Schultz, this time by writing a letter to MSNBC president Phil Griffin demanding not only that he fire Schultz but that Griffin himself quit for "hiring and promoting this hate-filled misogynist."
That's right -- a man who offered nothing but the most tepid, milquetoast criticism of Limbaugh's misogyny is lecturing somebody else on hypocrisy about offensive remarks. If MSNBC had to fire Schultz, surely Bozell would reciprocate by demanding that Limbaugh not only be fired from his radio show but also that he return his William F. Buckley, Jr. Award for Media Excellence to the MRC, right? Of course not. Bozell hasn't said a word about that.
Bozell followed up his Schultz letter with another screed to MSNBC's Griffin making the additional demand that the network fire Al Sharpton. Bozell asserted:
"These assaults by MSNBC have nothing to do with what Rush Limbaugh said about Sandra Fluke, and everything to do with censoring prominent voices on the right. Instead of reporting on the woeful state of our economy and the catastrophic debt crisis, MSNBC goes after Limbaugh with entirely unmerited and phony moral righteousness."
Of course, Bozell's crusade against MSNBC has everything to do with "what Rush Limbaugh said about Sandra Fluke" -- specifically, his desperate efforts to change the subject. If Bozell really wants to see "entirely unmerited and phony moral righteousness," all he needs to do is look in the mirror.
Then, lo and behold, Bozell found something he could quickly exploit to take the sting off his Limbaugh fiasco -- and ratchet up his vendetta against NBC-operated properties in the process. His new cause.
In a report on a 911 call made by George Zimmerman, who shot and killed unarmed black teenager Trayvon Martin, NBC edited the 911 tape in a way that suggested that Zimmerman, acting as a neighborhood watch patrolman, had racially profiled Martin. The MRC issued an indignant press release demanding an investigation:
The Washington Post has reported that NBC will be investigating who at NBC was responsible for dishonestly airing a doctored 9-1-1 conversation between George Zimmerman to make it look like Zimmerman's intent was racially motivated. Media Research Center President Brent Bozell stated this is not enough.
"This is a massive breach of the public trust. NBC is guilty of dishonestly fanning the flames of racial hatred in America by doctoring tapes. NBC cannot be trusted with the investigation. It's like Nixon investigating the Watergate tapes. NBC is guilty of deliberately lying to the viewing public, and NBC is going to be in charge of investigating itself? NBC's parent company Comcast needs to investigate the intentional editing of George Zimmerman's 9-1-1 call. Comcast needs to come clean. Everyone involved needs to be held accountable."
Yes, Bozell likened an edited audiotape to Watergate.
When NBC issued an apology for airing the edited tape -- something the MRC's Tim Graham immediately took trumpeted as "A Win for NewsBusters" -- it wasn't enough for Bozell. Cue another indignant press release in which Bozell huffed that it wasn't enough and again invoked his ludicrous Watergate comparison.
Bozell's hypocrisy is compounded by the fact that his MRC is no stranger to making falsely misleading edits to other people's words.
In 1994, the MRC strung together passages from a book written by then-New York Times editor Howell Raines to portray Raines as issuing personal insults of Ronald Reagan. In fact, one ellipsis in the passage spanned 28 pages; in full context, Raines' statement that "Reagan couldn't tie his shoelaces if his life depended on it" was a reference to fly fishing, not Reagan's intelligence, as the MRC portrayed it. It was not until 2003 that the MRC appended a "clarification" to items containing that quote explaining the error.
Another example: For years, the MRC has obsessed over a statement made in a 2003 Boston Globe profile of Ted Kennedy, in which writer Charles Pierce stated, "If she had lived, Mary Jo Kopechne would be 62 years old. Through his tireless work as a legislator, Edward Kennedy would have brought comfort to her in her old age." MRC scribes have repeatedly portrayed this as a sycophantic show of support for Kennedy; in fact, the article's author intended it as criticism -- something backed up by placing the quote in the proper context of the article from which the MRC plucked it. Bozell has remained silent about this serial deception.
Nevertheless, at this point, Bozell could have declared victory over NBC, and he would have been justified in doing so. Instead, he felt the need to escalate his war by demanding that Congress get involved.
From the MRC's April 10 press release:
Today, Media Research Center President Brent Bozell announces the media watchdog is calling upon Congress to investigate Comcast / NBC News for the intentional editing of the George Zimmerman audio that was broadcast multiple times and subsequently flamed the fires of racial hatred and animosity:
"NBC is laughing at the public. Last week we said we would have more to say if their behavior in this matter didn't change. Given their continued irresponsibility, today we open up a new front."
In other words: Bozell is demanding that Congress harass a private business in service of the MRC's right-wing agenda.
Bozell is not demanding this because NBC has violated any federal law or policy -- at no point does he identify any such violation. It's not because NBC has ignored his earlier demands. It's because Bozell has made NBC his enemy, and he wants Congress to play along.
The only justification Bozell provides for congressional involvement in the editing of an audiotape is that Comcast, NBC's parent company
"is in the midst of a business deal with Verizon requiring approval by the Federal Communications Commission and the United States Department of Justice; the public policy issues related to the approval of this deal are so critical that the United States Senate held hearings on the matter."
But this proposed deal involves Comcast selling wireless spectrum to Verizon. It has nothing whatsoever to do with NBC. Bozell's silence about the nature of the Comcast-Verizon deal indicates that he knows how dishonest he's being in trying to link it to NBC.
Bozell is playing partisan politics here -- nothing else. He wants his right-wing friends in Congress to help him harass and destroy a business, something he has been spectacularly unsuccessful at doing on his own. He's pursuing a vendetta, not justice.
Make no mistake: NBC's destruction is what Bozell wants. Not fairness. Not justice. Destruction. He's taking his anti-media campaign to its logical (for him) extreme.
Do Bozell's congressional buddies have the guts or integrity to reject conscription in his personal vendetta? We shall see.
(An expanded version of this post is at ConWebWatch.)