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Terry Krepel Headshot

Tell the Truth! (But Not When It Hurts Brent Bozell's Agenda)

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When the Media Research Center launched a "Tell the Truth!" campaign in 2004, I pointed out that the MRC has never been particularly interested in "truth," it benefits conservatives and hurts liberals. What the MRC really wants is spin -- conservative spin.

Fast-forward six years, and the same advice applies.

On Sept. 15, the MRC aired a live webcast in which an " an important announcement" was promised by CEO Brent Bozell. That announcement, done as Bozell was fake-interviewed by employee and CNSNews.com editor-in-chief Terry Jeffrey, was this year's version of the "Tell the Truth!" campaign.

As described in a Sept. 16 article at MRC division CNSNews.com, it's "a $2.1 million campaign designed to counter the way the mainstream media portray the situation the nation currently faces":

It is our declaration of war on the outrageous levels of liberal bias in the media today," Bozell told CNSNews.com.

"The liberal media are in panic mode," he said. "The Left's experiment in socialism is failing. Americans are waking up, rising up for freedom and limited government.

"In the coming months, we can expect continued efforts by the liberal media to distort the truth about the economy, about conservatives and about the Obama agenda -- all in an effort to help keep the march toward European-style socialism on track," Bozell added.

One of the most visible aspects of the campaign is the rental of billboard trucks to be driven around Washington and New York. The Twitter feed of the MRC's Brent Baker had a picture of one of the moving billboards outside MRC headquarters in Virginia, and an Oct. 4 CNS article touted how the trucks "started circling the Manhattan headquarters of ABC, CBS, NBC, and the New York Times. The trucks will do so for eight hours every weekday for the next four weeks."

What does that accomplish? Who knows? It does seem like a good way to burn tens of thousands of dollars rather quickly for an uncertain benefit.

The MRC is also posting "Got Truth?" billboards in several cities -- yet another passe, played-out allusion to the "Got Milk?" campaign.

Ultimately, this campaign is less about truth-telling and more about bullying the media into promoting right-wing talking points. contrary to its claims, the MRC really doesn't want a balanced media, it wants a slavishly right-wing media. If it cared about balance, it wouldn't be acting as an unquestioning defender of Fox News.

As far as the actual truth-telling part of the campaign, it's empty and meaningless. Not only does the MRC not feel compelled to follow its own dictate, it's visibly offended when others tell the truth because it runs counter to the MRC's right-wing agenda.

A Sept. 16 MRC press release illustrates this approach. It highlighted five quotes regarding new Tea Party darling Christine O'Donnell -- surprise winner of a Republican Senate primary in Delaware and holder of loopy views and a fabricated resume -- that Bozell portrays as "mudslinging at its ugliest. Pure character assassination." Bozell went on to harangue: "These networks have never treated a viable Democratic candidate with this level of contempt. How dare they lecture anyone on manners or decency ever again."

Of the five quotes Bozell cites, two are news reports quoting the state Republican chairman in Delaware calling O'Donnell a liar who couldn't get elected dog catcher. A third is a news report stating, "Democratic officials are gleeful and called her an ultra right wing extremist." That is a fact, and the state Republican chairman's statement is a fact. At no point did Bozell dispute the accuracy of this reporting -- presumably because he can't.

What Bozell is doing is relabeling facts as smears in order to intimidate the media into not reporting them.

The other two are statements by Mike Barnicle and Joy Behar -- commentators who were expressing opinions, not reporters fowarding news. This is an indication that Bozell wants to shut down unflattering opinion as well as accurate reporting.

The MRC's protection of O'Donnell continued with a Sept. 18 item by Baker, who went the shoot-the-messenger route by attacking Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington -- which has called for an investigation of O'Donnell for alleged "chronic abuse of campaign funds" -- as an "obviously liberal outfit" and "a left-wing organization staffed by veterans of Democratic congressional offices." Baker huffed that CREW's "Crooked Candidates 2010" list "features nine Republicans and just three Democrats, which suggests they are cover for the group's real agenda." But at no point did Baker make any effort to counter the charges CREW made against O'Donnell.

Meanwhile, a Sept. 16 NewsBusters post by Melissa Clouthier embraced tabloid standards -- and certainly not standards of telling the truth -- by pouncing on a claim that Michelle Obama told French first lady Carla Bruni that life in the White House is "hell." Clouthier went into full sneering condescension mode:

Well, of course the job is difficult-prepared meals, jet-setting, specially designed clothes, lecturing the American people on eating apples is exhausting work.

Also, it's awful. Not out-of-a-job awful. Not repo awful. Not foreclosure awful. Not hungry awful. But, yeah, being First Lady is awful.

Michelle Obama and that husband of her's just don't quite cast an empathetic image, do they?

[...]

When an entitled person feels perpetually ripped off, they tend to feel less empathy for those they perceive as ripping them off. So, that lack of empathy; that attitude of being put-upon? That's genuine no matter how the lib press wants to rationalize it away.

[...]

Michelle Obama is not burdened. The woman doesn't know from burden. And Barack Obama is not mis-perceived by the American people. They are seeing his cold nature for what it is: hard hearted. No amount of fawning press can obscure what is becoming more obvious.

Apparently, this story provided so perfect an opportunity for Clouthier to spew her hate that she couldn't be bothered to check the facts, the most salient being that both Obama and Bruni deny any such statement was made, and that the claim comes from an unauthorized biography, not from Bruni herself. The report Clouthier is quoting comes from a British tabloid, not from an American publication that might have engaged in some actual fact-checking of the kind Clouthier seems to be unfamiliar with.

This was followed by a Sept. 18 NewsBusters post by P.J. Gladnick, who touts a claim that someone "proudly carrying Nazi-esque signs" at a rally against Illinois Republican congressional candidate Adam Kinzinger was somehow linked to his opponent, Democrat Rep. Debbie Halvorson. Gladnick demanded that local media cover "the demonstrators with the Nazi themed signs returning home to the Debbie Halvorson campaign headquarters."

But one key Gladnick claim is not true. As Media Matters detailed, the person with the Nazi signs showed up at the protest on his own and is not associated with the Halvorson campaign or any other organized group. Additionally, he said, the other protesters wouldn't carry his signs and tried to block them with their own signs.

Gladnick made no attempt to update the post with the facts, or write a new post telling the truth.

Meanwhile, the MRC continued to fight efforts to tell the truth about Fox News. A Sept. 21 NewsBusters post by Matthew Balan complained that CNN's Rick Sanchez called Fox News "essentially the voice of the Republican Party, whose job it is to make this man [Obama] look bad no matter what he does." Which, of course, is clear to any casual viewer of the channel even without knowledge of News Corp.'s $1 million donation to a Republican activist group (which the MRC has been desperately trying to spin away).

Then, in a Sept. 23 NewsBusters post, Noel Sheppard took offense to Jon Stewart telling Bill O'Reilly that "on this network you are left-wing." Sheppard insisted that MSNBC is "much further to the left than FNC is to the right." How does he know? No actual evidence, of course, just assertions that in comparison to MSNBC's prime-time lineup, which is all "far to the left," O'Reilly, Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity are merely "right of center," while Shepard Smith is "liberal" and Greta van Susteren "appears straight down the middle in her reporting," which is not exactly true. Sheppard then whined:

As such, for six straight hours MSNBC extended prime time programming is nothing but far-left content designed for -- and often by! -- the most left-leaning elements on the Internet including Think Progress, Media Matters for America, and the Netroots.

By contrast, Fox offers viewers three mostly conservative programs, two neutral, and one liberal.

Yet FNC is considered extreme and a threat to our very civilization.

Of course, it's not surprising that folks on the left and their media minions don't see things this way, for simple arithmetic is not and has never been a strong suit for liberals.

This is yet another reminder that actual media research is not and has never been a strong suit for the so-called "media researchers" at the MRC.

In a Sept. 25 NewsBusters post, Sheppard touted the "weekly smackdown" issued by conservative Charles Krauthammer over the effectiveness of President Obama's stimulus plan. But Sheppard is curiously silent about Krauthammer's false claim that there has been "a half a million increase" in government jobs under Obama.

In fact, only 46,000 federal workers appear to have been added on Obama's watch. The remainder were temporary census jobs that no longer exist.

Ironically, the video clip accompanying Sheppard's post begins with the logo from the "Tell the Truth" campaign -- even though Krauthammer isn't telling the truth. As long as he's smacking down people the MRC doesn't like, it seems he and his ilk get an exemption.

An Oct. 4 MRC item by Matthew Balan complained that a CNN documentary on right-wing video activists described right-wing activist Ryan Sorba as "anti-gay" -- never mind that being anti-gay is his stock in trade. How did Balan explain this away? By playing the "behavior" card:

[CNN's Abbie] Boudreau gave brief introductions to all of her subjects at the beginning of the documentary. For Sorba, whom she introduced last, the CNN correspondent described him as "an anti-gay activist, not afraid to stir up controversy, and it seems to follow him wherever he goes." Thirty-four minutes later, Boudreau began her segment on Sorba, again using the "anti-gay" label to label a conference he attended as a speaker.

[...]

The "anti-gay" label applied to both Sorba and Americans for Truth implies they're driven by bigotry against homosexuals in general, when they are actually focused on opposing the agenda of left-wing homosexual activist groups, such as same-sex "marriage" and biased curriculum on homosexuality in public schools.

Boudreau's description that Sorba "denounced conservatives for allowing gays to attend" CPAC is also misleading. The activist specifically objected to how one organization, GOProud, was invited by CPAC's organizers to be a co-sponsor and an exhibitor. Many other social conservatives also objected to this invite, as GOProud endorses the repeal of the "don't ask, don't tell" policy forbidding open homosexuals from serving in the military and opposes a federal amendment defining marriage as being between one man and woman.

Sorba is, by all reasonable standards, anti-gay, as is Americans for Truth. It's right-wing sleight-of-hand to split hairs between human beings and their behavior -- in other words, there's a difference between what they do and who they are. It's how right-wingers justify discrimination against gays by claiming that they're judging the behavior and not the person -- never mind the unavoidable fact that when you attack behavior you also attack the person who is engaging in that behavior.

Then, in an Oct. 5 NewsBusters post, Scott Whitlock attacked ABC's George Stephanopoulos for reporting the results of a poll suggesting the tea party movement may be "losing traction." But as blogger Oliver Willis pointed out, Stephanopoulos was accurately reporting the results of the poll. Whitlock, in other words, was bashing Stephanopoulos for relating a fact.

The MRC can't even tell the truth in its own "Tell the Truth!" promos. It posted a testimonial-filled video soliciting money for the campaign. But as Media Matters' Adam Shah detailed, it's filled with falsehoods:

  • It misleadingly cropped a video to portray a reporter saying, over footage of a tea party rally, that "it paints a picture of an opposition driven, in part, by a refusal to accept a black president" when, in fact, the reporter attributed that view to "some prominent Obama supporters" -- which is true.
  • Bozell says: "Stop telling the American people that this is an administration that's cutting the deficit," followed by a clip of ABC's George Stephanopoulos saying: "In fact, it reduces the deficit over the first ten years, even more over the second." But Stephanopoulos was accurately reporting an analysis of the health care reform bill issued by the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office.
  • Bozell then says: "Stop telling the American people that this is an administration that is cutting taxes." The video then airs a clip of a reporter saying "there are tax cuts and credits that will benefit 95 percent of families." In fact, the tax cuts and credits referenced were in the stimulus package.
  • Bozell goes on to say: "Stop telling people that these are new programs that are going to be helpful to them." The video then airs a clip of Katie Couric saying: "Congress is expected to approve the economic stimulus plan by tomorrow. It is designed in part to get you spending again by giving you the money to do it." In fact, the CBO has estimated that the stimulus lowered the unemployment rate by between 0.7 and 1.8 percentage points, and that the stimulus increased the number of employed people by between 1.4 and 3.3 million.

If Bozell can't even follow his own advice to "Tell the Truth!", what moral authority does he have to demand others do the same (in party by spending a lot of money for people to drive around in trucks)?

"Got Truth?" The MRC doesn't.