Right-Wing Group's Study Of 'Negative' Trump Coverage Is Bogus

Trump and the MRC really are in this together.
04/23/2017 12:22 pm ET Updated Apr 26, 2017
Yuri Gripas / Reuters

Last month, the Media Research Center put out a so-called study claiming that the “liberal media” (read: just the evening news on CBS, NBC and ABC) was overwhelmingly negative toward President Trump.

Well, the MRC’s Rich Noyes and Mike Ciandella have apparently updated that study, and its predictable results (the MRC wouldn’t be touting them if they didn’t conform to its agenda) making the right-wing rounds once again:

As President Trump approaches the end of his first 100 days in office, he has received by far the most hostile press treatment of any incoming American president, with the broadcast networks punishing him with coverage that has been 89% negative. The networks largely ignored important national priorities such as jobs and the fight against ISIS, in favor of a news agenda that has been dominated by anti-Trump controversies and which closely matches what would be expected from an opposition party.

Unusual for an MRC study, it prominently touts what it claims to be a methodology:

Methodology: Our measure of spin was designed to isolate the networks’ own slant, not the back-and-forth of partisan politics. Thus, our analysts ignored soundbites which merely showcased the traditional party line (Republicans supporting Trump, Democrats criticizing him), and instead tallied evaluative statements which imparted a clear positive or negative tone to the story, such as statements from experts presented as non-partisan, voters, or opinionated statements from the networks’ own reporters.
Using these criteria, MRC analysts tallied 1,687 evaluative statements about the Trump administration, of which 1,501 (89%) were negative vs. a mere 186 (11%) which were positive.

This prominently stated methodology, however, can’t hide the fact that it’s not a valid one. “negative” and “positive” are subjective values, and thus, difficult to quantify for the purposes of objective research. Given, for example, the MRC’s propensity to label anything and everything as “far left,” its sense of value judgment in research probably shouldn’t be trusted.

The study also fails to account for negative news reported objectively in its methodology. That means a negative story about Trump is classified as “negative” even if it was reported accurately and without bias. There’s also no comprehensive list of evaluated statements provided that would permit less subjective observers to evaluate their work.

Finally, the MRC offers no baseline from which to judge the relative purported “liberal bias” of the networks. The MRC would never subject its ideological fellow travelers at Fox News to such a study — in addition to not wanting to jeopardize future appearances on Fox News and Fox Business by MRC talking heads, the fact is that even conservative-leaning researcher Robert Lichter admits Fox News’ coverage of Trump has skewed negative.

Indeed, MRC chief Brent Bozell has already appeared on Fox Business to promote the study, where he ludicrously ranted that “This is not a press that has any interest in objective truth.” So the guy whose organization effectively denied the existence of objective truth in order to protect Trump from his continual stream of lies is now passing judgment on the media for refusing to be as sycophantic toward Trump as he demands them to be?

Trump and the MRC really are in this together, given the fact that both have benefited from the largesse of right-wing philanthropist Robert Mercer and his family (Mercer’s daughter Rebekah is on the MRC board of directors).

Bozell and the MRC are simply working the refs and pretending it’s “research.” They don’t want any negative coverage of their boy Trump.

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