01/14/2014 08:17 am ET Updated Mar 16, 2014

The MRC's Dishonest Christie Scandal Comparison

As one would expect, the Media Research Center is coming to the defense of Chris Christie over the so-called Bridgegate scandal. But its chief line of defense is utterly dishonest.

Scott Whitlock wrote in a Jan. 9 MRC item:

In less than 24 hours, the three networks have devoted 17 times more coverage to a traffic scandal involving Chris Christie than they've allowed in the last six months to Barack Obama's Internal Revenue Service controversy. Since the story broke on Wednesday that aides to the New Jersey governor punished a local mayor's lack of endorsement with a massive traffic jam, ABC, CBS and NBC have responded with 34 minutes and 28 seconds of coverage. Since July 1, these same networks managed a scant two minutes and eight seconds for the IRS targeting of Tea Party groups.

It's only several paragraphs later that Whitlock gets around to parenthetically mentioning one key fact: that the IRS scandal "first broke in May." That's two months before the MRC started its counting of IRS coverage.

That means the MRC is comparing apples and oranges -- breaking news of a scandal vs. a story that broke two months before the MRC started counting. It's dishonest and misleading.

Also, Whitlock counts only the broadcast networks -- which devote relatively little airtime to news -- and not the cable news networks. Of course, if he did, he would have to admit that Fox News tried to avoid covering Christie.

Whitlock tries to paper over this dishonest comparison by declaring that "it's not as though there wasn't much happening" during that time on the IRS scandal. But that's dishonest too.

The scandals are not equivalent. None other than Fox News reporter John Roberts agreed, stating that the scandal "has the potential to be very damaging to Gov. Christie because, you know, unlike what's happened with President Obama -- you know, the IRS thing was a woman who was in Cleveland. This is in the governor's living room. This is his deputy chief of staff. And as you mentioned his best friend who he went to high school with. It's difficult for him to be able to fully separate himself from this without at least giving the appearance that he doesn't know what's going on in his own home."

Further, as Media Matters points out, the lack of network news coverage of the IRS controversy also meant that they ignored news that the scandal was overblown.

But the MRC has its dishonest story, and it's sticking to it. Whitlock cranked out a follow-up item whining that the networks were "devoting a staggering 88 minutes" to the Christie story. Unlike his first article, Whitlock completely ignores that he started counting IRS coverage two months after it broke.

MRC chief Brent Bozell also promoted Whitlock's dishonest coverage in a Fox News appearance, failing to mention that the IRS coverage totals didn't include breaking coverage and trying to dismiss the Christie scandal as nothing but "a lane closure on a highway."

The MRC also touted how Fox News host Bill O'Reilly marveled at the "amazing" disparity in coverage. But it's amazing only if you ignore how dishonest it is.

(This item originated at ConWebWatch.)