Media Research Center
|Founded||October 1, 1987|
|Founder||L. Brent Bozell III|
|Focus||Allegations of liberal media bias|
|Method||Editorials, online newsletters, reports, conservative activism, far-right activism|
|Tim Graham, Rich Noyes, Brent Baker|
|This article is part of a series on|
the United States
The Media Research Center (MRC) is an American content analysis group based in Reston, Virginia, founded in 1987 by L. Brent Bozell III. It characterizes itself as a media watchdog, whereas Brian Montopoli in the Columbia Journalism Review in 2005 considered it "propaganda clothed as critique".
The nonprofit MRC has received financial support primarily from Robert Mercer, but with several other conservative-leaning sources, including the Bradley, Scaife, Olin, Castle Rock, Carthage and JM foundations, as well as ExxonMobil. It has been described as "one of the most active and best-funded, and yet least known" arms of the modern conservative movement. The organization rejects the scientific consensus on climate change, and criticizes media coverage that reflects the scientific consensus.
Foundation and funding
Bozell and a group of other conservatives founded the MRC on October 1, 1987. Their initial budget was at US$339,000. Prior to founding the MRC, Bozell was the chairman of the National Conservative Political Action Committee; he resigned from that position a month before establishing MRC. A wealthy donor whose name has been kept anonymous helped set up the MRC. The MRC has received financial support from several foundations, including the Bradley, Scaife, Olin, Castle Rock, Carthage and JM foundations. It also receives funding from ExxonMobil. The organization rejects the scientific consensus on climate change, and criticizes media coverage that reflects the scientific consensus. The MRC received over $10 million from Robert Mercer, its largest single donor.
As of its 2015 reporting to the IRS, the organization had revenue approaching $15 million and expenses in excess of $15 million. Mr. Bozell's salary during this year was reported as close to $345,000, with nearly $122,000 in additional compensation from the organization and related organizations.
Reports on the media
From 1996 to 2009, the MRC published a daily online newsletter called CyberAlert written by editor Brent Baker. Each issue profiles what he perceives as biased or inaccurate reports about politics in the American news media. Prior to CyberAlert, MRC published such reports in a monthly newsletter titled MediaWatch, from 1988 to 1999. Media analysis articles are now under the banner BiasAlert. Media analysis director Tim Graham and research director Rich Noyes regularly write Media Reality Check, another MRC publication documenting alleged liberal bias. Notable Quotables is its "collection of the most biased quotes from journalists". In Notable Quotables, editors give honors such as the "Linda Ellerbee Awards for Distinguished Reporting" based on the former CNN commentator, who Bozell considered "a liberal blowhard who has nothing to say". Other features on its website include the weekly syndicated news and entertainment columns written by founder Bozell.
MRC staff members have also written editorials and books about their findings of the media. Bozell has written three books about the news media: And That's the Way it Isn't: A Reference Guide to Media Bias (1990, with Brent Baker); Weapons of Mass Distortion: The Coming Meltdown of the Liberal Media (2004); and Whitewash: How The News Media Are Paving Hillary Clinton's Path to the Presidency (2007, with Tim Graham). Research director Rich Noyes has also co-authored several published books.
In 1992, the MRC created the Free Market Project to promote the culture of free enterprise and combat what it believes is media spin on business and economic news. That division recently[when?] changed its name to the Business & Media Institute (www.businessandmedia.org) and later to MRC Business and is now focused on "Advancing the culture of free enterprise in America." BMI's advisory board included such well-known individuals as economists Walter Williams and Bruce Bartlett, as well as former CNN anchor David Goodnow. BMI is led by career journalist Dan Gainor, a former managing editor at CQ.com, the website for Congressional Quarterly. It released a research report in June 2006 covering the portrayal of business on prime-time entertainment television during the May and November "sweeps" periods from 2005. The report concluded that the programs, among them the long-running NBC legal drama Law & Order, were biased against business. Another report of the BMI accused the networks of bias in favor of the Gardasil vaccine, a vaccine intended to prevent cervical cancer.
Bozell founded CNSNews.com (formerly Cybercast News Service) in 1998 to cover stories he believes are ignored by mainstream news organizations. CNSNews.com provides news articles for Townhall.com and other websites for a subscription fee. Its leadership consists of president Brent Bozell and editor Terry Jeffrey. Under editor David Thibault, CNSNews.com questioned the validity of the circumstances in which Democratic Rep. John Murtha received his Purple Hearts as a response to Murtha's criticisms of the U.S. War in Iraq. The Washington Post and Nancy Pelosi have commented that this approach is similar to the tactics of the Swift Vets and POWs for Truth, which opposed John Kerry's candidacy in the 2004 election.
In the summer of 2005, Media Research Center launched NewsBusters, a website "dedicated to exposing & combating liberal media bias," in cooperation with Matthew Sheffield, a conservative blogger involved in the CBS Killian documents story. NewsBusters is styled as a rapid-response blog site that contains posts by MRC editors to selected stories in mass media. Although the site is advertised chiefly as a conservative site, it frequently defends Neoconservatives as well. Not only does the site highlight journalists it deems are liberally biased, but also non-journalists (writers, musicians, producers, scientists, etc.) who they perceive have liberal viewpoint.
In October 2006, the MRC created the Culture and Media Institute, the mission of which is "to advance, preserve, and help restore America's culture, character, traditional values, and morals against the assault of the liberal media." Robert H. Knight was the institute's first director. MRC VP Dan Gainor is now in charge of that department. In 2018, the MRC started a new project in the Culture Department to monitor online censorship of conservatives called MRC TechWatch.
In its mission to show that there is a "strident liberal bias"  in the national news media, the Media Research Center frequently criticizes media reports for discussing the relevance of climate change to current extreme weather events. In September 2018, MRC criticized Katy Tur for reporting on the science connecting Hurricane Florence to climate change. In 2017, MRC sponsored a conference by the Heartland Institute, a climate change denial organization known for its effort to cast doubt about the scientific consensus on climate change, In 2002, MRC said CNN was "[Fidel] Castro's megaphone." In 1999, the MRC said that network news programs on ABC, CBS, and NBC largely ignored Chinese espionage in the United States during the Clinton administration.
In MRC reports released from 1993 to 1995, it was claimed that such programs made more references to religion each later year, most of which became more favorable. In 2003, the MRC urged advertisers to pull sponsorship from The Reagans, a miniseries about President Ronald Reagan to be shown on CBS. The network later moved the program to its co-owned premium cable network Showtime.
The MRC has been a critic of the video game industry, arguing that there is a link between violent videogames and real-world violence; in this capacity, they (along with the Parents Television Council, a subsidiary) were invited to President Donald Trump's 2018 summit on video games and gun violence.
MRC released a report in 2007 claiming that the network morning shows devoted more airtime to covering Democratic presidential candidates than Republican ones for the 2008 election. Producers for such shows criticized the MRC's methodology as flawed. During the 2008 US presidential election, MRC claimed that the vast majority of news stories about Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama had a positive slant. MRC president Bozell praised MSNBC for having David Gregory replace Chris Matthews and Keith Olbermann as political coverage anchor beginning September 8, 2008, but MSNBC president Phil Griffin disputed the statements by Bozell and others who have accused the network of liberal bias.
Bozell was an outspoken critic of Donald Trump during the 2016 Republican primaries, describing him as "the greatest charlatan of them all", "a "huckster" and "shameless self-promoter". He said, "God help this country if this man were president." After Trump clinched the Republican nomination, Bozell attacked the media for their "hatred" of Trump. Politico noted, "The paradox here is that Bozell was once more antagonistic toward the president than any journalist." Bozell singled out Jake Tapper for being "one of the worst offenders" in coverage of Trump. However, several senior MRC staff told Politico that they considered Tapper a model of fairness, although even that viewpoint has since changed.
Extra!, the magazine of the progressive media watch group FAIR, criticized the MRC in 1998 for selective use of evidence. MRC had said that there was more coverage of government death squads in right-wing El Salvador than in left-wing Nicaragua in the 1980s, when Amnesty International stated El Salvador was worse than Nicaragua when it came to extrajudicial killings. Extra! also likened a defunct MRC newsletter, TV etc., which tracked the off-screen political comments of actors, to "Red Channels, the McCarthy Era blacklisting journal."
The Media Research Center has also faced scrutiny over the group's $350,000 purchase in 2012 of a Pennsylvania house that a top executive had been trying to sell for several years.
In 2013, Media Research Center president Bozell appeared on Fox News to defend a Fox interview in which Fox journalists conducted almost no research into the background of Reza Aslan to prepare for its interview with him, and its putative biases.
Progressive media watchdog group Media Matters for America has repeatedly criticized the MRC, charging they view the media "through a funhouse mirror that renders everything--even the facts themselves--as manifestations of insidious bias".
When the Media Research Center bestowed an award named for William F. Buckley to Sean Hannity, neoconservative columnist for The New York Times, Bret Stephens, wrote an editorial in which he lamented, "And so we reach the Idiot stage of the conservative cycle, in which a Buckley Award for Sean Hannity suggests nothing ironic, much less Orwellian, to those bestowing it, applauding it, or even shrugging it off. The award itself is trivial, but it's a fresh reminder of who now holds the commanding heights of conservative life, and what it is that they think."
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