by Eric Boehlert/Media Matters
Talk about throwing good money after bad.
Last week, cantankerous media watchdog Brent Bozell announced his group, Media Research Center, was launching the largest initiative in its 25 years history -- a $5 million marketing campaign urging the "liberal media" to "tell the truth!" Bozell urged Americans to stand up during this election year and "declare, once and for all, that the leftwing so-called news media are no longer going to pick winners and losers."
Featuring mobile billboards and "Tell The Truth!" placards, the MRC campaign is drawing inspirationfrom Newt Gingrich's candidacy, and specifically Gingrich's calculated pushback against the press. That crusade reached its peak on the night of the South Carolina debate when he won a standing ovation after castigating moderator John King for opening the debate by asking about allegations Gingrich's former wife had made in the press that week about their marriage.
Bozell soon announced Gingrich's primary win in South Caroline represented a "defeat for the liberal media." He urged GOP candidates to pick up Gingrich's anti-media mantle and to denounce the elites' "mission to destroy" Republican hopefuls.
All of this, as usual with Bozell, is a charade.
In fact, all that the MRC's new "Tell The Truth!" campaign does is highlight the dubious nature of the long-running "liberal media" bias production. The punch line surrounding this multi-million dollar marketing drive? It's being rolled out at the exact moment the conservative press is attacking Gingrich.
It's true. Last week Gingrich likely received better, or at least fairer, treatment in the pages of The New York Times than he did at The Drudge Report, which dedicated several days to posting a litany of harassing headlines and relentlessly targeting the former Republican Speaker of the House, treating him as if he were the political reincarnation of Bill Clinton.
It seems conservative pundits are the ones on a "mission to destroy" Gingrich's candidacy. But Bozell can't say that out loud because he has a phony, "liberal media" campaign to launch.
Here are the facts on the ground, as reported the Associated Press [emphasis added]:
Right now Newt Gingrich's most ardent critics are conservative pundits and columnists, many of whom have launched aggressive campaigns to discredit him and trip up his run for the Republican nomination.
Indeed, Gingrich surrogate Fred Thompson made the media rounds echoing the same message, that Drudge was "in the pocket" of the Romney campaign. And it's hard to argue otherwise.
Even conservative bloggers can't miss the startling turn of events:
Thursday the Drudge Report had no less than 13 anti-Gingrich links scattered across the page with somewhere around five "above the fold." The same day, National Review Online, the American Spectator, and pundit Ann Coulter all published missives railing against the former House Speaker.
Large portions of the conservative opinion press spent the last week taking Gingrich out at the knees, and seemed to do it with glee. Yet against that backdrop Bozell announced a $5 million marketing campaign to call out network news because they're the ones trying to undermine the likes of Gingrich?
Gimme a break.
As part of his "Tell The Truth!" public relations push, Bozell bemoaned the personal attacks and "onslaught of character assassination" against Republican candidates like Gingrich. Character assassination, by airing a sit-down, on-the-record interview with one of the candidate's ex-wives, the way ABC News recently did? If Bozell's looking for the real media assassins circling Gingrich's campaign he might want to keep an eye out for Emmett Tyrrell at the conservative American Spectator, who recently uncorked a jarring, anti-Gingrich broadside:
His public record is already besmeared with tawdry divorces, and there are private encounters with the fair sex that doubtless will come out.
And if Bozell's looking for pundits mercilessly mocking Gingrich, he should scold conservative Wall Street Journal columnist Peggy Noonan, who dismissed Gingrich as an "angry little attack muffin," or Ann Coulter who smacked down the Georgia Republican, declaring "hotheaded arrogance is neither conservative nor attractive to voters."
This intramural phenomena has been documented over and over this month: Spooked by the prospect of a Gingrich nominee, key members of the so-called Republican Establishment orchestrated an attack campaign against the candidate. And where have most of those attacks being launched? In the conservative press. This while Bozell, the right-wing's Captain Ahab, sets his sights in the opposite direction, on ABC, CBS, NBC.
Even Beltway journalists suggest that far from attacking Gingrich or attempting to drive him out of the race, the press has been helping him try to derail Mitt Romney's march towards the nomination. Why? The press prefers a to cover a long, drawn-out nomination fight because it's good for business.
That loyalty to ratings and a solid click-through rate explains the media's "institutional rooting interest" in Gingrich's campaign, wrote John Heilemann in New York this week.
But Bozell and the MRC can't admit that, and they can't admit it's conservative pundits who are actively undermining Gingrich's candidacy. Bozell can't admit the reality because it would undercut the existence of the "liberal media" bias complex within the conservative movement.
It turns out, Brent Bozell can't "tell the truth."