Before Media Matters, there was Group Research, Inc. (part one)


Stop me if you’ve heard this one:

Right-wing fanatics, casting doubt on the loyalty of every President of the United States since Herbert Hoover, are pounding the U.S. people, this Presidential election year, with an unprecedented flood of radio and television propaganda. The hate clubs of the air are spewing out a minimum of 6,600 broadcasts a week, carried by more than 1,300 radio and television stations–nearly one out of every five in the nation…

That’s from “Radio Right: Hate Clubs of the Air,” an article that appeared in far-left magazine The Nation.

In 1964.

Over the holidays, I picked up the 2007 title The Death of Talk Radio? by Cliff Kincaid and Lynn Woolley. As the NewsReal blogger with the Media Matters beat, I was intrigued by the book’s discussion of something called Group Research, Inc., which the authors describe as the “modern equivalent” of “the Media Matters group.”

In a chapter called “History of the Fairness Doctrine“, Kincaid cites Victor Lasky’s 1977 book It Didn’t Start with Watergate. Kincaid writes:

In one notorious case, Lasky noted that the federal Fairness Doctrine was used by the Kennedy and Johnson Administrations as part of a coordinated covert campaign, using front groups and money from the Democratic National Committee, to go after “right-wing critics in the broadcast media,” particularly during the 1964 presidential campaign. (…)

A key part of that campaign was that article in The Nation. Kincaid continues:

[President of CBS News] Fred Friendly confirmed [in 1975] that [Wayne] Phillips, who later became director of News and Information for the Democratic National Committee, had proposed the article and made “major contributions” to its content. (…)

Another key aspect of the campaign was the use of a Washington organization known as Group Research, Inc., which monitored right-wing publications and broadcasters and was run by a long-time Democratic Party aide, Wesley McCune.

Tomorrow I’ll have more about the now-defunct Group Research, Inc., and the long war between Democratic administrations and conservative broadcasters and activists.

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