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Media Matters, the left-wing media watchdog, has had a rough time of late. Notwithstanding its mission of “comprehensively monitoring, analyzing, and correcting conservative misinformation in the U.S. media,” it is Media Matters that has come under withering media scrutiny.
The group’s troubles started in December when M.J. Rosenberg, a senior foreign policy fellow at Media Matters Action Network, a sister site, set off a media firestorm by calling Israel’s supporters “Israel firsters.” Media Matters’ use of the term, whose implication of loyalties to Israel first and America second echoes a classic anti-Semitic trope, was widely panned by the Jewish community and by newspapers like the Washington Post. The ensuing backlash cast a harsh light on Media Matters’ extremist politics, all the more so when neither Rosenberg nor Media Matters abandoned the slur.
Now Media Matters is once again in the crosshairs following a damning exposé by Tucker Carlson’s Daily Caller. One of the Daily Caller‘s more notable revelations is the extent to which Media Matters has become successful in dictating the content of left-liberal media. As documented by the Caller, newspapers like the Washington Post, the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times all take their editorial cues from Media Matters’ talking points.
Prominent columnists like the Washington Post’s E.J. Dionne have been among the most receptive to Media Matters spin. Indeed, as a follow-up investigation by Front Page shows, it is remarkably easy to trace a direct line from Media Matters to Dionne. In March 2007, Media Matters’ Eric Boehlert charged that Republicans and Fox News were waging “a smear campaign against NPR.” Dionne clearly got the message, because just a few months later he was reprising the charge of a Fox News “smear campaign against NPR” during an appearance on NBC’s Meet the Press and denouncing Fox as a “Republican propaganda network.” The latter attack echoed Media Matters founder David Brock’s charge that Fox was part of a “Republican noise machine.” If nothing else, Dionne’s faithful recitation of the Media Matters line on Fox shows that the left-wing pundits most willing to ascribe a political agenda to the network are themselves being directed by partisan interests.
Even as it was denouncing Fox as Republican propaganda, Media Matters was putting its own propaganda on the air via left-wing networks like MSNBC. So minimal was the fact-checking and editorial supervision at MSNBC, apparently, that a Media Matters source boasted to the Daily Caller, “We were pretty much writing their prime time.” Left-wing bloggers were even more willing to serve as mouthpieces for Media Matters, most notably Washington Post blogger Greg Sargent. Embarrassingly for Sargent, Media Matters sources describe him as being so eager to rehash their editorials that the organization considered him a reliable dump for its content. As one source boasted to the Daily Caller, “If you can’t get it anywhere else, Greg Sargent’s always game.”
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