The Media Research Center has been pushing the "Tell the Truth!" mantra for years, though that didn't apply to anyone telling the truth about conservatives.
It also didn't apply to the MRC itself. Now the MRC and its leader, Brent Bozell, have been exposed as engaging in a fundamental, years-long deception.
Media blogger Jim Romenesko reports that according to former MRC employees, MRC director of media analysis Tim Graham writes "almost everything published under [Bozell's] name," including Bozell's twice-weekly syndicated column. Further, Graham isn't happy about the situation at all:
"Tim just resents having to do it," says a former employee.
Graham's wife, too, is so angry about the arrangement that she refuses to attend Media Research Center events.
"She hates Bozell," I'm told. "The forced ghostwriting is the issue," says an ex-employee.
One loyal MRC employee tried to spin this, according to Romenesko:
I was advised to contact a third MRC employee who, I was told, would confirm Graham's ghostwriting duties. He did that, but defended the practice of "people signing off on agreeable words written for them." He asked me: "How many speeches has Obama written the last ten years? Should he have prefaced the State of the Union with 'My fellow Americans - I didn't write this?'"
I asked Pittsburgh Tribune-Review colunnist and National Society of Newspaper Columnists president Eric Heyl about this remark. He said:
"The argument that the columnist should be allowed to use a ghostwriter because the president has speechwriters is as limp as pasta left overnight in boiling water. The comparison is ludicrous. The columnist doesn't have to spend much of his time dealing with a dysfunctional Congress or fretting over Iran's nuclear program."
As a result, Bozell's syndicator, Creators Syndicate, will add Graham as a co-author on the columns. Romenesko reported that Creators president Rick Newcombe defended Bozell, asserting that "it is absolutely false to say that Brent Bozell does not write his column," adding that "I remember years ago when Brent suggested that he share the byline for his column with Tim, and I said it would be better for us to promote a single individual."
Bozell and Graham have refused to comment to Romenesko, and there is nothing about the controversy on any MRC website, so it's unclear whether Bozell will retroactively credit Graham for his work.
Last year, ConWebWatch noted that the latest book by Bozell and Graham carried only Bozell's name on the copyright despite Graham being listed as a full-fledged co-author (and the MRC claiming that it gets all proceeds from the book), and mused that Graham was getting screwed out of the book's proceeds.
That book was called "Collusion: How the Media Stole The 2012 Election." As it turns out, Bozell has been stealing Graham out of credit for much of his work.
By contrast, the only MRC-related book for which Graham is listed as sole author, 1996's "Pattern of Deception," is copyrighted in the name of the MRC, not Graham.
Thus far, the exposure of Graham as Bozell's ghostwriter has been met with utter silence from the MRC, as well as attempts to squelch criticism. Bozell appeared on Fox News on Feb. 17, four days after his deception was exposed, but he talked about media coverage of climate change, not his ghostwriter. A Fox Business appearance by Bozell on Feb. 18 also avoided questioning about the ghostwriting, as did another Fox News appearance on Feb. 19.
One newspaper, the Quad City Times in Iowa, has dropped Bozell's column over the deception. "Bozell may have been comfortable representing others' work as his own. We're not," the paper stated. Even that did not prompt an apology or any other public reaction from Bozell. (The Times later noted that "We did not receive one letter or comment protesting our decision or defending Bozell.")
When a column issued after the exposure carried only Bozell's name, readers brought up the issue in a comment thread on the version of the column posted at MRC division CNSNews.com. An MRC comment moderator stated that "it was being considered that this column be taken down" out of alleged consideration for the column's subject, a woman who died shortly after childbirth, denying that the proposed action was about shutting down criticism of Bozell. Ultimately, the comment thread was frozen, with no new comments permitted.
The MRC took a stab at giving Graham proper credit on Bozell's Feb. 19 column, but it lacked a little something on follow-through.
The version of the column at the MRC's NewsBusters got a newly created Bozell & Graham byline, but older columns have not been moved to the new byline. Meanwhile, the same column at MRC division CNSNews.com carries only Bozell's byline. And at the main MRC website, Bozell remains identified as the sole column writer (though the columns since the deception was exposed get a "Bozell & Graham" headline).
Bozell's ghostwriting scandal is just the latest example of Bozell acting in an outrageous or offensive manner:
- At the end of the Clinton presidency, he hosted a insult-laden125-a-plate dinner to mark the end of the administration. "It's our way of celebrating the fumigation of Washington," he is quoted as saying.
(An extended version of this post is available at ConWebWatch.)