Echoing the attacks by Republican presidential candidates on the moderators of the CNBC-hosted debate, Media Research Center chief Brent Bozell ranted: "The CNBC debate will go down in history as an encyclopedic example of liberal media bias on stage."
But there was one thing missing from Bozell's declaration: the encyclopedia.
Bozell's statement did not cite any specific examples of "liberal media bias" expressed at the debate. In an appearance on Fox Business, Bozell denounced the CNBC moderators as "smarmy, condescending, arrogant" -- but he didn't cite a specific example. He did, however, creepily proclaim the Republicans' ranting about bias to be "better than sex."
But who needs evidence when you have right-wing talking points to enforce? An MRC poll reinforced the meme by asking readers: "Who had the best media slam of the debate?"
Bozell finally got around to noting a couple of alleged examples in another Fox Business interview. One of them: "Asking Ben Carson about his face on somebody's website." Bozell's fanciful rewording obscures the fact that the question was about Carson's relationship with nutritional-supplements maker Mannatech, which has a history of shady practices -- a relationship Carson dissembled about during the debate, and which the conservative National Review pointed out was "bald-faced lies."
A couple days later, the MRC finally got around to issuing what it called a "study" on the subject. The unsubtle headline: "MRC Study Proves It: CNBC Agenda Was to Undermine GOP Candidates." The unbylined "study" asserts:
A Media Research Center analysis of the questions posed by moderators John Harwood, Carl Quintanilla and Becky Quick at CNBC's Republican presidential debate found nearly two-thirds (65%) hit the candidates with negative spin, personal insults or ad hominem attacks.
In contrast, all of the questions posed by CNBC personalities Jim Cramer, Rick Santelli and Sharon Epperson focused on policy matters and were phrased in a constructive, respectful tone.
The MRC analysis examined the 43 unique questions posed by one of the three moderators. Nearly two-thirds of those (28, or 65%) included negative spin, personal insult or attack, such as Harwood's question to Donald Trump asking if his was a "comic book version of a presidential campaign," or Quintanilla's question to Ted Cruz asking if his opposition to a just-passed spending bill showed he was "not the kind of problem-solver American voters want?"
What you won't find: anything that resembles an actual study using scientific research methods. The MRC provides no methodology for making its determinations about the questions, nor does it offer any objective definition of what it considered "negative spin." The MRC did not even provide a list of the questions to show how it categorized them.
The only supplemental material provided with this "study" is a video compilation of "the most insulting questions posed."
By contrast, the MRC did no such "study" on the questions in the GOP presidential debate hosted by Fox News, despite Donald Trump's loud complaining about their bias, nor does it make the effort to compare the questions in the CNBC debate with those of the Fox debate. Heck, even MRC friend Ann Coulter (whose anti-Semitic and anti-Catholic rantings the MRC is studiously ignoring) has argued that the questions in the debates were no different.
Contrary to its headline, the MRC's "study" does not "prove" an "agenda" -- or anything else it has been asserting about the debate. It does prove, however, that the MRC is little more than a group of hacks dedicated to churning out right-wing talking points without regard to the facts.
This "study" has as much scientific legitimacy as Sean Hannity's assertion that the debate was "the single worst example of media bias in a debate in like intergalactic history" -- a nonsensical claim MRC "news" division CNSNews.com decided was worthy of promoting on its front page.