Fox & Friends Debunks Tea Party Racism Myth

As NewsBusters reported Thursday, a UCLA graduate student has published a study debunking the myth that the Tea Party is racist.

On Monday, Gretchen Carlson invited the study's author on "Fox & Friends" to do what every news outlet ought to, namely, tell the truth about what the movement that is radically changing the political landscape is really all about (video follows with transcript and commentary):

GRETCHEN CARLSON, HOST: Well, Brian, speaking of the Tea Party, the movement has been under attack since it started. Liberal members of the media and politicians have come out calling it racist.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JANEANE GAROFALO: They have no idea what the Boston tea party was about.

KEITH OLBERMANN: That’s right.

GAROFALO: They don't know the history at all. This is about hating a black man in the White House. This is racism straight up. 

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: And you see folks waving tea bags around. 

HOUSE SPEAKER NANCY PELOSI: Carrying swastikas, symbols like that to a town hall meeting on healthcare.

FORMER PRESIDENT JIMMY CARTER: An overwhelming portion of the intensely demonstrated animosity toward President Barack Obama is based on the fact that he is a black man. 

HBO’s BILL MAHER: The Teabaggers, they're not a movement. They're a cult.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CARLSON: But is the racist label accurate? A grad student at UCLA just completed a study on the Tea Party and the signs that are carried at the rallies and she came up with a much different conclusion. Joining me now to share her finding is Emily Ekins. Good morning to you, Emily

EMILY EKINS, UCLA GRADUATE STUDENT: Good to be with you. 

CARLSON: So, you went to a rally. You decided to take photographs of about 250 signs, and what did you find out? 

EKINS:Well, what I did is I tried to take a picture of every visible sign I could find and I found that over 50% of the signs were about limited government and lower spending. And only about 6% of the signs were controversial in nature. 

CARLSON: How tough was it for you to go and take these photos and come up with that conclusion? 

EKINS: You know, it was actually pretty straight forward. I'm surprised more people haven't done this. I just went to the rally, I walked in a systemic fashion, you know, row by row, took a picture of every visible sign and then I categorized them. And I should say that I was very conscientious that any sign that, you know, could be construed as controversial, meaning they had undertones about immigration or race or Islam, you know, I was sure to include those into these controversial categories. But frankly, they just, there weren't that many, and so it added up to six. 

CARLSON: Why do you think that your test results differ from the perception of the mainstream media and those clips that we just saw? 

EKINS: Well, honestly, I think it has everything to do with your method and your approach. I think what often happens is people go to these events, these rallies, and they're either attracted or repelled by various signs. And if you just cover a couple of signs no matter how objective you try to be, you’re just, you can't generalize everybody that's there by a couple of signs. And so the method needs to be systematic that when we go to these events we need to look at all the signs. We need to say, we need to see what all the signs are telling us. And I think that method revealed something very different than a method that just looks at a few signs. 

CARLSON. Here was a quote from NAACP Ben Jealous on the Tea Parties. “We take issue with the Tea Party's continued tolerance for bigotry and bigoted statements. The time has come for them to accept the responsibility that comes with influence and make clear there's no space for racism and anti-Semitism and other forms of bigotry in their movement.” I mean, I guess he's speaking to the 6% of the signs that you found that were questionable, but you still say that's a tiny percentage in what the overall message was. 

EKINS: Yes, I mean overwhelmingly, the message is about limited government. At this particular rally that I, that I did conduct the analysis at. 

CARLSON: I know that you want to do further studies, and I find it actually amazing that nobody else has done what you chose to do. So hats off to you. But I'm interested in knowing, you're at UCLA. What grade did you get? 

EKINS: Well, actually I'm a PhD student, so grades work differently there. This is my research for my dissertation, and actually my advisors, you know, they’re very encouraging and seeking academic truth. So they were, they were pleased with kind of the new approach and they're very encouraging. 

CARLSON: Well, that's very good to hear. Congratulations to you, Emily Ekins, she is a UCLA graduate student. She decided to go to that Tea Party movement and decide see what the signs are really all about. Thanks for sharing your findings with us, Emily. 

EKINS: Sure. Thank you. 

Isn't it interesting how easily this study was done?

As Carlson asked Ekins, why haven't any news outlets, apart from Fox News and conservative websites, done any investigation into the allegations of racism within this movement to see if they were at all true?

Yes, that was a rhetorical question, for media have been trying to either dismiss or demonize the Tea Party since its inception.

In the end, what we have learned the past 21 months is that there is far more bias in the press than in the movement that's about to radically change the makeup of Congress.

Brava, Emily and Gretchen. Brava!

Noel Sheppard
Noel Sheppard
Noel Sheppard, Associate Editor of NewsBusters, passed away in March of 2014.