MSNBC's Lawrence O'Donnell on Wednesday defended a GEICO voice-over actor who referred to Tea Party members as mentally retarded killers.
Last week, Lance Baxter aka D.C. Douglas left the following voice-mail at the offices of FreedomWorks (audio available here):
Hi there. I`m doing a paper about FreedomWorks and I was wondering if somebody could give me a call back. I`m wrapping up and I just have one more piece of information I need to get from you guys -- just need to know what the percentage is of people that are mentally retarded who work for the organization, and are members of it. And oh -- and one final thing, wondering what your plans are, how to spin it when one of your members does actually kill somebody, wondering how, if you`ve got an actual P.R. spinning routine planned for that or are you just going to take it when it happens. Just curious. So, give me a call when you get a chance. Thanks so much.
Baxter has since been fired for this disgusting message, and O'Donnell filling in for Keith Olbermann on Wednesday's "Countdown" actually came to the actor's defense claiming he was only exercising his First Amendment rights (video follows with transcript and commentary):
On Monday, the Christian Science Monitor bucked its mainstream peers by reporting something truthful about the TEA party movement: police officials have begun to relax security requirements at conservative rallies because of the remarkable absence of violence.
Yes, you read that right: despite nonstop media warnings about hateful protests, violence from TEA party attendants is so nonexistent that police feel safe allowing them to bring large items and sometimes even guns.
The Monitor was compelled to check things out when a TEA party in Raleigh, North Carolina, persuaded officials to overturn a ban on flag poles. Such items are typically banned because a flag pole is really just a very big stick that could be used as a weapon. The Monitor's research led the paper to admit that conservative protests are far less threatening than many past demonstrations.
Patrik Jonsson's article drew a refreshing contrast between violent rallies of the Vietnam era versus the new model of peaceful civil uprising:
The black Tea Party member who was curiously lambasted by New York Times columnist Charles "Minstrel Show" Blow last week struck back at his offender on Monday.
In his now infamous Friday column, Blow wrote of the Dallas Tea Party gathering he attended the previous day:
They saved the best for last, however: Alfonzo "Zo" Rachel. According to his Web site, Zo, who is black and performs skits as "Zo-bama," allowed drugs to cost him "his graduation." Before ripping into the president for unconstitutional behavior, he cautioned, "I don't have the education that our president has, so if I misinterpret some things in the founding documents I kind of have an excuse." That was the understatement of the evening.
On Monday, Rachel posted a marvelous, truly must-see video countering Blow's attack:
During a speech to the winter conference of the Young Democratic Socialists the site Verum Serum found that ACORN CEO Bertha Lewis praised socialism and attacked conservatives. She even goes so far as to say that today's political atmosphere is worse than McCarthyism, the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II, and Jim Crow segregation:
Liberal talk radio host Ed Schultz on Tuesday went absolutely berserk on a Democrat Tea Party member that didn't approve of how President Obama went back on his campaign promise to make healthcare reform hearings open and transparent.
"My reason for being with the Tea Party is is this whole healthcare stuff," said a caller named Jason who claimed to be a Democrat.
"I remember hearing President Obama talking about how it was going to be open and transparent, it was going to be on C-SPAN, we were going to know what's in the bill, and that's just not the way it worked."
This sent Schultz into a hissy fit of epic proportions concluding with him saying, "God, go pick up your gun and march if it makes you feel better because you're too stupid to read" (YouTube audio follows with partial transcript and commentary, h/t Radio Equalizer):
On her CNN program on Monday, Campbell Brown forwarded one of the Left's talking points about the tea parties by stating that "it does appear that we are seeing a rise in right wing extremism recently." However, her guest, historian Robert Churchill of the University of Hartford, downplayed her claim and claimed that groups like the Southern Poverty Law Center were "exaggerating" the threat.
Brown brought on Churchill at the bottom half of the 8 pm Eastern hour. Midway through the interview, she made her "right wing extremism" claim and cited "a number of studies that have looked at this. The Department of Homeland Security came out with a study last year saying that, perhaps, it's the economy, or possibly the President's race." The anchor then asked, "What do you see as driving recruitment right now, beyond just sort of the generic more- or not generic, but more general libertarian view?"
Bloomberg Washington Editor Al Hunt appeared on the web-only section of Sunday's This Week and dismissed the idea that the Tea Party movement has broad appeal. He derided, "They love Glenn Beck and they're skeptical of John McCain. That's not America."
Hunt's comments pivoted off of remarks from the conservative George Will, who pointed to a new Rasmussen poll showing Americans more in line with the thinking of the tea partiers than Barack Obama. Hunt scoffed, "They are angry, conservative, little bit more upper-income Republicans...I don't think they're closer to the country, George, than Barack Obama."
Laura Ingraham on Monday took New York Times columnist Charles Blow to task for calling last Thursday's Dallas Tea Party a minstrel show.
In his column published Saturday, Blow said of the tax day gathering he witnessed in the Lone Star State:
Thursday night I saw a political minstrel show devised for the entertainment of those on the rim of obliviousness and for those engaged in the subterfuge of intolerance. I was not amused.
With this in mind, Ingraham invited Blow on her radio program Monday to explain how he came to this conclusion.
The conservative talk radio host quickly got the Times columnist to admit that he hadn't seen any overt acts of racism at the Party, but he refused to explain what made it a minstrel show (audio available here, interview starts at 3:30, partial transcript and commentary follows, file photo):
During the tax day TEA Party rally in Washington, D.C., Eyeblast.tv's Stephen Gutowski interviewed some suspicious characters with outlandish signs. Despite their best attempts to conceal their smirks these three clearly come off as TEA Party crashers:
The transcript of the relevant portion of the panel discussion, which included Pinkerton, Miller, Newsday columnist Ellis Henican Fox News anchor Jon Scott, starting at the 53 minutes into 2 pm Eastern hour:
JON SCOTT: Ellis, you know, this headline in the New York Times: 'Supporters are better educated, wealthier, and more conservative, poll finds.' It almost seemed to me that it pained this newspaper to write that sub-headline.
ELLIS HENICAN: Well, two things- first of all, can the tea party people get better songs? (laughs from other panel members, as Henican sings, 'I need a bailout.') That said, it's no surprise. The tea partyers are whiter, more Republican, more conservative, older and more suburban than America, and that shouldn't be a surprise to anybody.
“Watch your words,” fill-in ABC anchor Elizabeth Vargas scolded in teasing Friday's World News, as she trumpeted: “Former President Clinton warns harsh anti-government talk could lead to violent acts, like the Oklahoma City bombing.”
Introducing the subsequent story, Vargas identified talk radio and Tea Party participants as the culprits:
There is a lot of attention tonight on comments made by former President Bill Clinton, who has weighed in on the angry anti-government rhetoric, ringing out from talk radio to Tea Party rallies. He warns that sometimes firing people up with caustic comments can have unintended and dire consequences.
"I think that we're going to have a problem if we want to start talking about founding fathers, the founding documents, what the origins of our country because the mainstream media is not going to like what you have to say, and so I volunteered myself," Breitbart said. "And on day one, I had to contend with the fact that you guys were called ‘teabaggers.' And I had to deal with the fact an unfortunately named sister, by the name of Contessa Brewer on MSNBC, before you even spoke, told you what your grievances were to the country and our dissent his patriotic presidency. This person took a photo and cut off the head of a black man, and asked is the tea party nation - are the people who are protesting Barack Obama racist? The person was black."
“There aren't a lot of African-American men at these events,” NBC News reporter Kelly O'Donnell, a white woman, told Darryl Postell, a black man at a Tea Party rally held Thursday in Washington, DC, pressing him, in an exchange she chose to include in her NBC Nightly News story, to address her prejudiced assumptions: “Have you ever felt uncomfortable?” Postell rejected her loaded premise that race must divide Americans: “No, no, these are my people, Americans.”
O'Donnell's story noted “skepticism over how the Tea Party is judged and labeled,” letting an attendee assert: “We're not racists, we're not any of the above that people claim us to be. We're ordinary citizens that love our country, and we're fighting for it.” O'Donnell soon wondered if it all may peter out, asking a man in the crowd: “Do you think this has enough energy to really last to November and to make a difference?”
Over on ABC, Jonathan Karl highlighted how “many of them blamed us, the news media.” A woman demanded: “We want honesty from you. We want fair time from you. We want you, the media, to represent all the people, not just a certain portion of the people.”
On the heels of a story a couple of days ago which used Congressman Heath Shuler as a source about how racial slurs were probably hurled at the Washington, D.C. Tea Party on March 20, the Associated Press has been forced to backtrack. Here is how AP writer Jesse Washington used what Heath Shuler supposedly heard to promote the idea of a Tea Party chock full of racists:
A fourth Democrat, Rep. Heath Shuler of North Carolina, who is white, backed up his colleagues, telling the Henderson (N.C.) Times-News that he heard the slurs.
Unfortunately for Mr. Washington's premise, this little fiction has now been undone by Shuler himself. Here is the AP correction:
Rep. Heath Shuler is denying a report that he heard racial slurs yelled from a crowd of angry health care protesters outside the U.S. Capitol.
While the tea party movement began to take shape in late February of 2009, the CBS Early Show did not offer a complete story on it until nearly 14 months later, with co-host Harry Smith declaring: "Today is tax day, April 15th. And thousands of tea party activists are headed to Washington...a new CBS News/New York Times poll is showing us just who these passionate conservatives really are."
Various co-hosts, correspondents, and guests certainly mentioned the tea party on the CBS morning show over the past year, but Thursday's broadcast was the first to provide a report that actually focused on the movement itself. Correspondent Nancy Cordes summed up the protests: "the tea partiers are planning to hold a series of rallies, not just hear in Washington, but around the country today, tax day. They're calling it the people's tax revolt. They say they're just fed up with the nation's tax burden."
Cordes noted how "Former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin rallied an estimated 5,000 tea party protestors in Boston" and explained that a Washington D.C. event would "cap weeks of protests in 47 cities across the country. Tea partiers voicing their frustration with Congress and the White House." The headline on screen read: "Tea'd Off; Upstart Party Holds Final Rally On Tax Day."
Reporting from Jefferson City, Missouri, David Lieb of the Associated Press understated the number of people expected to attend rallies through the US ("thousands"), misrepresented a previous March 20 incident involving alleged racial slurs at the U.S. Capitol, and waited until his fourteenth paragraph to mention leftist "party crashers" who may be at least as much of a concern to organizers as far-right opportunists.
Here are the relevant paragraphs from Lieb's litter (link is dynamic; 9:13 a.m. version of report saved here at web host for fair use and discussion purposes; bolds are mine):
An unbylined Associated Press item on today's Tea Party Express tour wrap-up in Washington uses a word that the wire service almost never (if not absolutely never) applies to truly violent leftist groups.
The Google page carrying the AP report also has an interesting lead "Related article."
Here's the brief AP item (produced in full for fair use and discussion purposes), whose headline seems to want to twist the event into an act of hypocrisy simply because of where it's being held:
“A CBS News/New York Times poll out tonight finds 18 percent of Americans support the movement,” Katie Couric announced at the top of Wednesday's CBS Evening News as the newscast provided a surprisingly neutral summary of the findings in the new survey, though reporter Dean Reynolds couldn't resist asserting “there is some inconsistency in the Tea Party viewpoints. For example, for all their anger at what they see as ever-expanding government, 62 percent of them think Medicare and Social Security are worthwhile programs, perhaps because 75 percent of them are over 45.”
Or, since they aren't anarchists, maybe they've just made judgments about government programs and find many others less worthwhile than ones they've been forced to pay into for their entire adult lives.
Reynolds realized “they chafe at critics who characterize the movement as extremist or racist for its opposition to the President,” then he recited numbers to show they are mostly male, white, conservative watchers of FNC:
The new poll says 59 percent of Tea Party supporters are men, 89 percent are white, 73 percent say they're conservative as opposed to 34 percent who say so nationwide; 58 percent have a gun in the house; and 63 percent watch the Fox News Channel for political coverage. More can be found in the South, and 39 percent identify themselves as evangelical Christians.
At the top of the 3PM ET hour on MSNBC, anchor Peter Alexander reported on a tea party event being held in Boston and grilled conservative author Kevin Jackson on "the fringe elements who show up for these rallies. Some in the past have had offensive signs and rhetoric." As Alexander spoke a large sign from the Boston rally appeared on screen, displaying the word 'LOVE' and a heart symbol.
In fairness to Alexander, he prefaced his comment by acknowledging that such signs were "perhaps not at today's event."
After Jackson, author of 'The Big Black Lie' and founder of TheBlackSphere.net, observed that the "fringe" claim was "much ado about nothing," Alexander responded by arguing that a recent email sent out calling on tea party members to avoid any offensive behavior was evidence of offensive behavior: "I think it said the following: Like, 'no chants or signs that you wouldn't want to repeat to your mother or children....'No bigotry, threats, or profanity. No alcohol or pre-drinking.' I mean, would that be necessary if there weren't signs of bigotry or offensive signs at these events?"
Stuart Elliott of the New York Times's Media Decoder blog reported on Tuesday that CNN, a network known for its consistent liberal bias, is now incredibly touting itself as "the only credible, nonpartisan voice left" on cable television. Elliott noted that this spin was being pitched by the network at a Tuesday morning event for advertisers at the Time Warner Center in New York City.
The New York Times writer highlighted the meeting hosted by CNN executives, and their overall strategy: "In a presentation to advertisers and agencies on Tuesday morning, executives of CNN indicated how they plan to counter the growing ratings of — and buzz about — the rival Fox News Channel: play up their channel’s identity as an objective source of news." Elliott quoted Jim Walton, president of CNN Worldwide, as using the "credible, nonpartisan voice" phrase, and tried to put the face on his network's poor ratings during the first quarter of 2010: "[Walton and CNN executive vice president Greg D'Alba] alluded to the recent spate of news articles about CNN’s poor ratings...as Fox News...and MSNBC...stay ahead of CNN in prime time. Mr. Walton referred lightly to 'all the great coverage we’ve had' and Mr. D’Alba said that “there’s no way” the complete story was being told about CNN’s performance."
Associated Press writer Jesse Washington has investigated the March 20 incident in Washington, D.C. at which members of the Tea Party supposedly hurled the N-word at black Congressmen. Well, no recording of that word being used could be found but that hasn't stopped Washington from blaming the Tea Partiers...for posting the "wrong" video of that incident on YouTube. I kid you not:
Three Democratic congressmen — all black — say they heard racial slurs as they walked through thousands of angry protesters outside the U.S. Capitol. A white lawmaker says he heard the epithets too. Conservative activists say the lawmakers are lying.
What does the video show? Not much. Indeed, new interviews show that a much-viewed YouTube recording cited as evidence by conservatives was actually shot well after the time in question.
...A reconstruction of the events shows that the conservative challenges largely sprang from a mislabeled video that was shot later in the day.
Why does the mainstream media keep trotting out the Boy Who Cried Right-Wing Terrorist?
Better known as Mark Potok of the hard-left Southern Poverty Law Center, he has been trumpeted by a number of media outlets seeking to promote the notion that "right-wingers" are lurking behind every corner to overthrow the federal government.
The fact that he is consistently wrong about, well, just about everything -- from the political views of the supposed right wingers to the supposedly violent nature of conservative groups to the mere presence of violent crime -- does not seem to dissuade Old Media from using him to smear conservatives.
Potok's latest target for fear-mongering is a group called the Oathkeepers. The group consists of military veterans who pledge not to follow orders that would result in the violation of Americans' constitutional rights. I know, this is really radical, extremist, right-wing nutjob stuff.
This week, Americans of all political stripes will take to the streets -- so to speak -- to protest what they see as excessive and out of control government spending and intrusion into their daily lives. Among the many Tea Party protesters, however, will be individuals plotting to undermine the peaceful grassroots movement.
Blogger Glenn Reynolds spotted CrashTheTeaParty.org today, a website that claims to represent "a nationwide network of Democrats, Republicans and Independents who are all sick and tired of that loose affiliation of racists, homophobes and morons; who constitute the fake grassroots movement, which calls itself 'the Tea Party.'"
Their plan is to "infiltrate" Tea Party protests to create the false impression that protesters are racists by … being racists. That's right, they will bring with them offensive signs and give wildly offensive interviews to reporters, all with the intention of smearing a movement that wouldn't bring those signs or give those interviews themselves. It remains to be seen whether the mainstream media will take the bait.
On Wednesday's The O'Reilly Factor on FNC, substitute host Laura Ingraham and FNC analyst Bernard Goldberg discussed the mainstream media's double standard in highlighting bad behavior by extreme and atypical members of the Tea Party movement while ignoring bad behavior by left-wing protesters. After showing a clip of anti-war protesters burning an American flag and shouting incendiary accusations about the CIA and the war on terrorism, Ingraham observed: "That video was striking. And the sentiment expressed, the vile comments. But you've got to search for the coverage of that. I mean, you had to, you had to hunt, with those little metal detectors, to find that coverage anywhere."
Goldberg complained about media treatment of Tea Party activists: "These fringe events at Tea Party rallies, whether they're nasty signs or these alleged shouting of racial slurs, which I am convinced at this point never happened, this fits into the narrative of most mainstream news reporters, that the Tea Party people are not too smart, they're bigots. So when you see a nasty sign, which I'm against and you're against, but when you see one of these signs, they report it as, if not typical, certainly not unusual."
Goldberg soon highlighted charges of racism by conservative activists recently made by Democratic Congressman Steve Cohen, and noted the irony that Cohen himself has been the target of racist and anti-Semitic attacks by fellow Democrats who want his predominantly black congressional district in Tennessee to elect a black candidate in his place. Goldberg:
In what is generally being interpreted by most as a surprise move, CNN has recently decided to cover the Tea Party movement from an angle foreign to most in the main stream media - combating stereotypes that are heavily promoted by liberals.
That comparison alone raises some questions, however. How does a network which featured the Roesgen debacle, suddenly find respect for the movement? How does the organization whose award-winning journalists refer to the people as ‘tea baggers', seek to dispel the degrading stereotypes propagated in the media? And how does a network, who just over a week ago minimized a Nevada Tea Party Event of roughly 20,000 people, by speculating that ‘at least dozens' were in attendance, suddenly believe the movement to be legitimate and important?
Most importantly, is the network actively seeking a shift to more fair and balanced coverage, or are they seeking the admiration of conservatives driving the ratings of Fox News? Michelle Malkin for one is skeptical, calling it a desperate move for a ‘ratings-starved CNN'.
The curiosity of the CNN shift has only been exacerbated by the network's desire to have the story covered by conservative writers.
CNN political producer Shannon Travis surprisingly acknowledged that the mainstream media has stereotyped the Tea Party movement in a Wednesday article on CNN.com: "When it comes to the Tea Party movement, the stereotypes don't tell the whole story." Travis continued by emphasizing positive aspects of the nascent grassroots movement and noting the presence of minorities.
The producer's article, simply titled "Reporter's notebook: What really happens at Tea Party rallies," recounted what he saw during five days of the Tea Party Express's convoy across the nation. He first summarized the slant often found in the media's coverage of the conservative protests: "Here's what you often see in the coverage of Tea Party rallies: offensive posters blasting President Obama and Democratic leaders; racist rhetoric spewed from what seems to be a largely white, male audience; and angry protesters rallying around the Constitution."
After recounting the alleged racial incidents against Representatives John Lewis and Emanuel Cleaver, Travis contrasted the stereotype with what he actually observed: "But here's what you don't often see in the coverage of Tea Party rallies: Patriotic signs professing a love for country; mothers and fathers with their children; African-Americans proudly participating; and senior citizens bopping to a hip-hop rapper."
After harping on unsubstantiated reports of racial epithets hurled at black congressmen during protests against Obama-care, no reporter for the New York Times bothered to cover in print an actual arrest made in the case of an actual death threat against Rep. Eric Cantor of Virginia, the No. 2 Republican in the House. (The paper made do with an Associated Press brief.)
Yet David Herszenhorn filed a 10-paragraph story Wednesday on news that an arrest was made in regard to death threats against a prominent Democratic senator, Patty Murray of Washington: "Threats to Kill Senator Lead to Arrest." (The print version is slightly condensed from the online version.)
It's incredible to see how many ways the mainstream media are able to analyze and dissect the Tea Party movement phenomenon on a regular basis. But lately it has been en vogue to challenge this movement on merits of race - a popular ad hominem talking point for opponents of the movement.
"They've been called Oreos, traitors and Uncle Toms, and are used to having to defend their values," Bauman wrote. "Now black conservatives are really taking heat for their involvement in the mostly white tea party movement-and for having the audacity to oppose the policies of the nation's first black president."
Ann Coulter for one has refused to pour gasoline on the Voyeur fire - pledging her full support and offering praise for RNC Chairman Michael Steele.
As Good Morning America's George Stephanopoulos so touchingly pointed out to Steele, a few Republican leaders have been publicly highly critical of Steele and according to a "poll of insiders" only 20 percent consider him an asset to the party.
"Everyone seemed to like him and recently it's like story after story after story - is this guy being villainized?" Fox Business Channel's Eric Bolling asked Coulter on the April 5 "Happy Hour."
"I think so, I think he's being attacked because he's very effective," Coulter replied.
She made note how Ken Blackwell had been her original choice for chairman, but said Steele had been more than adequate. "[S]ince Michael Steele got the job, I see him on TV and I think he's very effective on TV. He's smooth, he's cool, he's hip, he always makes solid arguments."
"He was on a plane during this incident at this voyeur club," Coulter reminded Bolling. "But you know the Democrats have the audacity to complain about some low-level staffer doing something stupid by taking ...Young Republican Eagles or whatever to a sleazy club in LA - excuse me! Loretta Sanchez - an actual Democratic Congresswoman who was co-chair of the DNC - had a Democratic gala event...at the Playboy Mansion - which finally had to be cancelled."