"In 2009, with all the activity that took place in 2009, guess how many network news stories were done on the TEA Party," Media Research Center (MRC) President Brent Bozell asked the hosts of WMAL radio's "Grandy & Andy Morning Show" at the open of his April 13 interview.
[click here or on image above to play MP3 audio, courtesy of WMAL producer Ann Wog]
When Bozell -- citing the result of MRC's latest study -- noted that the total number of stories through all of 2009 on the TEA Parties registered at a paltry 19, co-host Andy Parks exclaimed, "Is that all?!"
The Tea Party movement launched one year ago, in response to the unprecedented expansion of government by President Barack Obama and congressional liberals, a massive increase in spending that will create economy-crushing fiscal burdens for future generations of taxpayers.
In that relatively brief period, the Tea Party has demonstrated it is a formidable political force. The pressure the movement brought to bear at the grassroots level put liberals on the defensive for much of the health care debate, and nearly succeeded in torpedoing the entire scheme in spite of Democrats’ overwhelming congressional majorities. And Tea Party activists proved decisive in a string of electoral defeats for liberals, culminating in Republican Scott Brown’s victory in the special election to succeed Ted Kennedy in the U.S. Senate.
So how have the supposedly objective media covered one of the biggest political stories in recent years? The Media Research Center has a new report out today, reviewing every mention of the Tea Party on the ABC, CBS and NBC morning and evening newscasts, Sunday talk shows, and ABC’s Nightline from February 19, 2009 (when CNBC contributor Rick Santelli first suggested throwing a “Tea Party” to protest government takeovers) through March 31, 2010. Among the major findings:
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.
During a question and answer time after a speech at Harvard University, Andrew Breitbart confronted AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka about claims that TEA Party members hurled racial slurs at black members of Congress. Trumka then preceded to claim that he personally saw members of the TEA Party spitting on people and hurling racial slurs:
Associated Press writer John Flesher seems to be one bitter guy.
Flesher, along with whoever (possibly Flesher himself) came up with the headline for his Saturday report on Bart Stupak's decision not to run for re-election in Michigan's 1st Congressional District, tells readers that:
Tea Partiers are poor winners.
The residents of Stupak's district are federal money-grubbers who can be fooled by candidates holding the right position on "hot-button issues."
Based on a poli sci prof's contention, Stupak (pictured at top right with his wife in an AP photo) would "absolutely" have won as all the evidence he needed to "prove" the nine-term congressman's re-electability.
Here are the opening paragraphs from the flailing Flesher:
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.
Variety is a Hollywood trade publication, but it can be hard to figure out where the entertainment industry ends and the industry's journalistic apple-polishers begin. Exhibit A is a commentary by Brian Lowry trying to compare the news media's current hate objects -- the tea party tax protesters -- with the entertainment media's hate objects, the activists opposing Hollywood-distributed vulgarity.
Lowry dismisses both movements as hopelessly lost in the past, insisting the tea parties "sound strangely familiar, mirroring increasingly futile attempts to arrest changes and recapture simpler times in television -- an ongoing Tea Party on the tube. In spirit and tone, these criticisms in the political arena sound very much like those leveled against network television by the Parents Television Council and other lobbying groups pushing back against a perceived erosion of broadcast standards."
A "perceived" erosion in TV standards? Is there anyone on Planet Earth -- or on Planet Hollywood -- willing to argue that standards of decency haven't eroded?
Breitbart's $100,000 challenge may be publicity-seeking theater. But it's part of widespread conservative claims that mainstream media, including The Post, swallowed a huge fabrication. The incidents are weeks old, but it's worth assigning Post reporters to find the truth. After all, a civil rights legend is being called a liar. That aside, there's serious money at stake.
Alexander explored three different claims. The claim that Rep. Emanuel Cleaver was purposely spat upon looked shaky to him, and he said the Post overplayed it:
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.
The three network morning shows have skipped any coverage of an attack on a Tea Party bus in Harry Reid's Nevada, reportedly by supporters of the Democratic Senator. In contrast, FNC's Fox and Friends alerted viewers to the story on Tuesday. Co-host Steve Doocy explained, "Now, apparently, they have identified who some of the egg throwers are. Turns out, they're supporters of Harry Reid."
Doocy continued, "And, in fact, a member of the IBEW, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, a big union."
Back in March, when Tea Party protesters were accused of inciting violence against Democratic politicians in Washington, these same morning shows couldn't get enough of the topic. On March 25, Good Morning America reporter Pierre Thomas worried that "angry talk" from Sarah Palin and others could "push a deranged person over the edge."
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."
Former ABC reporter Kenneth Walker found the strangest connection to alleged Tea Party violence yet: the left-wing African National Congress in South Africa. On The Root, a black-commentary website owned by The Washington Post Company, Walker wrote an article with the headline "South Africa’s version of virulent Tea Party rhetoric is set to music and had both whites and blacks worried."
From reading Keith Olbermann commentaries, it would be easy to assume that the virulent songs listed here would be the white Afrikaner conservatives, not the ANC, which had a long-time alliance with the South African Communist Party." Walker began:
The growing debate in the United States about the increasingly virulent hate speech by so-called Tea Party activists and their talk radio and Republican Party boosters has resonance these days in South Africa.
After a bit of a respite primarily due to NBC's coverage of the Winter Olympics, the audience desertion from the Big 3 networks' evening news broadcasts has again resumed.
Not that the first quarter of 2010 was all peaches and cream. Last week, Media Bistro noted that ABC's "World News Tonight" had "its lowest-rated first quarter ever."
But the results for the first week of the second ratings quarter are beyond awful. The total audience for all three evening news shows came in under 20 million. For context, recall that during a traditionally low-audience summer week in 2006, Drudge headlined ("TV's Lowest Week") a disastrous drop -- to 21 million viewers. Now it appears that what was once considered a really bad summer week four years ago (noted at NewsBusters; at BizzyBlog) might be a typical week during 2010's prime spring viewing season.
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."
MSNBC on Tuesday announced that anchor David Shuster has been "suspended indefinitely" after filming a pilot at CNN. If this is the end of the liberal host's tenure on MSNBC, he'll leave behind a long legacy of viciously attacking "conservative fear mongering."
During the Obama era, Shuster, supposedly a straight-news journalist, has been quick to deride the opponents of the President. On September 10, 2009, he smeared, "Look at the image of the Republican Party, all white males with short haircuts. They look sort of angry. No women, no minorities, and it looks like they've sort of become unhinged."
On his now-defunct program, 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Shuster assailed conservatives and Republicans as totally irrational: "Plus, the nutty rhetoric continues from Rush Limbaugh, Michael Steele and Sarah Palin....How offensive can Rush Limbaugh be?"
Near the end of the Saturday edition of Fox & Friends on Fox News, co-host Clayton Morris introduced a segment on the media's double standard when it comes to covering the tea party movement versus left-wing protestors: "Mainstream media casting tea party protesters as violent and racist, the same media that characterized leftist protests against President Bush as patriotic."
Morris brought on a tea party activist to discuss the topic: "Well, our next guest is someone who's not afraid to stand up to biased coverage. Check out this heated exchange with a CNN reporter at a tea party rally last year." A clip was played of tea partier Kathy Barkulis berating former CNN reporter Susan Roesgen: "You are not talking to regular, mainstream people. You picked people to talk to." Roesgen was later fired from CNN in July of 2009, in the wake of her slanted reporting on the tea party.
After the clip, Morris asked Barkulis: "So what do you say here? That the mainstream media's casting tea party protests as violent, dangerous, extremist? Is there a double standard, as you see it?" Barkulis replied: "Oh, of course there is, there's always been a double standard and it's just getting worse.... they're misrepresenting us and I really don't even think they've ever been to a tea party rally and they don't really know what we're all about. They're just repeating what other left-wing sources have told them."
Next week, the Media Research Center will be releasing a special report documenting media coverage of the tea party movement over the past year.
Liberals in the media have been busy parading around Mark Potok of the Southern Poverty Law Center to bash the right. As befits his organization's MO, Potok, pictured right in a file photo, has done the best he can to link recently-arrested militia members to the Tea Party movement and conservatism generally.
Potok's job may have just gotten a bit harder, and the liberal media may need to find another way to discredit their political opponents. It turns out most of the militiamen were active voters, and at least one was a registered Democrat. Party registrations for the rest are not yet known.
The new facts undermine Potok's thinly-veiled suggestions that Republican politicians and conservative pundits are at least indirectly responsible for militia activity. NPR, Keith Olbermann, and Chris Matthews may need to find a new issue with which to slander the right (h/t Prof. Reynolds).
Vituperative left-wing radio host Ed Schultz took to the air on Monday and insisted that he hasn't said anything hateful on his MSNBC program in the last year:
Look, we all get carried away in talk radio but I do not think that on 'The Ed Show' on MSNBC in the last year I've said anything *hateful.* Hateful?! ... Hateful stuff? No, no, no, we point out the hateful stuff and sometimes it lands in Psycho Talk.
Kudos to William Douglas of McClatchy newspapers. That reporter can write and file stories with amazing speed. One such story was this article that Douglas filed about the March 20 Tea Party protest in Washington, D.C. where racial slurs were supposedly hurled. Jack Cashill of American Thinker was so impressed with the speed in which Douglas wrote his story that he wrote this American Thinker blog about this feat accompanied by a video. Here is Cashill as he observes with awe how quickly Douglas wrote his McClatchy story:
...I checked with my source on the scene, Greg Farrell, to get a timeline on the passage of the Black Caucus members from the Cannon Building to the Capitol and back. According to Farrell, they left the Cannon Building about 2:30 PM on March 20th and returned about 3:15 PM. He had no reason to exaggerate.
I asked because at 4:51 that same day, McClatchy reporter William Douglas posted an article on the McClatchy website with the inflammatory headline, "Tea party protesters scream 'nigger' at black congressman."
In other words, Douglas, with an attributed assist from James Rosen, managed to interview representatives John Lewis, Emanuel Cleaver, and Barney Frank, compose an 800-word article, and have it edited and formatted for posting within a 90-minute window.
On Wednesday’s The O’Reilly Factor, FNC host Bill O’Reilly took the time to speak with an African-American Tea Party activist named Kevin Jackson about his experiences at Tea Party events and what he thinks of liberal commentators – presumably referring to a number of MSNBC hosts – who have charged that racism is common among Tea Party activists. O’Reilly asked of Jackson: "Okay, now obviously you know the controversy. There have been a number of commentators that have called the Tea Party people racists, branded them, you know, a white power organization or whatever you want to call it. So you hear that and you say what?"
Jackson defended the integrity of Tea Party activists:
Looks like -- hardly a surprise -- CBS’s Early Show on Friday morning will deliver a jovial and empathetic session with President Barack Obama just three days after NBC’s Today show had a friendly sit-down with the President. Thursday’s CBS Evening News previewed Harry Smith’s time with Obama on the White House basketball court, a segment which ended with Obama successfully hitting a jump shot, to which Katie Couric reacted: “Impressive!”
After spending time, out and about, listening to talk radio, the kindest of terms you’re sometimes referred to out in America is a “socialist,” the worst of which I’ve heard is called a “Nazi.” Are you aware of the level of enmity that crosses the airwaves and that people have made part of their daily conversation about you?
Back to the CBS Evening News, “Mr. Smith went to Washington today, Mr. Harry Smith of the Early Show,” Couric cutely set up the preview, “for a couple of one-on-ones with the President. An interview and basketball.” Viewers were soon treated to Smith’s double-meaning query: “The question that everybody wants to know. Can you go to your right?” As he bounced the ball, Obama maintained: “I can go to my right, but I prefer my left.”
On Wednesday's Countdown show, MSNBC host Keith Olbermann used his regular "Quick Comment" segment to lecture Florida Republican Senate candidate Marco Rubio for recently remarking that people like Olbermann "hate America" and should be traded to other countries in exchange for immigrants who love America. As the MSNBC host referred to his own great grandparents who immigrated to America "for its opportunity and its freedom," Olbermann charged that they had come to this country to escape people like Rubio: "Mr. Rubio, I am the great grandson of immigrants, as you are the son of immigrants, who came to this country for its opportunity and its freedom. And I know one thing for sure: my ancestors and yours were trying to get away from people like you."
Notably, just over a year ago on the March 24, 2009, Countdown show, Olbermann seemed to express a negative view of American "values" generally when he mocked the name of Gary Bauer's American Values organization as sounding like a "discount septic tank operation." Olbermann: "Gary Bauer, former presidential candidate, former Reagan domestic policy adviser and now president of American Values which, despite the name, is not a discount septic tank operation, writing at Politico a mere two months after the last of dozens of conflicting Pentagon reports suggested with almost no verification that 61 former Gitmo detainees had been identified as returning to terrorism."
Embedded at right is NewsBusters publisher Brent Bozell's March 31 appearance on Sean Hannity's radio program. [audio MP3 for download here; click embed at right to listen to interview here]
Bozell debated Democratic strategist Bob Beckel about, among other things, charges of racism at the Tea Party rally held the day before the vote for final passage of ObamaCare:
BRENT BOZELL: Three separate videos of [Rep.] John Lewis, three separate videos, and it isn't picked up. Andrew Breitbart has offered $10,000 to anyone who can confirm the use of the N-word. No one has come forward to say this. Only this one congressman has said this. Nobody's come forward [with evidence proving the charge].
The leftist Southern Poverty Law Center is a National Public Radio staple in analyzing right-wing militia groups -- and then connecting them to the Tea Party movement and conservative talk-show hosts.
Imagine a conservative group connecting liberal talk-show hosts and protesters to radical leftists like...Bill Ayers. Would they get a baldly promotional interview on NPR? No. But NPR Fresh Air hostess Terry Gross both aided the SPLC with a 37-minute promotional interview on March 25 -- and aided Bill Ayers in trashing Sarah Palin days after the 2008 election.
NPR promoted SPLC's Mark Potok and his narrative of "astounding" growth of militias in the Obama era thanks to "ostensibly mainstream" conservatives on All Things Considered on Tuesday night.
On Wednesday's American Morning, CNN's Ed Lavandera focused on the "overwhelmingly white" turnout at the rallies sponsored by the Tea Party Express organization and played up the criticisms that there is an "anti-minority undertone" at the demonstrations.
Lavandera, who is covering the Tea Party Express' cross-country tour, highlighted the race issue from the beginning of his report, which first aired 13 minutes into the 8 am Eastern hour: "The crowds turning out for the Tea Party Express rallies are overwhelmingly white. Is this lack of diversity a problem for the Tea Party movement? We're taking a closer look."
The correspondent noted some of the apparently "subtle efforts to make the tea party appear diverse," such as a hip hop performance and speeches by black tea party activist Lloyd Marcus. Marcus stated that "there's not a lot of black folks here, basically, because they haven't seen the light yet. They are still hypnotized by the first black or African-American president. But they haven't really looked at the man and what he's doing." This assertion is supported by a Gallup poll from earlier in March that found that President Obama's approval rating among blacks is at 89%, down slightly from 96% in August 2009.
Host Bob Schieffer led Sunday's Face the Nation by fretting over opposition to the passage of ObamaCare: "What about the violence in the wake of the congressional action? Isolated incidents or signs of a dangerous anger?" He told viewers that he would talk to "Republican firebrands, South Carolina Senator Jim DeMint and Minnesota Congresswoman Michelle Bachmann" about the issue.
Schieffer pressed DeMint on some of the threats against members of Congress: "Senator, we saw some pretty scary stuff last week....We saw members' offices that were trashed. We saw death threats....Do you think the parties have an obligation to try to tone down some of this runaway rhetoric? Is it, in fact, dangerous?" The Senator defended tea party protestors: "I've been with hundreds of thousands of tea party patriots...and I've never seen any violence or heard any bad language....it's unfair and untrue to try to paint this whole American awakening with some of the bad comments that we heard last week in Washington."
Later turning to Bachmann, Schieffer tried to portray the Congresswoman as extreme: "You said last week that health care reform was dangerous and you equated it with tyranny. Do you really mean that?...You said that you thought Barack Obama had anti-American views....what do you mean the President is anti-American?" He continued his interrogation by pointing to comments made by Sarah Palin: "[She] famously said last week that it is not time for Republicans to retreat. It is time to reload....said she wasn't talking about guns. She was talking about getting out there and using the vote. Do you think Sarah Palin has overstated it here?"
Last night, Bill O'Reilly used recent instances of inflamed, occasionally violent liberal protests to give his viewers a lesson in Media Bias 101. Lefties dominate the mainstream press, and are reluctant to cover events that don't suit their agendas, he stated.
O'Reilly showed a number of clips of just the latest instances of leftist political outrage (video and transcript below the fold). He concluded that "One side gets scrutinized. The other side gets a pass. Awful." Indeed, while it seems one can hardly pick up a newspaper or turn on the television without hearing about the horrible, violent racists in the Tea Party movement, there has been relatively little coverage of the left's violence and vitriol.
Betcha didn't know this: The Tea Party movement's growth was fueled by unemployed people lying around looking for something to do, and will have a hard time sustaining itself if/when the economy improves. Oh, and they're so distressed about the country's circumstances that they're letting emotion trump facts in their advocacy.
Those are the themes of Kate Zernike's Saturday New York Times report with the snarky title ("With No Jobs, Plenty of Time for Tea Party") that was carried on the front page of Sunday's print edition. Really. This is the same Kate Zernike (pictured at top right) who saw racism where none existed at CPAC in February, and who Andrew Breitbart memorably called "a despicable human being." Seems about right.
Zernike's piece attempted to support its pathetic premises and implications as a result of discussions with three -- count 'em -- individuals. One of them is in her mid-60s and collecting Social Security, hardly the archetype of a disaffected unemployed person. Comically, the Times reporter characterized Dick Armey's FreedomWorks a "Tea Party group," even though it was founded in 1984, a quarter-century before Rick Santelli's memorable tea-party rant last year.