One clue that health care is not being well received among the public: Liberal media members, instead of celebrating the wonderful era of health-care access to come, can't stop obsessing over unsubstantiated allegations of racism among Tea Party activists, as if trying to change the subject.
New York Times columnist Frank Rich's super-sized entry on Sunday, “Welcome to Confederate History Month,” is the latest in the string. The text box is loaded with sarcasm: “The Civil War, like the war against Obama, wasn't about race.”
It's an unusually dumb entry for Rich, but typical in content -- beginning with an utterly irrelevant pop culture reference that's neither fitting nor clever, followed by 1,400 words all but accusing Republicans of racism (Rich prefers odious comparisons to direct accusations he'd have to back up).
At least he seems to be reading his criticism, and reacting hotly. Rich is evidently discussing this column by David Paul Kuhn of Real Clear Politics, which directly refuted Rich's previous column on this same tired subject, in which Kuhn lambasted Rich: “All he has are anecdotes of angry white activists. So he stereotypes. It's like a white person who watches a black criminal on the local news and draws racist generalizations.”
For weeks, MSNBC has advertised Rachel Maddow's two-hour special broadcast about the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah building. This special, aired on the 15-year anniversary of that bombing, was billed as a way for viewers to see what can happen if anti-government sentiment gets out of control.
"So tonight, exactly 15 years later, this special edition of ‘The Rachel Maddow Show' brings you the inside story of the Oklahoma City bombing," Maddow said on her April 19 broadcast. "MSNBC obtained 45 hours of audio tape interviews in which Timothy McVeigh describes the planning and the executions and the motivations behind his horrific attack. This is a detailed account as it has never before been heard, told to us by the terrorist himself."
However, there's an opportunity for viewers to reflect the status quo as they view this documentary, Maddow explained.
On Monday’s Joy Behar Show on HLN, when guest Mark Williams of Tea Party Express complained to Behar and fellow guest Ari Melber of the Nation about Tea Party activists being smeared as racist, the HLN host claimed that she had not brought up race during the segment, even though she opened the discussion by referring to stereotypes about Tea Party activists as she cracked that perhaps public opinion "might drive people to stop making racist signs and wearing hats made of teabags." Behar introduced the segment: "The anti-government sentiment that has driven the Tea Party movement seems to be working as four out of five Americans say they don`t trust the government. I wonder if these same sentiments might drive people to stop making racist signs and wearing hats made of teabags."
But Behar and Melber later developed amnesia as Behar claimed, "We didn’t mention race":
MSNBC's Donny Deutsch kicked off a week-long segment on Monday about "America the Angry" and hinted that the "rageaholics" in this country could create another Oklahoma City-style bombing. After one guest mentioned Joe Stack, the man who flew a plane into an IRS building in February, Deutsch wrongly derided, "I don't know whether he was Republican or Democrat. I'm assuming he was probably a Republican."
In fact, Stack's manifesto, found after his death, included rants against capitalism, George W. Bush and religion. These are hardly the standard comments of a Republican. At times during the interview, Deutsch, who is serving as a substitute host on News Live, seemed annoyed that his three guests didn't agree that the U.S. is on the verge of another domestic terrorist event.
The political inclinations of Hollywood actors, when they're publicly disclosed, are almost always reliably left-of-center. As such, it's quite refreshing to learn of another conservative or libertarian in Tinseltown, especially when the celebrity in question is actively working to advance an understanding of constitutional principles and opposing big government.
Janine Turner ("Northern Exposure", "Friday Night Lights") is one such conservative actress. Inspired by the TEA Party movement, Ms. Turner started an organization called Constituting America.
On Sunday's Face the Nation on CBS, host Bob Schieffer asked columnist Kathleen Parker about her views on the tea party: "the rhetoric that's coming out from the right side, especially from the tea party....you think it may be dangerous." Parker replied: "this heated rhetoric and some of these words...that are pretty loaded, 'reload,' 'targeting'...there's a danger there."
Parker, syndicated with the Washington Post Writers Group, claimed she was not casting negative aspersions on the whole political movement: "I'm not saying the tea party people are violent or racist or any of that....I'm not saying that the tea partiers are bad people or dangerous," but warned: "I just think we have to be very vigilant....and be extremely careful, because I do think there is a lot of anger and it could become something else."
Schieffer brought up internet journalism as a possible source of some of the "dangerous" anger: "some of this really nasty rhetoric that shows up on the Internet....the only vehicle to deliver news that has no editor....And that is the added factor to the volatility of this stuff and where it goes." Parker agreed, and moments after warning of tea party extremism, made this comparison: "It's, sort of, like terrorism. You know, we don't know where to aim our bombs, so we can't go after a country because there are – you know, there's no one place to focus on it. And it's the same thing with – with the Internet.You can't really – you don't know who to go after."
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.
New York Times reporter Kate Zernike, the paper's main reporter on the Tea Party beat, dropped all pretense of fairness in her story for the front of the Sunday Week in Review,"Tea Party Supporters Doing Fine, but Angry Nonetheless."Her summary of the movement: "They tend to be white and male, with a disproportionate number above 45, and above 65. Their memories are of a different time, when the country was less diverse."
Sometimes it reads like a parody, with references to Joe McCarthy as a conservative hero. It starts with that chin-leading headline, rehashing the Times's favorite word to describe the Tea Party movement (hint: it's not the word "fine"). An accompanying photo showed a single "Tea Party activist" at a rally near Albany, N.Y. Where were the others?
Zernike boiled down the results from the paper's recent polling of the Tea Party movement, keeping only what could be spun as racial or extreme views on the part of participants.
Zernike started out mildly, implying puzzlement at why the protesters were out there at all, since they have it so good, "wealthier than the general public" and presumably aren't affected by the "government spending and enormous deficits" they are fighting against.
It makes sense that people would take to the streets to protest government spending and enormous deficits during the Great Recession, when they are feeling economic pain most acutely.
But the Tea Party supporters now taking to the streets aren't the ones feeling the pain.
In the results of the latest New York Times/CBS News poll, they are better educated and wealthier than the general public. They are just as likely to be employed, and more likely to describe their economic situation as very or fairly good.
Robert McCartney, the liberal Washington Post columnist, has done something that Chris Matthews and his fellow leftist MSNBC hosts have yet to do: attend a tea party rally without being confrontational and/or snarky. McCartney went to a tea party with an open mind last week and this is what he discovered:
I went to the "tea party" rally at the Washington Monument on Thursday to check out just how reactionary and potentially violent the movement truly was.
Answer: Not very.
Based on what I saw and heard, tea party members are not seething, ready-to-explode racists, as some liberal commentators have caricatured them.
April 15 was a hot day for Tea Party rallies, and also a hot day for liberal talk-radio denunciations of the Tea Party movement. Randi Rhodes claimed it was just a crowd of stupid people looking for a free lunch:
They have a lot of free time to travel about and around the country, don't they? These are the same people that just were in Boston; then they got on buses. They never ask who pays their freight. They think there's a free lunch somewhere on the bus, I don't know. And they just come town to town, and they stand there with their stupid signs screaming and yelling about corporations need to be protected. It's the sickest movement I've ever seen in my life!
Bill Press rolled out the typical line that "I think they want something for nothing. I pointed out before, if you look at this crowd, most of them are older, white, on Social Security and Medicare."
There is a scene in Hamlet when the prince tells Polonius (the Joe Biden of medieval Denmark) to look after the newly arrived theater troop, making sure they are "well used."
Polonius sniffs, "My lord, I will use them according to their desert."
"God's bodykins, man," snaps Hamlet, "much better: use every man after his desert, and who should 'scape whipping?"
Obviously, Polonius and Hamlet weren't talking about the players' arid, sandy region. "Deserts," despite the old-style spelling meant their "just desserts" or what they were due. Old Polonius, a palace insider, was just reflecting polite society's disdain for actors during Shakespeare's time, telling Hamlet he'd put them up in a style befitting lowly itinerant entertainers. But Hamlet understood that, given the fallen nature of humanity, we need to treat everyone better than they deserve.
Every member of Shakespeare's audience, from a laborer to the queen herself, might have nodded in understanding at that line, accustomed as they were to the concept of original sin.
Here's the transcript by MRC intern Alex Fitzsimmons:
Where are all the big taxers and spenders today? You heard from any of them? But the Tea Party protestors are out there and that's a good thing. All over the country-and the media hate them. And we know this is a matter of empirical fact now thanks to our friends at the Media Research Center. Hat tip to Drudge Report who links to them: MRC.org. And they've done an analysis that reviewed every mention of the Tea Party on ABC, CBS, and NBC morning and evening newscasts, the Sunday talk shows, ABC's "Nightline," from February 19, 2009 through March 31, 2010.
Now here among their major findings is how our "news outlets" our big news outlets, our liberal news outlets, treat the American people who attend these rallies. They write:
On the eve of the 15th anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing, New York Times congressional reporter Carl Hulse, who has in the past proven quite willing to pass along unsubstantiated Democratic accusations of racial epithets hurled by Tea Party protesters, on Friday passed the mike to former President Bill Clinton, who slimed the movement as potentially inspiring similar terrorist acts in "Recalling '95 Bombing, Clinton Sees Parallels."
The text box read: "Finding similarities in past and current antigovernment tones." For good measure, the Times included a photo of a mourner at the site commemorating victims of the Oklahoma City bombing.
Just last month, a Times photo caption linked peaceful Tea Party protesters to the 1960s domestic terrorists Weather Underground. Now the Times is going even further.
With the 15th anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing approaching, former President Bill Clinton on Thursday drew parallels between the antigovernment tone that preceded that devastating attack and the political tumult of today, saying government critics must be mindful that angry words can stir violent actions.
"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."
Some reporters come to Tea Party rallies not so much to cover them as expose them as hypocritical. On Thursday, Boston Globe reporter David Abel began his story on protests starring Sarah Palin in Boston by highlighting the Shirk family, with ten home-schooled kids – and Medicaid health coverage.
For the Shirks, it was a day for their children to seek inspiration from Palin and the other speakers, who questioned Obama’s patriotism and at least one of whom referred to him repeatedly as Barack Hussein.
The couple, who rely on Medicaid for their health care, were also upset about the nation’s new health reforms.
When asked why her family used state-subsidized health care when she criticized people who take handouts, Valerie Shirk said she did not want to stop having children, and that her husband’s income was not enough to cover the family with private insurance.
The media is still having trouble understanding the Tea Party movement and what it is protesting, even though its roots are clear.
On Feb. 19, 2009 during CNBC's "Squawk Box," Rick Santelli made his famous rant heard around the world, calling for a so-called tea party-style revolt. And that helped fuel the growth of a Tea Party movement that has resulted in more than 600 protests this April 15, 2010.
Santelli's call for protest wasn't about high taxes. Instead, it was a cry against the Obama administration's plan for a taxpayer-funded mortgage bailout. The very beginning of the tea parties was about bailouts and the growth of government.
But the Associated Press still seemed to miss the point about worries over an overspending government in an April 15 article by Calvin Woodward about the Tea Party rallies. In that report, Woodward defended Obama's tax policies.
"Lost in the rhetoric was that taxes have gone down under Obama," Woodward wrote. "Congress has cut individuals' federal taxes for this year by about $173 billion, leaving Americans with a lighter load despite nearly $29 billion in increases by states. Obama plans to increase taxes on the wealthy to help pay for his health care overhaul and other programs."
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):
Thursday's lead New York Times story on a new poll of Tea Party members (a joint effort by the Times and CBS News) got off to a promising start with a headline that probably truly qualified as news for the paper's liberal readership: "Poll Finds Tea Party Backers Wealthier and More Educated."
The story by Kate Zernike and Megan Thee-Brenan also began on an upbeat note (Zernike has evidently taken L.A.-bound reporter Adam Nagourney's place on the poll-watch beat):
Tea Party supporters are wealthier and more well-educated than the general public, and are no more or less afraid of falling into a lower socioeconomic class, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll.
The 18 percent of Americans who identify themselves as Tea Party supporters tend to be Republican, white, male, married and older than 45.
They hold more conservative views on a range of issues than Republicans generally. They are also more likely to describe themselves as "very conservative" and President Obama as "very liberal."
But by paragraph four, the Times began to portray the movement as "angry," paranoid, and possibly anti-black.
The tea-party headline at the bottom of the screen early this morning on the local D.C. CBS affiliate WUSA said this: "Tea Party Leaders Anxious About Extremists." The same headline graced an Associated Press story this morning. The theme of the day isn't the burdensome growth of government. It's media bias, piled upon media bias, as AP's David Lieb began:
Organizers of tax-day tea parties are preparing for their biggest day of the year Thursday, as thousands of demonstrators participate in local rallies against high taxes and big government spending. But the leaders are striving to keep the rallies from presenting another image: one of fringe groups, extremists or infiltrators obsessed with hateful messages.
Sensitive that poor public perception could sink their movement, some rally planners have uninvited controversial speakers, beefed up security and urged participants to pack cameras to capture evidence of any disrupters. Organizers want to project a peaceful image of people upset by a growing and burdensome federal government.
If the media had ignored hateful signs and fringy attendees -- as they do for left-wing protests -- then this entire story would be unnecessary. The headline could be "Tea Party Leaders Anxious About Liberal Media Bias." But AP wants to keep all these fringy elements at the front of the story. Lieb elaborated on the "recent publicity hit" that the tea partiers were racists:
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:
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."
In the mind’s eye of the conservative movement, the Tea Party phenomenon right now is maybe the crucial factor in slowing socialism in Washington, on everything from the federal health care takeover to the hidden taxes of cap-and-trade legislation.
It’s also a fascinating visual. When was the last time you saw such a spontaneous eruption of conservative grass-roots anger, coast to coast? On both counts the Tea Party movement should be cause for massive television coverage. Except for one thing. It’s a conservative uprising, so it gets different treatment.
It’s ignored as long as possible, and when it’s no longer possible to be ignored, it’s savaged.
Aww...New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, respected economist turned talking points purveyor for the left-wing blogosphere, has had his feelings hurt by a fellow Times writer, Andrew Ross Sorkin, and is demanding redress: "Andrew Ross Sorkin Owes Several People An Apology."
That's right. Krugman, who has accused the GOP of "eliminationist rhetoric" and global-warming skeptics of "treason against the planet," chided a fellow Times writer for "caricaturing" his view on an issue, "making it sound far more extreme than it actually was."
The source of Krugman's wounded feelings? These mild passages in Sorkin's Tuesday column, quoted by Krugman in his post:
You may recall that during the most perilous months of 2008 and early 2009, there was a vigorous debate about how the government should fix the financial system. Some economists, including Nouriel Roubini of New York University and The Times's own Paul Krugman, declared that we should follow the example of the Swedes by nationalizing the entire banking system.
They argued that Wall Street was occupied by the walking dead, and that no matter how much money we threw at the banks, they would eventually topple the system all over again and cause a domino effect worldwide.
Touchy Krugman hypocritically huffed in a Tuesday morning post on his nytimes.com blog:
Media Research Center Research Director and NewsBusters senior editor Rich Noyes appeared on this morning's "Fox & Friends" program to discuss "TV's Tea Party Travesty," the MRC's latest special report.
Noyes provided statistical data proving the mainstream media's initial lack of coverage and subsequent trashing of the Tea Party movement [MP3 audio available here; video available here]:
Clearly the media double standard is apparent. You know, when you go back to liberal marches like the Million Man March of 1995, all the anchors came to Washington and set up shop to run full coverage that day. This Million Mom March [for gun control] that was something that people don't even remember anymore, that was in 2000, that had 41 stories in advance of their march, interviews with the hosts setting it up.
"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: