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.
For one example, go back to 1995 during the welfare-reform debate. Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., who is now embroiled in a controversy as to whether a Tea Party protester hurled a racial epithet at him, employed the use of his own Nazi invective. (h/t MRC Director of Media Analysis Tim Graham)
"Read the Republican contract," Lewis said on the House floor on March 21, 1995. "They're coming for our children. They're coming for the poor. They're coming for the sick, the elderly and the disabled." Lewis's comment paraphrased a famous passage by Rev. Martin Niemöller, who was in the resistance against the Nazis.
Since the passage of ObamaCare on March 21, the liberal media have been working hard to crack down on dissidents, painting the tea party movement, talk radio, and Republicans as dangerous radicals inciting violence against Democrats.
The three broadcast networks and the cable channels all jumped on board the bandwagon of smearing conservatives as angry hate-mongers, in order to discredit broad-based legitimate opposition to the unpopular legislation.
After devoting several stories to unsubstantiated allegations of racism and spitting by Tea Party protesters last weekend, the New York Times almost ignored an actual death threat made against a top Republican, Rep. Eric Cantor of Virginia, the No. 2 Republican in the House, that resulted in the first actual arrest since the alleged wave of threats against politicians began.
Norman Leboon of Philadelphia was ordered held without bail pending a mental health evaluation after trying to post a video threatening Cantor onto the clip-sharing site Youtube.
The Times made do with a one-paragraph Associated Press brief buried in the National Briefing section on page 18, with an uninformative headline: "Philadelphia: Man Held in Threat on Congressman." (The Times also ran a four-paragraph story on the paper's "Caucus" blog Monday afternoon.)
By contrast, the Washington Post's Anita Kumar devoted a comprehensive story to the incident in Tuesday's paper, including details not included in the Times's AP dispatch, like the most threatening quote from Leboon's video: "You receive my bullets in your office, remember they will be placed in your heads. You and your children are Lucifer's abominations." The Post also reported that Leboon donated $505 to Obama's presidential campaign.
Williams made this preposterous claim during a panel discussion with the Weekly Standard's Mary Katharine Ham 25 minutes into the 8 pm Eastern hour. O'Reilly asked the NPR analyst about a point made by Fox News's Brit Hume in an earlier segment, that there's double-standard in the mainstream media in the amount of coverage of extremist imagery and language found at tea party rallies has been given versus equivalent imagery and language used at left-wing protests (a point raised by the MRC's Rich Noyes in an August 2009 Media Reality Check): "There's no doubt that the media will seize upon any kind of misbehavior on the right...Whereas if it happens on the left, it will, as Mary Katharine [Ham] said, be de-emphasized or ignored entirely. So that's a corrupt media system, isn't it?"
The guest raised the militia issue at the end of his answer:
WILLIAMS: I think we're out of context here. If we're talking about- you know, somebody going after Ronald Reagan- you know, one guy who's in love with Jodie Foster, okay- if we're talking about that. You know, people who have a lot of hatred- hateful attitudes towards President Bush, and then somebody who is extremist on the fringe, yes. And if that was also to be then the case with the tea party, yes, that's too much and unfair. But, when you start to see militia groups start to associate with the tea party, when you see the flag-
In the 10AM ET hour on MSNBC on Tuesday, anchor David Shuster talked with Democratic strategist Craig Varoga, founder of the Patriot Majority political action committee, about efforts to "fight against tea-party-backed candidates." Moments later, a headline on screen read: "Tea Party Targets; PAC Launching Counter-Attack of Tea Party."
During the same hour on Monday, Shuster described how in a speech on Sunday, "[Sarah] Palin also took aim at Democrats in the media after she was criticized for posting a map of targeted House Democrats with using rifle cross-hairs." An on-screen graphic showed a picture of the map featured on Palin's website with the headline,"Sarah Palin's Dem Hit List," suggesting Palin was inciting violence against members of Congress.
Meanwhile, during the Tuesday segment with Varoga, the word "target" was used frequently. The headline "Tea Party Targets" remained on screen throughout the segment, as several secondary headlines appeared next to it, including: "Group Targeting Tea Party-Backed Candidates," "PAC Targeting 12 to 15 Conservative Races," "PAC's Mission: To Ensure Congress Tea Party-Free," and "PAC: Americans Need to Confront Tea Party." At one point, Shuster himself used the word: "What are the specific races, specific campaigns that you're going to be targeting?"
MSNBC's Chris Matthews today jumped on a statistic regarding Census participation in Texas to argue that anti-government sentiment from TEA Parties is hurting the Lone Star State in the decennial head count and hence could shortchange the state in congressional reapportionment and redistricting:
CHRIS MATTHEWS, "Hardball" host: Time for the "Big Number" tonight. It speaks to the unintended effects of sowing distrust about the federal government. Thirty-four percent of Americans nationwide have filled out and returned their U.S. Census forms. But what's the number like in Texas, one of the more conservative states out there? According to the Houston Chronicle, just 27 percent. Well below the national average...