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):
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:
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.
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.
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 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."
On Monday’s Larry King Live on CNN, guest Jane Fonda portrayed herself as a victim of a "myth" that was "created" by "right-wingers" about her infamous "Hanoi Jane" visit to Vietnam to protest the Vietnam War. Without specifying what aspect of the "Hanoi Jane" story she considered to be a fallacy, though the "Product Description" at Amazon.com seems to shed some light on what she was referring to, she claimed that author Jerry Lembcke’s new book, "Hanoi Jane: War, Sex, and Fantasies of Betrayal," dispels the "myth," and asserted that it is "sad" that some conservatives are "still stuck in the past":
JANE FONDA: No, it's about the myth, you know, why it is that 300 people went to North Vietnam, people, many people before me, why me, why have they created this myth? You know, when I came back from North Vietnam, there was maybe a quarter of an inch of media about it in the New York Times. Nobody made any big deal out of it. It was created, and some people are stuck-
LARRY KING: By critics?
FONDA: By right wingers. There are some people who are like stuck there, you know, they're still stuck in the past. I always want to say, "Get a life," or, you know, "Read what really happened," you know. The myths are now true.
Referring to people who sometimes protest against her, she continued: "But it makes me sad for these people who are stuck because they've not taken the time – if they're going to waste their energy on hatred, they should take the time in finding out what was really true."
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.
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].
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.
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.
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.
The Weather Underground and the Tea Party movement: Same thing?
In the wake of Obama-care's passage, New York Times reporter Benedict Carey took the country's political temperature, and found it running a right-wing fever, in a front-page Sunday Week in Review essay. It's ominous title was cribbed from the famous scene in the movie "Network," "RAGE's DNA: Mad As Hell. And..." The online headline is even blunter: "When Does Political Anger Turn to Violence?"
The story is accompanied by a photo illustration of an open book of matches, one of them lit.
There's also a really strange choice of photo caption on the jump page: an archive photo, courtesy of Getty Images, of the late-1960s left-wing domestic terrorist group The Weathermen, including Obama friend Bill Ayers, directly above a similar picture of marching Tea Party protesters from last Sunday. Here's the caption, which suggested that while the two movements are not the same they share some DNA:
VARYING DEGREES OF RAGE The Weathermen, including Bill Ayers, second from right, during the Days of Rage in 1969, and anti-health reform protesters in Washington on Sunday.
Monday's Washington Post continues the "ugly" health-care protest theme by somehow making a national story out of a protest "which never included more than three people at a time" outside the home of freshman Rep. Steve Driehaus in west Cincinnati. That's on A-3.
The Post said the poor Democrat found "angry protesters wouldn't allow him a full escape from the raw and vitriolic discussions that have embroiled the health-care debate for more than a year."
In the Metro section, the Post took days to acknowledge that the GOP headquarters in Charlottesville, Virginia discovered two bricks thrown through its "very thick" double-pane glass windows on Friday morning. That's in the bottom left-hand corner of B-6.
Perhaps tuning in to NBC's "The Chris Matthews Show" isn't high on your list of priorities, outside of wanting the chance to catch Dan Rather suggest something bizarre like President Barack Obama couldn't sell watermelons. However, if you had watched the March 28 broadcast of the program, you would have found the show's roster of panelists think the Tea Party movement is a black mark on the Republican Party, as far as it pertains to unseating the Democratic majority in Congress.
Matthews' show featured NBC Capitol Hill correspondent Kelly O'Donnell, Newsweek's senior Washington correspondent Howard Fineman, CNN senior political analyst Gloria Borger and Atlantic senior editor Andrew Sullivan. In the aftermath of the passage of ObamaCare into law, some have suggested this was a defeat for the Tea Party movement. Matthews asked if the mere existence of this movement was a plus or minus for the Republican Party.
"OK, all things considered, if there were no Tea Party crowd, we never saw them demonstrate - would that be better for the Republican Party, or is the Tea Party a plus for them in November, winning elections?" Matthews asked.
If the media outlets are going to report on tea party events, they're not likely to get any benefit of the doubt much of the time.
Case in point - at the Tea Party Express event on March 27 in Searchlight, Nev., which former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin spoke, CNN's Fredricka Whitfield wasn't quite prepared to give the rally credit it was due as far as participation. She estimated that hundreds, but if not, "at least dozens of people" were in attendance. (h/t fstaff with assist from Mark Finkelstein)
"Former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin there in Searchlight, Nev., was the backyard of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, but today it's the backdrop of this Tea Party Express - making a stop here," Whitfield said. "Hundreds of people, at least dozens of people - we haven't gotten a count of how many people turned out there. We heard Sarah Palin talk about everything about the campaign, to unseat Sen. Reid to what she calls ObamaCare, on the heels of that health care vote and even talking about her definition of her love of America."
However, as MSNBC "Morning Joe" co-host Mika Brzezinski suggested, discretion should be exercised with the amount of attention given to these radical components of the opposition to President Barack Obama's health care reform endeavors.
"Yeah, call it out but also I think we have to be careful along the way," Brzezinski said on the March 26 broadcast. "I think this happened during the campaign. I think this happened during the final hours of the health care debate where certain fringe, really minute members of it were highlighted."
Not content with simply reporting on threats against lawmakers who voted for ObamaCare, the liberal media has taken it upon itself (with a bit of direction from the Democratic Party) to blame the Tea Party and the GOP.
The coverage stands in stark contrast to the litany of similar instances involving conservatives and Republicans. They were treated as isolated incidents, if discussed at all.
CNN's Rick Sanchez certainly got the memo. On his show yesterday, he accused "crazy talk show hosts" and the Republican Party of inciting violence against lawmakers who voted for ObamaCare. He took to Twitter later that night to ask, "are our fundamentalist zealots different than the ones we fight in afghan and iraq?"