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?"
The crescendo of bigotry by the left-wing media against the Tea Party movement reached a disgusting pinnacle yesterday with MSNBC anchor Keith Olbermann indicting the entire movement as being homophobic racists based on the actions of a few fringe protestors.
The media coverage from other networks - particularly ABC and CBS - the past few days has followed suit, attributing to the millions of Americans who fiercely oppose ObamaCare the disgraceful outbursts of a few.
In response, Media Research Center President and NewsBusters Publisher Brent Bozell issued the following statement today:
Racists against Obama-care? New York Times congressional reporter Carl Hulse didn't take it quite that far, but he made a point to juxtapose protests against Obama-care to violent 1960s-era protests against black civil rights, as personalized in the main subject of Hulse's Monday piece, civil rights icon and Democratic Congressman John Lewis: "Mr. Lewis said he was not intimidated as he walked to the Capitol with his colleagues, including Ms. Pelosi. In 1965, Mr. Lewis was bloodied and beaten by the police as he marched for civil rights."
Hulse first laid into "venomous" conservative protesters on Sunday afternoon, in his contribution to the live blogging of the House debate at nytimes.com. From his 3:25 p.m. post "Angry, Vituperative Protests."
The mood inside the House chamber was tense as lawmakers headed toward climactic health care votes on Sunday, but the atmosphere outside the Capitol was downright venomous.
As the House engaged in initial parliamentary maneuvering, hundreds of anti-reform protesters gathered on the south side of the Capitol between the building and the House office buildings across Independence Avenue, chanting and jeering Democrats and applauding House Republicans who egged them on.
Is The Washington Post playing favorites with causes that inspire people to exercise their First Amendment rights and take to the streets to protest? When it comes to opposition to Democratic efforts to reform health care versus opposition to wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, it appears so.
In a March 20 Washington Post story headlined "Obama delivers plea to 'help us fix this system,'" Ben Pershing, Paul Kane and Lori Montgomery suggested House Democrats were gaining momentum in their pursuit of the 216 votes needed to pass health care reform legislation, despite "hundreds" of "tea party" protesters rallying outside the U.S. Capitol. (h/t Amanda Carpenter)
"Outside the Capitol, hundreds of 'tea party' protesters rallied against the legislation, jeering Democratic lawmakers as they passed and holding signs reading 'We'll Remember in November' and 'Revolution,' Pershing, Kane and Montgomery wrote.
[Update, 10:21 am Eastern on Monday: Knoller responded on Sunday on Twitter to the criticism he was receiving online, stating that 'I wasn't aware there was any slur or pejorative associated with that term. The moment it was pointed out, I stopped using it." (H/t: Clay Waters of TimesWatch, Stephen Gutowski of NewsBusters).]
CBS News White House correspondent Mark Knoller revived the use of a vulgar sexual term to refer to Tea Party protesters on Saturday afternoon via Twitter: "Obama's motorcade arrives at Capitol Hill. Boos and jeers passing tea bagger protests."
CNN.com has an article on its website extolling the virtues of the Coffee Party. The glowing language the piece uses to describe the movement stands in stark contrast to the cable network's treatment of Tea Party groups over the past year.
It is plain now that CNN harbors no such ill will towards the Coffee Party, which reporter Jessica Ravitch described as just a bunch of everyday Americans gathering to express their dissatisfaction with the political status quo (gee, that sounds a lot like the Tea Party movement, but I digress).
CNN's Jim Acosta omitted the left-wing affiliation of pro-ObamaCare protesters during a report on Wednesday's American Morning, referring to them as only "health care advocates and labor groups." Acosta, like his colleague Nancy Cordes at CBS, also highlighted child protester Marcelas Owens, and labeled him a "brave young man."
Kiran Chetry and John Roberts introduced Acosta's report, and the anchors also failed to mention the political bent of the protest, which was organized by the Health Care for America Now coalition (HCAN's members include the AFL-CIO, NAACP, and Planned Parenthood). Chetry remarked that "thousands though rallied in Washington against what they call 'insurance industry bullying.'" Roberts stated that the demonstration was "one for the books."
After ignoring the Tea Party movement for two months, it took the New York Times just one week to jump on the leftish "Coffee Party" in a report by Kate Zernike criticized by Times Watch and others for its gushing tone and for failing to identify the new group as a left-wing opponent of the Tea Party protesters.
By contrast, a follow up by Zernike on the front-page of the Sunday Week in Review made sure to quickly label the Coffee Party as "a leftish alternative to the Tea Party movement."
But then there's the headline over her story: "Democrats Need a Rally Monkey." Who says the Democrats "need" anything? Does the Times have a rooting interest in Democrat success?