When you claim that a grassroots group isn't a grassroots group -- beware of actual grassroots activists.
That's the lesson reporter Sharon Male of Parade Magazine learned when she attacked Patients United Now, the health care project of the free-market Americans for Prosperity Foundation, in the July 12 magazine. Under the headline "Are Grassroots Activists for Real?" she claimed that some "so-called grassroots campaigns" "are actually sophisticated marketing campaigns financed by businesses and special interest groups." Male cited the leftist Public Citizen's accusations of "astroturf" campaigns led by "ultra-wealthy individuals who have little in common with regular Americans," and the reporter bemoaned the fact that "grassroots movements are unregulated."
AFP Foundation let its members know Parade was questioning their existence, and they responded by overwhelming Male and her editor with nearly 5,000 e-mails.
One member wrote: "I am concerned about an article by Sharon Male which appeared in the last issue of Parade. Ms. Male refers to the Americans for Prosperity Foundation as an 'Astroturf' foundation and, as such, rather derisively shrugs off the concerns of many Americans who do not favor the current health care reform plans being proposed by Obama and his Congress. ... I believe a correction in your magazine is in order."
Another wrote: "I wanted to make sure Parade Magazine knows I am, in fact a real, live grassroots American who simply loves my nation and want to do my part to preserve my freedoms by stopping government-run health care. I have no affiliation to the healthcare industry except that as a citizen and concerned party and do not agree with our government's movements for nationalized plans."
AFP Foundation members reported receiving out-of-office replies from the reporter's and editor's e-mails on July 15. As of this writing, no correction has been issued online.
Patients United Now is dedicated to educating Americans about the dangers of government-controlled health care.
Parade magazine cover image via Parade.com
Amy Menefee serves as Director of Communications for Americans for Prosperity (AFP).