AsstroTurf: A comprehensive primer

15 04 2009

From Media Matters and elsewhere:

In light of today’s events, Media Matters has prepared background information on Fox News’ coverage of the tea parties.

Fox News has aggressively promoted the teaparty protests both on- and off-air and has repeatedly encouraged viewers to get involved.


·  On his April 6 program, Glenn Beck told his viewers they could “celebrate with Fox News” on April 15, when he and fellow Fox News hosts Neil Cavuto, Greta Van Susteren, and Sean Hannity would broadcast “live” at different protests.


·  The network has on several occasions labeled the protests “FNC Tax Day Tea Parties.”


·  Fox News’ new website, The Fox Nation, will host “a virtual tea party” for those who “[c]an’t get to a tea party” and hasposted numerous links discussing and promoting the protests including one headlined “Find a Tea Party!” that links to aGoogle Maps display of “2009 Tea Parties.”


Fox News’ unprecedented promotion of a political protest has not been lost on other news networks.


·        Howard Kurtz, Washington Post media critic and host of CNN’s Reliable Sources, commented that Fox News “practically seems to be a co-sponsor” of the tea party protests.


·        After airing a Fox News promotion of its upcoming “fair and balanced” coverage of the tea parties, MSNBC’s Chris Matthewsstated: “Ive got to believe that [Fox News President] Roger Ailes has the biggest tongue in his cheek when he does these ads. ‘We report and you decide.’ I mean, what are you — balanced coverage of an anti-government rally, an anti-tax rally — balanced coverage of that. It’s so amazing.”


·        MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow said on her show that “our colleagues at Fox News are not just reporting on” the teaparty protests, “they are officially promoting” them.


Fox News has billed the protests as primarily driven by “grassroots” efforts. However, the protests have received significant support from a growing number of elected officials, prominent conservatives, and Fox News itself.

·        Former House Majority Leader Dick Armey reportedly plans to attend an Atlanta tea party, and his organization FreedomWorks has been involved in organizing a number of the rallies.

·        Texas Gov. Rick Perry is scheduled to attend a Fort Worth protest and in a YouTube video, encouraged “fellow patriots” to “[l]et them know what you think about the bailouts, all this stimulus, all this runaway spending that’s going on in Washington, D.C.”


·        Louisiana Sen. David Vitter describes the tea parties as protesters’ “register[ing] their displeasure with our government’s addiction to wasteful spending, bailouts for big business, and higher taxes” and is proposing that the Senate recognize April 15 “as a formal protest by the people.”


·        Reps. Todd Tiahrt (KS), John Fleming (LA), Ander Crenshaw (FL), Bob Latta (OH), John Shadegg (AZ), Sue Myrick (NC), Bill Posey (FL), and Louie Gohmert (TX) are all reportedly scheduled to speak at various teaparty protests.


·  Beck also announced on his radio show that he will speak at a $500-a-plate fundraiser for the San Antonio tea party.

·  Fox News contributor Newt Gingrich filmed a video “invitation” to attend the April 15 protests. According, “Gingrich will be a featured speaker” at the April 15 protest in New York City.” The website alsolists American Solutions for Winning the Future, whose general chairman is Gingrich, in its “Tea Party Sponsors” section.

· also lists Fox News contributors Michelle Malkin and Tammy Bruce as “Tea Party Sponsors.”

While tea-party organizers have stated that the protests are nonpartisan, Fox News and organizers have also characterized the protests primarily as a response to the Obama administration’s fiscal policies.

·  On the March 16 edition of The O’Reilly Factor, host Bill O’Reilly said that “big government spending protests are taking place all over the country. The latest in Cincinnati where about 5,000 folks showed up, showed their displeasure with the Obama’s administration money strategy. These gatherings are being dubbed tea parties.”

·  On the March 25 edition of Special Report, host Bret Baier said that the tea parties are “protests of wasteful government spending in general and of President Obama’s stimulus package and his budget in particular.”

·  During the April 6 edition of America’s Newsroom, contributor Andrea Tantaros said of the protests: “People are fighting against Barack Obama’s radical shift to turn us into Europe.” Fox News also aired on-screen text stating that the “Tea Parties Are Anti-Stimulus Demonstrations.”

For more information on Fox News and its coverage of the teaparty protests, please visit:





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