Fox's Mike Tobin Talks To Media Matters

Blog ››› ››› JOE STRUPP

For the last two weeks, Fox News reporter Mike Tobin has been at the center of his network's coverage of the Wisconsin union demonstrations.

He is also at the center of a controversy over claims -- called into question yesterday after the release of new video -- that he was "assaulted" by protesters.

Tobin spoke with Media Matters at length on Monday about the experience, which has included demonstrators repeatedly chanting "Fox News Lies" and waving signs referencing the network's inaccurate reporting.

On Sunday, Tobin claimed during a live report that he had just been "hit" by one of the protesters.

Tobin wasn't onscreen at the time, and a Fox anchor later said that the network's cameras had been blocked by protesters during the alleged incident.

Nonetheless, the Fox Nation website immediately claimed that Tobin had been "assaulted by demonstrator during live shot."

Tobin disagreed.

"I was just hit in the arm a couple of times," he said on Fox Sunday night. "To call it assault or anything like that is a bit of an exaggeration."

On Twitter, Tobin said that he "declined to press charges over a couple little punches in the arm" because doing so would create a "distraction."

That didn't stop Fox. On Monday, Fox anchor Megyn Kelly asked Tobin about the "assault."

When Tobin disputed Kelly's characterization, she rephrased: "It is an unwanted touching. Actually, it's a battery, technically, under the law."

"Yeah, technically, but I got punched in the arm," Tobin responded. "It didn't even leave a bruise. So, I don't want to make too big a deal about it."

In an interview with Media Matters later Monday, Tobin sought to downplay the incident, which he continued to describe as a "punch."

"It was a punch. A punch is a punch, but it was just a punch in my arm. I grew up with three older brothers, it's not my first time being punched. I don't want to overdramatize it for the sake of TV or anything like that."

Then came the video.

On Tuesday morning, what appears to be footage of the alleged incident recorded by someone in the crowd was posted at

Mediaite, which had trumpeted Tobin's initial allegations, reported that the new video "certainly seems to counter the initial claim that Tobin had been hit."

And Raw Story reported that "someone merely touched [Tobin's] shoulder, as evidenced in the video. ... The incident he claimed was a 'punch' could instead be described as a pat, at most."

After the video emerged, Media Matters once again contacted Tobin for comment. This time, he didn't respond.

Instead, a Fox spokesperson called Media Matters and said that Tobin would have no further comment on the matter.

In his interview with Media Matters on Monday, Tobin elaborated on a separate allegation -- which he had also made during a live Fox broadcast -- that a protester had threatened to "break my neck."

"We were trying to show the demonstrators coming out of the back side of the capital and trying to get a shot up the stairs and just as I was going live the guy figured out we were Fox News," he said. "He was a big guy and he was trying to get in the shot and try to push me out of the way. I pushed back gently at him and he started saying I assaulted him and in the background he said he was going to break my neck."

Tobin said the "Fox News Lies" chants began as soon as he started covering the story about two weeks ago.

"It was right from the start. I don't know that it's based in anything. I have never had one of them tell me what's a lie. As a specific point, I haven't heard that yet."

"It is everyday," he said. "They come after me every day."

Tobin said the anti-Fox anger has sparked his news crew to go more low-profile than usual.

"We have been trying to be very low-pro[file], trying to keep the camera down on our side until the last minute and we'll set up and go as the anchors talk to me," he said. "We take the [Fox News] mic flags off. I try to go up as low-profile as I can and go up and go live at the last second. We usually set up and get the lighting right and adjust the audio and things of that nature. But if I stand there for a while, they'll start coming like moths to a pug light."

"Before I showed up here, someone went to some effort to pre-produce some 'Fox News Will Lie About This' signs that are professional print jobs and have handed them out to demonstrators. They are not hand-printed things," he said. "I have asked where they got them and they won't tell me. I have tried to get one, but they pull it away from me and it starts to become a big scene so I just retreat."

Asked if the crowd is being urged to heckle him, he said:

"I think there may be elements of that. I don't get to listen to all of the different discussions that go on. There is a lot of collective mentality, a lot of like-thinkers get together so their thoughts no longer are opinion, their thoughts are fact and they don't need to be substantiated with facts because they are not challenged in their own group."

Asked if the protesters' criticism was unfair, Tobin responded:

"Of course it's unfair. These people don't know me, they don't know anything about me, they don't know what I've done, they don't know about my reputation, they can't tell you one of my reports, but they come back after me because they see the moniker on the live truck, the Fox News label. It is a free marketplace of ideas, if people don't like what they see on Fox, they've got the option to change the channel. If they want to come after me, challenge my reporting."

He also defended his coverage, claiming he is being unfairly criticized by the protesters:

"They are the ones who are trying to disrupt me when I am live, but I am not trying to turn this story against the demonstrators certainly, or state employees or present an image somehow that is negative about their collective bargaining rights. I don't have a dog in this fight."

Tobin later added, "Overall, I guess I am a little shaken up because I have had such nasty things said to me over the past couple of days, but it is not going to affect how I cover."

Tobin wasn't sure how long he would stay in Madison. He said he hadn't had a day off since covering the January 8 Tucson shooting and in that time span had reported from Egypt and elsewhere.

Asked how this protest compares to Egypt, he said:

"Much more hate here in Wisconsin. ... More violence in Egypt, more hate in Wisconsin."

Posted In
Economy, Jobs, Wages, & Unemployment, Labor Unions
Fox News Channel
Mike Tobin
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