This week's top story
Fox News is throwing a party!
This week, Media Matters for America released a damning new report that documents in startling detail how Fox News has been promoting anti-Obama "tea party" protests across the country scheduled for April 15. That's right, despite its repeated insistence that its coverage is "fair and balanced" and its invitation to viewers to "say 'no' to biased media," in recent weeks, Fox News has frequently aired segments encouraging viewers to get involved with tea-party protests, which the "news" network has often described as primarily a response to President Obama's fiscal policies.
Specifically, Fox News has in dozens of instances provided attendance and organizing information for future protests, such as protest dates, locations, and website URLs. Fox News websites have also posted information and publicity material for protests. Fox News hosts have repeatedly encouraged viewers to join them at several protests that they are attending and covering. Tea-party organizers have used the planned attendance of the Fox News hosts to promote their protests. Fox News has also aired numerous interviews with protest organizers. Moreover, Fox News contributors are listed as "Tea Party Sponsor[s]" on TaxDayTeaParty.com.
For his part, Glenn Beck, Fox's conspiracy theorist in chief, isn't just helping with turnout. Discussing his participation in the upcoming protest at the Alamo in San Antonio on his syndicated radio program, Beck announced, "I'm going to do a fundraiser for them" to help defray costs. "So you can come and you can have lunch with me. ... I don't know any of the details, but I've heard it's like $500 a plate or something like that."
Of course, the gang over at Fox hasn't taken kindly to Media Matters' pointing out its shameless promotion of these blatantly, unabashedly political events. On April 9, one day after the release of Media Matters' report, Fox News' Neil Cavuto and Beck discussed how "left-wing organizations like Media Matters" are "angry ... at us for covering these protests." Jeez, why would anyone be angry that a "news" outlet is promoting, fundraising for, and taking part in political protests?
Perhaps sensing that people might be catching on to the major role Fox is playing in the events, Cavuto pre-emptively critiqued news coverage of the tea-party protests, essentially panning the evil liberal media for their coverage of the events before they've even taken place.
Other major stories this week
"Where on earth could he have gotten that idea?" -- Glenn Beck edition
Discussing Richard Poplawski, who allegedly shot and killed three Pittsburgh police officers, Beck stated this week, "Before they found out about the dog-peeing story, the press, the blogs, everybody immediately went to, 'This guy's a conservative with guns that says Obama's coming.' " Indeed, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported that Poplawski was "convinced the nation was secretly controlled by a cabal that would eradicate freedom of speech, take away his guns and use the military to enslave the citizenry."
Where on earth could Poplawski have gotten such an idea, since neither Obama nor Congress has introduced gun-control legislation or indicated an intention to do so?
Later, Beck went on to say that Obama "will slowly but surely take away your gun or take away your ability to shoot a gun, carry a gun. He will make them more expensive; he'll tax them out of existence. He will because he has said he would. He will tax your gun or take your gun away one way or another." Beck, of course, is not alone -- since Obama's election, several conservative media figures have similarly warned that Obama would seize their guns or have suggested that a government effort to ban guns is likely.
Eric Boehlert, a Senior Fellow at Media Matters, appeared this week on CNN to discuss how Fox News is "painting ... this doomsday scenario" and "mainstreaming ... this militia movement and this militia rhetoric." Indeed, after weeks of promoting the bizarre fringe conspiracy theory that the White House is using FEMA to set up "concentration camps" in an effort to establish totalitarian rule, Beck finally set the record straight, debunking the myth with the editor of Popular Mechanics. Don't forget, Beck once claimed he wasn't sure the FEMA camp story was true, but at that point, his "research" was simply unable to "disprove" it. Who's to blame for these nasty conspiracy theories? If you're Glenn Beck, you blame the media without a hint of irony.
Picking up on the work of Beck and the right of late, MSNBC's David Shuster hosted a discussion on whether "the right-wing megaphone" is "pushing violence," while Ed Schultz, the new host of MSNBC's 6 p.m. Eastern show, called the Fox personality a "conspiracy theorist" who "definitely qualifies for Psycho Talk," a new segment on The Ed Show dedicated to "some of the crazy things being said by conservatives."
The "blame Obama first" crowd
Anyone paying attention during the Bush administration will remember the deafening chorus of conservative media figures who accused progressives opposed to Bush's foreign policies as the "blame America first" crowd. Well, that chorus is back for an encore.
Leading the charge is Fox News' Sean Hannity, who recently played a clip of Obama saying in an April 3 speech in Strasbourg, France: "In America, there's a failure to appreciate Europe's leading role in the world. Instead of celebrating your dynamic union and seeking to partner with you to meet common challenges, there have been times where America's shown arrogance and been dismissive, even derisive." Hannity then said: "And the liberal tradition of blame America first, well, that's still alive," later asking, "Why is there this anti-Americanism in Europe?" In fact, immediately after the part of the speech Hannity played, Obama criticized anti-Americanism in Europe as well as Europeans who "choose to blame America for much of what's bad."
As CNN's Howard Kurtz noted, Hannity's editing job on Obama's Strasbourg remarks was "not quite fair." That's the nice way of saying it was dishonest and deceptive. Don't hold your breath waiting for Hannity to correct the public record.
All week long, conservative media figures have been trashing the president for supposedly betraying some hidden anti-American agenda or wanting to be "liked" by our allies. On Fox, The Weekly Standard's Mary Katherine Ham said she "hate[s] to generalize," but liberals "enjoy apologizing for America." Rush Limbaugh, turning to birther conspiracy theories, falsely told listeners Obama says "his country, the United States -- I don't think he's talking Kenya here -- the United States is responsible for most of the problems in the world."
Conservative attacks on Obama were not isolated to the seemingly crazy one-liners of right-wing pundits and blowhard hosts. Some media figures advanced the more nuanced false claim that in signing the G-20 communiqué establishing a new Financial Stability Board, Obama had ceded U.S. sovereignty to international economic regulators. (Of course, the FSB referenced in the communiqué does not have any authority over U.S. policy.)
Some in the media this week sought a more responsible tone, pushing back against the baloney being pushed around by conservatives. Case in point: CNN's Christiane Amanpour shot down claims that Obama is "outsourcing American foreign policy" to Europe, and MSNBC's Joe Scarborough said that "conservatives or Americans should [not] be concerned" about Obama's "humility" abroad because "admitting your mistakes" to "your partnerships overseas" is "a good thing."
This week's media columns
This week, Media Matters Senior Fellows Eric Boehlert, Jamison Foser, and Karl Frisch take a look at Glenn Beck and the rise of Fox News' militia media, the military-media-industrial complex, and a special warning that tea may cause severe damage to journalistic integrity, respectively.
Week in Review video
This weekly wrap-up was compiled by Karl Frisch, a senior fellow at Media Matters. Frisch also contributes to County Fair, a media blog featuring links to progressive media criticism from around the Web as well as original commentary. You can follow him on Twitter and Facebook or sign up to receive his regular weekly columns by email.