Fox Predictably Rushes To Defend Tea Party From Criticism Following S&P "Downgrade"

››› ››› JUSTIN BERRIER & REMINGTON SHEPARD

Following Standard & Poor's (S&P) decision to "downgrade" the U.S. credit rating, Fox News scrambled to defend the tea party's influence on the default crisis debate. Fox's defense is consistent with its long history of promoting the tea party.

Fox Scrambles To Defend Tea Party From Criticism In Wake Of S&P "Downgrade"

Bolling: "I Find It Really Disturbing That Axelrod Is Blaming the Tea Party For This." On the August 8 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, guest host Eric Bolling reacted to a clip of Obama campaign adviser David Axelrod calling the recent events the "tea party downgrade" by claiming it is "disturbing" that Axelrod would blame the tea party. From Fox & Friends:

BOLLING: I find it really disturbing that Axelrod is blaming the tea party for this. The tea party happened to be the ones that suggested cutting spending. And really if you look how we're -- at the reason we are being downgraded, it's because our debt is so big.

[...]

So if you spend here and you're only taking in here that means what -- the difference between the two you are adding on to debt. The tea party says stop doing that. Stop doing what's causing the downgrade to happen, and yet Axelrod is pointing the finger at the tea party. It doesn't make a lot of sense to me. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 8/8/11, via Media Matters]

Doocy Credits Tea Party For Getting "Us Focused ... On The Debt Problem To Begin With." Later on Fox & Friends, co-host Steve Doocy claimed the "spin machine on the Democrat side" has "completely tried to brand this the tea party downgrade, but ... weren't the members of the tea party really the ones who got us focused and got Washington focused on the debt problem to begin with?" [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 8/8/11, via Media Matters]

Varney: "I Reject" The Statement That "It's The Tea Party's Fault." Later on the August 8 edition of Fox & Friends, Fox Business host Stuart Varney stated that he "reject[ed]" blame placed on the tea party. From Fox & Friends:

DOOCY: Stuart, we had a whole array there from the tea party, blame the president, blame S&P.

VARNEY: Alright, Let's take it in order. First of all, it's the tea party's fault. I reject that. The tea party is the only group which came up with a plan which would have avoided this downgrade. S&P is getting the blame. They should not have downgraded America, say various people speaking right there. S&P says we were downgraded because of the outlook for our debt. It's getting much worse. Notably, adding 7 trillion to the debt instead of 10 trillion.

DOOCY: That's all true.

VARNEY: That's why they downgraded us, OK? That's why they did it. I think that some responsibility -- a lot of it -- has to be taken by President Obama. It is his policies which failed to stimulate the economy and his spending policies which has driven us into this massive accumulation of debt. That's what I think is going on.

[...]

Look, S&P downgraded us because if you look out there not too far in the future, our debt situation gets worse and worse and worse. It's this debt-to-GDP ratio. Sounds technical. But it's really all about our debt. How big is it compared to our economy? That's why they downgraded us. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 8/8/11, via Media Matters]

Bolling: The Downgrade Of U.S. Credit Rating Is An "Obamanomics Downgrade, End Of Story, Period." Later on Fox & Friends, Bolling stated: "[A] couple of months ago, Obama said it's my economy now. Guess what? It's [the Democrats] downgrade, too, you guys. You can't point the finger at the tea party or the Republicans, this is all on them. They wanted it, they got it." From the broadcast:

BOLLING: You know, also very important, a couple of weeks ago, Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, she heads the DNC, said, you know, it's our economy now. A couple of months ago --

DOOCY: The Democrats'.

BOLLING: The Democrats', right. The -- a couple of months ago, Obama said it's my economy now. Guess what? It's your downgrade now, too, you guys. You can't point the finger at the tea party or the Republicans. This is all on them. They wanted it, they got it.

DOOCY: I heard them blame Bush.

BOLLING: Right.

CARLSON: But see, that's an opinion. You can tell by listening to the people that they put out, not the president over the weekend, by the way - he has not officially made a statement -- but the people that the administration put out to do the talking points, that was - that was the number one talking point: tea party downgrade.

And, you know, the more you say it, do people believe it more? Does the president really have to come out and say anything, or can he just have people say that? Because there's been so much discussion about the tea party and the whole debt ceiling issue, does that stick? Let us know what you think about that.

BOLLING: Well, let me do this, then. They want to go ahead and say this is a tea party downgrade. I'm going ahead and call it what it is. It's an Obamanomics downgrade, end of story, period. This is on them. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 8/8/11]

Carlson: "Weren't [Democrats] The Ones ... Stopping The Attempt To Stop The Spending?" On the August 8 edition of Fox & Friends, Carlson, introducing a segment featuring Rep. Allen West (R-FL), asked, "Weren't [Democrats] the ones, though, who led the charge against stopping the spending, well, or stopping the attempt to stop the spending?" [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 8/8/11]

Huckabee: "So Rather Than It Being A Tea Party Downgrade, It Was The Fact That [The Democrats] Did Far Too Little, Far Less Than The Tea Party Asked Them To Do." On the August 8 edition of Fox & Friends, Fox News host Mike Huckabee suggested that the tea party was not at fault, saying the Democrats "did far too little, far less than the tea party asked them to do." From the broadcast:

BOLLING: Well, the Democrats are going after the tea party again. Listen.

AXELROD [video clip]: The fact of the matter is that this is essentially a tea party downgrade. The tea party brought us to the brink of a default. [...] That clearly is on the backs of those who were willing to see the country default, those very strident voices in the tea party.

CARLSON: Where is the accountability and bipartisanship, and isn't this the type of rhetoric that President Obama condemned?

DOOCY: Governor Mike Huckabee joins us today from Little Rock, Arkansas. Good morning to you, sir.

MIKE HUCKABEE (host, Fox News' Huckabee): Good morning. Great to be with you.

DOOCY: Well, we've heard from the Democrats. It's the fault of the tea party. Never mind they wanted to get the deficits under control. It's their fault.

HUCKABEE: You know it's amazing to me that the rhetoric that is used in this, words like jihad, terrorist, holding hostage, strapping a bomb to the chest of the economy -- rhetoric that we weren't supposed to have anymore. And here is something that I think we need to recognize. We need to call the president out on this. He is the titular head of the Democratic Party. The Democratic Party and the Republicans, by the way, put out talking points and they put out these communication points. He was the one who said we need civility in our communication.

One of two things: either A, he approves of this and he's a hypocrite for having approved of this kind of ridiculous over-the-top language against the tea party. Or B, he has zero control over his own party, the party of which he is the head. One of those two is the truth. We need to call him out on it and tell him either show up and exert some leadership over your party, stop this ridiculous language and name-calling, or admit you can't even control your party, much less the American economy.

CARLSON: But Governor, obviously people got together in a room and said, let's call this a tea party downgrade.

HUCKABEE: Absolutely.

CARLSON: Because if you go from interview to interview yesterday, you heard those three words lumped together.

HUCKABEE: Well, in politics, you have, for example, the official committees and they'll get together late at night and they come up not only with the communication memo that goes out early each morning to all the principles, but it also has the key phrases words. If you listen to the interviews, they'll all use the same word: tea party downgrade. They'll say things again like holding hostage, terrorists, you know, the balanced approach. The president said it seven times in a 15-minute speech last week.

So when you hear these words over and over, these are not the words of people who are creative enough to come up with their own talking points. These are people who are reading from a script. And it frustrates me that you've got people elected to high positions who can't even come up with their own phrasing.

BOLLING: But Huck, you know what frustrates me because if it were on my show or your show, had they said that, we would have called them out on that. We would say, what do you mean the tea party? Aren't they the ones who wanted to stop the spending growth?

HUCKABEE: Well, and, and the irony of all of this is that S&P, and you had the gentleman on, Mr. Chambers just a few moments ago, and essentially saying they didn't go far enough. They didn't do something bold enough to get the debt and spending under control. Gee, I thought that's what the tea party wanted them to do.

DOOCY: Sure, exactly right.

HUCKABEE: That was the whole point. So rather than it being a tea party downgrade, it was the fact that they did far too little, far less than the tea party asked them to do.

DOOCY: Sure. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 8/8/11]

Fox's Defense Of Tea Party Follows Its Long History Of Hyping And Promoting Tea Party Protests And Protesters

Fox Aired At Least 20 Segments And 73 Promos On Tea Party Protests In Lead Up To 2009 Tax Day Protests. By April 2009, Fox News had frequently aired segments not only covering tea party protests but encouraging viewers to get involved. An April 15, 2009, study found that from April 6-13, Fox had aired 20 segments and 73 in-show and commercial promotions on the tea party protests scheduled for April 15. Many of those segments aired during one of Fox's supposedly objective news shows, America's Newsroom. [Media Matters,4/8/09, 4/15/09]

Fox News Hosts Attended "FNC Tax Day Tea Parties." In the days leading up to the April 2009 "Tax Day" protests, Fox repeatedly aired on-screen text describing protests Fox news hosts would be attending as "FNC Tax Day Tea Parties." [Media Matters, 4/9/09]

Fox's Tax Day Coverage Promoted Protesters' Cause, Urged Viewer Involvement. Fox News and Fox Business also hyped the tea party during its coverage of the "Tax Day" protests on April 15, 2009. Hosts and guests on several shows, including the supposedly objective Happening Now and America's Newsroom, promoted the protesters' cause and urged viewers to join the protests and visit tea party websites. [Media Matters, 4/16/09]

Hannity Scheduled To Speak At Ticketed Tea Party Event; "Furious" Fox Execs Forced Cancellation Of His Appearance. Leading up to the April 15, 2010, "Tax Day" tea party protests, Fox host Sean Hannity was scheduled to tape his April 15 show at the Cincinnati Tea Party's 2010 Tax Day Tea Party, which required paid admission. The appearance was promoted on 18 different editions of his Fox News program. On April 15, 2010, the Los Angeles Times reported that "[a]ngry Fox News executives" ordered Hannity to drop his plans to film from the rally. [Media Matters, 4/15/10]

Fox News Hosts Participated In More Than A Dozen Tea Party Events In April 2010. Despite News Corp. Chairman and CEO Rupert Murdoch's statement that he didn't think Fox News "should be supporting the tea party," Fox News hosts participated in more than a dozen tea party events the week of April 15, 2010. [Media Matters, 4/15/10]

Consultant Proposed Tea Party Express, Saying It Would "Give A Boost To Our PAC," Highlighted Possible Friendly Coverage From "Fox News Commentators." Following the April 15, 2009, tea parties, Joe Wierzbicki, a senior associate with the GOP consulting firm Russo Marsh, proposed creating the Tea Party Express bus tour in order to "give a boost to our PAC and position us as a growing force/leading force as the 2010 elections come into focus." Wierzbicki also wrote in the original memo proposing the creation of the Tea Party Express that the effort could get "some mentions and possibly even promotion from conservative/pro-tea party bloggers, talk radio hosts, Fox News commentators, etc..." [Media Matters, 11/2/10]

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