Study: Networks Snub, Malign Tea Party Movement
Wednesday, 14 Apr 2010 08:01 AM
By: Joseph Curl
The big three television networks virtually ignored the massive,
grass-roots "tea party" surge in 2009, and so far this year have
maligned the movement as teeming with racists and violent fringe
figures, according to a report by the Media Research Center.
"Rather than objectively document the rise and impact of this important
grassroots movement, the 'news' networks instead chose to first ignore,
and then deplore, the citizen army mobilizing against the unpopular
policies of a liberal president and Congress," wrote MRC Research
Director Rich Noyes.
As a nation-spanning "Tea Party Express" caravan plans to pull into
Washington for a "tax day" rally on Thursday, a Rasmussen poll finds
that the number of people who say they're part of the tea party
movement nationally has grown to 24 percent, up from 16 percent a month
ago."The rise in tea party support is perhaps not surprising at a time
when more voters than ever (58 percent) favor repeal of the national
health care plan just passed by Democrats in Congress and signed into
law by President Obama," the pollster wrote.
The Media Research Center, a watchdog organization founded by
conservative L. Brent Bozell III, compiled reams of statistics to
support its findings about TV network coverage, among them:
- ABC, CBS and NBC aired 61 stories or segments on the anti-spending movement over a 12-month period, and most of that
coverage is recent. "The networks virtually refused to recognize the
tea party in 2009 (19 stories), with the level of coverage increasing
only after Scott Brown's election in Massachusetts" in January, the
report said, referring to the Republican's win of the Senate seat long
held by Edward M. Kennedy.
- Overall, 44 percent of the networks' reports on the tea party suggested the movement reflected a
fringe movement or a dangerous quality. "Signs and images at last
weekend's big tea party march in Washington and at other recent events
have featured racial and other violent themes," NBC anchorman Brian
Williams said in a September report.
- Coverage of the movement pales in comparison with coverage of "protests serving liberal
objectives," the report said. For instance, the Nation of Islam's
"Million Man March" in 1995 garnered 21 evening news stories on the day
of the march — more than the tea party demonstrations received in all
No one from any of the three networks returned phone messages or e-mails seeking comment.
Thousands of tea party protesters are expected to turn out Thursday for
a "People's Tax Revolt" rally in Washington's Freedom Plaza, a block
from the White House. Mr. Obama plans to be out of town that day,
traveling to Florida for an event on the future of the U.S. space
On Wednesday, thousands will gather in Boston for an event to be
headlined by former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, the 2008 Republican
vice-presidential nominee who has embraced the movement's message of
lower taxes and limited government.
The loose-knit movement — which is not a political party and has no
official leaders — was born Feb. 19, 2009, when CNBC contributor Rick
Santelli suggested a "tea party" to protest government aid for
homeowners. The movement grew exponentially over the summer as
protesters packed town halls across the nation to give their
congressional representatives an earful of opposition to Mr. Obama's $1
trillion health care reform plan.
But the Media Research Center, which tracked network reports from Feb.
19, 2009, through March 31, 2010, found that the movement has been
given short shrift from the onset.
"While the broadcast networks seldom devolved into the juvenile
name-calling and open hostility evident at the liberal cable news
networks, their coverage of the tea party's first year reflected a
similar mindset of elitist condescension and dismissiveness," the
After first ignoring the movement, then seeking to label it as racist
and extremist, the networks moved to portray the tea party's emergence
as part of a Republican civil war, the report found.
After Mr. Brown's election victory in Massachusetts, "network reporters
spent more time suggesting that the tea party was a threat to
Republicans rather than to the Obama administration and its liberal
allies," the report said, based on its analysis for network coverage.
Meanwhile, data from a Rasmussen Reports survey of 2,000 likely voters
nationwide found that among those who consider themselves part of the
tea party movement, 89 percent disapprove of Mr. Obama's performance as
Ninety-six percent of those in the movement say America is overtaxed,
and 94 percent "trust the judgment of the American people more than
America's political leaders," the survey found.
Some opponents of the tea party movement say they plan to infiltrate
and undermine the credibility of the political group by trying to make
its members appear to be racist and homophobic.
Jason Levin, creator of www.crashtheteaparty.org
, said Monday that the
group has 65 leaders in major cities across the country who are trying
to recruit members to infiltrate tea party events Thursday.
"Every time we have someone on camera saying that Barack Obama isn't an
American citizen, we want someone sitting next to him saying, 'That's
right, he's an alien from outer space,'" Mr. Levin said.
One tea party organizer said the attempt to destroy the movement was evidence that the tea party message is resonating.
"We've been ignored, we've been ridiculed. Well, now they're coming
after us," said Judy Pepenella, a co-coordinator for the New York State
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