Summary of the April 15 TEA Parties Media Coverage
The media coverage of the more than 800 Taxed Enough Already (TEA) Party protests that took place in all fifty states on April 15 ranged from disdainful dismissal of their nature, significance and import, to outright hostility towards the events and individual participants, to sexual innuendo-based full-on ridicule.In this summary, we focused on the three major networks – NBC, ABC and CBS, the two left-of-center cable news networks – CNN and MSNBC and the three major “national” newspapers – the USA Today, the New York Times and the Washington Post.
While not an exhaustively comprehensive oeuvre of TEA Party bias, it contains many, many examples which serve to illustrate the broader antipathetic themes.
ABC, CBS and NBC spent most of their time downplaying the grassroots and non-partisan nature of the events, their significance and disagreeing with the participants’ stated reasons for having them.
ABC’s Dan Harris: “Cheered on by Fox News and talk radio, the hundreds of tea parties today were designed to protest the bailouts, the stimulus plan, and President Obama’s budget….But critics on the left say this is not a real grassroots phenomenon at all, that it’s actually largely orchestrated by people fronting for corporate interests….While the Boston Tea Party in 1773 was about taxation without representation, critics point out that today’s protesters did get to vote — they just lost. What’s more, polls show most Americans don’t feel overtaxed.”
CBS’s Dean Reynolds noted a tea party organizer “insisted these events were non-partisan,” but, Reynolds maintained as if it were an embarrassment, “a fistful of rightward leaning Web sites and commentators embraced the cause.” Reynolds stressed how “it’s important to keep in mind that fresh polling indicates there is not all that much passion about high taxes in the country at large right now. Gallup this week found 61 percent of Americans see their federal income taxes as fair.” (What percent surveyed even pay income taxes?)
NBC’s Lee Cowan reported that “organizers insist today’s ‘tea parties’ were organic uprisings of like-minded taxpayers from both parties,” but “some observers suggest not all of it was as home-grown as it may seem.” Those “some observers” turned out to be one observer, NBC News White House reporter Chuck Todd: “A lot of the sentiment is about organizing anti-Obama rallies, getting conservatives excited about the conservative movement again.” Turning to public sentiment, Cowan maintained: “Although today’s organizers called this national day of protest a success, polls still show that a slim majority of Americans actually approve of the bailout plan. What they disagree with is where the money should go.”
NBC’s Chuck Todd wrote off the protests for Today viewers April 15 saying, “There’s been some grassroots conservatives who have organized so called ‘tea parties'” around the country. “But I tell you, the idea hasn’t really caught on.”
Bizarrely, on the day of the Parties ABC’s Dan Harris unquestioningly reported “The White House says the president is unaware of the tea parties and will hold his own event today.”
CNN provided much hostile and some vile reporting on the events, in addition to questioning their make-up and import as the Big Three did.
The most notorious came courtesy of correspondent Susan Roesgen, who rudely interrupted and argued with two of the protestors, slammed the event for being “anti-government,” “anti-CNN” for being “highly promoted by the right-wing conservative network Fox” and “not really family viewing” and implored one interviewee in an anguished tone “Why be so hard on the President of the United States?”
Anchor Anderson Cooper delved into the vile on April 14. Senior political analyst David Gergen commented that Republicans really had nothing to offer, to which Cooper interjected “tea-bagging – tea-bagging.” When Gergen closed by saying that Republicans were “searching for their voice” after two electoral losses, Cooper quipped, “It’s hard to talk when you’re tea-bagging.”
On April 15, Christiane Amanpour and Jeffrey Toobin voiced their skepticism about the Parties, with Toobin stating how it was “disturbing” that there was a “edge of anger at the government” at the rallies. He continued, “There is a real — a real hostility that is not just politics as usual among some of these people….I think it’s
|They Know It’s the National SOCIALIST Party, Right?|
indicative of trying to tap into an anger that’s beyond rationality on a part of a small group of these people.” Amanpour also asked if the protesters were “really out of step with the majority of Americans.”CNN.com recycled the mid-1990s liberal smear campaign against grassroots conservatism by posting an article on the new DHS “right-wing extremism” threat report with a photo of neo-Nazi and white supremacist flags.
———————————————–MSNBC was, as usual, the worst and most over-the-top network. They reveled in the “tea-bagging” and general oral sex references, and additionally gratuitously slammed and mocked the Parties and their participants. They also used the DHS report to slander not just conservatives, but Republicans as well. They slammed Fox News and the Fox Business Channel.
Countdown’s Keith Olbermann, introducing actress/activist Janeane Garofalo:
OLBERMANN: Congratulations, Pensacola teabaggers. You got spunk. And despite the hatred on display, few of you actually violated the penal code. But teabagging has now petered out, ‘taint what it used to be. And when you co-opt the next holiday Fourth of July, try to adopt a holiday food that does not invite double entendres, like, you know, franks and beans. On a more serious note, we’re now joined by actor and activist, Janeane Garofalo.
GAROFALO: Thank you. You know, there is nothing more interesting than seeing a bunch of racists become confused and angry at a speech — they’re not quite sure what he’s saying. It sounds right to them, and then it doesn’t make sense. Which — let’s be very honest about what this was about. It’s not about bashing Democrats, it’s not about taxes, they have no idea what the Boston Tea Party was about, they don’t know their history at all — this was about hating a black man in the White House. This is racism, straight up. That is nothing but a bunch of teabagging rednecks.
Again, Keith Olbermann: “And Number One, tea bag-gate. As handfuls of sheep possibly wearing LED vests, as seen earlier in Oddball, are herded into made for TV protests of taxation with representation, the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) has now analyzed a Senate report from last year that showed just how much we lose as a nation in tax revenues hidden by corporations in places like the Cayman Islands – the opportunities to do so growing immeasurably under the Bush administration.”
David Shuster: “For most Americans, Wednesday, April 15th will be Tax Day. But in our fourth story tonight: It’s going to be tea-bagging day for the right-wing and they’re going nuts for it. Thousands of them whipped out the festivities early this past weekend, and while the parties are officially toothless, the tea-baggers are full-throated about their goals. They want to give President Obama a strong tongue-lashing and lick government spending – spending they did not oppose when they were under presidents Bush and Reagan. They oppose Mr. Obama’s tax rates – which will be lower for most of them — and they oppose the tax increases Mr. Obama is imposing on the rich, whose taxes will skyrocket to a rate about 10 percent less than it was under Reagan. That’s tea-bagging in a nut shell.”
On the April 13 broadcast of the Rachel Maddow Show, both Maddow and liberal Air America’s Anna Marie Cox attempted to match dim-wits with Shuster’s “tea-bagging” humor. The two used the term at least 51 times in a 13-minute segment.
Speaking to Democratic strategist Bob Shrum, MSNBC News Live host Contessa Brewer asked about a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) report warning of “right-wing extremists.” In a bewildered tone, she wondered, “…Is it just a leap to think that they’re talking about Republicans? They didn’t even mention conservatives in the report.”
Anchor Ed Schultz, on his radio show, to Dem. Rep. Chris Van Hollen: “Do you think that Fox News wants the government to be overthrown? Cause they’re sure acting like it.”
———————————————–America’s Major Newspapers wrote either very little about, dismissively of or about cherry-picked data and poll results chosen to undermine the intent of the events.
USA Today, which touts itself as the “The Nation’s Newspaper,” devoted just nine paragraphs on page 3A of the April 16 paper to the roughly 800 Tea Parties held nationwide yesterday. By contrast, on Tax Day morning, readers of April 15 USA Today, some of whom probably reading USA Today over breakfast, were greeted with a front page story that was six times longer and insisted that “Most Americans OK with Big Government, at least for now.”
The New York Times finally noticed — kind of — the nationwide “tea party” protests against the bailouts, the stimulus plan, and President Obama’s budget on April 16. Reporter Liz Robbins’ story, “Tax Day Is Met With Tea Parties” is the first Times news report to deal with any of the conservative anti-spending protests, and does so in a predictably snide manner and in a relatively short article on Page 16 of Thursday’s edition.
The Washington Post carried this headline in a text box at the top of Page One: “Tax Burden Near Historic Low: The average family sent about 9 percent of its income to the IRS, with the middle-class faring especially well, according to federal data. A12.” (The D.C. tea party was noted at the bottom of the page, and readers were sent to B-1, the front of Metro.) But how do the Post’s “tax burden” claims stand up? Inside the paper, there’s a chart, and the source is the “nonpartisan” Congressional Budget Office, now controlled by the Democratic majority. It measured only the “Effective individual income tax rate.” The Post measured less than half the actual total federal “tax burden”!
—Seton Motley is Director of Communications for the Media Research Center.