Saturday, April 18, 2009

What if Fox News threw a tea party and nobody came?


While millions of people were scrambling to make it to the post office by 5 p.m. on Wednesday, far, far fewer showed up at Fox News' Tax Day Tea Parties. Media Matters for America extensively documented the incessant promotion of the tea parties by Fox News and its anchors and contributors. In fact, in the 10 days leading up to the protests, Fox News aired 107 ads promoting them. And in addition to encouraging its viewers to attend the protests, Fox News announced that viewers who couldn't attend could attend "a virtual tax day tea party" at

Well, tax day arrived, and Fox News didn't disappoint. Reporting from a protest in Boston, Fox Business Network anchor Cody Willard stated, "I'm on your side. I'm trying to take down the Fed." He also asked, "Guys, when are we going to wake up and start fighting the fascism that seems to be permeating this country?" At a protest in front of the Alamo, Glenn Beck hosted unofficial NRA head Ted Nugent, who played guitar while Beck interviewed Joe Horn, who was identified by a Fox News graphic as having "shot 2 illegals burglarizing home." Of course, Beck wasn't covering the protest so much as leading it. Meanwhile, John Gibson expressed his "hope[]" that "millions of people" would participate in the protests, while Neil Cavuto appeared to inflate the numbers at the rally he was attending in Sacramento. Cavuto stated of the Sacramento tea party: "They were expecting 5,000 here, it's got to be easily double, if not triple that." However, moments earlier, before Cavuto went on the air, a microphone caught Cavuto stating to a producer "There's gotta be 5,000" -- not "double, if not triple" that number.

Geraldo Rivera was not impressed, asserting, "The grand total of all of the tea party demonstrators" was less than the number "at that immigration rally in 2006 in the city of Chicago alone." Rivera added that the immigration rally was a "truly spontaneous demonstration," while the tea parties "may have had aspects of spontaneity."

While Bill O'Reilly was defending Fox News' coverage of the tea parties, calling it "vastly superior to anything else around," other networks were calling out Fox News for its support of the protests. On CNN, reporter Susan Roesgen grilled a Chicago protester who referred to President Obama as a "fascist" and said the protests were "highly promoted by the right-wing conservative network Fox." On the CBS Evening News, reporter Dean Reynolds cited Beck and Cavuto as among the "rightward-leaning commentators" who "embraced the cause." On ABC's World News, reporter Dan Harris said the protests were "cheered on by Fox News and talk radio." And CNN's Howard Kurtz asserted: "I don't think I've ever seen a news network throw its weight behind a protest like we are seeing in the past few weeks with Fox and these tea parties."

But Stephen Colbert summed it up best: "I would like to throw my support behind this grassroots effort by Fox News Corporation."