In Living Color: The Major Networks' War On the Tea Party

Think there’s been a media campaign to disparage and marginalize the grassroots Tea Party movement, almost from its inception, especially by the major networks? Think the coverage has been blatantly slanted and made to fit the liberal narrative? Well, maybe you’re not crazy

The Media Research Center is just out with this analysis:

The Tea Party movement launched one year ago, in response to the unprecedented expansion of government by President Barack Obama and congressional liberals, a massive increase in spending that will create economy-crushing fiscal burdens for future generations of taxpayers.

In that relatively brief period, the Tea Party has demonstrated it is a formidable political force. The pressure the movement brought to bear at the grassroots level put liberals on the defensive for much of the health care debate, and nearly succeeded in torpedoing the entire scheme in spite of Democrats’ overwhelming congressional majorities. And Tea Party activists proved decisive in a string of electoral defeats for liberals, culminating in Republican Scott Brown’s victory in the special election to succeed Ted Kennedy in the U.S. Senate.

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So how have the supposedly objective media covered one of the biggest political stories in recent years? MRC analysts reviewed every mention of the Tea Party on the ABC, CBS and NBC morning and evening newscasts, Sunday talk shows, and ABC’s Nightline from February 19, 2009 (when CNBC contributor Rick Santelli first suggested throwing a “Tea Party” to protest government takeovers) through March 31, 2010. Among the major findings:

The networks first attempted to dismiss the Tea Party movement:

■ Network reporters were dismissive of the first Tea Party events in 2009. “There’s been some grassroots conservatives who have organized so-called Tea Parties around the country,” NBC’s Chuck Todd noted on the April 15, 2009 Today, but “the idea hasn’t really caught on.” On ABC’s World News, reporter Dan Harris warned viewers that “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.”

By the fall of 2009, the networks had shifted to disparaging the Tea Party:

■ After the September 12, 2009 rallies, the networks suggested the Tea Party was an extreme or racist movement. On CBS, Face the Nation host Bob Schieffer decried the “angry” and “nasty” Capitol Hill rally, while ABC’s Dan Harris scorned protesters who “waved signs likening President Obama to Hitler and the devil….Some prominent Obama supporters are now saying that it paints a picture of an opposition driven, in part, by a refusal to accept a black President.”

The report’s executive-summary conclusion:

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. Given how the networks have provided fawning coverage and helpful publicity to far-less consequential liberal protest movements, their negative treatment of the Tea Party is a glaring example of a media double standard. 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.

Get the full report here.

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