Fox News accused an MSNBC contributor of injecting racism into the failed union vote at a Tennessee Volkswagen plant, but the analogy that formed the basis of Fox's phony outrage actually originated with the anti-labor forces Fox was defending.
Last week workers at a Chattanooga, Tennessee, Volkswagen plant voted against organizing with the United Auto Workers union. The vote gained national attention for what some labor experts called the unusual nature of the campaign: While Volkswagen did not oppose unionization, interference was run by national conservative groups like Grover Norquist's Center for Worker Freedom, which, aided by Republican politicians, waged a dishonest publicity war against the union effort.
On February 17, MSNBC contributing writer Timothy Noah ruffled right-wing feathers after he said that the anti-union forces were portraying the UAW as "a union invasion, refighting of the Civil War," adding: "Apparently there are not a lot of black employees in this particular plant, and so that kind-of, waving of the Confederate flag was an effective strategy."
Fox News figures accused Noah of injecting the "tired, old, desperate" racism argument into the union vote. According to The Five co-host Andrea Tantaros, Noah's reference to the Civil War was "shameful" and "really pathetic."
The problem with Fox's indignation is that the Civil War analogy Noah referenced actually originated with the UAW opposition trying to convince workers to vote against organizing.
In a May op-ed he co-authored, Center for Worker Freedom director Matt Patterson characterized the UAW drive as "an invading union force from the North," expanding the comparison:
One hundred and fifty years ago an invading Union army was halted at Chattanooga by the Confederate Army of Tennessee under General Braxton Bragg. The Battle of Chickamauga was one of the bloodiest days of the entire Civil War, and a resounding defeat for the Northern forces. Today Southeastern Tennessee faces invasion from another union -- an actual labor union, the United Auto Workers (UAW). The UAW has its heart set on organizing Chattanooga's Volkswagen plant, which employs several thousand and supports thousands more throughout the Southeast.
He concluded that "the people of Tennessee routed such a force in the Battle of Chickamauga," when the Confederate Army stymied "an invading Union army" during the Civil War, urging, "Let their descendants go now and do likewise."
Along with the op-eds, the Center for Worker Freedom rented at least 13 billboards around Chattanooga and booked commercials on local radio stations in advance of the vote, publicly demonizing unions and the UAW.
Even in the unlikely event Fox correctly identifies the source of this Confederacy comparison, Patterson presumably will not face the same outrage -- the network allied with his group in opposing the Chattanooga UAW drive.