Fox promotion of tea parties follows years of attacking progressive demonstrators

››› ››› MATT GERTZ & JOCELYN FONG

A Media Matters review of Fox News' coverage of demonstrations prior to the April 15 tea parties found that the network did not offer similarly promotional coverage of anti-war protests or other demonstrations in support of progressive positions. Instead, the network's hosts, contributors, and guests often attacked participants in those protests.

On the April 11 edition of Fox News' Your World, host Neil Cavuto stated: "[A]t Fox, we do not pick and choose these rallies and protests." Cavuto went on to claim, "We were there for the Million Man March, even though as I pointed out, it turned out to be well shy of a million men. We were there for the Iraq war protests and the protests against the Iraq war protests. So, you see, we really don't decide what populist causes matter -- just that when a whole lot of people gather in a whole lot of towns and cities across America, it is indeed worth checking out, not just shutting down." But at Fox News, all protests are not covered equally. As Media Matters for America has documented and the rest of the media have noted, despite its promise to deliver "total fair and balanced network coverage" of the April 15 tea-party protests, Fox News repeatedly promoted the protests that day and in preceding days, while hosts and guests, including those on Fox Business Network, engaged in inflammatory rhetoric during their coverage of the protests. By contrast, Media Matters' review of Fox News' coverage of prior demonstrations finds that the network offered no such promotional coverage of 2003 and 2005 protests opposing the Iraq war, the 2006 immigrants' rights protests, or other demonstrations in support of progressive positions. Instead, the network's hosts, contributors, and guests often attacked participants in those protests. (Where video is not provided, transcripts were retrieved from the Nexis database.)

Protests against the Iraq war

  • On the February 3, 2003, edition of The O'Reilly Factor, host Bill O'Reilly stated:

O'REILLY: I called some of the anti-war demonstrators anti-American when they start saying that a -- the United States is a terrorist nation and, you know, giving us this revisionist history that -- this one and that one, we did this and that, and, you know, there's a line. We respect dissent here, by the way. If you're against the war, and -- that's fine, and we respect that. But, once you start attacking your country as fundamentally an evil place, which some of these anti-war people have done, then you're anti-American, in my opinion.

  • On the February 16, 2003, edition of Fox Broadcasting Co.'s Fox News Sunday, host Tony Snow asked Sen. John McCain:

SNOW: Is it your view that the pacifism espoused by the protesters and by some of our international colleagues in fact makes war more likely by giving Saddam Hussein the ability to continue to develop weapons of mass destruction or at least to go ahead and thumb his nose at U.N. Security Council Resolution 1441?

Snow later asked then-national security adviser Condoleezza Rice:

SNOW: Do you think the protesters are naive?

  • On the February 17, 2003, edition of The Big Story, host John Gibson stated:

GIBSON: But do any of the thousands of marchers march and protest against Saddam Hussein? No. Do they protest that he defies the U.N., the international organization they think it is so important that George Bush dare not defy? No. Do they protest Saddam Hussein's obsession to acquire weapons he could use to make the world cower? No. Do they protest governments in Europe, which want to appease him in the same way Chamberlain appeased Hitler? No. Do they protest bin Laden, who wants to use the war against Saddam as a trigger for more terror? No. In fact, in San Francisco, they actually fought with cops, rioted for peace. Fighting for peace.

  • On the February 17, 2003, edition of Special Report, Fox News host and Roll Call executive editor Morton Kondracke said of protesters:

KONDRACKE: And it's curious that they would be supporting a fascist like Saddam Hussein. The only reason that they could be doing that is because they don't like the United States and they don't like war and they don't like a war perpetrated by the United States of America.

Fox News host and Weekly Standard executive editor Fred Barnes also stated:

BARNES: You know, I was struck by how uninformed and morally empty these demonstrations were.

[...]

BARNES: These demonstrators are both morally vacuous, they're stupid, they're disingenuous.

[...]

BARNES: They just don't want a war and they hate the U.S., Mort's right about that.

  • On the February 17, 2003, edition of his show, in response to a guest's statement that the protests were "anti-American rallies," O'Reilly stated:

O'REILLY: All right. I believe there's a heavy strain. I don't think everybody -- And I know everybody -- I think there are some sincere peace demonstrators. I just think they haven't thought it through.

I always say to people who are doing this, remember Vietnam and remember Cambodia. What happened there, OK?

Because for every cause there's an effect, all right?

So you don't want Saddam Hussein removed for whatever your reason may be, but you can't guarantee anybody that this guy, a proven killer, will not turn around and do something very heinous. And then what happens? Are you responsible for that?

  • On the February 17, 2003, edition of Hannity & Colmes, co-host Sean Hannity stated of the protesters:

HANNITY: Had we listened to the appeasement movement, the pacifist movement, the same protesters back then as the ones today, the world wouldn't be a safer place. Why do they even have any credibility based on their failure after failure, historically speaking?

[...]

HANNITY: Steven, by the way, these are Marxist groups. They do organize this thing with very anti-American ideas. I don't believe every anti-war protester is anti-American. I'm not suggesting that.

Hannity also had the following exchange with protester Steven Zunes:

HANNITY: Steven, if you don't be quiet I'm going the turn your microphone down. I was about to ask you a question. When we go to war, do you want America to win?

ZUNES: I don't want there to be a war.

HANNITY: The war is coming. Wait a minute. The minute we go to war, do you want this country to win?

ZUNES: You can no more win a war than you can win an earthquake.

HANNITY: Hey, Steven, so you're not going to support the troops? You're not going to support them?

ZUNES: Pardon?

HANNITY: You're not going to support them?

NEIL DOBRO (Americans Against Terrorism): There are a lot of Afghanis (sic) who think we can win the war.

ZUNES: I opposed Saddam Hussein back in the 1980s when our government was supporting him.

HANNITY: One last question and I've got to break. Why don't I ever hear you anti-war protesters say, Saddam, disarm like you promised. Give up your weapons. Stop killing innocent people. Why do you always attack Bush and not Saddam?

  • On the February 18, 2003, edition of Hannity & Colmes, Hannity stated:

HANNITY: I want to -- you saw the protests over the weekend. Some of the placards on display. "The unelected idiot is going to start World War III." "Bush, stop your terror." "Bush, the baby killer." "Illegally installed, immorally behaved." "Spoiled fascist cowboy." You get the idea.

[...]

HANNITY: And I there's a lot of anti-Americanism and, frankly, there are a lot of anti-Semitic statements in some of the different protests.

During the same segment, co-host Alan Colmes defended the protestors:

COLMES: But let's face it, 100,000 people in New York, San Francisco and Paris, 500,000 in Berlin, 750,000 in London, several million in 55 cities in Spain, including 660,000 in Madrid alone, not all these people are anti-Americans, and many of them have principled views against a war. Let's not paint them all with a broad brush or imply that they're appeasers, anti-American or mean spirited toward the president. Because some of us have a legitimate other point of view.

[...]

COLMES: Dr. Bennett, every time there's an American action that some people object to, the argument for those who are in favor of that action is, you're giving aid and comfort to the enemy. How can one legitimately -- let me just ask you a serious question. How can one legitimately truthfully and principally protest an action that one does not agree with without being called an appeaser, a traitor, or a comforter of the enemy? How can one legitimately do that?

  • On the February 18, 2003, edition of On the Record, Fox News contributor Bill Kristol stated:

KRISTOL: On the other hand, I thought Tony Blair, who had hundreds of thousands of protesters in his own country, had by far the most impressive response when he gave a speech Saturday and said to the protesters, look, where were you when Saddam was killing and torturing tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, leaving more hundreds of thousands of Iraqis to their deaths in wars that he started, wars of aggression that he started. Where were all of the protesters then?

  • On the February 20, 2003, edition of Hannity & Colmes, Hannity said of Saddam Hussein:

HANNITY: He's emboldened by what he sees at the Council and what he sees in the streets of New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and in Europe. Does that mean the anti-war movement is giving him aid and comfort?

  • On the August 26, 2005, edition of Special Report, Barnes stated of anti-war protester Cindy Sheehan:

BARNES: Look, she is entirely the creation of the American mainstream press, entirely. She has no moral standing. She has no political standing. The press has created her. And why have they created her? It's August. They hate Bush. And they've used her as a mascot to get at Bush. It's as simple as that.

  • On the September 27, 2005, edition of Fox News' DaySide, co-host Mike Jerrick asked Gold Star Mothers for Peace founding member Celeste Zappala:

JERRICK: Celeste, let me just jump in quickly here --

ZAPPALA: Sure.

JERRICK: -- because we've had so many people respond to us at DaySide with their emails and phone calls saying that don't you feel like the people who are protesting this war, especially the people we saw down there in D.C. over the weekend, are just giving the terrorists in Iraq and the insurgents in Iraq more hope -- [applause] -- that possibly we're losing will in the United States to continue to battle?

  • On the September 27, 2005, edition of The Big Story, Gibson stated of Sheehan:

GIBSON: You know what all this proved to me? Despite her protest, it wasn't about the war anymore. It isn't about the loss of American lives. It isn't about the question of whether the war was something America need to do or something a politician wanted to do. This was about Cindy.

You know what? I'm interested in the war and the war debate, but I'm not interested in Cindy.

  • On the September 26, 2005, edition of Hannity & Colmes, Hannity stated:

HANNITY: But today in Washington, anti-war mom Cindy Sheehan is back, and she was arrested following a weekend of rallies and protests on the Mall and in front of the White House. Here are some of the sights and sounds from the radical left wing weekend.

  • On the July 27, 2006, edition of The O'Reilly Factor, O'Reilly said of Code Pink co-founder Medea Benjamin's vocal protest during Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki's July 26, 2006, address to Congress:

O'REILLY: OK. Can we send her to Guantánamo, is that possible? I guess not.

MAJOR GARRETT (Fox News correspondent): I'll leave that up to you, Bill.

O'REILLY: All right. Well, if it's up to me, she's -- come on, Major! You don't give her that. Don't give her the Factor tribunal. She'll be swimming with the fishes. Just kidding, of course.

2006 immigrants' rights demonstrations

  • On the March 30, 2006, edition of The O'Reilly Factor, Fox News contributor Michelle Malkin said of the protesters:

MALKIN: It was the far left, the open-borders activists, who were the ones who are the extremists, who were the ones advocating militant ethnic separatism. This is our stolen land. Chicano power. You had folks with Aztlan T-shirts mugging for the cameras in front of city hall. These are people who believe that the American southwest belongs to Mexico, that we don't have a right to enforce our borders, and who do nothing more than try to sabotage our sovereignty.

[...]

O'REILLY: But what did the Mexican flag say to you, Michelle?

MALKIN: Well, first of all, do not buy Dr. Hinojosa's spin. He sounds very reasonable. He sounds very benign, but the kind of quote-unquote "pride" that a lot of these illegal alien activists are touting now goes much further than just being proud about one's heritage and one's roots. The idea, the intellectual underpinnings of reconquista are embraced by the vast majority of mainstream Hispanic politicians, as well as the international --

O'REILLY: How do you know that, Michelle? How do you know that?

MALKIN: Because I've read -- because I've read the history.

  • On the March 29, 2006, edition of The Big Story, syndicated columnist Bob Novak stated:

NOVAK: Where did all these flags come from? Do the young Latinos keep the Mexican flags in their homes?

[...]

NOVAK: I am no hard-liner on immigration who wants to expel 11 million illegal immigrants, but flags are a symbol of national identity. The student brandishing the Mexican flag signals divided loyalty or perhaps loyalty to a foreign power.

  • On the March 29, 2006, edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor, Fox News contributor Juan Williams stated:

WILLIAMS: These kids don't know anything. ... [A] lot of these are poor kids, struggling along in those schools and struggling to gain some sense of identity, so they're going to wave the Mexican flag because they feel somehow they are fighting for Mexicans living in the United States. And they're even going to get into crazy arguments about whether California should truly belong to the Mexico or the United States -- all kinds of stupidity.

But those are kids, Bill. I mean, kids who are -- I mean, they use kids during the civil rights era as demonstrators. The kids know nothing, but at their heart, they feel like they're giving a voice to what their uncles, their aunties, you know, some people who are illegal in this country who may never have a voice against the Minutemen and the far right wing that wants to throw everybody out.

  • On the March 29, 2006, edition of Hannity & Colmes, Hannity stated:

HANNITY: No, no, I think [former President Ronald] Reagan made a mistake, one of the mistakes, because he's my favorite president. But, look, I'm saying, at this point, if we allow people to stay that came here illegally and jumped in front of the line, then we're telling other people to do the same.

Here's what I don't like. I didn't like a lot of these signs. "This is you -- this is stolen land, America." "This is our continent, not yours." If you disagree with the idea of amnesty, you're a racist or anti-immigrant. People holding the Mexican flag up. It seemed to be, in many, many ways, outrages, some of the things that were said and done.

  • On the April 2, 2006, edition of Fox News Sunday, Fox News host Brit Hume stated:

HUME: Especially, Chris, because reasonable Americans are probably having a difficult time finding anybody to root for in this debate. On the one hand, you have, you know, tens of thousands of people demonstrating, waving foreign flags, on behalf of illegal immigration and against the idea that America should enforce its own laws. What a repellent spectacle.

  • On the March 31, 2006, edition of Your World, guest host David Asman stated:

ASMAN: Now, we -- we do -- we're just looking at pictures of San Diego. There is a demonstration going on right now.

At first, we began to see reaction to last weekend's demos, where they all waved Mexican flags. You saw more American flags. Now, we're getting back to the all-Mexican-flag thing. There seems to be an antagonistic edge to these protestors that is just making matters worse. Do you see it that way?

  • On the April 10, 2006, edition of Your World, Asman stated:

ASMAN: But, of course, you know, people in the States listen to the protests and listen to the Spanish going on behind you and think that's -- maybe this is just a cover, maybe they're just trying to cover up the real intention, which is to keep things as normal among illegal immigrants in the country.

Asman also had the following exchange with movie director Ronald F. Maxwell:

MAXWELL: It's been the fastest migration in the history of the world. Twenty-five illegal people (sic) -- remember the ones who are already amnestied -- 25 illegal people -- 25 million since 1990. You can't find this in the history of the planet. The result is the Southwest will fall away. At some point, ethnically, demographically, those people will say, "This belongs to Mexico. We're the northern province of Mexico." They're already saying it.

ASMAN: You think we're going -- you think we're going to lose states as a result of this?

MAXWELL. I think that 20, 30 years from now, we will be looking back at this period. This will be the watershed. And we have to decide now -- this -- I don't -- this is not immigration. This is an invasion. This is a future annexation, a satellite state north of the Rio Grande. We have to decide --

ASMAN: But Ron, let me just ask you, are they going to secede from the Union, these states in the Southwest?

MAXWELL: Well, the mere fact that we're talking about this, why should we have this as a possibility? Why are we creating the conditions where 15 and 20 years from now, who knows what'll happen? Do we want a separatist movement like what's going on in Canada with Quebec or a separatist movement like the Basques?

ASMAN: Ron, I've got to ask you -- I've got to ask you -- we only have about 20 seconds. What do your Hollywood friends think about your views?

  • On the April 10, 2006, edition of Your World, Asman stated:

ASMAN: Should they be American citizens or convicted felons? Across the country, illegal immigrants are protesting to stay in this country. We are live in the nation's capital, where demonstrators are gathering right now at the National Mall, on the streets of New York City as well, and also in Phoenix, where protestors are flying American flags today.

With so many illegals hitting the streets, is this the perfect time to round up these lawbreakers and ship them out? We're gonna debate it.

  • On the May 1, 2006, edition of Westwood One's The Radio Factor, O'Reilly stated:

O'REILLY: And then there's the hardcore militant agenda of "You stole our land, you bad gringos." This is the organizers of these demonstrations: "The border -- we didn't cross the border, the border crossed us." That is their slogan. That you stole our land, and now, we're going to take it back by massive, massive migration into the Southwest. And we're going to control those places, because you stole it from us, and that's the agenda underneath.

Other demonstrations in support of progressive positions

  • On the March 17, 2006, edition of The O'Reilly Factor, O'Reilly stated:

O'REILLY: In the "impact" segment tonight, once again this year, a gay person, New York City Councilwoman Christine Quinn, wanted to march in the St. Patrick's Day parade under a banner proclaiming her sexuality. And once again, she was denied, because the parade honors a saint and the Irish heritage and has nothing to do with anybody's sexuality. Such a display is deemed to be inappropriate.

The question: Why doesn't Ms. Quinn and others who support her wise up? Why don't they understand that?

[...]

O'REILLY: Well, they can come out on the Gay Day Parade or the Halloween parade. They have plenty of opportunities to do that. This is a saint. Don't you feel that that is inappropriate?

GLASS: Well, when you put it that way, I can see your point of view.

O'REILLY: Well, I'm glad you can, because I'm getting nervous. If you -- if Christine Quinn, who's Irish, and I like Christine Quinn, if she goes to a baptism, doctor, if one of her nieces or nephews are baptized, a baby, you don't walk into the church in the baptism with "I'm queer" on your shirt. It's inappropriate. It's a sacrament.

[...]

O'REILLY: Right. Look, if Christine Quinn wants to go to a party after the parade and celebrate her gayness, her Irish gayness, whatever gayness she's happy about --

GLASS: Right, right.

O'REILLY: I don't have a problem with that. OK?

GLASS: Right.

O'REILLY: And there are plenty of opportunities for her to do that. But in the context of what the parade is, you don't see heterosexuals going out there proclaiming what they do in private. It doesn't happen. So what I'm trying to sell everybody, including you, is that the more this stuff happens, the worse it is for people who are proud to be homosexual.

[...]

O'REILLY: Right. But I don't want these people intruding on a parade where little children are standing there, watching. And then they have to go mommy, "What does that mean?" OK? You have your holiday. You have your Gay Day parade. You have your Stonewall celebration. You have your Halloween deal, OK? You don't need this. Now you understand my point.

GLASS: Yes.

O'REILLY: I think 95 percent of the people watching me understand my point, but there are five who don't or won't. Is that a neurosis?

  • On the March 17, 2006, edition of his radio show, O'Reilly stated:

OK, so you're not going to do that. And good. That's the right thing to do. Context is everything. You know, I mean -- and then the parade leaders say, what are we next to have Irish prostitutes marching under their banner? You know, Irish hookers, here we are. Hey, ladies and gentlemen, after the Marist College marching band, we have the Irish prostitute contingent from Nevada. There they are, Tessie O'Shea and the girls. Making good money out there in the money ranch.

You know, come on, it's ridiculous. Nobody's barring anybody from marching in the St. Patrick's Day parade, but what does your sexuality have to do with St. Patrick? Believe me, he doesn't want to hear about it.

  • On the May 19, 2006, edition of The Big Story, Gibson stated:

GIBSON: It's Friday, and we are instituting a new service here on The Big Story. We are looking for the person or persons deserving special attention as our "Nitwit of the Week."

Monday, Boston College will have its commencement, and graduates will gather to hear an address from Dr. Condoleezza Rice, the United States secretary of state. She is arguably the highest-ranking African-American woman in the three centuries or so that African-American women have been present here. She is the secretary of state of the most powerful nation on earth. She is discussed regularly as a candidate to be president of the United States.

Yet, 200 or so students at Boston College, along with some professors, will be protesting her presence at the college, protesting especially the school conferring upon her an honorary degree. Why? The students say they object to her presence because she doesn't represent their values. An adjunct professor and part-time novelist named Steve Almond actually quit over her appearance, saying in his resignation letter that he and others object to her because she is a liar. As far as the professor goes, I spoke to him on my radio show until he hung up on me, and the college should consider his resignation good riddance.

When it comes to the students, we have to consider some facts. These are students whose parents have paid upwards of $1,000 a week for them to be in school. They have lived protected and sheltered lives. They didn't suffer an attack on 9-11. They haven't fought the wars that followed. They have virtually no experience in life except for what happened before they left home and what happened when the college professors got hold of them.

Condoleezza Rice helped free more women in Afghanistan and Iraq than anybody has ever freed in the history of man. She is playing a major role in a solution to the war in Darfur. Condi Rice doesn't represent their values. I should say not, since their values seem to be intolerance, closed-mindedness, and the cocksuredness of youth that allows a college student to pass high-minded judgment on a secretary of state.

  • On the March 2 edition of his Fox News show, Hannity stated:

HANNITY: All right, take a look at the protesters carrying forth the legacy of Gandhi and Martin Luther King -- shivering in the snow as they protest the Earth's rising temperature as a foot of snow falls. Now, maybe it's just a coincidence that nearly every global warming protest occurs on the exact same day that we have a major snowstorm, or maybe the big guy up there is trying to send a message to these people. We report; we'll let you decide.

  • On the March 2 edition of Special Report, Hume stated:

HUME: Well, you have to give those global warming activists credit for pluck. Not only were they were protesting warming temperatures in a city going through its coldest winter in recent memories -- a city in the midst of a snow emergency and sub-freezing temperatures -- they were also doing so on a planet that has seen no average warming for the past 10 years. But climate change alarmists are not easily fazed.

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