Fox News has repeatedly advanced, and in Sean Hannity's case adopted, Rep. Michele Bachmann's (R-MN) false claim that her November 5 House Call protest in opposition of health care reform was "organic" and "spontaneous." In fact, the protest was organized by House Republicans in collaboration with conservative activist groups, and was promoted by right-wing media outlets in advance of the actual event.
Fox News advances false claim that "House Call" protest was "spontaneous," "organic," organized by "word of mouth"
Napolitano does not dispute Bachmann's description of protest as "spontaneous...organic." Appearing on the November 4 edition of Fox News' Glenn Beck, Bachmann asked "real freedom-loving Americans" to come to the steps of the Capitol, and said to guest-host Andrew Napolitano: "Judge, we're going to have a meet-up. And it's spontaneous. It's organic. Just last Thursday afternoon, I had the idea to really kill this bill. We need to have members of Congress see real freedom-loving Americans." After Bachmann pitched the protest, Napolitano said: "Alright. You and I have been at these tea parties. We have each spoken at them. And you know what the fire in the belly is like when freedom-loving Americans hear the words that they want to hear."
Bachmann on Hannity: "[T]his was totally word of mouth. This was nothing that we organized, nothing that we planned. We didn't order one bus, one carload. Nothing." On the November 5 edition of Fox News' Hannity, after registering surprise at the number of people who attended the rally, Bachmann claimed "this was totally word of mouth. This was nothing that we organized, nothing that we planned. We didn't order one bus, one carload. Nothing. Complete word of mouth. And estimates are anywhere between 20 and 45,000 people" attended.
Brent Bozell: Protest was "spontaneous combustion." On the November 5 edition of Hannity, Media Research Center President Brent Bozell responded to Hannity's claim that there was a "huge march on Washington today" by calling it "spontaneous combustion. This wasn't an instant tea party, this was a coffee urn exploding."
Peter Johnson Jr. advances GOP claim of no organization. Discussing the protest on the November 6 edition of Fox & Friends, guest host Peter Johnson Jr. uncritically advanced the claim that the protest came together without planning or organization on the part of GOP leadership, stating "the thing just kind of grew, the Congresspeople claim that there was no organization for it, and it kind of was a word of mouth thing."
Hannity: "This is a last minute thing." On the November 3 edition of The Sean Hannity Show, after guest Mark Levin discussed how "we're hoping to put together a pretty good little rally," Hannity responded by stating, "can I add one thing? I don't want to interrupt you. ...This is a last-minute thing."
In fact, the event was organized in collaboration with prominent Astroturf group
Bachmann worked with Americans for Prosperity on the "House Call" protest. Fox News hosts repeatedly ignored that, despite Bachmann's claim that "[t]his was nothing we organized, nothing that we planned," health care opposition group Americans for Prosperity [AFP] hosted a conference call with Bachmann and RedState.com's Erick Erickson before the protest. A November 4 post on the AFP blog advertised that "Americans for Prosperity will be hosting a conference call with Rep. Michele Bachmann and RedState.com's Erick Erickson tonight (November 4th) at 8pm EST to discuss tomorrow's Congressional House Call Day." The post added, "As the health care debate has drawn on, we've heard from our contacts on Capitol Hill that calls and visits to the members' D.C. and district offices are making a big impact. Americans for Prosperity is joining with Representative Michele Bachmann and many others to drive citizen activists to pay a visit to their member of Congress tomorrow, November 5th, at noon."
Hannity did not challenge Bachmann's claim that there was no busing. On the November 5 Hannity, Bachmann claimed that "[w]e didn't order one bus, one carload. Nothing." In fact, according to their website, AFP organized and ran numerous buses to bring people to the protest. AFP listed free bus rides for supporters in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
Think Progress: Americans for Prosperity staffed the protest, organized buses from multiple states. Think Progress reported that at the protest, there were several AFP staffers organizing the arrival of buses. According to one of those staffers, "We have about 40 buses coming" from multiple states, including New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Maryland.
And, it was aggressively promoted by Fox News days in advance
Beck: "We'll get the word out ... and we'll continue to have you make the pitch for people going to Washington, DC, noon this Thursday." On the November 2 edition of Glenn Beck's radio show, Bachmann stated, "I really believe, Glenn, if we can get good normal patriot, freedom loving Americans to D.C., converge at noon on Thursday on the Capitol steps, and what we need to do is literally go into these members of Congress' offices, look in the whites of their eyes and tell them don't take away my healthcare, don't take away my freedom. Because once government gets this power, Glenn, they can use healthcare as cradle to grave, they can use that as a pretext for controlling every other aspect of our life." Beck stated at the end of the interview, "Michele, God bless you. We'll get the word out and let's have you on a little bit later on this week and we'll continue to have you make the pitch for people going to Washington, D.C., noon this Thursday, and look them in the whites of their eyes." Bachmann again promoted the protest on the November 4 edition of Beck's radio program.
Bachmann: "[W]e began this on Sean Hannity's show." Also during the November 4 Glenn Beck broadcast, Bachmann further detailed her motivations to organize the protest, saying, "what we've done, and we began this on Sean Hannity's show, is just to - the only thing I know to do at this point to kill this bill is to ask and plead for real freedom-loving Americans to come to the steps of the US Capitol tomorrow."
Fox and Friends posts details of the protest on their website. On the November 3 edition of Fox & Friends, two days before the protest, host Gretchen Carlson interviewed Bachmann. Calling the planned protest "the Super Bowl of freedom," Bachmann asked the show's viewers to join her on the steps of the Capitol, and listed guests who were scheduled to show up. While Bachmann was speaking, the on-screen text read: "Thursday reform bill protest planned." At the end of the segment, Carlson told viewers that "people can get more information, they can go to FoxandFriends.com. We'll link it to your website."