Fox hosts GOP-backed Tea Party Express to deny that tea party is "Astroturf"

››› ››› JOCELYN FONG

Fox & Friends hosted Amy Kremer of the Tea Party Express to rebut charges that some of the tea party movement is orchestrated by the Republican Party. Kremer insisted that "this is a true, genuine, grassroots movement," but, in fact, the Tea Party Express was launched by Republican consultants and has been criticized by other conservative activists for its partisan ties to Republicans.

Fox & Friends hosts Tea Party Express' Kremer, who says, "[T]his is a true, genuine, grassroots movement"

From the March 1 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:

GRETCHEN CARLSON (co-host): We're joined by the director of the Tea Party Express Grassroots and Coalition, Amy Kremer. Good morning to you, Amy.

KREMER: Good morning, Gretchen.

CARLSON: As someone so involved with the tea party movement and having heard Nancy Pelosi call you Astroturf before, about six months ago, what was your reaction when you heard her say that she may have some things in common with you?

KREMER: I was shocked. I think most people within the movement are shocked. She's a little delusional. There's not much that she has in common with us. You know, I just -- I can't believe that she would think that she would. She brings up the special interests, and, you know, their ruling with the Supreme Court. Honest to goodness, that's not what we've been focused on.

STEVE DOOCY (co-host): Sure.

KREMER: We've been focused on our core principles and values of fiscal responsibility, limited government, free markets, and most importantly, recently, health care. I don't recall anybody mentioning anything about the special interests lately.

DOOCY: Right. Amy, do you agree with her that some of the tea party stuff is orchestrated by the GOP headquarters?

KREMER: Absolutely not. I'm sure she would like to think so, but it's not. I mean, this is a true, genuine, grassroots movement.

DOOCY: Right.

KREMER: We're not Astroturf. We're not being orchestrated by anyone or anything, and we're going to continue to grow.

But Tea Party Express was launched by Republican consultants

Tea Party Express run by Republican PAC. The Associated Press reported in October 2008 that Our Country Deserves Better PAC, which launched the Tea Party Express, "was formed in August [2008] by California political consultant Sal Russo and former California Assemblyman Howard Kaloogian." As their OCDB biographies note, Russo is a veteran Republican consultant and Kaloogian served as a Republican.

OCDB's mission is to oppose Obama and "Democratic Congress." On its "About Us" page, OCDB states that "we must stand up to Barack Obama and the Democrat-controlled Congress." The PAC also solicits contributions by stating, "Help us fight the Democratic Congress!" NPR reported on September 26, 2008, that OCDB's website then said "it has one objective: to defeat Obama." During the 2008 campaign, the PAC hosted "patriotic, pro-McCain/Palin rallies" to "Stop Obama."

OCDB campaigned for Republican Tedisco. OCDB "campaign[ed]" "on behalf of" Republican New York congressional candidate Jim Tedisco in March by "broadcasting television and radio advertisements. ... Total ad buy is expected to reach well into the hundreds of thousands by Election Day."

TPM: Majority of OCDB spending in recent reporting period "went to GOP firm that created it." On December 28, 2009, Zachary Roth reported for Talking Points memo that "[t]he political action committee behind the Tea Party Express (TPE) -- which already has been slammed as inauthentic and corporate-controlled by rival factions in the Tea Party movement -- directed almost two thirds of its spending during a recent reporting period back to the Republican consulting firm that created the PAC in the first place." Roth further wrote:

Our Country Deserves Better (OCDB) spent around $1.33 million from July through November, according to FEC filings examined by TPMmuckraker. Of that sum, a total of $857,122 went to Sacramento-based GOP political consulting firm Russo, Marsh, and Associates, or people associated with it.

OCDB, which built the Tea Party Express, is essentially a Russo, Marsh creation, as we've detailed. The PAC's site was registered in July 2008 by Sal Russo, the firm's founder. That site also lists Russo as the PAC's "chief strategist." Tea Party Express fundraising emails, sent by OCDB and obtained by TPMmuckraker, come from another Russo, Marsh employee, Joe Wierzbicki.

Other tea party groups reportedly accuse Tea Party Express of being "sham organization" for GOP

Tea Party Express reportedly seen by other conservative activists as "sham organization" pushing "partisan Republican agenda." On October 9, 2009, David Weigel reported for The Washington Independent that other tea party activists see the Tea Party Express as "a scheme for Republican strategists and candidates to take advantage of a movement that was chugging along fine without them":

An argument has broken out, perhaps inevitably, between Tea Party activists and one of the groups that has laid claim to the Tea Party mantle. The self-described grassroots activists in Tea Party Patriots and the American Liberty Alliance see the Tea Party Express as a sham organization, using the political heft of the movement to push a bland, partisan Republican agenda. Privately and publicly, they accuse the Tea Party Express of being an "astroturf" outfit, a scheme for Republican strategists and candidates to take advantage of a movement that was chugging along fine without them.

National Precinct Alliance director called Tea Party Express a "Republican National Committee-related group." On January 25, The New York Times reported that Philip Glass, the director of conservative group National Precinct Alliance, announced that his organization would not participate in the National Tea Party Convention. The article reported: "Mr. Glass said he was also concerned about the role in the convention of groups like Tea Party Express, which has held rallies across the country through two bus tours, and FreedomWorks, a Tea Party umbrella. He called them 'Republican National Committee-related groups,' and added, 'At best, it creates the appearance of an R.N.C. hijacking; at worst, it is one.' "

Meckler of Tea Party Patriots on Tea Party Express: "[T]hey raise money for Republicans." Weigel reported on October 2, 2009, that Mark Meckler, a national coordinator for Tea Party Patriots, said, "Tea Party Patriots are very dissatisfied with the Republican Party -- we have nothing against Our Country Deserves Better PAC, but they raise money for Republicans."

Fox News aggressively promotes Tea Party Express tour

Fox News has aggressively promoted the Tea Party Express tours. Fox News, Fox Business, Fox Nation, and FoxNews.com have promoted the tours, going so far as to cheerlead for the protests and advertise the tea party schedule so viewers "can be a part" of the events. Indeed, a Fox News producer was even caught coaching a crowd to cheer during a stop of the Tea Party Express.

Fox Nation promoting Tea Party Express III. Fox Nation has promoted the third national tour, which begins March 27 in Searchlight, Nevada, and ends April 15 in Washington, D.C.

In turn, the organizers of Tea Party Express have used Fox's coverage for fundraising. The OCDB PAC used Fox News' coverage of its Tea Party Express to fundraise in a July 29, 2009, email.

Posted In
Health Care, Health Care Reform
Network/Outlet
Fox News Channel
Person
Steve Doocy, Gretchen Carlson
Show/Publication
FOX & Friends
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