UPDATED: Fox & Friends Falsely Portray WI Protesters As “Violent”

Fox & Friends used a video of Wisconsin protesters confronting a GOP state senator to attempt to portray the protesters as a “violent” “mob”, while also advancing the falsehood that Gov. Walker “campaigned on” ending collective bargaining. In fact, the video shows no evidence that violence occurred during the incident, prompting the photographer who shot the video to slam Fox's coverage as “a genuinely dangerous narrative that Fox News is helping to create.”*

Fox & Friends Falsely Claims “Violent” WI Protesters “Attack[ed]” Grothman

Kilmeade: Protesters Got “Restless And, Dare I Say, Violent.” On the March 3 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, co-host Brian Kilmeade introduced a segment on a Republican Wisconsin lawmaker, Sen. Glenn Grothman, being heckled by a chanting crowd of protesters by falsely claiming the protesters were “getting restless and, dare I say, violent.” Co-host Steve Doocy claimed that, “If you put yourself in [Grothman's] shoes...it's absolutely scary.” Doocy later claimed, “When you look at that and all the incivility there, you realize that to these people, elections have no consequence, mean nothing.” During the segment, the on-screen graphics repeatedly referred to the “angry” protesters as “violent” or “attack[ing]” Grothman. From Fox & Friends:

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[Fox News, Fox & Friends, 03/03/11]

Kilmeade: “A Mob Of Protesters Ambush A Republican State Senator In Wisconsin.” Teasing an upcoming segment with Grothman, Kilmeade claimed “a mob of protesters ambush[ed]” Grothman “who wants to go to work.” [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 03/03/11]

Kilmeade Again Claims Grothman Was “Ambushed By A Mob Of Protesters.” Later in the show, Kilmeade again teased Grothman's segment by claiming he was “ambushed by a mob of protesters.” [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 03/03/11]

Doocy, Grothman Continue To Portray Protesters As Violent. Later on Fox & Friends, Doocy introduced a segment with Grothman by claiming he was “chased by a mob of protesters outside the capitol building.” Doocy first asked Grothman, “Where was your security?” and later, “Were you scared?” Later in the segment, Doocy claimed, “There is a double standard. If Republicans surrounded a democrat lawmaker and did stuff like this, do you think it would be a big story?” Doocy ended the interview by asking Grothman if he is “going to have security if [he] need[s] it” and telling Grothman to “stay safe.” [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 03/03/11]

In Fact, There Is No Evidence Of Violence On The Video

Twelve-Minute Long Video Shows No Violence Occurred. The video, which was shot by Wisconsin area photographer Phil Ejercito, show that Grothman was heckled by protesters, but no violence occurred. In fact, at one point during the video, a protester can be heard to shout “don't touch him” and at another, the protesters chanted “peace” and “peaceful.” [YouTube, 03/01/11]

Grothman Himself Claimed “He Didn't Think He Was Ever In Any Real Danger.” The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that, Grothman “told the [Cap Times] he didn't think he was ever in any real danger.” From the Journal Sentinel:

Grothman downplayed the situation and told the paper he didn't think he was ever in any real danger.

“I really think if I had had to, I could have walked through the crowd and it would have been okay,” he told the Cap Times. “They're loud, they'll give you the finger, and they yell at you, but I really think deep down inside they're just mostly college kids having fun, just like they're having fun sleeping with their girfriends on air mattresses. That's the guts of that crowd.” [Journal Sentinel, 03/02/11]

Grothman Called Protesters “Good People” And Noted That He Was Not Scared. During his interview on Fox & Friends, Doocy asked Grothman if he was scared by the protesters. Grothman responded “Not really, because I think most people are basically good people. I mean, they've been running around the capitol for over a week now, chanting, blowing their horns, pounding their drums.” [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 03/03/11

Photographer Slams Fox's Coverage As “Establish[ing] A Fictional Narrative”

Photographer Phil Ejercito: I condemn the use of my work to distort the truth about the spirited but non-violent protests here in Madison. In a statement to Media Matters, Phil Ejercito, the local photographer who shot the footage of Sen. Grothman being heckled by the crowd, said he “condemn[ed] the use of my work to distort the truth about the spirited but non-violent protests here in Madison,” calling it a “a genuinely dangerous narrative that Fox News is helping to create.” From Ejercito's statement to Media Matters:

It sickens me to see the truth so willfully distorted. In deciding to release this video, I considered how it would be used, but I (perhaps naively) believed that the facts in the video would speak for itself - the people of Wisconsin are angry, Senator Grothman got a well-deserved ribbing, the Walker administration's lockdown of the Capitol is misguided, and Representative Hulsey acted honorably. It is simply astounding that the same faction of the right-wing that would claim that torture in Abu Ghraib was “fraternity hazing” would equate heckling as a “violent attack.”

Let there be no ambiguity: I condemn the use of my work to distort the truth about the spirited but non-violent protests here in Madison. I believe that this is a genuinely dangerous narrative that Fox News is helping to create... I am deeply disturbed to consider that my work is being misused to establish a fictional narrative of violence by the working families of Wisconsin, and I encourage people to watch the entire clip on YouTube for themselves to understand the full context and decide for themselves what truthfully took place. [Media Matters, 03/04/11]

Doocy Falsely Claims Walker “Ran On The Platform That He Was Going To Address Collective Bargaining”

Doocy: “The Governor Ran On The Platform That He Was Going To Address Collective Bargaining.” On Fox & Friends, Doocy claimed that “to [the Wisconsin protesters], elections have no consequence. Mean nothing. Keep in mind, in that state, the governor ran on the platform that he was going to address collective bargaining and all the other stuff and that's what he did. And yet, look at what's happening there right now.” [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 03/03/11]

Doocy Again Falsely Claims Walker “Made It Very Clear” That Collective Bargaining Was “One Of the Things He Was Going To Address.” Later on Fox & Friends, during an interview with Grothman, Doocy claimed that “all these people with the signs, the horns, the whistles, apparently they weren't paying attention to the fact that there was an election this past November and the message in the fact that Scott Walker became the governor, he had made it very clear, this is one of the things he was going to address. Collective bargaining. And the unions.” [Fox News,Fox & Friends, 03/03/11]

In Fact, Walker Did Not Campaign On Ending Collective Bargaining

PolitiFact: Walker Did Not Campaign On Ending Collective Bargaining. On February 22, PolitiFact Wisconsin gave a “false” rating to Walker's claim that he campaigned on his budget proposals, including curtailing collective bargaining:

In the turbulent wake of his controversial plan to sharply curtail collective bargaining rights, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker has faced criticism that he gave no warning of such a dramatic plan during the long 2010 governor's race.

Walker has forcefully challenged that contention, most bluntly at a Feb. 21, 2011 news conference. A reporter asked if the move to limit union power was payback for pro-union moves made by Democrats in the past.

“It's not a tit for tat,” Walker responded. “The simple matter is I campaigned on this all throughout the election. Anybody who says they are shocked on this has been asleep for the past two years.”


Let's sum up our research.

Walker contends he clearly “campaigned on” his union bargaining plan.

But Walker, who offered many specific proposals during the campaign, did not go public with even the bare-bones of his multi-faceted plans to sharply curb collective bargaining rights. He could not point to any statements where he did. We could find none either.

While Walker often talked about employees paying more for pensions and health care, in his budget-repair bill he connected it to collective bargaining changes that were far different from his campaign rhetoric in terms of how far his plan goes and the way it would be accomplished.

We rate his statement False. [PolitiFact Wisconsin, 2/22/11]

*This item has been updated after Media Matters received a statement from Ejercito regarding Fox News' use of his video footage. Some text in the item has been changed accordingly.