“Conservative Woodstock?” Fox News' all-day promotion of anti-Reid tea party rally

On March 27, Fox News continued its political activism by aggressively promoting that day's Tea Party Express rally, which targeted for defeat Sen. Harry Reid and other members of Congress who support health care reform. The rally was sponsored by a political action committee run by Republican consultants and headlined by Fox News contributor Sarah Palin, whose speech Fox broadcast live.

Fox-promoted Tea Party Express III targets Reid, other health care reform supporters

Tea Party Express wants to “Vote Them Out,' ”tak[e] our country back." TeaPartyExpress.org provides the following “message” for “The Tea Party Express III: Just Vote Them Out! Tour”: “You, the politicians in Washington, have failed We The People with your bailouts, out-of-control deficit spending, government takeovers of sectors of the economy, Cap & Trade, government-run health care, and higher taxes! If you thought we were just going to quietly go away, or that this tea party movement would be just a passing fad, you were mistaken. We're taking our country back!”

Tour will “highlight some of the worst offenders in Congress.” According to its website:

The Tea Party Express national bus tour will host a series of tea party rallies all across the nation, launching from Sen. Harry Reid's hometown of Searchlight, NV on March 27th and concluding in Washington, D.C. on Tax Day - April 15th.

At each stop the tour will highlight some of the worst offenders in Congress who have voted for higher spending, higher taxes, and government intervention in the lives of American families and businesses. These Members of Congress have infringed upon the freedom of the individual in this great nation, and its time for us to say: “Enough is Enough!”

Tour kicks off with “Showdown in Searchlight” targeting Reid." TeaPartyExpress.org bills the March 27 rally as the “Showdown in Searchlight” with "[o]ur first target: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid - he's got to go!" A promotional video for the “Mega Rally” states that “you're invited to help us kick Harry out of the Senate and send him back home for an early retirement.”

Tour is “all about” ensuring that members of Congress who support health care reform lose their seats. In a March 20 post to the Tea Party Express blog, “TPX Admin” wrote of health care reform legislation, “If they defy the American people, defy our Constitution, and push this bill through, then we will make sure they lose their seats in Congress. That is exactly what the 'Tea Party Express III: Just Vote Them Out' national tour and the 'Showdown in Searchlight' are all about."

At Fox, “all eyes on Searchlight, Nevada” for Tea Party Express kick-off rally

Fox & Friends promotes “huge day for the tea party” as they begin “getting ready to rumble.” On Fox & Friends Saturday, co-host Clayton Morris said it was a “huge day for the tea party... they're firing up, filling up the tanks with gas, 23 states getting ready to rumble.”

On Fox, “all eyes on Searchlight, Nevada today” for kick-off of Tea Party Express III. On Fox & Friends Saturday, co-host Dave Briggs reported that “thousands of tea partiers are descending on Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's hometown,” adding that “they're kicking off a massive new tour across the country to protest against Democrats who voted for health care reform.” During the segment, radio host Michael Graham -- who is listed as a special guest for the April 14 Tea Party Express rally in Boston -- said that the tea partiers are “fighting for fundamental American values, and they are not going to quit.” Briggs concluded the segment by stating “all eyes on Searchlight, Nevada today.”

Fox & Friends hosts “one of the keynote speakers” to discuss “the message” of the rally. Fox & Friends Saturday hosted radio host Jerry Doyle, “one of the keynote speakers today,” and asked him to discuss “the message” of the rally.

Cavuto previews Fox News' coverage priority for the day. During his health care special Final Diagnosis, Neil Cavuto said of Fox's tea party coverage, “We're going to be going back and forth to Nevada for something that doesn't take place for another five hours.”

Cavuto on protestors: “God bless these folks.” During Final Diagnosis, showing footage of tea party protestors gathering for the rally “four and a half hours from now,” Cavuto commented, “I don't do that for anything. Well, maybe a Cinnabon opening.” He concluded: “God bless these folks.”

Fox's Stegall on rally: “This is going to be a big day.” During Final Diagnosis, Cavuto stated that Fox News would be covering live Fox News contributor Sarah Palin's speech at the rally. Cavuto and Fox News' Casey Stegall, who was on location in Searchlight, discussed how “quite a crowd” had gathered hours before the rally. Stegall said that the rally was targeting Reid, adding that “no doubt a lot of people are calling for his resignation, a lot of people not only in Nevada but across the rest of the country, for that matter, not happy with Harry Reid.” Stegall concluded that “this is going to be a big day.”

Stegall: There is “a real energy that you feel from” the protestors. During Final Diagnosis, Cavuto said that the tea party protestors are “just warming up” in Searchlight, adding that there was a “pretty impressive group thus far.” In a subsequent report, Stegall said that there is “a real energy that you feel from the people who are out here.” Stegall added that “a lot of folks in this country are very upset, and they are not happy about what went down in Washington last Sunday with the passage of this health care bill.” He added that “this is a very grassroots campaign.”

Cavuto hosts Quayle who calls protest the “silent majority” becoming “silent no more.” On Final Diagnosis, Cavuto conducted a phone interview with former Vice President Dan Quayle, who said of the protestors that there had been a “radical expansion of government, and god bless these folks, they're trying to take things into their own hands.” Quayle also said that “instead of being part of what Richard Nixon used to call that silent majority, they're silent no more.”

Fox News asks if rally is “Conservative Woodstock.” Shannon Bream opened the noon ET hour of America's News HQ by stating of the rally, “Organizers are hoping it will be a conservative Woodstock as thousands of tea party activists converge on Harry Reid's small town of Searchlight, Nevada.” Bream also aired the following graphic:

Conservative Woodstock?

During the following segment, Stegall said that the Tea Party Express was “taking this town by storm.”

Bream: “How appropriate” that Tea Party Express tour concludes on “Tax Day.” In a live update on America's News HQ, Stegall said that “this event is the most action Searchlight has perhaps seen ever,” adding that “people from all over the country have converged on this dusty field in the desert to have their voices heard.” After Stegall noted that the bus tour concludes on April 15, “Tax Day,” Bream commented, “How appropriate.”

Fox promotes, lauds “rock star” Palin's keynote address

Palin listed as event's “Keynote Speaker.” TeaPartyExpress.org lists Palin as the “Keynote Speaker” for the March 27 rally.

Fox News breathlessly “Awaiting Sarah Palin's Arrival At Nevada Tea Party Rally.” Teasing coverage of the rally at the top of the 3 p.m. ET hour of America's News HQ, host Rick Folbaum and Jamie Colby agreed that it would be a “very busy hour,” with Folbaum stating that “Palin is expected to take the stage at the bottom of this hour, and we will bring it to you live.” During the segment, the following caption aired:

Awaiting Palin

Folbaum: “How far could today's rally go to stamping the Tea Party as a dominant political force in America?” On America's News HQ, Folbaum preceded Palin's rally speech by asking “how far could today's rally go to stamping the Tea Party as a dominant political force in America, and how real is the Palin effect?” Folbaum also stated that “these tea party folks have been very tough on a lot of Republicans out there, but they love Sarah Palin, don't they?”

Fox airs Palin's speech in its entirety. Fox News aired Palin's entire Searchlight speech. During her remarks, Palin attacked the “lamestream media” for their “lies” about conservatives “inciting violence,” offered an explanation for her prior comment that conservatives should “RELOAD!” not “Retreat,” and repeatedly attacked Reid.

Stegall: Crowd “went wild,” “nuts” at “rock star” Palin's speech. On the 4 p.m. ET hour of America's News HQ, co-host Gregg Jarrett called the rally “the Tea Party flexing its muscles.” Reporting on Palin's speech, Stegall explained the Palin comments for which the crowd “really went wild” and “really went nuts.” Stegall called Palin “the rock star here,” and said that Palin was “no doubt very, very big, she was the big draw of this event.” He concluded that Palin's speech was “why more than 10,000 people have converged on this tiny town, her message very well-received.”

Tea Party Express was launched by Republican consultants, headed by birther

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 and is the national sponsor of Tea Party Express III, “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 campaigns against “Pelosi Democrats.” As part of their effort to “Defeat Pelosi Democrats,” 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.”

OCDB campaigns to “Defeat Harry Reid.” OCBD has initiated a campaign against Reid and is urging people to make contributions to “purchase airtime for our 'Defeat Harry Reid' TV and radio ads.”

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.

Express chairman Williams a birther with history of calling progressives “Nazis.” Mark Williams, the chairman of Tea Party Express, has previously called President Obama and Jimmy Carter “Nazis”; has advanced the discredited smear that Obama lacks a valid birth certificate and referred to him as “Our Half White, Racist President;” and has stated that “people have made up their minds ... that if we vote Democrat, that just hastens the day we disappear in a nuclear holocaust.”

Fox News aggressively promoted previous Tea Party Express tours

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.

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.

Fox News follows pattern of conservative protest promotions

Fox News promoted April 15 tea parties. In the lead-up to the April 15, 2009, tea parties, which the channel repeatedly described as “FNC Tax Day Tea Parties,” Fox News frequently aired segments publicizing and encouraging viewers to get involved with the protests. A Media Matters for America study found that from April 6 to 13, Fox News featured at least 20 segments on the “tea party” protests. A subsequent Media Matters study found that from April 6 to 15, Fox News aired at least 107 commercial promotions for its coverage of the April 15 tea parties.

Fox News promoted health care disruptions. Fox News promoted disruptions of Democratic town hall events by protesters opposed to health care reform -- protests that are being touted by Republican leaders and supported by conservative groups. Following the August 2 disruption of a town hall event hosted by Sen. Arlen Specter (D-PA) and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, Fox News personalities repeatedly lauded such protesters and urged viewers to take similar action.

Fox News promoted 9-12 protests. In the lead-up to the 9-12 protest, Beck's website worked with others organizing the September 12 “March on Washington” and he repeatedly encouraged viewers to attend the protest. Fox News also heavily promoted the Tea Party Express tour -- the final stop of which was the 9-12 protest -- on Fox News, Fox Business, the Fox Nation, and FoxNews.com.