While Fox News executives' claim “the channel plays it straight with its daytime news programming,” during coverage of the tea party protests, daytime anchors, reporters, and guests repeatedly promoted and touted the events before and on April 15, often echoing participants' rhetoric.
According to the Los Angeles Times, Fox News "[n]etwork executives vigorously dispute the notion that the channel has a conservative slant. Although its popular prime-time commentators may be largely on the political right, the channel plays it straight with its daytime news programming, they argue." But Fox News' coverage of the April 15 tea party protests dramatically belies its claim to “play[ing] it straight with its daytime news programming.” Fox News and Fox Business daytime anchors, reporters, and guests repeatedly promoted and touted the events before and on April 15, often echoing participants' rhetoric.
For instance, reporting from a protest in Boston, Fox Business anchor Cody Willard stated, “I'm on your side. I'm trying to take down the Fed.” He later added: "[T]his is what we're supposed to be sitting here fighting for." Additionally, according to The Washington Post's Dana Milbank, during a protest in Washington, D.C., Tobin Smith, a contributing market analyst for Fox News and a regular panelist on Fox News' Bulls & Bears, said: “On behalf of Fox News Channel ... I want to say: Welcome to the Comedy Channel of America, Washington, D.C.” Milbank reported that Smith later asked: “You know what 'Fair and Balanced' means? ... 'Fair and Balanced' means we take our message and try to overcompensate for their lack of message.”
Tea party promotion
- On March 24, America's Newsroom co-host Bill Hemmer noted previous protests in Florida and Ohio and directed viewers to the program's website where “there's a list of the nationwide Tax Day tea party events coming up on the 15th of April, which will be a huge deal for those organizations. So check it out online right now.”
- During the April 6 edition of America's Newsroom, Fox News contributor Andrea Tantaros said of the protests: “People are fighting against Barack Obama's radical shift to turn us into Europe.” Fox News also aired on-screen text stating that the “Tea Parties Are Anti-Stimulus Demonstrations.” After the discussion, Hemmer directed viewers to visit the program's website for more information.
- On April 6, Your World host Neil Cavuto said: “By the way, this tea party movement that's going against largesse, it is growing. And folks are fed up with out-of-control spending. To that end, we are going to be broadcasting live from one of the biggest of these rallies on April 15, Tax Day. We are at California's state capitol in Sacramento. This is the epicenter of this tax revolt beast, if you will.”
- During the April 7 edition of America's Newsroom, Hemmer interviewed Felicia Cravens, the organizer of the Houston tea party. While Cravens spoke, Fox News displayed information about the time and location of the protest. At the conclusion of the interview, Hemmer directed viewers to go to the America's Newsroom website for more information.
- On the April 9 edition of Your World, Cavuto mentioned potential state tax increases and asked: "[I]s it any wonder these anti-tax tea parties are taking off?" He later added, "[W]e'll be all over this."
- On April 11, a Fox News tease asked: “Will the press give these anti-stimulus, anti-entitlement protests any positive coverage?”
- On the April 11 edition of Fox News Watch, after stating that Fox News is “gearing up to bring you special coverage of the events all across the country,” Hemmer added: “Can't get to a tea party? Fox Nation hosts a virtual tea party. You can check it out on the site for the location of a tea party in your area. Again, that is Wednesday, the 15th of April.” He concluded: “Plus, our coverage has already begun at FoxNews.com. We've got you covered. We hope you will be with us on April 15.”
Tax day protest coverage
- After displaying tea party t-shirts, Fox & Friends co-host Gretchen Carlson suggested that to show support for the protests, “You could hang [a teabag] from your mirror, too, like fuzzy dice.”
- On America's Newsroom, co-host Megyn Kelly announced that “you can join the tea party action from your home if you go to TheFoxNation.com ... a virtual tax day tea party.”
- On Happening Now, Willard asked, "Guys, when are we going to wake up and start fighting the fascism that seems to be permeating this country?"
- On Fox Business, Willard asked a child: “Are you worried about me stealing your money, dude?” He also asserted that conservatives and liberals are “both fascists who are taking all of my money and building up corporate America with my welfare.”
- On Happening Now, Fox News' John Gibson expressed “hope” that “millions of people” would participate in the protests.
- Also on Happening Now, correspondent Jamie Colby stated: “We're live on 'Taxed Enough Already' -- or tea party -- day.
- Fox Business' David Asman told viewers they “need to go” to a tea party merchandise site “no matter what side of the issue you're on.”
- Additionally, as blogger Jed Lewison noted in a Daily Kos post, reporting on the Fox Business Channel, Cavuto stated of the Sacramento tea party: “They were expecting 5,000 here, it's got to be easily double, if not triple that.” However, moments earlier, before Cavuto went on the air, a microphone caught Cavuto stating to a producer “There's gotta be 5,000” -- not “double, if not triple” that number.
From the April 15 edition of Fox News' Happening Now:
COLBY: Hello, everyone. And happening now all across the country, they're protesters and they're partying like it's 1773. It's anti-tax tea parties. And we wanted to give you a live look at Tulsa, just one of many parties going on in this growing grassroots movement of people that are just fed up high taxes and big government spending.
We're live on “Taxed Enough Already” -- or tea party -- day.