Tea Party Confessions: “There Would Not Have Been A Tea Party Without Fox”

In a May 22 New York magazine article, Tea Party Express founder Sal Russo boasted that “there would not have been a tea party without Fox.” Indeed, Russo is correct: Media Matters has extensively documented Fox News' relentless promotion of the Tea Party Express.

“There Would Not Have Been A Tea Party Without Fox”

Russo: “There Would Not Have Been A Tea Party Without Fox.” A May 22 New York magazine profile on Fox News chairman Roger Ailes, headlined, “The Elephant in the Green Room,” featured a quote from Tea Party Express founder Sal Russo. Russo stated: “There would not have been a tea party without Fox.” [New York, 5/22/11]

Indeed, Fox News Hopped On Board The Tea Party Express

Fox News “Hop[ped]” Aboard Tea Party Express With Rampant Promotions, Live Coverage. On August 28, 2009, Fox News devoted live coverage and publicity to the kickoff of the Tea Party Express. Fox News' coverage followed numerous promotions of the tour on Fox News, Fox Business, Fox Nation, and FoxNews.com. [Media Matters, 8/28/09]

Fox News' Embedded Reporter Jenkins Touted Tea Party Express. Despite his claim to be “simply reporting” on 2009 Tea Party Express rallies, Fox News correspondent Griff Jenkins, who traveled with the cross-country bus tour, repeatedly expressed support for the protesters, whom he referred to as “the America that Washington forgot.” [Media Matters, 9/2/09]

Tea Party Express Highlighted Fox News Coverage To Raise Money. In another fundraising email to supporters, the Tea Party Express highlighted Fox News' coverage while soliciting donations, writing that “CNN and Fox News have confirmed they will be covering the launch of the 'Tea Party Express II: Countdown to Judgment Day' -- and other national networks are arranging to cover the tour as well.” [Media Matters, 10/20/09]

“Back By Popular Demand”: Fox News Promoted Tea Party Express II. During the October 25, 2009, edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends Sunday, co-host Dave Briggs hosted then-Tea Party Express co-chairman Mark Williams and Tea Party activist Lloyd Marcus, introducing them by stating: “Well, the bus tour that took the country by storm is back by popular demand. The Tea Party Express kicks off its second national tour today in San Diego, California.” Briggs invited Williams -- who was a known birther -- to plug the organization's website and closed the interview by a playing portion of Marcus' “Tea Party Anthem.” [Media Matters, 10/25/09]

Fox Nation Promoted The “Tea Party Express II.” Fox Nation promoted the Tea Party Express II, asking readers, “Will You Join the Tea Party Express II?” Fox Nation also advertised the tour's start date and planned stops. [Media Matters, 10/13/09]

Tea Party Express Praised “Great Television News Coverage” From Fox News And CNN. In an email to supporters, the Tea Party Express praised “some of the great television news coverage this effort has received. Media coverage is an important aspect of the Tea Party Express tours -- it's all about getting our message out to millions of Americans -- to inform them that there is an active political resistance against the socialist agenda of Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid.” [Media Matters, 11/17/09]

Fox Highlighted “Major Grassroots Support” Of Fox-Promoted Tea Party Express II. In October 2009, Fox Nation and Fox News both promoted the kickoff of the “Bigger & Better” Tea Party Express II. Tea Party Express' Mark Williams appeared on the November 12, 2009, edition of Fox & Friends to discuss the conclusion of the Tea Party Express II tour. Co-host Gretchen Carlson noted that the tour “focused on small town U.S.A.,” while Steve Doocy lauded the tour for its “major grassroots support.” [Media Matters, 11/2/10]

Fox Provided Unending Coverage Of Tea Party Express III Kickoff Rally, Along With Its Keynote Speaker. Fox News provided all-day coverage of the March 27, 2010, kickoff rally for the Tea Party Express III bus tour, with the network's hosts and on-site reporter Casey Stegall frequently praising the rally's participants. At one point, Fox aired a graphic of the bus over the text, “Conservative Woodstock?” Fox provided live coverage of the event's keynote address -- given by Sarah Palin. [Media Matters, 11/2/10]

“Party On!” Fox Relentlessly Promoted October 2010 Tea Party Express Tour IV. Despite News Corp. chairman and CEO Rupert Murdoch's statement that he doesn't think Fox “should be supporting the Tea Party,” Fox News and Fox Business relentlessly promoted the Tea Party Express, devoting numerous segments to the launch of its October 2010 tour -- the fourth such tour -- as well as hosting its chairman for softball interviews. [Media Matters, 4/8/10, 10/19/10]

Consultant Proposed The Express, Saying It Would “Give A Boost To Our PAC,” Highlighted Possible Friendly Coverage From “Fox News Commentators.” Following the April 15, 2009, Tea Parties, Joe Wierzbicki, a senior associate with the GOP consulting firm Russo Marsh, proposed creating the Tea Party Express bus tour in order to “give a boost to our PAC and position us as a growing force/leading force as the 2010 elections come into focus.” Wierzbicki also wrote in the original memo proposing the creation of the Tea Party Express that the effort could get “some mentions and possibly even promotion from conservative/pro-Tea Party bloggers, talk radio hosts, Fox News commentators, etc...” [Media Matters, 11/2/10]

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 (OCDB), 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. [The Associated Press, 10/17/08; Media Matters, 3/1/10]

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.” [Our Country Deserves Better PAC, accessed 5/23/11, 5/23/11, 5/23/11; National Public Radio, 9/26/08]

OCDB Campaigned For Republican Tedisco. OCDB “campaign[ed]” “on behalf of” Republican New York congressional candidate Jim Tedisco in March 2009 by “broadcasting television and radio advertisements. ... Total ad buy is expected to reach well into the hundreds of thousands by Election Day.” [Our Country Deserves Better PAC, accessed 5/23/11]

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. [Talking Points Memo, 12/28/09]

Other Tea Party Groups Reportedly Accused 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. [The Washington Independent, 10/9/09]

National Precinct Alliance Director Called Tea Party Express A “Republican National Committee-Related Group.” On January 25, 2010, 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.' ” [The New York Times, 1/25/10]

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.” [The Washington Independent, 10/02/09]