O'Reilly Can't Find The “Shadowy Figures” Behind The Tea Party

Bill O'Reilly made the argument to Fox News contributor Laura Ingraham that there are no “shadowy figures ... behind the tea party,” unlike with progressive movements, which have “guy[s] like Soros and these MoveOn people” with “so much power behind the scenes.” In fact, the tea party movement has been heavily funded by rich individuals such as the oil magnate Koch brothers.

O'Reilly Says There Are No “Shadowy Figures” Behind The Tea Party

O'Reilly: “There Aren't Any Shadowy Figures ... Behind The Tea Party.” During a segment on The O'Reilly Factor, Fox News contributor Laura Ingraham explained that “the far left is very active” and “very much funded by people like Soros and others.” O'Reilly agreed, claiming that "[t]here aren't any shadowy figures, that we know about anyway, behind the tea party pulling those chains." From the show:

INGRAHAM: As surveys have shown, when you go down the list of -- just stick to economic topics, the tea party seems to be much more in line with where most Americans are on a variety of points, whether it's the growth of government or responsibility and spending. And the far left is very active, and as you pointed out, they're very much funded by people like Soros and others. And there is targeting, whether it's Fox News, or other conservative websites, or talk radio. But we have the people, I think, more with us, and people just want more responsibility, personal responsibility, government responsibility, so they can scream and yell as much as they want.

O'REILLY: That's a good point. There aren't any shadowy figures, that we know about anyway, behind the tea party pulling those chains. You know, it disturbs me that a guy like Soros and these MoveOn people, and all of that, have so much power behind the scenes. It's disturbing. [Fox News, The O'Reilly Factor, 7/27/11]

The Tea Party Is Heavily Funded By Koch Brothers

The New Yorker's Mayer: Koch Brothers Gave Money To " 'Educate,' Fund, And Organize Tea Party Protesters," Helping “Turn Their Private Agenda Into A Mass Movement.” In an August 30, 2010, New Yorker article, Jane Mayer wrote that Americans for Prosperity , a foundation established by David Koch, “has worked closely with the Tea Party since the movement's inception” and “helped turn [the Koch brothers'] private agenda into a mass movement.” From Mayer's article:

Americans for Prosperity has worked closely with the Tea Party since the movement's inception. In the weeks before the first Tax Day protests, in April, 2009, Americans for Prosperity hosted a Web site offering supporters “Tea Party Talking Points.” The Arizona branch urged people to send tea bags to Obama; the Missouri branch urged members to sign up for “Taxpayer Tea Party Registration” and provided directions to nine protests. The group continues to stoke the rebellion. The North Carolina branch recently launched a “Tea Party Finder” Web site, advertised as “a hub for all the Tea Parties in North Carolina.”

The anti-government fervor infusing the 2010 elections represents a political triumph for the Kochs. By giving money to “educate,” fund, and organize Tea Party protesters, they have helped turn their private agenda into a mass movement. Bruce Bartlett, a conservative economist and a historian, who once worked at the National Center for Policy Analysis, a Dallas-based think tank that the Kochs fund, said, “The problem with the whole libertarian movement is that it's been all chiefs and no Indians. There haven't been any actual people, like voters, who give a crap about it. So the problem for the Kochs has been trying to create a movement.” With the emergence of the Tea Party, he said, “everyone suddenly sees that for the first time there are Indians out there -- people who can provide real ideological power.” The Kochs, he said, are “trying to shape and control and channel the populist uprising into their own policies.”

A Republican campaign consultant who has done research on behalf of Charles and David Koch said of the Tea Party, “The Koch brothers gave the money that founded it. It's like they put the seeds in the ground. Then the rainstorm comes, and the frogs come out of the mud -- and they're our candidates!” [The New Yorker, 8/30/10]

New York Magazine: The Kochs' Americans For Prosperity “Has Certainly Not Shied Away From Joining Arms With The Tea Party.” An August 2010 New York magazine article reported that "[David] Koch denies being directly involved with the tea party." But the article later reported:

Koch's critics, however, say he's being coy about his tea-party connections. “David Koch likes putting his name on all his things that aren't evil,” says Lee Fang, a blogger for the liberal Thinkprogress.org. “He'll put his name on his theater at Lincoln Center, but look at the Americans for Prosperity website and his name is virtually missing. All of his groups have used these same tea-party tactics before they actually had the tea-party brand.” Americans for Prosperity, AFPF's political arm, has certainly not shied away from joining arms with the tea party. In April of last year, AFP took credit on its website for helping to organize Taxpayer Tea Party rallies in Sacramento, Austin, and Madison, and told visitors to “save the date” for National Tea Party Tax Day in Washington, which AFP would be hosting.

Koch's detractors also like to point out the irony of the so-called grassroots tea-party movement's being funded by a billionaire. Koch's real motives, they say, are self-serving. In April, Fang posted a dossier on Koch that attributes to his groups a decades-long pattern of “Astroturfing”-funding movements designed to look grassroots, but which in fact represent corporate interests. Richard Fink insists that Koch's political activity is about principles, not money. “I view David as a courageous American who has a set of beliefs that he's willing to support consistently over time despite all the flak he gets,” Fink says. “Very few people would do that.”

On October 3 of last year, at the Crystal Gateway Marriott hotel in Arlington, Virginia, Koch spoke from a podium at the Defending the American Dream Summit, a convention put on by Americans for Prosperity Foundation. The convention had brought out 2,000 attendees and an impressive roster of speakers from the right, from Senator Jim DeMint to Newt Gingrich to the Wall Street Journal's John Fund. There was little doubt as to Koch's importance to the group. “Right from the beginning,” said AFP president Tim Phillips, “it was David's vision that launched our organization.” Then Koch took the microphone. “When we founded this organization five years ago,” he said, “we envisioned a mass movement, a state-based one, but national in scope, of hundreds of thousands of American citizens from all walks of life, standing up and fighting for the economic freedoms that have made our nation the most prosperous society in history.” Though the words tea party did not escape his lips, the image he invoked sounded quite familiar as he discussed the vision he shares with his brother Charles. “Thankfully,” he says, “the stirrings from California to Virginia, and from Texas to Michigan, show that more and more of our fellow citizens are beginning to see the same truths as we do.”

After Koch's speech, Phillips stood next to him for a roll call, during which each of AFP's 25 state chapters reported on their activities over the past year. To great applause, New Hampshire's AFP representative announced that thanks to his chapter, when President Obama had traveled to Concord, he was forced to change his motorcade route “to avoid the angry mob.” Many others noted among their accomplishments the size of their state's tea-party rallies. “We're proud not only to be the home of peaches and pine trees,” Georgia's AFP representative bellowed, “but also the largest Tax Day tea party in the nation on April 15.” There seemed to be little mystery in the room what AFP was up to. Of course, it's impossible to say what David Koch was thinking at that moment. This much can be said for sure: All six feet five inches of him was standing up and clapping. [New York, 8/2/10, retrieved via Nexis]

Bloomberg TV Special: Koch Brothers “Laid The Groundwork” For Tea Party Rise. In a Bloomberg Television presentation of “Game Changers,” which profiles the Koch Brothers, Bloomberg Washington, D.C. Executive Editor Al Hunt said that Charles and David Koch are very influential, not forthcoming, and “more active than ever.” According to Hunt, the Kochs' “philosophical, personal and political agenda” often overlaps with the “corporate agenda” of their “far-flung energy empire.” Bloomberg promoted the program by describing the Koch brothers this way:

Using their immense wealth to shake up the game of politics, they've spent millions to found and fund think tanks and PACs. Along the way, they've laid the groundwork for the rise of the Tea Party, ensuring that American politics will never be the same. [Media Matters, 6/7/11]

Koch Brothers Retain Access To Tea Party-Supported Candidates Who Won In 2010.

  • FL Governor Rick Scott Recently Attended Koch Brothers Retreat Along With VA Governor, VA Attorney General, And TX Governor. The Miami Herald reported that Florida Governor Rick Scott “acknowledged Tuesday what his staff had refused to disclose: He flew to Colorado over the weekend to attend a secretive policy retreat hosted by powerful conservative donors Charles and David Koch.” The Herald also reported: Also attending the retreat near Vail were Republican Govs. Rick Perry of Texas and Bob McDonnell of Virginia. Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli also attended. [Miami Herald, 6/29/11]
  • WI Governor Scott Walker Took Strategy Call From Someone He Thought Was A Koch Brother During Fight Over Union-Busting Legislation. In February, Scott Walker took a call from someone posing as David Koch and discussed potential strategies regarding the best way to pass union-busting legislation. [The Buffalo Beast, 2/23/11]

Fox Itself Is Yet Another “Shadowy Figure” Behind The Tea Party

News Corp. Chairman And CEO Rupert Murdoch: Fox Shouldn't “Be Supporting The Tea Party.” In April 2010, during an appearance at the National Press Club, News Corp. Chairman and CEO Rupert Murdoch acknowledged that Fox News shouldn't “be supporting the Tea Party or any other party.” [Media Matters, 4/7/10]

But Tea Party Express Founder Said “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 Has Relentlessly Promoted The Tea Party.

  • Media Matters April 2009 Report Found Fox Aired At Least 20 Segments And 73 Promos On Tea Party Protests In Lead Up To Tax Day Protests. In April 2009, Media Matters reported that Fox News had frequently aired segments not only covering tea party protests but encouraging viewers to get involved. An April 15, 2009, study found that from April 6-13, Fox had aired 20 segments and 73 in-show and commercial promotions on the tea party protests scheduled for April 15. Many of those segments aired during one of Fox's supposedly objective news shows, America's Newsroom. [Media Matters, 4/8/09, 4/15/09]
  • Fox News Hosts Attended “FNC Tax Day Tea Parties.” In the days leading up to the “Tax Day” protests, Fox repeatedly aired on-screen text describing protests Fox news hosts would be attending as “FNC Tax Day Tea Parties.” [Media Matters, 4/9/09]
  • Fox's Tax Day Coverage Promoted Protesters' Cause, Urged Viewer Involvement. As Media Matters has previously documented, Fox News and Fox Business also hyped the tea party during its coverage of the “Tax Day” protests on April 15, 2009. Hosts and guests on several shows, including the supposedly objective Happening Now and America's Newsroom, promoted the protesters' cause and urged viewers to join the protests and visit tea party websites. [Media Matters, 4/16/09]
  • 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]
  • Fox News Hosts Participated In More Than A Dozen Tea Party Events. Fox News hosts participated in more than a dozen tea party events during the week of April 15, 2010. [Media Matters, 4/15/10]
  • “Party On!” Fox Relentlessly Promoted October 2010 Tea Party Express Tour IV. Fox News and Fox Business relentlessly promoted the Tea Party Express fourth bus tour, devoting numerous segments to the launch of its October 2010 tour, as well as hosting its chairman for softball interviews. [Media Matters, 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]