In wake of Hannity's tea party scandal, Fox's Kristol hypes tea party's Contract from America

Just days after Fox News canceled Sean Hannity's plan to host his show from a tea party event with an admission fee, Fox News contributor Bill Kristol repeatedly promoted the Contract from America, a series of agenda items whose writing was organized by a major tea party organization. Kristol's endorsement is consistent with Fox's heavy promotion of the tea party movement, in spite of News Corp. chairman and CEO Rupert Murdoch's statement that he didn't think the network “should be supporting the Tea Party.”

Bill Kristol: “Go online and look at” the tea party movement's “totally mainstream” Contract from America

Kristol: Tea party movement “has a Contract from America.” On the April 18 edition of Fox News Sunday, Kristol defended the tea party movement, accusing progressives of "[an] attempt to demonize and discredit the movement and not engage it on its ideas. It has a Contract from America."

Kristol: “Half a million people chose these items,” Contract is “totally mainstream.” Later, during the same broadcast of Fox News Sunday, Kristol stated: “And look at the Contract from America. Just go online and look at it. This is their -- half a million people chose these items, totally mainstream, sensible, reformist, limited government -- limited government agenda.”

Kristol: Contract from America is “a very good contract. People should look at it.” Later in the program, Kristol stated, “I think one of the items in the Contract from America, if I can come back to the tea parties one last time -- it's a very good contract. People should look at it -- is tax reform.” Asked about the need for “spending cuts,” Kristol later added, “That's also in the Contract from America.”

Days before, Hannity pulled from tea party event after ethical questions raised

Event caused Fox execs “consternation” due to network's “perceived closeness to... the Tea Party Movement.” Hannity was scheduled to tape his April 15 Fox News show at the Cincinnati Tea Party's (CTP) 2010 Tax Day Tea Party, which required paid admission, with higher prices charged for better viewing of the program and “all proceeds” benefiting CTP. But after journalism veterans raised ethical questions about the arrangement, Fox News executives abruptly ordered Hannity to abandon the plan. The New York Times reported that “The incident caused consternation inside Fox News Channel... over its perceived closeness to the antigovernment Tea Party movement, especially in its highly rated opinion shows.”

Fox News relentlessly promoted the tea party movement

Fox News heavily promoted April 15 tea parties. Fox News heavily promoted and advocated for the April 15, 2009 tea parties, which it characterized as a response to Obama administration policies. Fox News frequently aired segments -- from both opinion and news personalities -- publicizing the protests and encouraged viewers to get involved with them. In many instances, Fox News provided attendance and organizing information, such as dates, locations and website URLs. In early April, Fox News announced that four hosts from the network -- Glenn Beck, Neil Cavuto, Greta Van Susteren, and Hannity -- would appear live at four tea party sites and would broadcast the protests live throughout the day. At one point, Fox News even referred to the tea parties as “FNC Tax Day Tea Parties,” and The Fox Nation also hosted its own “virtual tea party.”

Fox News aired over 100 commercial promotions and over 20 segments in less than two weeks. From April 6 to April 13, 2009, Fox News featured at least 20 segments on the protests, and from April 6 to April 15, Fox News aired at least 107 commercial promotions for its coverage of the protests. On the April 15 edition of CNN Newsroom, media critic and Reliable Sources host Howard Kurtz said, “I don't think I've ever seen a news network throw its weight behind a protest like we are seeing in the past few weeks with Fox and these tea parties.”

Fox News' coverage boosted protests, pushed other outlets to cover. On the April 18, 2009 edition of Fox News Watch, host Jon Scott asked: “Did the FOX coverage and promotion of the coverage, did it force the other networks to pay attention to it?” Then-Fox News contributor Jane Hall replied: “I think it did because the other TV networks ended up leading with it.” Dozens of national and local news reports credited Fox News for publicizing and boosting the protests. Indeed, the Odessa (Texas) American reported of a rally outside Odessa City Hall: “Statements like 'I saw it on Fox' were heard around the crowd.”

Fox News heavily promoted Tea Party Express. Leading up to the August 28, 2009, kickoff of the Tea Party Express -- a bus tour organized by a Republican PAC and dedicated to opposing President Obama and the Democrats -- Fox News, Fox Business, The Fox Nation, and repeatedly promoted the tour, informing viewers of the tea party dates and locations to “they can be a part” of events. Fox News sent two reporters to the Tea Party Express kickoff event in Sacramento, and embedded correspondent Griff Jenkins on the tour, who went so far as to cheerlead for the protests.

Fox News hosts and contributors were scheduled to participate in 2010 Tax Day Tea Party events. Fox News hosts and contributors were slated to participate in more than a dozen tea party events surrounding Tax Day 2010. Host and Fox Business Vice President Neil Cavuto broadcast his April 15 Fox News and Fox Business shows from the Atlanta Tea Party. Hannity was scheduled to tape his April 15 show at a Cincinnati event which would have funneled proceeds to the CTP, but his appearance was canceled amid a firestorm of criticism.

Murdoch: Fox News shouldn't be “supporting the Tea Party”

At an April 7 event at the National Press Club, responding to a question from Media Matters for America's Ari Rabin-Havt regarding Fox News' coverage of the tea party movement, Murdoch stated that he didn't think Fox News “should be supporting the Tea Party or any party” but would like to “investigate” “before condemning anyone.”

Contract from America's “Founding Partners” include major right-wing organizations

Officials with Armey's FreedomWorks, Gingrich's American Solutions “instrumental” in writing of Contract. Kristol suggested that the Contract from America was entirety a creation of grassroots tea party activists. But while the Contract is described on its website as a “grassroots-generated, crowd-sourced, bottom-up” and “decentralized” document whose creation was organized by the organization Tea Party Patriots, many of the Contract's "Founding Partners" are major right-wing organizations, including former House Speaker and current Fox News contributor Newt Gingrich's American Solutions for Winning the Future, former House Majority Leader Dick Armey's FreedomWorks, the National Taxpayer's Union, Americans for Tax Reform, and The Heartland Institute. Indeed, according to the Contract's website:

Adam Brandon, Max Pappas, and Tabitha Hale of FreedomWorks have been instrumental in helping organize and unite a broad-based coalition of grassroots organizations, new media outlets, and public policy experts behind the Contract from America, as have Adam Radman with Americans for Tax Reform, Andrew Moylan with National Taxpayers' Union, Ginni Thomas with Liberty Central, Adam Waldeck with American Solutions, and Lori Roman with Regular Folks United.