“Terrorists!” “Racists!” “Mass murderers!” For five years, the Tea Party has been the American media’s favorite target. The crime? Pushing back against ObamaCare, the $787 billion stimulus and Big Government. Tea Partiers attacked so many decaying liberal beliefs that it looked like a “Walking Dead” episode.
From the Feb. 27, 2009, launch, Tea Party protests grew from more than 40 cities to a political force around the nation and in Washington. Journalists labeled the Tea Party “homophobic,” “wingnuts” and many things far worse. The media tried to link Tea Partiers to the attack on then-Rep. Gabrielle “Gabby” Giffords, D-Ariz., and the Aurora theater shooting.
On Tax Day, April 15, 2009, CNN’s Susan Roesgen flipped out and called the Tea Party: “anti-tax,” “anti-CNN” and “not really family viewing,” and she said the event was “highly promoted by the right-wing conservative network Fox.”
One Washington Post headline went so far as to claim: “Tea Party has roots in the Dallas of 1963” – yes, 46 years before the Tea Party was even born, it was helping kill JFK. Oliver Stone where are you?
Both CNN and MSNBC made sport of the fact that “teabag” has a street sexual meaning.
On Tax Day 2009, CNN’s Anderson Cooper snarked about the GOP finding its voice: “It’s hard to talk when you’re teabagging.”
By contrast, the media lionized the Occupy Wall Street movement, though Occupiers openly called for revolution. They even marched down the street carrying banners with that battle cry, or sometimes communist flags or the black flags of anarchy.
According to OccupyArrests.com, there have been 7,765 arrests of that group, ranging from rape to assaults on police, vandalism, rioting and arson. Five Cleveland Occupiers were even arrested in a bombing plot.
The Tea Party events that were almost universally peaceful never received the same kind of positive coverage. Instead, Tea Partiers were often treated like Hezbollah by a media embracing liberal talking points at every turn.
Take, for example, ABC’s irresponsible attack on the Tea Party following the July 20, 2012, massacre in Aurora, Colo. Gunman James Holmes killed 12 people and injured 58, but ABC investigative reporter Brian Ross used the tragedy to score points against the Tea Party.
The very next day, “Good Morning America” host George Stephanopoulos enticed viewers by saying Ross had “found something that might be significant.” According to Ross, a Jim Holmes of Aurora, Colo., had joined the Tea Party. He added that “we don’t know if this is the same Jim Holmes.”
“Don’t know” was a horrific understatement. In his zeal to bash the right, it turned out Ross was completely wrong. ABC had to release an apology, but it never did so on air. And the Tea Party got blamed on national TV for mass murder.
Ross wasn’t alone. New York Times Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman had tried a similarly irresponsible tactic back in 2011, when he blamed the attack on Rep. Gabby Giffords on … the Tea Party.
“We don’t have proof yet that this was political, but the odds are that it was. She’s been the target of violence before,” Krugman wrote, adding that Giffords had been “on Sarah Palin’s infamous ‘crosshairs’ list.” Krugman’s Nobel clearly wasn’t the Peace Prize.
Naturally, if Tea Party people were potential mass murderers, they had to be “terrorists.”
A pair of New York Times columnists deployed the term just two weeks apart in 2011. Joe Nocera said: “You know what they say: Never negotiate with terrorists.” In his piece on Aug. 2, he went on to accuse the Tea Party of having “waged jihad on the American people” and having worn “suicide vests.”
That comment merely refined the far-worse attack by Thomas Friedman on July 26. “If sane Republicans do not stand up to this Hezbollah faction in their midst, the Tea Party will take the GOP on a suicide mission.”
The New York Times doesn’t even call Hezbollah a terrorist group. On Feb. 19, 2014, it used the phrase, “Iranian-backed Lebanese militant group Hezbollah.” This is the very same Hezbollah that killed “220 Marines and 21 other service personnel” with a truck bomb in 1983, according to CNN. To many journalists, the only way to get called a “terrorist” in the U.S. is to be a Tea Partier.
That level of venom is reserved for those you fear the most. There is no other group in America that journalists fear more than the Tea Party. Five years later, the movement stands strong. That’s a reason to party – tea or not.
Dan Gainor is the Media Research Center's Vice President for Business and Culture. He writes frequently about media for Fox News Opinion. He can also be contacted on Facebook and Twitter as dangainor.