Media Matters, David Brock and the War on Fox News

I had breakfast with Media Matters founder David Brock about 6 months ago to talk about his efforts to strengthen the Democratic party-- efforts that I fully support and believe are necessary.

Brock was compelling in arguing that he would like to see the Democratic Party develop a different, more inclusive message for the 2012 election, recognizing that the Party in large part, had failed in 2010 because they did not present a positive and affirmative case to the electorate-- an argument that I could only agree with.

Brock also made clear that he saw his mission to try to the best of his ability to counteract Republican fundraising efforts, that had frankly exceeded in substance and sophistication, those of the Democrats.

Again, I certainly voiced support for that effort, recognizing that unless there is an even playing field, the Democrats would be adversely impacted, notwithstanding whatever the relative merits of the two party's messages might be.
Brock also made it clear to me that his focus was on the party, and providing and creating a level playing field for it and its advocates, rather than positioning himself as exclusively or even primarily as a media critic.

And the key is level playing field, because Brock made very clear to me that his focus was on the Democratic party, and as a Fox News contributor, he told me explicitly and clearly, it was not his intention or interest in demonizing Fox News.

Indeed, he said that the work of the organization he founded, Media Matters for America, was run by young people, not under his direct supervision, who did things that he found both trivial and not necessarily of any great importance to his efforts.

Indeed, he told me that Mary Matalin had told him that she had been excoriated repeatedly, and that she asked him to check out what she called the "misrepresentations." And I explained that I similarly had been criticized by Media Matters, and felt that they, at the very least, could use their efforts elsewhere.

Brock emphasized again that he was seeking to focus on the Democratic party and rebuilding its plan. He was very believable and I had a sense that Media Matters might change its stripes, or that Mr. Brock might at least pay more attention to what they were doing, given the concern that I voiced. But it doesn't appear that things have changed at all.

When I read C. Boyden Gray's op-ed in Tuesday's Washington Times, complaining about the Media Matters war on Fox News, I had a couple of reactions.

First, I very much hope that Mr. Brock, whom I found a pleasant and engaging man, would focus his efforts in the way he described to me. That he would focus on what needs to be done in the political system, which is to revitalize a Democratic party whose brand is in recession, rather than to focus on what he has apparently has called in other venues a "war on Fox."

Moreover, given that Media Matters gets at least some tax deductible contributions for "educational purposes", it strikes me that this is another instance where taxpayer funds could best be used for other purposes than to encourage internecine warfare between various media outlets.

To be sure, I have no problem with Mr. Brock or anyone else criticizing the Fox News, or anything for that matter. What troubles me is the use of taxpayer dollars to fund what appearsto be either partisan activities, or to engage in internecine media warfare.

Indeed I would hope the result of Mr. Gray's column and my efforts would be that Mr. Brock would either rein in Media Matters, so that it focused only on media education, or to voluntarily eschew whatever tax deduction they have been taking, given that their focus appears to be primarily, if not exclusively, attacking Fox News.

Rather, my feeling is that we need to revisit the tax code so that neither groups like Media Matters, or groups on the right for that matter, enjoy tax exempt status to bash the left or right, or vice versa.

Moreover, I think we also need to end the subsidy for Public Broadcasting Corporation, and use that government subsidy, which runs as high as I believe, as $440 million a year, according to estimates I have seen.

Put simply, the government should be out of the media business. No ifs, ands or buts.

More specifically, for Mr. Brock, I made it very clear to him that I was, and will be, totally supportive of efforts to rebuild the Democratic party and make it centrist, inclusive, with a fiscally conservative, pro-growth orientation that reaches out to independents who have been trending away from the party. He agreed and said he could redouble his efforts in this regard as well.

I guess my hope would be that Mr. Brock would spend less time trying to demonize the right and Fox News, and more time trying to rebuild a party whose image is, at the very least, diffuse and unfocused.

As a Democrat, I think his efforts to demonize Fox News are pointless, counterproductive and detract from his central challenge, which is strengthening and revitalizing the party, which both he and I agree, lacks a clear approach, image, focus and strategy to revitalize America.

And with that, Mr. Brock, will have, as I said to him at breakfast, my full support.

In the demonization of Fox News or other media outlets, it strikes me that it sets a very damaging precedent to have him, or anyone else be able to use so called "educational funds" for such narrow, sectarian purposes.

I hope Mr. Brock will see the light, and use his considerable skills and ability to do something that will strengthen our Democratic system, not make the system more toxic through ad hominem attacks on Fox News, its contributors, or supporters generally.

Douglas E. Schoen is a political strategist and Fox News contributor. His most recent book is "Mad as Hell: How the Tea Party Movement is Fundamentally Remaking Our Two-Party System" published by Harper, an imprint of HarperCollins.