It’s obvious journalists think the tea partiers are a dangerous, racist, homophobic bunch of loons. It’s not just wacky MSNBC or the liberal Washington Post spreading this garbage. It’s nearly every major news outlet. Behind them, pulling the strings like Geppetto, is the core of the liberal movement – “progressive” websites, lefty personalities and Democratic politicians all making the same claim.
They are all wrong. In some cases, they are openly lying. In most cases, they are taking hypocrisy to epic levels.
First of all, claims that the tea party movement is made up of dangerous “extremists” are disproven automatically by events. Tea party groups have been around more than a year throwing hundreds or even thousands of protest rallies. Yet, less violence has actually occurred than you might see at an NFL game between rival fans.
Yet, the theme of Tea Party-violence is everywhere. It even led to claims that former Gov. Sarah Palin’s, R-Alaska, used a "threatening" political strategy map. That map was made to take "aim" at 20 congressional races, using crosshairs. Critics were upset by the use of crosshairs to indicate each race. It’s as if the media expect us to forget that journalists use “target” and “aim” in stories all the time or that we live in a nation where 1,740 stores operate under the “Target” name and use a bullseye as a logo. But the media combined Palin's map with Palin’s use of the word “reload” to paint her as a member of the fringe element.
New York Times columnist Paul Krugman called out Palin because he’s afraid of his shadow: “And Sarah Palin put out a map literally putting Democratic lawmakers in the cross hairs of a rifle sight.” MSNBC called it a “Dem Hit-list.”
Reporters could have found a much scarier quote from the campaign, like this one from a Philadelphia visit in 2008: “If they bring a knife to the fight, we bring a gun.” Now that sounds threatening – except it wasn’t Palin or even Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. who said it. That's what then-senator, now-President Obama said on the campaign trail. But because it didn’t fit the media's theme, it was disregarded.
There are ample examples of scary left-wing comments and even left-wing violence. There are countless online instances of liberals calling for Bush’s assassination when he was president – photos of Bush with a target drawn on his photo. O,r even the movie “Death of a President,” which was made about his assassination. I guess that was all in good humor and high art along with the 6.3 million links Google finds connecting Bush and Hitler. Now comparisons of Obama to Hitler are supposed to be over-the-top. Were journalists asleep during all the lefty hatred of Bush?
Then, there’s actual left-wing violence, like the violent protests during the 1999 World Trade Organization conference. The violence got so bad, the media named it “The Battle in Seattle.” There was also left-wing violence at the GOP 2008 convention, turning the event into an armed camp. And there were union thug tactics at the town halls. And former CNN host Lou Dobbs was threatened and a gun was shot at his home.
Any liberal claims to non-violence are long gone. Once you cut that string, all that remains is media's hand-wringing and selective outrage over a few incidents. That doesn’t excuse actual threats to congressmen. But the media act like such threats only come from the right when they don’t. For the best example, let’s take the darling of health care reform Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Mich. Stupak’s complaints about threats and nasty calls were aired in five broadcast news stories after he switched sides in the health care battle.
But before he was for health care reform, he was against it. The calls and threats that time were so intense, he had to disconnect his phone. Total broadcast news stories about that? Zero. Look back at what Stupak told The Hill. “All the phones are unplugged at our house — tired of the obscene calls and threats.” All because he opposed Obama and the Democrats.
Who exactly was making those phone calls? Republicans?
Then there are media complaints about what protesters have said. There’s no doubt out of millions of protesters, a few might have said something inappropriate. If the media treated left-wing protest with the same fine-tooth comb, they’d be shocked by the results. The Democrat's high-profile claims of bigotry and homophobia both don't hold water. Civil rights leader Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., made claims that he heard a racial comment during his trip to the Capitol. But several audio and video tapes don’t confirm it.
Then there were complaints about an anti-gay slur reportedly made to openly gay Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass. This is particularly ludicrous because the media and Democratic members of Congress have been slurring the Tea Party movement with the gay “teabagger” comment for a year now.
The term "teabagger" excited lefties from alleged news personages, like Anderson Cooper, George Stephanopoulos and David Shuster, to Democratic Reps. Maxine Waters, Calif., and Anthony Weiner, N.Y., to a parade of liberal talk show hosts like Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow. Maddow and guest Ana Marie Cox went so nutty, that they used the word “teabag” at least 51 times in a 13-minute long segment of juvenile “teabag” puns.
That’s the common left-wing and media response to ordinary Americans trying to get involved in their nation’s government – abuse and lots of it. After 14 months of a battle where critics were repeatedly demeaned, labeled as racists, told their anger was uncalled for and that their movement was “Astroturf,” or phony grassroots. It’s no wonder they are angry. This, after Democrats told taxpayers Congress might OK a bill without voting on it, though most Americans oppose the bill.
That doesn’t excuse someone threatening violence, or saying “I’m going to kill you.” But people say that all the time without really meaning it. Fans say it to referees, parents say it to children and brothers say it to brothers – all in the heat of anger. That, along with mountainous piles of hate mail, are part and parcel to work in D.C. for both sides.
No one should be threatened for serving this nation. But if Stupak, Frank and others can’t handle criticism and anger, then they are in the wrong business. And if the media can’t handle this war of words as referees, not players, then they should stay out of it entirely.
Dan Gainor is The Boone Pickens Fellow and the Media Research Center’s Vice President for Business and Culture. His column appears each week on The Fox Forum. He can also be contacted on Facebook and Twitter as dangainor.