Culture of Conservative Paranoia Running Rampant on Fox News

Media Matters issues open letter to Chris Wallace calling on him to address Fox News’ recent extremist rhetoric and political activism

Washington, D.C.–(ENEWSPF)– Today, Media Matters for America President Eric Burns issued an open letter to Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace — who has repeatedly characterized Fox News as “fair and balanced” — asking him to rebuke his colleagues for their increasingly extremist rhetoric and promotion of anti-Obama “tea parties.” These actions have gone way over the line separating news and commentary from political activism and demagoguery.

Since his January debut on the network, Glenn Beck has emerged as a prominent purveyor of misinformation and baseless attacks on President Obama and his administration’s policies. Beck has gone as far as to act out a scene in which President Obama poured gasoline onto the “average American” and threatened to set him on fire (video available here). Additionally, Fox News has aggressively promoted tea party protests, while often characterizing them as a response to President Obama’s fiscal policies. The network has aired graphics branding the protests as “FNC Tax Day Tea Parties” and has repeatedly encouraged its viewers to participate.

Burns’ letter to Wallace states in part: “[A] series of recent events … undermines the argument that Fox News should be treated as a credible ‘fair and balanced’ news outlet. … We trust that you are concerned about the effect of these actions on your network’s reputation and that of everyone associated with it and urge you to denounce them as inappropriate for a news organization.”

FULL TEXT OF LETTER INCLUDED BELOW:

Dear Mr. Wallace:

We are writing to respectfully ask you to publicly address recent actions by Fox News personalities that unambiguously cross the line separating news and legitimate commentary from political activism and demagoguery.

As one of Fox News’ most visible hosts, you have repeatedly characterized your network as “fair and balanced” and as one that should be taken seriously. However, a series of recent events — referenced below — undermine the argument that Fox News should be treated as a credible “fair and balanced” news outlet.

You have criticized your Fox News colleagues in the past when they have undermined your network’s credibility. In March 2008, when you confronted the Fox & Friends hosts for distorting then-Senator Obama’s words during what you described as “two hours of Obama bashing,” you said that “one of the things that’s great about Fox News is that we don’t all follow talking points and we disagree about things.” Following that incident, you said that “we really are, despite the sniffing or dismissals of our liberal critics, ‘fair and balanced’ at Fox News” and added that your news network does not “espouse” a “conservative point of view.”

Since launching his Fox News show, Glenn Beck, who has emerged as a prominent player in your network’s lineup of weekday programs, has engaged in increasingly outrageous, demagogic, and conspiratorial rhetoric. His recent actions include the following:

  • Imitating President Obama pouring gasoline onto the “average American”: On April 9, Beck responded to, among other things, reports that Obama will pursue immigration reform by imitating Obama pouring gasoline onto the “average American.” After lighting and extinguishing a match, Beck asked: “President Obama, why don’t you just set us on fire?” Beck remarked that “[w]e didn’t vote to lose the republic” and later added: “We’d like to have a country left in the end of four years. No need to set us on fire.”
  • Mocking Obama’s aunt’s “limp”: On April 2, Beck — using a cane as a prop — devoted large portions of a segment to mocking Obama’s aunt’s “limp.”
  • Portraying Obama and Democrats as “vampires”: On March 30, Beck portrayed Obama and Democrats as vampires “going after the blood of our businesses” and suggested “driv[ing] a stake through the heart of the bloodsuckers.”

Beck’s outrageous and distasteful actions laced with anti-Obama political demagoguery has not occurred in a vacuum. In recent weeks, Fox News has engaged in anti-Obama political activism by aggressively promoting the “tea party” protests, which the network has described as primarily a response to Obama’s fiscal policies. Fox News has repeatedly aired graphics describing the protests as “FNC TAX DAY TEA PARTIES” and has run advertisements promoting them.

Fox News websites have listed information about upcoming tea parties and have touted them with slogans like “No Taxation Without Representation!” Fox News’ purportedly objective daytime news shows have also engaged in this behavior, with America’s Newsroom going so far as to air graphics touting the date, time, location, and website of specific tea parties. On April 13, host Bill Hemmer said: “Can’t get to a tea party? Fox Nation hosts a virtual tea party.”

We trust that you are concerned about the effect of these actions on your network’s reputation and that of everyone associated with it and urge you to denounce them as inappropriate for a news organization.

Sincerely,

eric burns signature

Eric Burns

President, Media Matters for America

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Media Matters for America is a Web-based, not-for-profit, progressive research and information center dedicated to comprehensively monitoring, analyzing, and correcting conservative misinformation in the U.S. media. Media Matters for America is the first organization to systematically monitor the media for conservative misinformation every day, in real time. For more information, visit www.mediamatters.org