Media Matters soon became more sophisticated in its campaigns against non-liberal cable news anchors. Lou Dobbs, then of CNN, was a frequent target.
“As part of the Drop Dobbs campaign,” explains one internal memo prepared for fundraising, “Media Matters produced and was prepared to run an advertisement against Ford Motor Company on Spanish Language stations in Houston, San Antonio, and other cities targeting its top selling product, pick-up trucks, in its top truck buying markets.”
Ford pulled its advertising from Dobbs’s program before the television ad aired, but Media Matters kept up its efforts, working primarily with Alex Nogales of the National Hispanic Media Coalition, and with the League of United Latin American Citizens, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund and other self-described civil rights groups.
In November of 2009, Dobbs left CNN. “We got him fired,” says one staffer flatly.
“Certainly Media Matters deserves a lot of credit for the work they did,” Nogales said in an interview. “They’re very effective.”
Glenn Beck, the former Fox News Channel host, drew the ire of a wide spectrum of liberal groups while his program aired nationally. But according to several people who watched the process from the inside, it was Media Matters that orchestrated much of the opposition to Beck.
“We called it ‘fingerprint coverage,’” explains one former staffer, “where you know it was the result of your work.” As an example, he cites the left-wing group Color of Change, co-founded by the controversial former White House “green jobs” czar Van Jones, which received much of the credit for pressuring advertisers to drop their sponsorship of Beck’s show. But in fact, he says, Media Matters developed the campaign that cowed Beck’s sponsors.
Media Matters, according to its 2010 tax filing, gave a $200,000 grant to Citizen Engagement Laboratory, Color of Change’s parent group. The purpose of the grant, according to the document, was for a “campaign to expose Glenn Beck’s racist rhetoric in an effort to educate advertisers about the practices on his show.”
High profile though these victories against conservatives were, Media Matters has perhaps achieved more influence simply by putting its talking points into the willing hands of liberal journalists. “In ‘08 it became pretty apparent MSNBC was going left,” says one source. “They were using our research to write their stories. They were eager to use our stuff.” Media Matters staff had the direct line of MSNBC president Phil Griffin, and used it. Griffin took their calls.
Stories about Fox News were especially well received by MSNBC anchors and executives: “If we published something about Fox in the morning, they’d have it on the air that night verbatim.”
But MSNBC executives weren’t the only ones talking regularly to Media Matters.