When suicide pilot Andrew Stack flew his plane Thursday into a Texas building that houses the IRS, killing himself and injuring at least two others, a number of media outlets immediately connected the words of his online suicide letter to those of the Tea Party movement — despite any evidence that Stack has ever been involved in the movement.
That’s something Levi Russell, spokesman for Tea Party Express, called “absurd.”
The Washington Post’s Jonathan Capehart wrote that he was “struck by how [Stack’s] alienation is similar to that we’re hearing from the extreme elements of the Tea Party movement.” New York Magazine wrote, “a lot of his rhetoric could have been taken directly from a handwritten sign at a Tea Party rally.”
It plays right into the Tea Party narrative that the traditional media sources are out to get them.
Ryan Hecker, a Houston Tea Party activist at the Conservative Action Political Conference in Washington, D.C., said such treatment is just another example of how the mainstream media is trying to “marginalize” the movement.
Russell said the media “will seize upon any examples to say you’re irrelevant, or racist, or crazy.”
“Still to this day, no major media outlet has ever engaged the Tea Party movement on the issues,” he said. “It has always been about rhetoric and personal attacks.”
Suzanne Guggenheim, an organizer of a North Houston Tea Party Patriots group, said she’s “not surprised someone would try to find a way to make us look like a bunch of crazy people.”
“I think this is a clear proof of it one more time,” she said.
Asked about how she perceives the media’s coverage of Tea Party groups, she said at first, it appeared they were “pretty much trying to ignore us,” putting “a blanket of silence over whatever we’re doing.”
“I think they have found that is not working, so they’re trying another way which is trying to marginalize us — to demonize us,” she said. “That’s the second leg of the attack.”
“It’s a shame,” she said.
But there’s no doubt the media is paying attention to the movement.
At the National Tea Party Convention in Nashville earlier this month, organizer Mark Skoda said more than 120 outlets asked to cover the convention.
The Tea Party’s wariness of the media, however, were on full display. Even reporters from the Tennessean — the local paper of Nashville where the event was held — were barred, presumably because of their coverage of the event. And at the end of an interview with reporters on the convention’s hallways, Skoda warned a Newsweek reporter to “be fair.”
Conservative newsman Andrew Breitbart also fired up the Tea Party crowd there in a speech against the mainstream media, blasting its coverage of the movement and of the James O’Keefe arrest wiretapping story and famously saying about the media that “It’s not your business model that sucks, it’s you that sucks.”