Media Research Center: Coverage of Tea Parties is disparaging and biased

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In honor of tax day, the Media Research Center (MRC) is releasing a report on how the press ignored, then disparaged the Tea Party movement. MRC, a conservative watchdog group, analyzed every mention of the Tea Party on ABC, CBS and NBC morning and evening newscasts, as well as on Sunday talk shows. The group produced a report aimed to coincide with Tea Party protests on April 15.

House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs once called Tea Partiers members of an “astro-turf” — rather than grassroots — movement (but that was before Scott Brown won Ted Kennedy’s Senate seat). And the networks more or less agreed.

The report details Tea Party trashing over the past year — including an analysis of major Tea Party events and how they were received. MRC quotes pages of remarks, for example:

  • CNN anchor Anderson Cooper cracked vulgar jokes about “tea-bagging” with resident political analyst David Gergen (Cooper apologized a few days later).
  • Over on MSNBC, Keith Olbermann derided the Tea Partiers as racists — “a bunch of guys who are just looking for a reason to yell at the black president.”

The report tallies of the number of times Tea Party events were mentioned. One chart includes overall volume of coverage; another breaks down the percentages of different affiliations within the Tea Party, showing that most participants are female. The majority of Tea Party coverage has come in the first quarter of 2010, despite the Tea Party’s rise in 2009.

Here are some highlights from the report cheat sheet:

  • Miniscule Coverage
    • ABC, CBS and NBC aired a mere 61 stories or segments about the Tea party over a 12-month period despite the movement’s demonstrated political force
    • Another 141 items included brief references to the movement
    • Networks virtually refused to recognize the Tea Party in 2009 (just 19 stories) with coverage increasing only after Scott Brown’s election in Massachusetts
  • No Comparison to Liberal Protests
    • The Nation of Islam’s “Million Man March” in 1995 was featured in 21 evening news stories on just the night of the march – more than the Tea Party received in all of 2009
    • The anti-gun “Million Mom March” in 2000 was preceded by 41 broadcast network reports heralding its message with a dozen positive pre-march interviews w/ organizers and participants
    • This promo favor was never granted to the Tea Party
  • Smeared as Extreme Racists
    • After the Sept. 12, 2009 rallies, networks suggested the Tea Party was an extreme or racist movement (see report for examples)
    • 44% of network stories (27 out of 61) suggested the movement reflected a fringe or dangerous quality (see report for examples)
    • Network reporters strained to protect left-wing causes (such as the anti-war movement)  from the outrageous acts of individual protesters, but no such effort was made for the Tea Party

Read the full 16-page report here.

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