Tax-exempt Media Matters ramps up support for Obama during election year

Vince Coglianese Editorial Director
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President Barack Obama has received a steady drumbeat of support from Media Matters for America as he shifts into campaigner-in-chief mode.

A content analysis by The Daily Caller shows that the tax-exempt liberal messaging organization has steadily committed more of its resources to defending Obama from critical media coverage during 2012.

Between May 29, the day Mitt Romney crossed the delegate threshold to secure the GOP nomination, and June 11, fully 60 percent of the Web articles produced by Media Matters have set out to defend the president.

During the same time frame in 2011, a non-election year, just 39 percent of the group’s online posts mention Obama.

This year, those ever-supportive mentions typically peak between Tuesday and Thursday of each week. The timing and regularity of the spikes in Obama coverage may reflect the group’s publishing schedule, but the focus of those peaks represents an all-in approach to pushing back against critiques of the president.

In recent weeks, peak Obama mentions on the Media Matters website revolved around the issues for which the president has taken the heaviest political fire:

On April 4, Media Matters attacked conservative talkers Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity for accusing the president of “thuggish” behavior when he admonished the Supreme Court to not take the “unprecedented, extraordinary step of overturning a law [Obamacare] that was passed by a strong majority of a democratically elected Congress.”

Commentators across the political spectrum later pointed out that such a move would not be unprecedented. “[T]here is ample precedent for the Supreme Court voiding laws passed by Congress,” wrote FactCheck.org. “In fact, overturning unconstitutional laws has been part of the Supreme Court’s job description for more than two centuries.” (RELATED: Media Matters pulled hard for Hillary Clinton in 2008)

On April 13, Media Matters attempted to deflate conservatives’ uproar over Obama supporter Hilary Rosen’s televised claim that Mitt Romney’s wife, Ann, “never worked a day in her life,” calling the anger a “distraction.” Ann Romney is a stay-at-home mother.

April 18 saw Media Matters rushing to Obama’s aid after musician Ted Nugent made a Secret Service visit-inducing claim that “if Barack Obama becomes the president in November, again, I will either be dead or in jail by this time next year.”

Several audio clips of Rush Limbaugh appeared on the Media Matter website April 24 after Limbaugh dinged President Obama for attempting to bolster federal student loans despite the massive debt already saddling student borrowers. Media Matters also flagged Limbaugh’s criticism of Obama’s role in the killing of Osama bin Laden.

On May 9 and 10, Media Matters went wall-to-wall with praise for the president’s decision to announce his “personal” support of gay marriage, while simultaneously highlighting disappointed reactions from writers who advocated traditional Christian views.

Media Matters accused Breitbart.com on May 18 of being “wildly incompetent” for an exclusive story featuring a promotional pamphlet created in the early 1990s by President Obama’s literary agency — a publication that described Obama as a young writer who was “born in Kenya.”

Fox News was the subject of seven separate May 30 Media Matters articles after the cable channel released a branded video segment that was critical of Obama’s time in the White House.

And on June 7 Media Matters deployed a suite of eight Web articles in an attempt to extinguish the widespread perception that former President Bill Clinton had gone off script from the Obama campaign’s talking points on several occasions. Among other surprises, Clinton told long-time pal Harvey Weinstein, then sitting in for Piers Morgan on CNN, that GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney had a “sterling” record in the business world.

As a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization, Media Matters is not permitted to campaign for or against any candidate for elective public office.

But the rules for such government-approved non-profits are advantageously vague and permissive, and Media Matters has so far avoided publicized federal government scrutiny of its qualifications for an income tax exemption — outside of causing concern among congressional Republicans in February.

Media Matters has used that 501(c)(3) status to wage a declared “war” on Fox News Channel, which the group has referred to as the “de facto leader of the GOP,” and to offer regularly published support to Democrats.

TheDC has reported that Media Matters maintains a close working relationship with the Obama White House.

The Washington Free Beacon reported in May that Media Matters executive vice president Ari Rabin-Havt was overheard at a Democratic donors meeting “bragging about a phone call he had received from Stephanie Cutter, deputy campaign manager for the Obama re-election team.”

Neither Rabin-Havt nor Cutter responded to TheDC’s questions about the specifics of that conversation.

And providing cover for Democratic politicians and social progressives has been part of the group’s portfolio since its beginning.

TheDC revealed in April that David Brock, Media Matters’ formerly conservative and presently liberal founder, applied for his fledgling organization’s tax-exempt status in part to combat conservative Christianity in the United States.

That mission was apparent as the group joined the president in attempting to squelch criticism of his administration’s contraception mandate. That demand forced businesses, including religious institutions, to include contraceptive services in their employee health plans despite widespread religious objection.

Media Matters spokesperson Jess Levin did not respond to requests for comment.

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