ACRU Senior Fellow Robert Knight wrote this column appearing on Townhall.com on April 16, 2010.
Driving in to the Tea Party rally on April 15, I was listening to CBS radio news, whose correspondent talked about “the 3,000 people” there and their quaint concerns. His tone was, at best, patronizing.
Perhaps he was talking about an earlier Tea Party Express rally at Freedom Plaza, because the one I saw near the Washington Monument across from the White House was far larger than 3,000, or even the 20,000 at the Capitol last November opposing the health care takeover. This crowd, replete with countless signs, Uncle Sam hats and hundreds of Gadsden “Don’t Tread on Me” flags and T-shirts, was, I estimate, between 30,000 and 40,000—on a weekday evening.
Too bad President Obama was out of town. He certainly came in for a lot of mentions, not all of them favorable. Okay, I can’t actually recall any favorable mentions.
The CBS reporter’s tone came home to me while listening to speaker and New Media mogul Andrew Breitbart explain how the media have smeared the Tea Party movement. First, they ignored them, he said. Then, they carried stories of alleged racist and anti-gay comments at congressmen who walked across the Capitol grounds with Nancy Pelosi and her giant gavel en route to passing the health care takeover.
Breitbart, who runs several Websites including breitbart.com, BigHollywood.com and BigGovernment.com, has offered $100,000 to anyone with video proof of the alleged remarks. “I started at $10,000, and then I realized—they don’t have it. They don’t have any tape,” he said. So he upped it to $20,000, and then to $100,000.
Breitbart noted that the Democrat lawmakers had marched unnecessarily close to the protesters, and that one of them flashed a defiant ‘V’ sign. He said this was a tactic out of the playbook of radical organizer Saul Alinsky, who counseled followers to provoke reactions that could be used to discredit opponents. But curiously, even with heavy media of all kinds and hundreds of cell phones that take video, no one has come up with proof of the alleged offenses.
Now that this ploy has failed, Breitbart said, the next tactic will be to patronize the movement. Instead of Nazi-like bigots, Tea Party folks will be portrayed as essentially harmless imbeciles—which is how the CBS report sounded.
For anyone needing proof of the media’s scandalously biased coverage, the Media Research Center has released a Special Report, “TV’s Tea Party Travesty: How ABC, CBS and NBC Have Dismissed and Disparaged the Tea Party Movement.” Author Rich Noyes notes that the networks ran only 19 stories on the Tea Party movement in all of 2009, with coverage increasing only after Scott Brown’s surprising U.S. Senate election in Massachusetts in January 2010.
Noyes compares that with 41 network stories devoted to the liberal Million Moms anti-gun march in 2000, and to the Nation of Islam’s 1995 Million Man March, which got 21 stories on just the evening of that march alone—more than the Tea Parties drew in all of 2009. The report chronicles the media’s use of terms such as “nasty” and “fringe” and “racial” and “violent” to portray the Tea Party movement as its influence grew.
Other speakers at the April 15 rally included former House Majority Leader Dick Armey, whose group FreedomWorks sponsored the event; Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX); Steve King (R-IA); Louie Gohmert (R-TX); Dailycaller.com co-founder Tucker Carlson; Rep. Tom Price (R-GA); Grover Norquist of Americans for Tax Reform; Andrew Moylan of the National Taxpayers Union and several others. Country-comedy singer Ray Stevens performed several of his new (and funny) anti-government songs, and former “Saturday Night Live” comedienne Victoria Jackson sang a rousing rendition of her ukulele song “There’s a Communist in the White House.”
Before the evening was over at 9 p.m., the crowd had sung “God Bless America” three times, and several speakers, notably Dick Armey, Gay Hart Gaines of the Mount Vernon Ladies Association, and Rep. Michelle Bachmann (R-MN), invoked God as the author of America’s unalienable constitutional rights.
The speakers who most fired up the crowd were Bachmann, who described the current regime in Washington as “gangster government,” Breitbart, anti-global warming advocate Lord Christopher Monckton of Great Britain, and Rev. C. L. Bryant of Louisiana, who capped the evening with a powerful call to arms reminiscent in style to Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech.
He would have brought the crowd to its feet except that by then, everybody was standing.