Stop the presses – or should I say the video satellite uplinks. With health care off the docket, the media is clamoring to identify the next big story to misconstrue and sensationalize. And it looks like they found it.
Today on Fox News, Megyn Kelly preceded the airing of a shocking audio recording that she described as her “top story.” The recording was of a phone message left on the answering machine at FreedomWorks, the AstroTurf sponsors of the Tea Party movement headed by former Republican House Majority Leader Dick Armey. The message said in part:
“I just need to know what the percentages of people that are mentally retarded who work for the organization.”
The caller, as it turns out, was Lance Baxter (aka D.C. Douglas), a voiceover actor who has done some work for GEICO Insurance. The prank call was brief and not particularly noteworthy. Baxter conceded on his blog that it was “stupid” and ultimately lowered him to the level of the Tea Baggers.
However, Fox News had a different assessment of the news value of this incident. They plucked the story up from Andrew Breitbart’s BigGovernment blog and featured it both on air and on the Fox Nation website. In doing so, they got the story all wrong. Note the caption to the graphic posted by the Fox Nationalists: “Is the Geico Lizard a Tea Party Crasher, Too?”
The problem here is that the voice of the GEICO gecko, Ricky Gervais, had nothing to do with any of this. Baxter had done some voiceovers for GEICO a couple of years ago wherein he introduced celebrities speaking on behalf of real GEICO customers. But anyone relying on Fox to report this exposÃ© would have come away with the wrong impression of Gervais. Apparently, when Fox picked up this scoop from Breitbart, they regurgitated it errors and all, not bothering to verify the story or perform even the most minimal duties of responsible journalists. Why would they, they’re Fox?
As a consequence of his ill advised messaging, Baxter has been terminated by GEICO. This seems to be a bit of an overreaction to a private citizen exercising his right to free speech. But the outcry from right-wingers complaining to GEICO that this affront was unforgivable led to Baxter’s dismissal. Ironically, the very same right-wingers applaud far worse behavior by the likes of James O’Keefe and Jason Mattera. Those childish offenders are featured contributors to Breitbart’s website and are regularly syndicated to Fox. FYI: in the case of O’Keefe, the term offender is especially appropriate in that he was recently arrested on felony charges (later reduced to misdemeanors) for falsely representing himself as a telephone technician to the staff of Louisiana senator Mary Landrieu.
To compound the embarrassment that Fox and Breitbart ought to feel (but certainly do not), when this story appeared on BigGovernment it was accompanied by yet another depiction of President Obama as Hitler. The picture was altered to include the GEICO gecko, but otherwise had no bearing on the story. I guess they are just so desperate to make the Nazi association that they’ll attach it to anything regardless of whether there is a substantive connection.
And the cherry on top is actually on the bottom and to the right. The very article about how terrible GEICO is for employing the Tea Party basher has an ad for GEICO immediately adjacent to the Hitler/Obama picture. Which just proves once again that commerce trumps everything. And with that in mind, it would be a great corporate coup if Progressive Insurance were to hire Baxter and feature him in their ads. It couldn’t be a better fit given the name of the company and the fact that the Tea Bag Pope, Glenn Beck, calls progressives a cancer on America.