[Update July 1, 2011] Fox News continues to hype this issue. They have run numerous stories on air by James Rosen, Steve Doocy, and Bret Baier, many of which include instructions and appeals to file an IRS complaint against Media Matters. Fox Nation has bumped the story to the top of their page all week, including the IRS link. See below for new action items.]
[June 29, 2011] In case you haven’t noticed, Fox News has recently initiated a sustained assault on the media watchdog group, Media Matters. In the past week they have featured numerous stories with the express purpose of challenging the group’s right to exist.
This latest batch of complaints stem from comments made last March by Media Matters founder, David Brock. He was quoted in Politico as saying that the organization was shifting its focus toward Fox News to one of “guerrilla warfare and sabotage.” Under those circumstances it may not be surprising that Fox has taken up a barrage of criticism aimed at Media Matters. It seems only fair that Fox defend itself from such an overt declaration of war.
The only thing that might refute that perspective is – reality.
Fox News began this war long ago with aggressive and false assertions that cast Media Matters as hacks, anti-American, violent, and communist. They alleged that George Soros was pulling their strings long before Soros ever made any contributions the group. Fox stalwarts like Bill O’Reilly and Glenn Beck engaged in rhetoric so hostile that it inspired actual physical attacks against Media Matters and their progressive allies. So if this is war, it is one wherein Fox is the aggressor.
Another thing that makes this blitzkrieg unseemly is that Fox likes to pretend that it is a news enterprise. While Media Matters has as its mission to monitor the press, report their findings, and take actions to improve the state of the media, Fox is over-stepping ethical boundaries in becoming an activist enterprise targeting ideological foes. That is not the role of legitimate journalism.
The most recent line of attack by Fox is that Media Matters has violated the terms of their tax-exempt status by setting their sights on Fox. They quote from the rules governing non-profits that state that…
“…501(c)(3) organizations are absolutely prohibited from directly or indirectly participating in, or intervening in, any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for elective public office.”
On the basis of that criteria, Fox News argues that Media Matters is in violation and should have their tax-exempt status revoked. That’s an interesting argument because it implies that attacks on Fox News qualify as opposition to political campaigns and/or candidates. Without that stipulation there is no violation on the part of Media Matters. So Fox is, in effect, admitting that they are a political operation. Shocking, I know.
If Fox wants to acknowledge that they are not a news network, but a political entity, and change their name to the Fox Republican PR Agency, then I would be willing to call on Media Matters to lay off. Absent that, Fox should drop this inane pretense and go back to pretending they are a news network.
Even if Fox were to come out of the propaganda closet, Media Matters would still be in the clear because the non-profit prohibition is explicitly related to campaigns and candidates. While Fox is obviously promoting both on behalf of their conservative pals, Fox itself is neither.
What makes this even worse is that Fox is not merely retaliating to what they regard as attacks on them. Fox is actively participating in a campaign to shut Media Matters down by challenging their tax status. On Fox Nation they posted an article that was nothing more than an appeal to their readers to file complaints with the IRS. The article’s headline says it all: “Want to File an IRS Complaint Against Media Matters? Click Here.” And after posting that article, Fox anchor Steve Doocy made this announcement on his morning show Fox & Friends:
“Somebody has set up a web site and we have linked it, actually, at FoxNation.com. If you go down about half way down you’ll see that logo. If you want to file a complaint with the IRS against Media Matters because you feel they have gone political, they have abandoned their initial quest, then go to that site and go ahead.”
Not only is that a waste of time, because of the reasons stated above that prove the complaint has no merit, it is also unethical. Has anyone ever heard of a news enterprise directing its viewers to file official complaints against another organization that it regards as an enemy? If NBC were to instruct its viewers to file tax status complaints against the Tea Party because its leaders attack the network, would the folks at Fox News consider that acceptable?
Of course not. Fox would regard that as unethical, outside the jurisdiction of a news network, and deliberate harassment. Which is exactly what it is when Fox does it, and it is exactly what Fox is doing.
[Take Action] Fox News is dishonestly attacking Media Matters and harassing them through an organized effort to barrage the IRS with complaints. However, they have no problem with their right-wing allies, like the Media Research Center, who do precisely the same thing that Media Matters does. Therefore, if anyone is interested in filing a complaint against MRC, feel free. Here is the Complaint Form (pdf) and some of the information you’ll need to include.
Media Research Center – A right-wing group that runs Cybercast News Service (CNSNews.com), a conservative news site; NewsBusters.org, a blog devoted to media criticism; the Business & Media Institute, which promotes conservative economic principles; and the Culture and Media Institute, which promotes traditional values in the media. They are funded by the Scaife family, the Koch brothers, Coors, Exxon Mobil, and DeVos (Amway).
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