When Fox News Attacks: The Assault On Media Matters [Updated]

[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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12 thoughts on “When Fox News Attacks: The Assault On Media Matters [Updated]

  1. Mark: as you’ve no doubt noticed, MM has been running poorly lately (slowness and sometimes crashing) as has happened in the past. What’s the likelihood of nefarious sources sabotaging the operation?

    • I haven’t noticed that. Try clearing your cache or rebooting. And after that, curb you conspiracy theories. 😉

      • Stop!! Excellent reporting on the subject Mark, but Daphne is not delusional. The Media Matters site has been experiencing problems that go beyond “clearing cache”. I’m not a conspiracy theorist, but the Media Matters site in recent days often has the look of a site that’s been hacked (A computer geek friend would refer to this appearance as “cobweb”. I have no f****** idea why, but Dapne’s observation is quite reasonable.

  2. “file tax status complaints against the Tea Party”

    Nevermind that, the megachurches are where the money is.

  3. Fox not News is a political organization! It is as plain as can be that this is a fact and not someone’s opinion. The rest of the msm needs to be all over this and inform their public what is so obvious to any objective observer. They want Media Matters’ tax exempt status taken away? Fox should have all pretense of it being any kind of news organization taken away! They do not employ any sort of journalistic standards or practices in their endeavors. They are a joke and a disgrace! The WH should take away their press credentials and have them removed from the WH press room. That would be a good start. In addition no democrat or progressive should ever appear on any of their shows.


  4. Can’t help but think about what the repercussions with the FEC and IRS might be if FOX came out of the political closet…

  5. “…Fox likes to pretend that it is a news enterprise…”

    It is.

    Mark likes to pretend that he is running a website that has any credibility. Now that is a knee-slapper.

    • At least Mark sticks to facts to make his arguments.
      Can’t say the same about Fox.
      Not even close.
      And no,they are not a “News” enterprise,they are GOPTV.
      On your way now.

  6. I’m always pretty amused by the fact that Republicans call recordings of them “attacks,” as if they are so outraged that what they say can be used against them.

    Though, to be blunt… I think it’s all for nothing, anyways. I’m usually not so cynical, but anyone who was that offended by hypocrisy or flip-flopping or lying left the Republican party long ago.

    There is no amount of “look, here’s (x) saying something last week, and here’s him saying the complete opposite, this week!” That will EVER, EVER change their minds.

    The Republicans left, either don’t mind being lied to, want to be lied to, or believe the lying and hypocrisy is simply an acceptable strategy to win.

    So, I really think Media Matters is just.. preaching to the choir, pretty much.

  7. Think of all the waste of our moneys… how many people and man-hours will it take to sort through all these complaints? There must be some procedure to check up on and file them?

    The IRS status is not some democratically elected one. Either they qualify or they don’t. More complaints does not change that qualification.

    Maybe Faux is upset because this can work on its advertisers. If they see enough people boycotting their products, they may want to pull ads from a show or channel. This is true if it’s “Family Guy”, “South Park”, “The Daily Show”, Oxygen, CNN or Fox… and this is our commercial system at work.

  8. I like how they state that “somebody” set up a web site to beat up on Media Matters.

    Wonder who this “somebody” is?

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