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September 8, 2009
12:43 PM

CONTACT: Free Press

Moira Vahey, Free Press, (202) 265-1490 x31

Free Press Calls on Obama Administration to Resist Extremism in the Media

Defends Former Free Press Board Member Van Jones

WASHINGTON - September 8 - Van Jones, an adviser to the Obama administration and a former Free Press board member, resigned from his White House post after being ruthlessly attacked for weeks in a smear campaign started by Fox News pundit Glenn Beck. Beck, who has also called President Obama a "racist," targeted Jones for his background in environmental and civil rights activism.

Josh Silver, executive director of Free Press, issued the following statement:

"Most Americans want affordable health care, good schools and clean air. But if you watch Glenn Beck’s show, you would think the opposite is true: that the only proponents of these ideas are socialist, anti-American radicals operating out of the White House basement.

"At Free Press, our focus is on structural media policy, not on media content. But we take this extraordinary step because what’s happening is so poisonous to American political discourse.

"That Fox News Channel lets Beck use its media megaphone to stir up hatred and fear of others is repulsive, divisive and beyond all common sense or decency. By giving Beck a nightly platform for such McCarthy-esque witch hunts and smear campaigns, the national news network undermines our democracy. But Fox News is not alone. Unfortunately, this kind of rant is endemic to a media system that cares about ratings far more than about the truth.

"Beck has a First Amendment right to stoke prejudice, and we do not and will not support efforts to silence him. This is not about censorship; it’s about sanity. Our leaders have a responsibility to condemn fear mongering in all its forms, defend those who are unfairly attacked, and support a more diverse media system that provides alternative voices to the likes of Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh and other extremists. The lesson from the shameful McCarthy era that culminated in 1954 is that we must confront the politics of personal attack with decency, reason and a commitment to more political speech, not less.

"It's time for our elected officials -- from the White House to local town halls -- to join people across the country in a stand against agents of fear and misinformation."


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