The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Erikka Knuti
(202) 756-4135
Brandon Hersh

(202) 471-3205

Culture of Conservative Paranoia Running Rampant on Fox News

Media Matters issues open letter to Chris Wallace calling on him to address Fox News' recent extremist rhetoric and political activism


Today, Media Matters for America President Eric
Burns issued an open letter to Fox News
host Chris Wallace -- who has repeatedly characterized Fox
News as "fair and balanced" -- asking him to rebuke his colleagues
for their increasingly extremist rhetoric and promotion of anti-Obama
"tea parties." These
actions have gone way over the line separating news and commentary from
political activism and demagoguery.

Since his
January debut on the network, Glenn Beck has emerged as a prominent purveyor of
misinformation and baseless attacks on President Obama and his
administration's policies. Beck has gone as far as to act out a scene in
which President Obama poured gasoline onto the "average American"
and threatened to set him on fire
here: Additionally, Fox News has aggressively
promoted tea party protests, while often characterizing them as a response to
President Obama's fiscal policies. The network has aired graphics
branding the protests as "FNC Tax Day Tea Parties" and has
repeatedly encouraged its viewers to participate.

Burns' letter to Wallace states in part: "[A] series of recent events ... undermines the argument that
Fox News should be treated as a credible 'fair and balanced' news
outlet. ... We trust that you are concerned about the effect of these
actions on your network's reputation and that of everyone associated with
it and urge you to denounce them as inappropriate for a news


Dear Mr. Wallace:

We are writing to respectfully ask you to publicly address recent
actions by Fox News personalities that unambiguously cross the line separating
news and legitimate commentary from political activism and demagoguery.

As one of Fox News' most visible hosts, you have repeatedly
characterized your network as "fair and balanced" and as one that
should be taken seriously. However, a series of recent events -- referenced
below -- undermine the argument that Fox News should be treated as a credible
"fair and balanced" news outlet.

You have criticized your Fox News colleagues in the past when they have
undermined your network's credibility. In March 2008, when you confronted
the Fox & Friends hosts for
distorting then-Senator Obama's words during what you described as
"two hours of Obama bashing," you said that "one of the
things that's great about Fox News is that we don't all follow talking points
and we disagree about things." Following that incident, you said
that "we really are, despite the sniffing or dismissals of our liberal
critics, 'fair and balanced' at Fox News" and added that your
news network does not "espouse" a "conservative point of

Since launching his Fox News show, Glenn Beck, who has emerged as a prominent player in
your network's lineup of weekday programs, has engaged in increasingly
outrageous, demagogic, and conspiratorial rhetoric. His recent actions include
the following:

  • Imitating
    President Obama pouring gasoline onto the "average American":
    April 9, Beck responded
    to, among other things, reports that Obama will pursue immigration reform
    by imitating Obama pouring gasoline onto the "average American."
    After lighting and extinguishing a match, Beck asked: "President
    Obama, why don't you just set us on fire?" Beck remarked that
    "[w]e didn't vote to lose the republic" and later added:
    "We'd like to have a country left in the end of four years. No need
    to set us on fire."
  • Mocking
    Obama's aunt's "limp":
    On April
    2, Beck -- using a
    cane as a prop --
    devoted large portions of a segment to mocking
    Obama's aunt's "limp."
  • Portraying
    Obama and Democrats as "vampires":
    On March
    30, Beck portrayed
    Obama and Democrats as "vampires" "going after the blood of our
    businesses" and suggested "driv[ing] a stake through the heart
    of the bloodsuckers."

Beck's outrageous and distasteful actions laced with anti-Obama political demagoguery
has not occurred in a vacuum. In recent weeks, Fox News has engaged in anti-Obama political activism by aggressively promoting
the "tea party" protests, which the network has described as
primarily a response to Obama's
fiscal policies. Fox News has repeatedly aired graphics describing
the protests as "FNC TAX DAY TEA PARTIES" and has run advertisements
promoting them.

Fox News websites have listed
information about upcoming tea parties and have touted them with slogans
like "No Taxation Without Representation!" Fox News' purportedly objective daytime
news shows have also engaged in this behavior, with America's Newsroom going so far as to air graphics
touting the date, time, location, and website of specific tea parties. On April 13, host Bill
Hemmer said:
"Can't get to a tea party? Fox Nation hosts a virtual tea party."

We trust that you are concerned about the effect of these actions on
your network's reputation and that of everyone associated with it and
urge you to denounce them as inappropriate for a news organization.


Eric Burns

President, Media Matters for America

Media Matters for America is a Web-based, not-for-profit, 501(c)(3) progressive research and information center dedicated to comprehensively monitoring, analyzing, and correcting conservative misinformation in the U.S. media.