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Media Matters Petitions Wallace Over FNC Tax Day and Beck’s “Outrageous Rhetoric”

Media Matters for America plans to send a letter today to Fox News’ Chris Wallace, imploring him to “publicly address recent actions by Fox News personalities that unambiguously cross the line separating news and legitimate commentary from political activism and demagoguery.”

Media Matters takes issue with the “bizarre” antics of Fox News’ Glenn Beck and “FNC Tax Day Tea Parties.” The letter is directed at Wallace, according to Media Matters, because he characterizes “the network as ‘fair and balanced’ and as one that should be taken seriously.”

There is also a petition here.

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 view.”

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”: On 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 have 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.

Sincerely,

Eric Burns
President, Media Matters for America

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