Media myth: Tea Parties aren’t made up of grassroots protestors; they’re just ‘Astroturf.’
2009 was the year many ordinary Americans said “Enough, is enough” when it came to government bailouts and spending. CNBC’s Rick Santelli called for a tea party in a rant Feb. 19.
Thousands responded, rallying at hundreds of events around the country to protest on April 15 (and on a few later dates). But leading up to that day the networks were nearly silent, with only three passing mentions of the tea parties.
CNN didn’t cover the tea parties ahead of time, waiting until April 15 to report them at all. But CNN’s Susan Roesgen became the story that day after showing contempt for Chicago protesters.
Roesgen rudely interrupted one of the protestors and slammed the event for being “anti-government,” “anti-CNN,” and “not really family viewing.”
After arguing with one man at the protest, Roesgen said, “you get the general tenor of this,” tea party. “Anti-government, anti-CNN since this is highly promoted by the right-wing conservative network Fox and since I can’t really hear much more and I think this is not really family viewing. Toss it back to you Kyra,” Roesgen concluded.
MSNBC took a different tack than the networks’ silence – using the crude sexual term “teabagging” or “teabaggers” to label and mock protesters. On April 9, host Rachel Maddow and guest Ana Marie Cox, and Air America radio contributor, used the word “teabag” at least 51 times in a 13-minutes segment.
But it wasn’t the only word used to attack tea party attendees. MSNBC also condemned the events as “Astroturf,” or fake-grassroots. Liberal columnist Paul Krugman made the same claim in a New York Times column.
Krugman tied the tea party events directly to the GOP in his April 13 column “Tea Parties Forever.” In that column, he questioned the motivation and sincerity of protestors saying, “it turns out that the tea parties don’t represent a spontaneous outpouring of public sentiment. They’re AstroTurf (fake grass roots) events, manufactured by the usual suspects.”
MSNBC explained the turnout of protests by calling them “Astroturf” and claiming that they had been orchestrated by Fox News.