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Anatomy of a Hit Job: NPR Takes Aim at the Tea Party Movement

Posted on January 17 2010 2:30 pm
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NPR journalists behave like gangsters when it comes time to interview Tea Partiers.

NPR’s On Point with Tom Ashbrook has an agenda: Promote and protect Barack Obama.  And like all good statists, Ashbrook filters objective reality through a filter – a template of leftist assumptions, distortions, half-truths, and outright lies.

On Wednesday, January 13, 2010, Ashbrook ambushed two Tea Party activists.  One of the reasons why these particular activists were chosen must have been their inability to clearly articulate the purpose and goals of the Tea Party movement.  Lorie Medina, a leader in the Dallas Tea Party organization, seemed competent enough but completely out of her depth.  Jeffrey McQueen, founder of, came across as an inarticulate, militant nut-case.

Time is money.  In the world of broadcast (or, in the case of NPR, advocacy) journalism, nothing is left to chance.  Ashbrook did not wake up on the morning of January 13 and decide to interview a couple of random Tea Party activists.  Every second of every NPR broadcast is carefully planned and scripted, from the opening monologue to the closing segue to the next day’s broadcast. Medina and McQueen were deliberately selected.  They met NPR’s preconceived notions of Tea Partiers as dim-witted,  hate-filled racists and were therefore useful in promoting the agenda: Promote and protect Barack Obama.

The first question Ashbrook asks Medina is “What are you against, and what are you for?”  thus setting the stage, portraying the Tea Party movement as primarily antagonistic and oppositional.  Ashbrook’s tone is disarmingly warm and conversational, which seems to confuse Medina as she stumbles through a response.  Silly woman must have thought she was being invited to an interview and not an inquisition.  Listen:

Ashbrook then asks Medina if she is Republican (“Yes”) and whether the Tea Party is Republican (“No”), thereby associating “Republican” and “Tea Party” in the mind of the listener.  “Then what is it?” he asks glibly.  Medina is forced to disprove a logical syllogism.  If you are a Republican, and you are also a Tea Party activist, then the Tea Party must also be Republican.  Ashbrook is not interested in what Medina says in response because he has an agenda, and that is to promote and protect Barack Obama.

Ashbrook then turns his attention to McQueen, asking him why he is involved in Tea Party parades.  McQueen immediately starts promoting his flag which he hopes will become the symbol for Tea Parties all over America.  He is, of course, selling these flags via his website.  Listen carefully.  At 39 seconds into the clip, you can hear a soft chuckle in the background as McQueen describes his flag.

Now the interview takes an insidious turn.  Ashbrook asks McQueen what he MEANS by a “second American revolution.”  And just as Ashbrook was disinterested in Medina’s response earlier, he ignores McQueen’s response, too.  Ashbrook has an agenda, conducting the interview from a prepared template, moving from one loaded question to the next.  On the heels of McQueen’s response, Ashbrook asks Medina why the Tea Party movement has taken on so much heat since the inauguration of Barack Obama, thus associating “revolution” with “inauguration of Obama” in the mind of the listener.  Medina seems to sense – finally – that this is no friendly interview.

Ashbrook ignores Medina’s answer and states matter-of-factly that it was Obama’s inauguration that propelled Tea Party activists into the streets.  “Why?  Why now, Lorie?”  he asks.  A more savvy interviewee such as Ann Coulter or Michelle Malkin would not have been drawn into such a rhetorical trap, but Medina blunders right into it.  Medina’s pathetic attempt to prove that the Tea Party movement is NOT a response to the inauguration of Obama is truly cringe-worthy.

Ashbrook turns back to McQueen and asks him about the signs at Tea Party rallies, putting forth the notion that the events were motivated by fear, race, and a longing for a time in the past where whites were “large and in charge.”  In other words, Tea Party activists are racist.

Ashbrook then turns to Medina and asks about the “nazi talk and nazi symbols” and signs portraying Obama with a Hitler moustache, omitting reference to all the nazi signs and symbols associated with George Bush during the eight years he was in office.  No attempt is made to place those signs in some proportional context.  How many nazi signs were there in comparison to all other signs?  How about some sort of comparison to signs carried by protesters of George W. Bush?  It doesn’t matter. Ashbrook has an agenda, and that is to promote and protect Barack Obama.

Barely ten minutes into a 45 minute broadcast, Ashbrook has managed to portray the Tea Party movement as primarily

  1. antagonostic
  2. oppositional
  3. Republican
  4. profit-driven
  5. loony
  6. violent
  7. anti-Obama
  8. racist, and
  9. fascist

Classic Alinsky attack strategy.  The inept and clumsy responses by Medina and McQueen make this hit job as easy for Ashbrook as shooting fish in a barrel.  And, to make matters worse (or better, from Ashbrook’s perspective), at the very end of the interview McQueen talks about the Four Boxes – the soap box, the ballot box, the jury box, and the bullet box.

Ah, the veritable coup de grace.  If this were an episode of The Soprano’s, this would be the point when a Soprano rival gets shot in the back of the head with a .22 caliber pistol.  I’ll bet there were some enthusiastic high-fives exchanged at this point in the broadcast around the Ashbrook office.  Let this be a lesson to anyone in the Tea Party movement invited to an interview by any of the establishment or “state-run” media, as coined by Limbaugh.

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