The Left Wing Targets Conservative Media: First Glenn Beck, Fox News Next
By Kevin Mooney (Organization Trend, August 2011, PDF here)
Summary: Many leftist groups are hoping that the Fox News Network will be caught up in the hacking scandal in Great Britain that now threatens Rupert Murdoch’s press empire. But in the U.S., the group Color of Change is coordinating an ongoing campaign against conservative media that makes use of a different strategy: Charge your adversary with racism. The tactics of race-baiting are a desperate attempt to prevent the resurgence of a populist conservatism.
Glenn Beck’s enemies are ecstatic. June 30 was Beck’s last day on his Fox News daily talk show, and his critics are congratulating one another and taking credit for his departure. Media Matters for America (MMfA), the George Soros-funded hard-left nonprofit set up to analyze and correct that rarest of unicorns known as “conservative misinformation,” views Beck’s departure as a critical victory in its larger war against Fox News.
“After losing more than 300 advertisers and seeing more than 1,000,000 viewers abandon his show the only surprise is that it took Fox News months to reach this decision,” said Media Matters founder David Brock. “Fox News now has to choose: will it eliminate all violent rhetoric from the network – not just during the 5PM hour? And will the network make a commitment to end its role as a political operation masquerading as a news station?”
Mainstream news outlets explain Beck’s departure by pointing to the “precipitous decline” in his program’s ratings. The New Republic, Christian Science Monitor, Los Angeles Times and other liberal-leaning publications have all run stories that attribute the drop in Beck’s ratings to his separation from Fox.
Many pundits think the ratings fall is due to the public’s loss of interest in Beck’s “antics” and “conspiracy theories.” “He’s a spectacle,” said media and politics professor Jeffrey Jones of Old Dominion University. “He wears Viking helmets, he pours gasoline on things. It wouldn’t surprise me that what was once a fresh voice has now become a routine, that audiences might be saying, ‘Well, I’ve seen that before.’”
Others, however, point to conflicts that erupted between Beck and other high profile figures on the right. The Daily Caller reported earlier this year that Andrew Breitbart, publisher of BigGovernment.com, Pamela Geller of Atlas Shrugs.com, Cliff Kincaid of Accuracy in Media, the Media Research Center (MRC) and others complained that Beck frequently lifted content from their sites without attribution, repeating stories they broke without giving them due credit.
These charges may have undermined the host’s television standing. FOX News CEO Roger Ailes has said he doesn’t care whether people say Beck resigned or was fired. Perhaps the most plausible explanation for Beck’s exit can be inferred in a recent exchange between Ailes and the Associated Press. (New York magazine website, April 6, 2011)
“Advertisers who get weak-kneed because some idiot on a blog site writes to them and says we need to stifle speech, I get a little frustrated by that,” said Ailes. He did not elaborate, but it appears Ailes is referring to the “Stop Beck” campaign that got its start when one Angelo Carusone, a former University of Wisconsin law student, urged a boycott of Beck’s program in July 2009.
“Glenn Beck uses his media platform to disseminate vitriolic hateful rhetoric and stoke racial anxieties,” the Stop Beck site declared.
In late June, Media Matters held a party that drew hundreds of left-wing activists to celebrate Beck’s departure. If no one can say exactly why Beck is leaving the airways, many expressed the hope that Beck’s departure signaled the beginning of a larger more successful effort to purge Fox of programming with conservative appeal.
P l a y i n g t h e R a c e C a r d
The intense anti-Fox animus is not new, but this time conservatives have good cause to be concerned about one aspect of the new campaign against Fox. That campaign aims to exploit the most incendiary of tactics— the issue of race—to dislodge conservatives from prominent media posts.
A left-wing 501c4 advocacy group called Color of Change is going after conservative media. Color of Change joined the attack at about the time that the “Stop Beck” campaign reached its shrill high point, but its tactics give it a much greater reach. The group has perfected the leftist technique that immediately short-circuits meaningful debate, overwhelms vital facts and cows the opposition into submission. It plays the race card.
Media Matters, MoveOn, Stop Beck, and other leftist groups are heaping praise on Color of Change because it has added a vital racial component to their efforts to discredit conservative arguments. Despite much evidence that contemporary America has moved beyond the tragic legacy of slavery and segregation, the Left remains eager to accuse its opponents of racism. To be sure, Color of Change describes itself in the benign terms that suggest a commitment to equality of opportunity: “We are united behind a simple, powerful pledge: we will do all we can to make sure all Americans are represented, served and protected— regardless of race or class.”
In reality, however, the group supports race and gender-conscious quota policies in government contracting, hiring and college admissions, and it seeks to discredit anti-tax-and-spend initiatives that would restore limited government. This is a formula that equates constitutionalism with racism.
Color of Change was co-founded by Van Jones, the Oakland, Calif.-based radical leftist who served in the White House for barely six months as the Obama administration’s “green jobs czar,” a position created to channel stimulus money to environmentalist groups. It was Beck who blew the whistle on Jones’s extremist past, forcing his ouster on Labor Day weekend 2009. Jones has since resurfaced as a senior fellow with the Center for American Progress Action Fund, a branch of the Center for American Progress, a Washington, D.C. think tank known for parroting whatever policy position the Obama administration adopts. (For more information, see “Center for American Progress: The Democrats’ Public Relations Firm,” by Sean Higgins, Organization Trends, February 2011, and “The Center for American Progress: ‘Think Tank On Steroids,’” by John Gizzi, Organization Trends, May 2007.)
To describe Jones as “extreme” does not do him justice. Jones maintained Marxist associations throughout the 1990s and at one time described himself as a “communist.” He was a signer of the notorious 9/11Truth. org petition, a document that asserts that President George W. Bush was behind the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Thanks to Beck, who throughout 2009 repeatedly denounced Jones’s activities, Jones was forced to resign his position.
A C a b a l o f “C z a r s ”
Don Todd, a former George W. Bush appointee to the Department of Labor, is now research director of Americans for Limited Government (ALG). In this capacity, he leads ALG’s “Appointments Watch” project. Todd warns that Jones and other unelected “czars” in the Obama administration work together with outside groups to advance a common agenda.
“When we started with the project we used to do the 10 “worst” [Obama appointments]. Now we do 10 ‘typical’ [appointments] because they are all so hard left. There is a constant thread through all the appointees,” Todd said. “It’s very frightening and no one has picked up on it in the media except for Glenn Beck. It’s important to point out that Van Jones is not an outlier, his ideology is not unusual for an Obama appointee.”
Todd points to the 2009 selection of Mark Lloyd to be associate general counsel of the Federal Communications Commission. He says Lloyd offers a good example of how the Obama administration makes ideologically- driven political appointments and how outside advocacy groups rally around those who are selected.
Lloyd is the FCC’s “diversity czar.” Formerly a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress (where Van Jones now resides), Lloyd co-authored a report in 2007 that, according to the Wall Street Journal, “proposed ways the FCC could change the balance of conservatives to progressives on talk radio by imposing new rules on the radio industry, such as more frequent license renewals and a national radio-ownership cap.”
An editorial in Investor’s Business Daily notes that Lloyd is both a disciple of Saul Alinsky, the guru of radical “community organizing,” and a fan of Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chavez. IBD quotes from a video made of Lloyd during the Free Press 2008 National Conference for Media Reform:
In Venezuela, with Chavez, it’s really an incredible revolution – a democratic revolution. To begin to put in place things that are going to have an impact on the people of Venezuela. The property owners and the folks who then controlled the media in Venezuela rebelled – worked, frankly, with folks here in the U.S. government – worked to oust him. But he came back with another revolution, and then Chavez began to take very seriously the media in his country.
Color of Change and other left-wing “media reform” groups were quick to defend Lloyd when his past remarks were disclosed. On Sept. 16, 2009, they sent the FCC commissioners and members of Congress a letter: “Public Interest and Civil Rights Groups Speak Out Against Unfounded Attacks on Mark Lloyd.”
The letter was signed by representatives of The Media Access Project, Center for Media Justice, National Hispanic Media Coalition, Free Press and similar-sounding groups. But what went unrevealed was the extent of the groups’ financial ties to very wealthy left-wing donors, including George Soros, Peter Lewis, and what Ron Arnold, executive director of the Center for the Defense of Free Enterprise, calls “ultra-partisan Democrat fat-cats.” Observes Arnold: “Groups with combined annual revenues of several hundred million dollars put full effort into keeping Obama’s Media Diversity Czar in office.”
Although donors to Color of Change may not deduct the donated sum from their taxes, because it is a 501c4 nonprofit, it did receive $100,000 from the San Francisco Foundation in 2007 and $50,000 from the Tides Foundation in 2008. That’s legal, but assurances need to be made that funds are used on legitimate charitable causes.
A f t e r B e c k , F o x I s N e x t
Unlike Lloyd, Beck couldn’t count on a similar show of support. But it may well be that his bombastic TV style opened him up to Color of Change’s race-baiting strategy. On July 28, 2009, Beck appeared on the Fox network’s “Fox and Friends” morning show to discuss President Obama’s reaction to the arrest of his friend, Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. Obama said police had “acted stupidly” in arresting Gates during an altercation after they responded to a phone call about a possible break-in at Gates’s house.
On the Fox program, Beck drew a connection between Obama’s former pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright, the incendiary Chicago-based preacher of “God damn America!” fame, and the president’s snide comments about the police.
“This president, I think, has exposed himself as a guy, over and over and over again, who has a deep-seated hatred for white people or the white culture,” Beck said. “I don’t know what it is.” “Fox and Friends” co-host Brian Kilmeade asked Beck to clarify his comments since most key advisers and appointees in the Obama administration are white. Beck replied that he did not believe the president had any animus toward individual white people but resented white culture because of his “world experience.”
Beck’s commentary set the Color of Change attack machine in motion. Coordinating the assault was Color of Change co-founder James Rucker, a high-tech Silicon Valley entrepreneur who previously worked as a fundraiser and campaign strategist for MoveOn Political Action, a political action committee, and MoveOn Civic Action, a 501c4 advocacy group.
“He brought these skills to Color of Change and is the real force behind the group’s success,” observes Ron Arnold. “Rucker is a clever and ruthless attack manager with a huge network of allies.”
Rucker seized the opportunity presented by Beck’s remarks and hired Hollywood publicist Ken Sunshine. Sunshine’s marching orders: organize Beck’s advertisers to boycott his show. That effort paid-off in a big way. Arnold’s research in mid-2010 showed that at least 57 sponsors asked that their advertisements be removed from Beck’s program. By 2011 far larger numbers were being cited in the media with many companies asking that their advertising be redirected.
“Sunshine carefully hid the fact that many Fox advertisers had no idea which shows their ads appear on, because they simply bought blocks of time, and some had no problem with sponsoring Beck, offensive or not,” Arnold said.
Liberal bloggers lavish praise on Color of Change for its anti-Beck efforts.
“Like any business cable news revolves around money, and Color of Change demonstrated that the best way to bring about real change in the media is to hit them where it counts, on their bottom line,” the Politics USA blog declared. It added
Fox News could have put up with the Beck circus if he was still making money for them, but without the potential upside of lucrative profit, the execs at FNC likely decided that Beck was no longer worth the hassle. Those of you who are celebrating Glenn Beck’s departure from Fox News today owe Color of Change a big thank you for creating the financial environment that ensured Beck’s eventual demise.
In a June 30 interview with the Hollywood Reporter, Color of Change executive director Rashad Robinson discussed the next step in his group’s antiracism campaign.
“This is really about Rupert Murdoch and Roger Ailes,” he said. “This is about Roger Ailes ignoring and supporting racism being on his network and this is about Rupert Murdoch being very comfortable profiting off of racism in his network.”
The Beck show’s replacement is a new talk show “The Five,” which rotates hosts from among the Fox network’s stable of TV personalities. It will come under scrutiny and at some point, one expects, come under attack.
“ B u s h D o e s N o t C a re About Black People”
Co-founders Van Jones and James Rucker explain that it was Hurricane Katrina that prompted them to start Color of Change. Little more than five years old, Color of Change today claims to have 750,000 members. (It’s worth noting that that number seems high considering that the group runs on a shoestring budget of under $400,000 a year, according to its 2008 tax return filed with the IRS.)
“When Katrina happened it became this very clear moment around the country when you saw black people effectively had no political power,” Rucker told AtlantaPost.Com. “The level of disservice and neglect that happened in the aftermath was unacceptable … It spoke to a political impotence on the part of Black America.”
Conservatives would be the first to agree that government failed African-Americans in New Orleans in the days following the hurricane. But as even the media has acknowledged, it was local Democratic officials whose lethargic response and lack of precautions worsened conditions during the emergency.
No matter. The devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina gave the Left an unprecedented opportunity to undermine the Bush administration. David Horowitz, the 1960s radical-turned-conservative, has pointed out that as both a candidate and president George W. Bush attempted to create “the most diverse administration in history.” Yet his policies of “compassionate conservatism” were disparaged by groups on the Left determined to prevent a realignment of American politics.
“Bush does not care about black people,” said singer Kanye West about the president’s response to Hurricane Katrina. That ridiculous remark was so hurtful to President Bush that in his recent memoirs he cites it as the lowest moment in his presidency. Interestingly, West appears to have some affiliation with Color of Change. A now defunct website entitled “Kaynewasright.org” was at one time linked back to ColorofChange.Org.
As much as the group celebrates the concept of “diversity,” it actually seeks to restore the old media order that locks out conservative viewpoints. Like West, Color of Change simply reloads the kind of rhetoric that has worked in the past. For instance, an entire section of its website is devoted to “Right Wing Racism.” The targets include Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito and former Education Secretary William Bennett.
Ward Connerly, the former University of California regent who is successfully promoting ballot initiatives nationwide that ban race and gender quotas, notes that the concept of “diversity” has great appeal.
“It was one of those concepts that sounded so good, a notion that called up images of different people standing joyously on a mountaintop singing ‘We Are the World,’” he wrote in his book Creating Equal (2000).
How could you oppose it? Of course, later on I understood that the people who use the word define it in a different way. For them, ‘diversity’ means people who have dark skin or wear a pants suit and unquestioningly support their progressive political line. ‘Diversity’ is really about forming group caucuses and has nothing to do with the individual’s heart and soul, which is where true diversity exists.
Countering the Race-Baiters
Indeed, how can you oppose it? Andrew Breitbart, publisher of BigGovernment.com, is no stranger to political combat. He offers useful instruction in how to respond to the kinds of slurs and insults hurled by Color of Change. Breitbart practiced intellectual ju-jitsu when Color of Change tried to kick him out of the blogosphere and ban him from prominent news sites. Vigorously refuting the group’s accusations, Breitbart secured statements on his behalf from Huffington Post/AOL editor Roy Sekoff and Huffington Post/AOL founder Arianna Huffington, an old friend and sparring partner.
“Color of Change’s sole purpose is to shut up those with whom it disagrees politically,” Breitbart observed in a blog post. “It uses manipulative write-in (cut and paste, actually) campaigns to intimidate media organizations and the advertisers that support them. Color of Change targets, among others, Lou Dobbs, Bill Bennett, Glenn Beck–and Fox News, writ large. Color of Change openly claims two scalps so far: Mine. First, for getting me kicked off ABC News election night coverage. And, now, for getting me kicked off Huffington Post’s front page.”
By using false propaganda to frame me as a racist, something I most certainly am not, these leftists produce a free-speech-chilling atmosphere, informing news editors to think twice about putting a bestselling author and effective journalist and publisher on the public airwaves.
Glenn Beck and the Future of Popular Conservatism
We still don’t know the real story behind Glenn Beck’s departure from Fox News. We do know that Beck’s ratings increased in his less-than-optimal 5:00 p.m. time slot at Fox so that they were 131 percent higher than the program that was previously in its place. No matter what the actual figures are, Beck blew away the competition from 5:00 to 6:00 p.m. at CNN and MSNBC.
We do know that Van Jones’s view of social “change” is just as selective and self-serving as his view of “diversity,” and his reaction to the rise of a conservative media alternative betrays the fear leftist groups feel as they see a resurgence of a populist conservatism.
We do know that the long overdue marriage of conservatism and the civil rights movement is frightening to the Left. In August 2010 Beck made perhaps his greatest contribution to our society when he organized the “Restoring Honor in America Rally” at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. Thousands turned out in a show of support for equality and civil rights that would have made the late Martin Luther King Jr. proud.
Kevin Mooney is an investigative reporter in Washington D.C. who writes for the Washington Times, BigGovernment.com, American Spectator, and blogs for NewsBusters and NetRightDaily.com. He was also a frequent guest on Glenn Beck’s TV show on Fox News Channel.