Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Media Matters Takes Aim at Fox News

Media Matters (MM) has made it official; they are going after Fox News. Glenn Beck did a bit about it on his radio show Monday.  Politico has the details. And the “Washington Examiner” has the possible legal ramifications.

In the Politico story, David Brock outlines what the plans are to take on Fox News and there is no coyness about it.

In an interview and a 2010 planning memo shared with POLTICO, Brock listed the fronts on which Media Matters – which he said is operating on a $10 million-plus annual budget – is working to chip away at Fox and its parent company, News Corp.  They include its bread-and-butter distribution of embarrassing clips and attempts to rebut Fox points, as well as a series of under-the-radar tactics.

Media Matters, Brock said, is assembling opposition research files not only on Fox’s top executives but on a series of midlevel officials. It has hired an activist who has led a successful campaign to avoid Glenn Beck’s show. The group is assembling a legal team to help people who have clashed with Fox to file lawsuits for defamation, invasion of privacy or other causes.  And it has hired two experienced reporters, Joe Strupp and Alexander Zaitchik, to dig into Fox’s operations to help assemble a book on the network, due out in 2012 from Vintage Anchor.

Wow, that is an awful lot just to go after one little news channel.  MM has been at this for a while now; one only has to go to the web site to see that. It is almost exclusively Fox News. One thing to notice is they almost exclusively focus on Glenn Beck.  There is a smattering of Limbaugh and Hannity, but it mostly about Beck. The other thing I want you to notice is that you will rarely find anything posted about the ‘hard news’ segments (Smith, Wallace, Kelly, etc.). They are after the opinion makers. And they do an awful job. They will post clips from his show, title them, and then let the comments go to town. The point I want to make is there is no commentary from MM. It is difficult to refute facts and Beck provides facts. He connects to dots. MM went nuts posting several clips from Beck’s shows about Learner and his plans, but there was nothing to refute what Beck said on his shows. As Ronald Reagan once said, “Facts are stubborn things”.

As for the legality of this action, they are on a slope that could prove to be quite tricky. MM has a tax status of 501(C)(3) which means it is a tax-exempt foundation.  But here is where they could get in trouble.

Being C3 puts MM in the non-profit, non-commercial sector, and it also bars the organization from participating in partisan political activity. This new, more aggressive stance, however, appears to run directly counter to the government’s requirements for maintaining C3 status.

Since Brock classifies Fox News as the “leader” of the republican Party, by his own description he is involving his organization in a partisan battle.  High-priced K Street lawyers can probably find a federal judge or sympathetic IRS bureaucrat willing to either look the other way or accept some sort of MM rationale such as that is merely providing education information about a partisan group.

If there is one thing that will give them traction it is the White House.  They have been going through a long-standing feud with Fox News and will give tacit approval to MM by inaction. (View this ironic clip from MM) If there is anyone who thinks under the current administration that someone from the IRS will go after MM has been smoking the funny tobacco. The IRS will do their master’s bidding. And don’t ask the DOJ to look into this matter.

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