Is Fox News Scared? Desperate Attacks on Watchdog Group Media Matters Suggest Yes
In the untamed jungle that is cable news, there is a ferocious and predatory beast stalking the terrain. Anyone who has encountered Fox News in the wild can attest to the spine-chilling threat imposed by the pseudo-news network. And now Fox News has the scent of new game.
The Fox News pack is on the warpath against the media watchdog group, Media Matters. In the past two weeks it has featured over 30 stories with the express purpose of challenging the group’s right to exist. Fox has assigned network stalwarts like Bill O’Reilly, Bret Baier, Charles Krauthammer, James Rosen, Dick Morris, and Bernie Goldberg to the mission. This is an unprecedented, broadly distributed attack by a major media enterprise against a non-profit group it regards as an adversary.
This latest batch of complaints stem from comments made last March by Media Matters founder, David Brock. He was quoted in Politico as saying that the organization was shifting its focus toward Fox News to one of “guerrilla warfare and sabotage.” Giving Fox the benefit of doubt, one might conclude it’s only fair that Fox defend itself from such an overt declaration of war. The only thing that might refute that perspective is – reality.
If this is war, Fox is the aggressor. Fox News initiated its attacks long ago with aggressive and false assertions that cast Media Matters as hacks, anti-American, violent, and communist. Fox alleged that George Soros was pulling their strings long before Soros ever made any contributions to the group. Bill O’Reilly and Glenn Beck engaged in rhetoric so hostile that it inspired actual physical attacks against Media Matters and its progressive allies. A video (posted at the end of this story and courtesy of Media Matters) was posted two years ago and illustrates the hostility harbored across the Fox platform long before Brock’s recent comments.
The new and highly coordinated offensive by Fox asserts that Media Matters has violated the terms of its tax-exempt status by setting its sights on Fox. Fox quotes from the IRS rules governing non-profits that state that…
“…501(c)(3) organizations are absolutely prohibited from directly or indirectly participating in, or intervening in, any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for elective public office.”
On the basis of that criteria, Fox News argues that Media Matters is in violation and should have its tax-exempt status revoked. However, in order for that to be valid, Fox would have to admit that it is a political operation so that attacks on Fox News would qualify as opposition to political campaigns and/or candidates. Without that stipulation there is no violation on the part of Media Matters. So Fox is, in effect, conceding its role as a Republican mouthpiece. Shocking, I know.
Even if Fox were to come out of the propaganda closet, Media Matters would still be in the clear because the non-profit prohibition is explicitly related to campaigns and candidates and to lobbying. Since Media Matters is not directly aiding any political campaign or engaged in lobbying members of congress, there is no violation of its tax-exempt status. Politico cites attorney Marcus Owens, a former director of the Exempt Organization Division of the IRS, as saying that “the law is on Media Matters’ side.”
What makes this even worse is that Fox is not merely rebutting what it regards as negative criticism, it is actively using the tax status allegation as the basis for a campaign to shut Media Matters down. Fox repeatedly runs false, one-sided stories asserting that Media Matters is unlawfully receiving federal subsidies. These stories are followed with direct appeals to viewers to file complaints with the IRS. Fox anchor Steve Doocy has made several announcements on his morning show Fox & Friends like this one: