As Glenn Beck's television show came to a close, Fox News launched a flurry of attacks on Media Matters for America making the ludicrous argument that the Internal Revenue Service should revoke our status as a nonprofit organization. Over the past three weeks, Fox News has run more than 30 segments on this topic on both its "news" and opinion shows, with additional coverage on the Fox Business Network and on its Fox Nation website. The network has repeatedly encouraged viewers to file complaints with the IRS, even providing a direct link to a pre-filled form on Fox Nation.
This attack is nothing more than an attempt by Fox News to silence a vocal critic. The network's parent company, News Corp., is a $10+ billion company. Because of its size and influence, News Corp. believes it can intimidate anyone who takes issue with its overt political agenda and distortion of facts.
Media Matters and our supporters will not cower from Fox's ridiculous accusations. We are not at war with Fox. Fox is at war with the truth and Media Matters will continue fighting back against the network's lies that pollute our cable boxes.
It is no coincidence these attacks began as Glenn Beck's Fox News program was coming to an end, and after our research had documented the pervasive spread of misinformation and bigotry throughout the network. Fox News knows that Media Matters and our allies have succeeded in exposing it as a political organization that misinforms the public, not the "fair & balanced" news organization it claims to be.
Our researchers exposed Fox News Washington Managing Editor Bill Sammon slanting coverage and even acknowledging that he lied on air about Barack Obama in the days leading up to the 2008 election. "Fair and balanced" news organizations do not employ people who willfully mislead their audience.
It also is no coincidence that David Brock and I were personally targeted by the network's hosts. We just completed a book titled The Fox Effect that uses internal Fox emails, interviews with insiders, and analysis of Fox's on-air content to demonstrate the network's role in manipulating the public during the 2010 election. Why not attempt to smear the authors of a book that exposes their network?
News Corp. now faces increased scrutiny due to the phone hacking controversy in the U.K.. Every day new evidence of the company's malfeasance emerges. And yet Fox's coverage of the scandal remains at a minimum.
Fox's attack on Media Matters proves our organization's operating theory about the network. We've developed a formula we call the Fox Cycle that demonstrates how the network launders attacks on progressives, attempting to elevate them to the mainstream:
Step 1: Conservative activists make an inaccurate charge designed to make progressives look bad.
Step 2: Fox News devotes disproportionate coverage to the story.
Step 3: Fox News attacks mainstream journalistic outlets for ignoring the story.
Step 4: Mainstream outlets begin reporting on the controversy.
Step 5: Media critics and pundits weigh in on Fox News's coverage, crediting Fox with breaking the story.
Step 6: The facts emerge and the accusation is shown to be baseless, but many Americans are left with the impression it might be true.
This is how the Fox Cycle has played out in the network's attacks on Media Matters:
Step 1: Former Fox News consultant and current FreedomWorks Foundation board co-chairman C. Boyden Gray publishes an op-ed in the Washington Times suggesting Media Matters should lose its tax status.
Step 2: In three weeks, Fox News runs more than 30 segments on the story.
Step 3: This past weekend Fox repeatedly asked on-air why no mainstream media outlet other than Politico has reported on the story.
Perhaps because Politico's story points out:
Marcus Owens, a partner at Caplin & Drysdale and former director of the Exempt Organizations Division of the IRS, said the law is on Media Matters's side on both counts. [...]
"The bottom line is, as long as an organization is following a process and establishing or attempting to establish that its views have some basis in fact, then as long as it isn't doing something like the equivalent of shouting fire in a crowded theater or encouraging people to commit crimes, then it probably is going to qualify as educational," he said. "As a result, we have Media Matters, and we have Brent Bozell and the Media Research Center, and we have all kinds of other organizations that are doing the same thing."
He argues that MRC's website is not substantially different from Media Matters in that both attack media companies on what they feel is the opposite side of the ideological aisle.
Owens concluded, "I'm afraid Fox loses this round." That is certainly clear.
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