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Eric Boehlert

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Fox News And the Phony Koch Brothers Defense

Posted: 02/15/2012 2:20 pm

Touching down their private jets at the Palm Springs Airport late last month, and convening at a nearby golf resort in Indian Wells, California, for a secretive retreat, wealthy conservative donors met again under the aegis of David and Charles Koch to plot the best way to pool their fortunes and defeat President Obama in November.

The high-priced Koch confabs have become a biannual ritual among Obama's super-rich foes. Operating in a post-Citizens United environment where there is no limit on how much money billionaires and their anonymous friends can spend financing negative campaign ads, the high-priced activists have signed up for the Koch War on Obama.

The battle is not a secret. The New Yorker spelled it out right in the headline of a 2010 profile, noting how the brothers were "waging a war against Obama." And a very expensive war it is. As Charles Lewis, founder of the Center for Public Integrity, a nonpartisan watchdog group, told The New Yorker, "The Kochs are on a whole different level. There's no one else who has spent this much money. The sheer dimension of it is what sets them apart."

Along with the entire Fox News enterprise, the Koch brothers became integral parts of the permanent conservative campaign to delegitimize Obama right from the inception of his presidency and to mercilessly demonize him as an enemy of liberty. (The wealthy duo bankrolled the "grassroots" Tea Party movement.)

In other words, the Kochs are players. They are very big players who are in the public arena and have committed to raising another $100-200 million before Election Day to defeat Obama.

But Fox News has a message for anyone who dares question the Koch brother: Back off!

Fox doesn't think it's fair to talk about the Kochs and their campaign to defeat Obama, let alone criticize it. In fact, Fox News has been breaking out the smelling salts recently because some Democrats, and even members of the administration, have had the audacity to push back against the Kochs and their massive get-Obama crusade.

Fox News will not stand idly by and witness that kind of bullying. Instead, the channel's talkers have been loudly braying about how the Kochs are merely "law-abiding" "private citizens" and ought to be left alone. Fox News' hand-wringing pundits fall to pieces when faced with the plight of the poor Koch bothers who are being "demonized" and silenced while Obama slots them onto a Nixonian "enemies list".

Give me a break.

Once again, conservatives love a political brawl. They just don't like it when the other guys hit back.

Indeed, there seems to be a clear correlation now between the level of noisy name-calling conservative pundits engage in and the amount of griping they do when anyone complains about the name-calling, or fact-checks the allegations wrapped in the reckless name calling.

And good Lord, talk about hypocrisy! Fox News frets that the Kochs are merely "private citizens" and their political activities should not be scrutinized? Too bad nobody ever mentioned that new-found standard to Glenn Beck while he spent nearly two years demonizing "private citizens" such as George Soros and Frances Fox Piven. For Beck and Fox News, the entire point of those crusades was to recklessly smear private citizens they deemed to be dangerous. But now, simply fact-checking the Koch bothers is out of bounds?

Koch attorney Theodore Olson recently suggested in a Wall Street Journal opinion piece that the White House was trying to "intimidate" the "private citizens" via "despicable abuse of authority" that reminded Olson of the communist-hunting McCarthy Era and Nixon's dirty enemies list.

The breathless column though, contained not one specific example of anyone associated with the administration doing anything even remotely unethical with regards to the Kochs. And Olson certainly never came close to proving that either Koch had been the victims of the "tyrannical" power of the government, or the targets of an "orchestrated campaign."

The column signaled a new round of Fox News hand-wringing:

-Greg Gutfeld: "the Koch brothers are on O's enemy list."

-Stuart Varney: Obama is "are creating an enemies list" by "going after" the Kochs.

-Bill O'Reilly: "And in the 'Impact' segment tonight, charges that President Obama has an enemies list."

Apparently Fox talkers have no idea what Nixon's enemies list was, or feel quite comfortable making dishonest analogies. But for an example of how Nixon's enemies list worked we can reference the recent documentary, Inventing LA: The Chandler Family and Their Times, which detailed how the famous California family transformed the city of Los Angeles and its newspaper, the Los Angeles Times.

Contained in the documentary is a tape recording of a telephone call between Attorney General George Mitchell and Nixon, who was issuing (illegal) orders to target members of the left-leaning Chandler family, whom the president despised [emphasis added]:

NIXON: I want you to direct the most trusted person you have in the immigration service, that they are to look over all of the activities of the Los Angeles Times. All, underlined, to see whether they are violating the wetback thing. Now, let me explain because as a Californian I know. Everybody in California hires them. There's no law against it because they are there. Because for menial things and so forth. [Times publisher] Otis Chandler, I want him checked with regards to his gardener. I understand he's a wetback.


We are going to go after the Chandlers. Every one. Individually, collectively. Their income taxes.They're starting this week. Everyone of those sons of bitches, is that clear?

MITCHELL: Yes, sir.

NIXON: Do it. Give me a report.

MITCHELL: Very well, sir.

That's what an enemies list looks like: The President of the United States instructing his Attorney General to unleash the investigatory power of the federal government on private citizens (on journalists!) because the president wants to settle a political score with some "sons of bitches."

By contrast, Fox News talkers who bemoan the Koch brothers having to endure any scrutiny while trying to bankroll Obama's defeat remind us of that conservative media truism: Bullies can't take a punch.

Crossposted at County Fair, a Media Matters blog.

 
 
 

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