All Aboard! The Right's Fox News Gravy Train Rolls On

03/18/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011
  • Karl Frisch Syndicated Columnist and Longtime Political Strategist

Since President Obama took office,
Fox News has been acting more like the propaganda arm of the Republican National
Committee than a legitimate news outlet.

Back in March, Fox News vice
president of programming Bill Shine described his network as the "voice
of opposition [to Obama] on some issues." Then there's Glenn Beck, the buzz-cut conspiracy theorist who claimed Fox
News president Roger Ailes wooed him over to the conservative network from CNN
Headline News in part by stressing the network's opposition to Obama, saying, "I see this as the Alamo."

We've seen what the Fox News brand
of opposition looks like.

In the days and weeks leading up to
the April 15 tea party
protests, which it
repeatedly described as "FNC Tax Day Tea
Parties," Fox News aggressively promoted
and publicized them
, as well as encouraged viewers to get
involved with the events. In fact, over the course of a single week, it featured at least 20 segments on the
protests and over a similar time span, aired at least 107 commercial
promotions for its coverage of the events, which Beck, Neil Cavuto, Sean Hannity, and Greta Van Susteren each
covered live from cities around the country.

Hardly skipping a beat, Fox News
began publicizing subsequent tea parties almost immediately after the April 15
events ended. After repeatedly promoting "Tea Party 2.0," an event
sponsored in May by the Republican Governors Association, Fox began encouraging people to register for
Independence Day tea parties through the Fox Nation, which was followed by the network's relentless promotion and live
coverage of the Tea Party Express throughout the waning days of

Not content with outdoor rallies
full of paranoid, angry tea-partiers, Fox stepped things up in
August, directing its
minions to attend health care reform town hall meetings held by congressional

The conduct on display at these
events would make Rep. Joe Wilson (R-You Lie!) blush. Fox & Friends in
particular repeatedly praised protesters and
urged viewers to join in the, umm ... fun? During one revealing Fox segment,
reporter James Rosen displayed only the schedule of
Democratic town halls, stating that he would display the GOP schedule if only
Fox could get its hands on a copy. It wasn't until later in the day, after apparently
brushing up on basic Google skills, that Rosen displayed both Democratic and
Republican town halls.

This partisan hackery paled in
comparison to what was coming in the days surrounding the anniversary of the
9-11 terrorist attacks.

For months, Beck had been promoting his "9-12 Project" as a
place for people looking to take back their country, with an eye toward organizing for a
September 12 march on Washington. Beck went into overdrive, encouraging followers to
turn out en masse,
saying, "On 9-12, I hope to see you in
Washington. I
will make sure you're seen all over the country." Fox
News was there, all right, just as Beck said it
would be, supplying wall-to-wall coverage of the day's events. One producer even
got in on the action, coaching a crowd of protesters to look lively and
excited for the cameras just before a live shot.

When the dust finally settled, Beck
was so giddy that he couldn't decide exactly how many people had
attended his event --
was it the "largest march on Washington ever,"
500,000 people, or 1.7

people? Truth be told, the D.C. fire department unofficially estimated the crowd at between
"60,000 and 75,000" attendees.

Yes, Fox News has proven itself
quite the capable astroturf supplier,
so much so that the conservative network's contributors and hosts are cashing

On two separate programs this week,
Fox host and potential 2012 Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee directed those watching at home to
sign an online petition telling Congress to "balance the budget," "cut their
spending," and "save American families." What he didn't say is that once signed,
the petition redirects visitors to a page soliciting donations for his political
action committee, which financially supports GOP candidates and pays his
daughter's salary.

Huckabee seemed to be doing his best
Dick Morris impersonation. Leading into the 2008 election and in the weeks that
followed, Morris mentioned during at least 13 Fox appearances and
asked viewers to "give funds to," all without disclosing that the
organization had paid $24,000 to a company apparently connected to Morris, according to Federal
Election Commission records. Just last month, Morris was at it again, using an appearance on Fox to raise
money for a right-wing organization that he is closely tied to.

Perhaps it's the rallies or the
lobbying or the fundraising or the demonstrably false attacks that have kept
President Obama from appearing on Fox News.

Regardless, the right's gravy train
rolls on undeterred, facts be damned.

Karl Frisch is a senior fellow at Media Matters for America, a progressive media watchdog and research and information center based in Washington, D.C. Frisch also contributes to County Fair,
a media blog featuring links to progressive media criticism from around
the Web as well as original commentary. You can follow him on Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube, or sign up to receive his columns by email.