There was a huge protest against Obama's big-government plans at the U.S. Capitol on Saturday, but one was hard-pressed to find evidence of it on the New York Times home page Sunday morning: A small headline tucked under the Political subhead.
The print edition wasn't much more forthcoming. Although the Washington D.C. Fire Dept. estimated 60,000 to 70,000 people attended the 9/12 protest, and many estimates are higher, the Times made do with one medium-sized story buried on page A37 of the Sunday paper, "Thousands Attend Broad Protest of Government," teasing it on the front page in a below-the-fold photo from the march. A much smaller Obama rally got better placement, and so had a previous ACORN-led left-wing protest numbering...40 people.
Reporter Jeff Zeleny painted protesters as "angry" and "profane" and that the rally contained "no shortage of vitriol," as if there were never raised voices and obscene signage at left-wing anti-war rallies:
A sea of protesters filled the west lawn of the Capitol and spilled onto the National Mall on Saturday in the largest rally against President Obama since he took office, a culmination of a summer-long season of protests that began with opposition to a health care overhaul and grew into a broader dissatisfaction with government.
On a cloudy and cool day, the demonstrators came from all corners of the country, waving American flags and handwritten signs explaining the root of their frustrations. Their anger stretched well beyond the health care legislation moving through Congress, with shouts of support for gun rights, lower taxes and a smaller government.
But as they sang verse after verse of patriotic hymns like "God Bless America," sharp words of profane and political criticism were aimed at Mr. Obama and Congress.
The atmosphere was rowdy at times, with signs and images casting Mr. Obama in a demeaning light. One sign called him the "parasite in chief." Others likened him to Hitler. Several people held up preprinted signs saying, "Bury Obama Care with Kennedy," a reference to the Massachusetts senator whose body passed by the Capitol two weeks earlier to be memorialized.
Other signs did not focus on Mr. Obama, but rather on the government at large, promoting gun rights, tallying the national deficit and deploring illegal immigrants living in the United States.
Check out this backhanded compliment:
Still, many demonstrators expressed their views without a hint of rage. They said the size of the crowd illustrated that their views were shared by a broader audience.
Zeleny found some unnamed "Republican officials" to fret over a backlash, and downplayed the significance of those who turned out:
Mr. DeMint and a few Republican legislators were the only party leaders on hand for the demonstration. Republican officials said privately that they were pleased by the turnout but wary of the anger directed at all politicians. And most of those who turned out were not likely to have been Obama voters anyway.
Did the Times ever suggest anti-war demonstrators "were not like to have been Bush voters anyway"?
While there was no shortage of vitriol among protesters, there was also an air of festivity. A band of protesters in colonial gear wended through the crowd, led by a bell ringer in a tricorn hat calling for revolution. A folk singer belting out a protest ballad on a guitar brought cheers.
Obama's health-care speech on Saturday actually got slightly better placement. It landed on page A35 under a similar headline, "Thousands Rally in Minnesota Behind Obama's Call for Health Care Overhaul," although the attendance at the Target Center in Minneapolis was reliably estimated at around 15,000, making it at least four times smaller than the D.C. rally. Obama and his fans also got more positive coverage from reporter Sheryl Gay Stolberg:
Thousands of roaring supporters turned out Saturday to rally behind President Obama's call to overhaul the nation's health care system, packing a basketball arena here as Mr. Obama warned that nearly half of all Americans under 65 could lose their insurance at some point during the next decade....On a day when demonstrators crammed onto the west lawn of the Capitol to protest what they regard as Mr. Obama's brand of big government, including his health plan, the images of screaming, cheering Obama supporters here provided a welcome visual counterpoint for the White House. The White House estimated that 15,000 people attended the rally here; the applause was thunderous when the president bounded onto the stage, shirtsleeves rolled up, as he revived an old campaign rallying cry: "Are you fired up?"
In fact, the Times' coverage of the huge anti-government rally in the nation's capital was on the same level as the favorable coverage of an ACORN-organized left-wing "bus tour" of homes of American International Group executives back in March, a piece of Astroturf so blatant even the Times admitted the media outnumbered the protesters. Yet while 40 left-wing protesters in Connecticut were worth a 724-word Times story back in March, an estimated 70,000 anti-Obama protesters in D.C. garnered a 932-word story on Saturday. A slight anomaly?
There was nothing on the Times's "Caucus" blog from the actual march, although the blog did preview it Saturday morning with a pessimistic estimate of the crowd size ("as many as 30,000 demonstrators are expected"), in a post marked with suspicion of the protest's origin and motives. That post also granted top billing to Obama's speech.
Another telling contrast: The coverage of Saturday's march (and the previous Tea Party protests) with the fawning coverage of the pro-illegal immigration protests of 2006, when amnesty for illegals was on the agenda. The Times didn't find much "vitriol" at the massive rallies in support of illegal immigration. Here's Robert McFadden in the April 10, 2006 Times, describing the largest of the nationwide rallies in Dallas:
The Dallas protesters were young and old. Some were families pushing baby strollers. Some walked with canes, others rolled along in wheelchairs. There were members of unions, churches, civil rights organizations and business groups, but many were strangers to one another. Some spoke passionately about their desire to be Americans, to vote and to hold a job without fear.