Group Founded by Van Jones Claims FNC Lies, Proceeds to Lie About Fox, Tea Party

August 26th, 2010 6:30 PM

UPDATE (7:05 PM): Color of Change's executive director responds. See his response, and my response to his response, below the fold.

Reading through material from the "Turn Off Fox" campaign, one gets the very clear impression that the folks at the Fox News Channel are bald-faced liars. They have "no regard for the truth," and use "half-truths" to push a "stream of misinformation" and "distortions of the truth."

Turn Off Fox is a project started by Color of Change, the far-left political organization founded by neo-Marxist and black liberation theologist Van Jones.

Despite Turn Off Fox's righteous indignation, the same document making the above accusations pushes blatant misinformation about both Fox and the Tea Party movement. Got that? The Turn Off Fox campaign wants FNC to tell the truth, and uses demonstrable falsehoods to bolster its case.

The document accusing Fox of pushing misinformation claims that Bill O'Reilly got former USDA official Shirley Sherrod fired, and claims that Tea Party protesters shouted racial slurs and spit on black congressmen outside the Capitol. Both claims have been thoroughly debunked.

Turn Off Fox claims that "Fox News hosts Bill O'Reilly and Sean Hannity were the first to air maliciously edited video of Shirley Sherrod's speech to the Georgia NAACP - video that cost Sherrod her job with the USDA."

Clearly, the implication is that Fox was responsible for Sherrod's ouster. Granted, the document doesn't actually say that Sherrod was fired because of O'Reilly's or Hannity's work, only that they were the first to air the video, which is true. But the document is an attempt to single out Fox News for supposed wrongdoing. So if other cable networks did the same thing Fox did, there would be no reason to mention it in this document.

And as Howard Kurtz wrote, Fox did not air the video in question until after Sherrod resigned. Fox was joined by numerous other television news shows, which all aired the viral clip. In other words, the role Fox News played in Sherrod's resignation was no larger than any other cable news channel.

Call Turn Off Fox's claim a lie, call it a half truth, call it what you like. But the fact is, the document pushes the false notion that Fox was uniquely responsible (among television news channels) for the Sherrod controversy. That claim is nothing short of false.

The document goes on to offer flimsy evidence linking Fox News to the Tea Party movement. It says the following about the latter: "As the House of Representatives deliberated over health care legislation this past spring, some Tea Party members gathered outside the Capitol shouted 'Ni**er!' at black congressmen." The document also claims that "One of the protesters spat on Congressman Emmanuel Cleaver."

Both of those claims are false. Or, at the very least, there is no evidence to support either claim. Numerous videos of the protest in question give no indication that any racial slur was uttered, or that any protester spit on Congressman Cleaver.

The New York Times recently issued a retraction to that effect, noting the lack of evidence for a claim that most media outlets - but not Fox! - were willing to unquestionably parrot for so long.

The "Turn Off Fox" campaign is the latest effort in Color of Change's continuing vendetta against Fox News. This is the same organization that tried to get Glenn Beck taken off the air by targeting Fox's advertisers.

These blatant factual inaccuracies raise serious questions regarding Color of Change's credibility. How can it accuse Fox of spreading misinformation, while using misinformation to bolster its case? This document suggests that, contrary to Color of Change's claims, this is little more than a political effort designed to stifle speech the group's far-left members don't like.

A request for comment from Color of Change was not returned by deadline.


Literally as I was pushing the "submit" button for this post, I got an email with comment from James Rucker, Color of Change's executive director. Here's his response to the first of my two claims:

Fox led the charge in advancing the false story about Shirley Sherrod. Before other major outlets carried the story it appeared on As you say, Bill O'Reilly was the first "reporter" to air the video. When O'Reilly taped his show, Sherrod hadn't yet resigned, and O'Reilly called for her resignation. After Sherrod resigned, Fox continued to air the false story about her, with some Fox hosts calling it "exhibit A" of what racism looks like. It's clear that Fox pushed a false story, without checking their facts, and helped it become a big story -- and it was a story that fit conveniently into a pattern of Fox personalities stating or implying that black Obama administration officials are somehow favoring black people at the expense of white people. Without Fox, deliberately deceptive smears like one launched against Sherrod would have no chance of making their way into mainstream political conversations.

I've included the entire quote at Mr.Rucker's request, but let's take these claims one at a time. 

"Before other major outlets carried the story it appeared on" - Yes, that is true. But the video did not appear on until after Sherrod resigned. In other words, the piece on Fox's website could not have played a part in her resignation.

"Fox continued to air the false story about her" - That's also true. But fortunately for the channel's viewers, Fox also posted an on-screen notice informing them that Sherrod had resigned. Presumably they did not want to re-tape the segment, and felt that informing viewers that that (small) portion of the program was deprecated was adequate. To claim dishoesty in this instance is dishonest in itself. Fox informed viewers that what they were seeing was no longer relevant.

"It's clear that Fox pushed a false story, without checking their facts, and helped it become a big story" - Once again, that is true. Fox pushed a false story without adequately vetting it, and helped it become a big story. As did virtually every other major news outlet (like, say, CNN). Keith Olbermann himself chided his own cable network for its complicity in the scandal that should not have been. So if Color of Change is going to use the fact that Fox pushed the story as reason for a viewer boycott, it might as well title the campaign "Turn Off Cable News."

"Without Fox, deliberately deceptive smears like one launched against Sherrod would have no chance of making their way into mainstream political conversations." - Really? We would never see, oh I don't know, CBS using forged documents to claim a sitting president had lied about his military service?

Now on to Rucker's second point:

It's ridiculous for you to say that this incident has been "widely discredited" -- only Fox and other propaganda outlets with little regard for the truth have said this story is false. The New York Times clarification you reference doesn't say that no slurs were uttered -- it says that they can't prove that it was Tea Partiers who uttered them, although the protest that day was clearly a Tea Party protest.

Fox and allies of theirs -- including NewsBusters, apparently -- have decided to accuse several distinguished black members of Congress of lying about what they saw and heard the day of the Tea Party protest against health care reform on Capitol Hill. It's a cynical strategy on the part of the leadership in the Tea Party and the media that support them, to deny the truth, and avoid taking any responsibility for the racism in their ranks.

It's absurd to say that what happened on Capitol Hill didn't occur because video wasn't found that captured it. It's insulting to accuse, without any basis, black members of Congress -- some of whom lived through the most virulent racism and violence during the civil rights movement -- of conspiring to invent an incident of racism for their own political purposes when they have no record of doing so. On the other hand, evidence of elements of the Tea Party expressing racist sentiment is widely available.

There's no need to take this one point by point, since Rucker's entire argument rests on the notion that the burden of proof falls upon the accused in situations such as this. There is absolutely no actual evidence that this alleged incident took place, but no matter. A congressman said it did (and we all know how honest your average politician is), and other people, on different occasions, have said offensive things. Therefore, we have enough evidence to claim definitively that the n-word was shouted at congressmen that day. The logic here is, quite frankly, absurd.

One wonders if Rucker would have supported a similar guilty-until-proven-innocent approach when Sen. Joseph McCarthy - a highly decorated Marine Corps Veteran, by the way - galavanted around the United States accusing political opponents (among many others) of having communist ties. No conclusive evidence to the contrary? Lock 'em up!