Blaming the tea party movement first and asking questions later is becoming a too-common theme during breaking news events and persistent media bias against the group is frustrating tea party members, Politico reported.
It first happened right after the Tucson shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in 2011 when media speculated that the shooter was either affiliated with the tea party or influenced by its anti-government rhetoric, according to Politico. The erroneous reports forced tea party members to defend themselves against the assumption that the shootings could be linked to their movement.
Then this week, on "Good Morning America," ABC News reporter Brian Ross alleged theater shooter James Holmes had ties to the tea party. Ross made the shocking accusation on "Good Morning America" after discovering the Colorado Tea Party Patriots had a member called James Holmes. Ross admitted on air that he did not know whether the two men were the same, but still went ahead with his claim that the tragedy in Aurora in which 12 people were killed and 59 injured could be linked to the grassroots group.
ABC later apologized online and Ross tweeted, "Earlier I reported incorrectly that the shooting suspect might be tied to the tea party. I apologize for the mistake,” but those two statements would have been seen by just a fraction of the number of people who watched his original report.
“It truly is not only ridiculous, but it’s irresponsible,” Lu Ann Busse, a former tea party leader who is now running for a seat in the Colorado House, told Politico. “Why would you even say that without the information? People need to not start making accusations, making speculation, that’s just designed to inflame people.”
“There’s been repeated incidents where people have an agenda to demonize a certain segment of the population, whether it be the tea party or similar groups,” Busse told Politico. “They try to use everything to demonize and marginalize us, and I think it’s totally irresponsible and not the way people should act.”
Trent Humphries, who was president of Tucson’s tea party organization at the time of the Giffords shootings, said his family received death threats because of media reports linking the tea party to the shootings and the press made things worse by expecting tea party members to weigh in immediately as opponents of gun control, Politico reported.
“[The press] came to me and asked, ‘What should we do about guns?’” Humphries told Politico. “Of course they go to the tea party guy. I said, ‘How about you give us a chance to bury our dead, give us a chance to suffer through what we need to suffer through, and then we can get to politics.’”
Tea party leaders are fuming over the media’s assumptions that a political group is responsible for violence on any scale, Politico reported.
“I know the tea party is not a violent group — in no way, shape or form have we ever demonstrated violence,” Brian Britton, a tea party leader in Colorado, told Politico. “When we have rallies, we make it a point to clean up after ourselves and peacefully demonstrate.
"News outlets need to make sure they get the facts correct before they accuse anyone of anything or associate violence with a group, whether it’s one side or the other. They need to get the facts right.”
What bothers Brendan Steinhauser the most is the media’s double standard when it comes to coverage of the tea party versus that of the Occupy Movement. Steinhauser is the federal and state campaigns director at tea party-aligned FreedomWorks. The Occupy Movement receives glowing profiles but tea party members are called extremists.
“Any chance some in the media and on the left get to slander the tea party movement, they do,” he told Politico. “Am I surprised by it? No. It’s disgusting to me, it’s unfair, but that’s why it’s important to talk to people in the real world.”
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