Leftist protesters around the country used the tax deadline on April 18 as an occasion to hold rallies demanding the release of President Trump's tax returns. They could use large inflatable chickens and signs with hammers and sickles saying "Show us your rubles" and no journalist would be offended.
Knowing the president, this will have all the effectiveness of national rallies that demand we get transcripts of Hillary Clinton's six-figure speeches. It's unlikely.
But the Saturday network newscasts promoted the anti-Trump "resistance" without really noting that it's a bit strange for left-wingers to be protesting on taxes, unless they think rates are dangerously low. CBS correspondent Errol Barnett announced, "As nationwide Tax Day protests reached the sunny streets of West Palm Beach, Florida, today, President Trump spent time at his International Golf Club and Mar-a-Lago resort nearby."
On ABC, they acknowledged "violent clashes" among protesters in California, and anchor Tom Llamas promoted the wave, saying, "There were about 150 Tax Day protests demanding to see the president's tax returns, even at the president's Mar-a-Lago resort." NBC led the whole newscast on the protests, including the violence that erupted in Berkeley.
Something was missing in all of this protest publicity: the notion that the protesters weren't a real grass-roots movement. Liberal journalists are always happy to see liberal protesters boosting any mob that matches their ideals. Because they are liberal, they are always presented as authentic, diverse and representative of the public, regardless of the last election's results. It can be rigidly organized by MoveOn and other leftist groups, but it will be painted as spontaneous.
But rewind to eight years ago: While the networks covered conservative Tax Day protests against then-President Obama, the emphasis was on how phony they were.
ABC reporter Dan Harris suggested the protesters were AstroTurf "cheered on by Fox News and talk radio." As opposed to "authentic" organizers cheered by ABC, CBS and NBC? Harris added: "Critics on the left say this is not a real grassroots phenomenon at all, that it's actually largely orchestrated by people fronting for corporate interests. ... While the Boston Tea Party in 1773 was about taxation without representation, critics point out that today's protesters did get to vote — they just lost."
CBS reporter Dean Reynolds announced that while "a fistful of rightward-leaning websites and commentators embraced the cause. ... fresh polling indicates there is not all that much passion about high taxes in the country at large right now. Gallup this week found 61 percent of Americans see their federal income taxes as fair."
On NBC, Lee Cowan reported that "organizers insist today's tea parties were organic uprisings of like-minded taxpayers from both parties," but "some observers suggest not all of it was as home-grown as it may seem." His "observer" was colleague Chuck Todd, who didn't exactly have his finger on the 2010 pulse. Earlier that day, Todd insisted that the idea of these "so-called tea parties ... hasn't really caught on."
Oops. Wishful thinking trumped reporting.
The networks also spent the Obama years ignoring how the tea party was motivated by historically enormous trillion-dollar deficits. Facts like those were stubborn things. Journalists felt it was best to navigate around them as the "news" consisted of congratulating Obama for his ability to sing Al Green songs and his rib-tickling Obamacare-promoting interviews with supportive comedians.
It's ironic that the liberal media now accuse President Trump of lacking any principles and being indifferent to public policy matters. Perhaps after their performance in the last eight years, the anchormen should be looking in the mirror.
L. Brent Bozell III is the president of the Media Research Center. Tim Graham is director of media analysis at the Media Research Center and executive editor of the blog NewsBusters.org.