article

07.22.10

Does Fox News Fuel the Tea Party?

Fox News correspondent Carl Cameron, in a conversation at the Netroots Nation convention, said his network blew up the Shirley Sherrod story and agreed it also boosts the Tea Party.

Fox News correspondent Carl Cameron, in a conversation at the Netroots Nation convention, said his network blew up the Shirley Sherrod story, that Senate candidate Sharron Angle “always seems confused,” and agreed that his network boosts the Tea Party.

Fox News correspondent Carl Cameron, chatting with a Daily Kos contributor in the media room Thursday at the liberal blogger convention Netroots Nation, mocked his Fox colleagues’ behavior on the Shirley Sherrod scandal and tacitly agreed that the cable network had fueled the rise of the Tea Party movement.

Cameron, speaking to blogger Dante Atkins shortly after Atkins had been interviewed for a Fox segment about the Netroots event, nodded as Atkins repeated comments he made on camera that the Tea Party movement was largely organized by Fox News hosts like Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity.

Rebecca Dana: Sherrod’s Brilliant Media Play“Tell me about it,” Cameron smirked.

As the conversation continued, Atkins, a Daily Kos front-pager, cited examples of Fox’s undue sway over events. Cameron then offered one of his own.

“The Sherrod case is an example of some at Fox News trying to have more influence than it probably should,” Cameron said.

Cameron was referring to this week’s controversy in which Georgia-based USDA inspector Shirley Sherrod, who is black, was fired by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack after Internet provocateur Andrew Breitbart posted a heavily edited video that seemed to indicate she was bragging about not giving help to a farmer 24 years ago because he was white.

Hannity and other Fox personalities pounced on Breitbart’s “scoop” as evidence of “reverse racism” and played the edited video repeatedly. Later in the week, the full video of Sherrod’s speech to the 2010 NAACP convention emerged, showing she was using her initial reaction to the white farmer to explain her own journey toward racial enlightenment. The farmer, Roger Spooner, appeared on CNN and elsewhere vouching for Sherrod and crediting her with saving their farm, and by Thursday President Obama called to apologize and offer the 62-year-old her job back.

Cameron told The Daily Beast Thursday night that this report takes his remarks out of context and that he was actually defending the integrity of Fox’s news division. He insisted this reporter did not hear the entire discussion, even though it began immediately after this reporter’s interview with Daily Kos blogger Atkins had concluded.

Cameron also claimed the conversation only lasted 40 seconds because he was in a hurry to get across town.

When asked later, Atkins estimated the conversation witnessed by this reporter was about four minutes long and confirmed the accuracy and context of the quotations in this report, but declined to comment further to The Daily Beast.

The remarks by Cameron were unusual but not unprecedented. Others, including Fox News anchor Shepard Smith, have called out some conservative bias in the top-rated news network’s coverage and image.

During the conversation with Atkins, Cameron also opined about Republican Senate nominee Sharron Angle of Nevada, who is facing off with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in November. Angle is a Tea Party icon who has advocated eliminating Social Security and Medicare, says that teenagers who are impregnated through incestuous rape ought to be required to bear the child, and has said she supports the prohibition of alcohol.

The former assemblywoman has lost a substantial lead in the polls since her June 8 victory as Reid hammers her in TV ads. Angle is making an issue out of the fact that Reid called banks in March 2009 when an $8.5 billion development owned by MGM Resorts International on the Las Vegas Strip was hours from bankruptcy. MGM was able to secure the loans and finish the project, keeping 10,000 construction workers on the job and currently employing 12,000 others in its operations.

The conversation in the media room between Cameron and Atkins turned to Angle. Angle has been criticized for being unavailable to reporters since her primary victory, and Atkins noted Angle has stated she was appearing on Fox News because it was good for fundraising. Cameron said that she hadn’t appeared on the network “much.”

At this point, this reporter noted that she had appeared at least twice, including last week when a Fox News anchor confronted her—and confused her by doing so—on her use of the term “bank bailout” to describe Reid’s MGM intervention.

“Sharron Angle always seems confused,” Cameron said.

Cameron and Atkins then left the room and carried on their conversation in the hallway for several more minutes. Atkins declined to say what more was discussed; Cameron said he thanked Atkins for appearing on Fox and expressed frustration that the Netroots Nation organization refused to provide a spokesperson to speak to the network.

Plus: Check out more of the latest entertainment, fashion, and culture coverage on Sexy Beast—photos, videos, features, and Tweets.

Steve Friess is a veteran Vegas-based freelancer whose work appears inthe New York Times, Newsweek, USA Today, the LA Times and many others. He's a contributing writer for AOLNews, a columnist for the Las Vegas Weekly, blogs at VegasHappensHere.Com and is host of two podcasts, the celebrity-interview show The Strip and the animal-affairs program The Petcast. He Tweets at @TheStripPodcast.