Is Fox News going soft?
That is what a number of Tea Party activists are saying, and they are organizing a boycott to protest the conservative station’s coverage, especially what they view as the network’s relative silence in investigating the attacks on a diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya.
“Particularly after the election, Fox keeps turning to the left,” said Stan Hjerlied, 75, of Fort Collins, Colorado, and a participant in the boycott. He pointed to an interview Fox News CEO Roger Ailes gave after the election in which he said that the Republican Party and Fox News need to modernize, especially around immigration. “So we are really losing our only conservative network.”
The three-day boycott lasted Thursday morning through Sunday morning, and is the second time this group of activists has gone Fox-free in an effort to steer the coverage. Organizers say a two-day boycott earlier this month knocked 20 percent off of the network’s regular viewership. (A Daily Beast analysis of the same data showed that the boycott had little effect.)
A spokeswoman for Fox News did not respond to a request for comment.
A leader of the boycott, Kathy Amidon, of Nashville, declined an interview, instead directing The Daily Beast to a website, Benghazi-Truth. The website, a single-page, 23,000-word manifesto complete with multicolored fonts, supposedly incriminating videos of Fox News’s complicity in a cover-up, and communist propaganda photographs, is kept by someone who identifies himself online as “Proe Graphique,” and who other members of the boycott described as someone who works “in New York media.”
By way of explanation, the website reports: “People ask why not all mainstream media? Why just Boycott FOX? The answer, again, is that FOX needs the Tea Party/conservatives more than the conservatives need FOX after FOX turned left, basically selling out the people who made FOX successful in an attempt to earn an extra buck. FOX is extremely vulnerable to these boycotts while the rest of the MSM doesn’t need us at all, to speak of.”
Organizers then encourage would-be Fox News viewers to wait until the One America network, which is supposed to launch this summer as an alternative to Fox, goes on the air.
The night of the first boycott, Fox News host Sean Hannity devoted a segment to the attacks called “Six Months of Deceit.” Organizers didn’t watch it—since they were boycotting the network—and said that it was too little, too late, anyway.
“We have seen FOX suddenly get very loud about Benghazi after the 1st boycott, but conservatives are conservative because they are not stupid,” the website reads. “We recognize, easily, loud noise which is low on substance. In other words, by whining loudly about Benghazi without the kind of hard-hitting investigative reporting that brought down Nixon over Watergate, what we are seeing from FOX IMO is smoke and mirrors; a trick, to fool us into dutifully genuflecting at their alter [sic] of their arrogant hosts who throw us crumbs with one hand while insulting us with the other. If we want FOX to get serious, we’re going to have to keep hitting them hard. And that is just exactly what we're going to do.”
Amidon and Proe Graphique—who goes by the Twitter handle FrankMDavis, an apparent reference to the leftist poet who conspiracy theorists believe was Obama’s real father—send out dozens of tweets every day to ideological allies, asking them to contact their representatives to join the boycott.
Going without the conservative movement’s house organ, however, has proven to be no easy task for true believers.
“I am having withdrawal. I do like Fox News,” said Kevin Avard, a former state lawmaker in New Hampshire who is participating in the boycott. “I have been going to CNN, and to Headline News just to get some kind of fix. I usually probably only watch them once or twice a year.”
Hjerlied said that “if I want news, I go to Breitbart News and Drudge and I can find all the news I need, very quickly,” and after the first boycott, says he may have “kicked the habit” for good.
“I used to have it on all day long, and I probably watched maybe six hours last week,” he said. “The more I looked at it, I have come to the conclusion that Fox is not as fair and balanced as I thought. They shade the truth also.”
Donnie Farner, 48, works as a chimney sweep in central Pennsylvania and runs a website, Proud Conservative, which sells right-leaning memorabilia like “Liberals Are Friggin Idiots” T-shirts and bumper stickers that read “Ten Out of Ten Terrorists Recommend Voting Democrat.”
He said staying away from Fox News, and in particular its website, is harder than he realized.
“It is honestly because Fox is everywhere. If you are on Twitter, you click on a link, chances are it might go through Mediaite or Drudge, but it ends up at Fox because Fox originated the story.”
He quickly clicks away, instead relying on Glenn Beck’s website The Blaze to stay informed.
“The more I research into Fox—I saw that they donate more to Democratic candidates than conservative or Republican candidates—I was like holy cow! Maybe they are just trying to snatch our pockets. Maybe they are just talking the talk, because it sure doesn’t look like they are walking the walk.”
Among the demands the protesters have is that Fox News “be the right-wing CBS News: to break stories, to break information, and to do what news organizations have always done with such stories: break politicians,” that the network have at least one segment on Benghazi every night on two of its prime-time shows; that Fox similarly devote investigative resources to discovering the truth of Obama’s birth certificate; and that the network cease striving to be “fair and balanced.”
“We need Fox to turn right,” said Hjerlied. “We think this is a cover-up and Fox is aiding and abetting it. This is the way Hitler started taking over Germany, by managing and manipulating the news media.”