Some Tea Party leaders are calling for conservatives to boycott MSNBC's advertisers, after the network ran a documentary on June 16 that they say unfairly slandered the movement.
Two of the Tea Party leaders interviewed in the Chris Matthews-narrated documentary are asking supporters to write, call and fax the offices of Dawn and its parent company Proctor and Gamble and request that they cease giving advertising dollars to Matthews' “Hardball” program on MSNBC. FreedomWorks chairman Dick Armey and Kitchen Table Patriots member Ana Puig jointly called the documentary a “propaganda piece” and urged Tea Party groups around the country to boycott Dawn products.
“The program 'Rise of the New Right' was low-ball journalism at its worst,” said the Kitchen Table Patriots in a statement released today. “Chris Matthews and his Hardball program slandered the Tea Party movement, and misled the American people by distorting facts about the Tea Party movement, its motivations and it history.”
Brendan Steinhauser, a grassroots director at FreedomWorks, noted that other groups like the American Grassroots Coalition, the National Tea Party Federation, Tea Party Nation and Liberty Central have also signed on to the boycott.
Critics say that Matthews' documentary smeared Tea Partiers as “violent,” “conspiracy theorists,” and “racists” by relying heavily on insinuations, heavily edited sound bites, and allegations from left-wing activist groups.
The introduction of the video splices back-to-back shots of militia members firing guns with Tea Party protesters holding up signs criticizing President Obama's policies, as ominous music droned in the background.
In one segment, Matthews appeared to insinuate that FreedomWorks leader Armey is supportive of “birthers,” a group of fringe conspiracy theorists who believe President Obama wasn't born in the U.S.
“While not embracing birthers, many conservative leaders refuse to separate from them,” said Matthews in a voiceover that led in to an interview Matthews held with Armey.
“Barack Obama's citizenship, is that a real case or not?” asks Matthews.
“There's a venue for that. Probably in the courts,” Armey replied.
But Steinhauser, who organizes FreedomWorks' national events, says that any suggestion that Armey sympathizes with birthers is “just ridiculous.”
“[The documentary] obviously didn't give his full answer,” said Steinhauser. “At our events we've been approached by just about every birther in the book. We kept [birthers] Allan Keyes [and] Orly Taitz as far as possible from our big September 12 event. I told them 'that's not who we are – go have your own rally.' The movement out and out rejects that.”
And other facts presented in the documentary don't appear to stand up to scrutiny. At one point in the video, Mark Potok, a director at the left-wing Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) warned Matthews' that “we've gone from numbers like, you know, 170 militias to well over 500.” But the SPLC's most recent report on right-wing groups released in Spring 2010 claimed  that it only defines 127 organizations in the U.S. as “militias.”
Steinhauser said that getting the message out about the boycott is just the first step in the campaign. “This is just the beginning stages. We've got some other things planned down the road in the days and weeks to come,” he said.