The curious link between MMFA and the White House war on Fox

posted at 9:50 am on February 14, 2012 by Ed Morrissey

Apparently, the people at Media Matters take the term “investigative journalism” seriously — even if they misunderstand it.  According to a September 2009 e-mail obtained by Tucker Carlson at the Daily Caller, Media Matters Director of Media Relations Karl Frisch proposed to founder David Brock and MMFA president Eric Burns that the organization conduct a campaign to “embarrass and discredit” Fox News, which Frisch called the “enemy” which the progressive movement needed after winning the presidency and control of Congress.  Among the ideas Frisch proposed was hiring private investigators to dig up dirt on Fox News anchors and staff:

A little after 1 p.m. on Sept. 29, 2009, Karl Frisch emailed a memo to his bosses, Media Matters for America founder David Brock and president Eric Burns. In the first few lines, Frisch explained why Media Matters should launch a “Fox Fund” whose mission would be to attack the Fox News Channel.

“Simply put,” Frisch wrote, “the progressive movement is in need of an enemy. George W. Bush is gone. We really don’t have John McCain to kick around any more. Filling the lack of leadership on the right, Fox News has emerged as the central enemy and antagonist of the Obama administration, our Congressional majorities and the progressive movement as a whole.”

“We must take Fox News head-on in a well funded, presidential-style campaign to discredit and embarrass the network, making it illegitimate in the eyes of news consumers.”

What Frisch proceeded to suggest, however, went well beyond what legitimate presidential campaigns attempt. “We should hire private investigators to look into the personal lives of Fox News anchors, hosts, reporters, prominent contributors, senior network and corporate staff,” he wrote.

After that, Frisch argued, should come the legal assault: “We should look into contracting with a major law firm to study any available legal actions that can be taken against Fox News, from a class action law suit to defamation claims for those wronged by the network. I imagine this would be difficult but the right law firm is bound to find some legal ground for us to take action against the network.”

Did MMFA actually put Frisch’s plan into action?  At the moment, the answer appears to be no, at least not in terms of hiring the investigators.  In the two-plus years since Frisch’s e-mail, MMFA hasn’t dropped a personal bomb on anyone from Fox.  The lawsuits haven’t piled up, either.   They have sent trackers to public events and bitterly criticized Fox’s reporting, but that’s a legitimate form of activism, if often tedious and tiresome.

What is interesting about this memo is the timing.  Yesterday, I wrote that the true red flag in The DC’s exposé wasn’t the fact that MMFA successfully got its message out via the media; lots of orgs manage to do that, including some we like, and reporters/commentators like Ben Smith and Greg Sargent didn’t do anything the rest of us eschew.  The real issue was the fact that MMFA did that while coordinating closely with the White House, which prompted the question of whether Barack Obama and his staff weren’t really the hands pulling the strings on its MMFA marionette.

So what was going on at the White House at the time that Frisch sent this memo to Brock?  It was just within days that Obama and his administration launched their weird war on Fox News.  On October 11th, White House communications chief Anita Dunn — one of MMFA’s main contacts at the White House — went on a nine-minute tirade about Fox on CNN, calling it “an arm of the GOP.”   On October 12th, Fox announced that the White House had told them a week earlier that Obama would not do an interview with their network.  The same day, John Nichols at The Nation — a leading progressive magazine — called Obama the “Whiner in Chief” over the ongoing battle with Fox.  Obama himself joined the attack on October 22nd, complaining that Fox was more like a talk-radio station than a news outlet.  Only after this ill-advised war began to unsettle more friendly media outlets and expose the President to gales of criticism over the spectacle of the government launching an attack on a media outlet did the White House retreat at the end of the month from the war they had started.

This looks like a strong circumstantial case for coordination between MMFA and the White House, and once again, it’s not entirely clear just which of the two ran the show.  It’s getting pretty easy to connect the dots and see the outline of a covert attempt to influence and bully the media through sock-puppetry with MMFA.  If the White House war on Fox had gotten a more sympathetic reaction, I wonder whether that army of PIs would have been deployed.

Update: Fox News Insider picked up this post early this afternoon.  I thought they might take an interest in it.

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Remember how Pablo Escobar had plants in government, in police departments, in the Mexican Army?
Does Media Matters likewise have plants in the IRS?
This would explain why the IRS hasn’t audited them after seeing gross violations of tax law.

Mark7788 on February 14, 2012 at 2:04 PM

Did MMFA actually put Frisch’s plan into action? At the moment, the answer appears to be no, at least not in terms of hiring the investigators.

How min the hell can you possibly make this claim? How do you know they didn’t hire investigators??

beedubya on February 14, 2012 at 2:05 PM

Ed, the timing that is really important, and was noted Treacher’s blog, is that Brock’s big “expose” book on Fox News is due out next week. (See Amazon link by Treacher.)

Brock and Media Matters were no doubt hoping for a big media rollout with interviews on MSNBC, etc.

Now Brock might face questions like “Why did your bodyguard illegally carry a gun?” or “Why did you think there were snipers that might target you on the roof?” or “Did you call police about these threats?”, as well as the most basic questions, “Why do you have an enemies list at MM?” and, of course, “Are you nuts?”

This may have been part of the Dems’ fall campaign to demonize Fox again. But they chose a flawed messenger.

Wethal on February 14, 2012 at 2:08 PM

Why isn’t this actionable? At least on some level?

Cleombrotus on February 14, 2012 at 2:28 PM

But, this planned, coordinated attack, with White House complicity, an assault on the First Amendment by the President…and other than a few “conservative” blogs or so…where is the protest?

Have we become so passive as to allow and witness our own demise without a whimper because it cuts in to the Super Bowl, or the Grammies, or the latest episode of American Idol?

I’m getting older, and health is a major issue and I’d at least like to meet my end safe in the knowledge that the Republic continues, that the values with which I led my life, and for which I devoted most of my adult life, will endure. That my kids and grand kids have a future…a good and decent future.

Doesn’t seem like they will endure.

coldwarrior on February 14, 2012 at 10:10 AM

Thanks for expressing my thoughts too.
It also bothers me that the death panels will be fully operational and going by the time I leave this mortal sphere!

Bambi on February 14, 2012 at 2:29 PM

rogerb on February 14, 2012 at 10:13 AM

Well, just take comfort in the fact that YOUR vote will cancel out his.

Cleombrotus on February 14, 2012 at 2:33 PM

Media Matters’ chickens are coming home to roost. A couple of things:

1) I find it hilarious that even the Media Matters folks were simply appalled at what a whore Greg Sargent is, that he’ll publish anything at all they hand him. They found it convenient — that a Washington Post “reporter” was such a useful idiot — but also disconcerting…that a Washington Post reporter was such a useful idiot. I saw Carlson on a news show this morning and he said the Media Matters people thought Sargent was just such a joke, that he would publish anything at all they gave him. Greg Sargent is toast in all of this.

2) Liberal Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz is piling on Media Matters, saying their collusion with the White House could become Barack’s “Rev. Wright of the 2012 election,” and Dershowitz notes that while he isn’t on Media Matters’ mailing list, he does get their e-mails forwarded to him on a regular basis…by a neo-Nazi website! Media Matters is toast, too.

Rational Thought on February 14, 2012 at 3:38 PM

The Journo-list was only the tip of the iceberg re democrat propagandism.

rayra on February 14, 2012 at 3:45 PM

saying their collusion with the White House could become Barack’s “Rev. Wright of the 2012 election,” and Dershowitz notes that while he isn’t on Media Matters’ mailing list, he does get their e-mails forwarded to him on a regular basis…by a neo-Nazi website! Media Matters is toast, too.

Rational Thought on February 14, 2012 at 3:38 PM

As far as I can tell, the whole Rev Wright thing did not appear to hurt Obama at all, or at least significantly among anyone who was not already opposed to Obama. So citing that is say this will be equaly weak sauce.

Media Matters may go down like Acorn, but I doubt it will be because of a link to Nazis. I’d not hate Ed if some Nazi read him. My point in refuting both of these is to emphasize that liberals have to be ‘caught with dead girls or live boys’ before either they lose the cover of their media comrads or the message penatrates to the mass of people. Remember this same mass of people was so stupid as to vote for Obama, a no experience leftist radical who happend to be black, not Bush, and not Mrs. Clinton. And you can thank that same leftist media for the ‘not Bush’ feeling, cover for no experience, and cover for radicalism.

AnotherOpinion on February 14, 2012 at 4:06 PM

Why isn’t this actionable? At least on some level?

Cleombrotus on February 14, 2012 at 2:28 PM

Cause not enough people give a damn.

squint on February 14, 2012 at 4:17 PM

Good work, Ed.

Where’s Rep. Barbara Jordan when you need her?

Oops! I forgot.

They named a passenger terminal after her in Austin.

Who will get a passenger terminal named after them for exposing this stinking mess of rot?

Alas, it will have to be the “Reagan National Terminal to an Unknown Congresswoman.”

I don’t see a groundswell of indignation from the Ministry of Information over this one.

Stepan on February 14, 2012 at 4:44 PM

Getting caught with a dead girl probably enhanced Ted Kennedy’s reputation for most Liberals.

halfbaked on February 14, 2012 at 5:49 PM

Equation fits actions and results since..


Panentheist on February 15, 2012 at 3:41 AM

MMfA really has a problem with the millions of Americans who disagree, dislike or otherwise disapprove of the handling of this nation by Obama but can’t attack them so they go after FOX, the perceived representative of the ‘real’ enemy, us. Soros(the money)Brock(the mouth)know this but are walking a fine line as it is even venturing down this road. Who here is not going to see this as an attack by White House on free speech and other liberties? MMfA is playing with fire and they’re going to get burned.

LizardLips on February 15, 2012 at 8:25 AM