Media missed tea party, reporters say

Political movement went unnoticed, CNN's Brown says

BEVERLY HILLS -- The media might be overplaying the significance of the tea party movement, CNN anchor Campbell Brown suggested late Tuesday during a political discussion at the Milken Institute Global Conference.
Paraphrasing a story from the news Web site, Politico, Brown said: “The media didn’t see the tea party coming, and now are sort of over-compensating by giving these guys way more attention than they deserve.”
Actually, said David Frum, it’s more simple than that: “The media loves people who come to demonstrations in funny costumes,” the right-leaning Time magazine columnist said.
He added that the media has a structural problem with their coverage of tea party rallies. “You can show all the people who come to a demonstration; it’s very difficult to show the people who don’t come.”
Frum said the tea partiers, who have been protesting nationwide in favor of smaller government, are visible and very connected to “conservative entertainment” like Fox News Channel and talk radio, which give them heft even though their ranks are small.
“Politicians are losing sight of all the people who aren’t there,” he said to applause.
It was Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, a Republican, who offered up a defense, gently chastising rich attendees of a Beverly Hills conference for their unflattering characterization of tea party demonstrators as “unwashed simpletons.”
“Stereotypes are dangerous in general,” he said. “For the most part, these are just hard working average people. They don’t have lots of money. They shop at Sam’s Club. They’re plumbers, and electricians, and grandmas.”
“It’s not good for everyone else to belittle them,” he said.
“You can’t deny at many of these rallies there have been racist attacks on the president,” Campbell interjected.
“You can go to any political rally and find a couple of goofballs,” Pawlenty said. But if the standard for tea-partiers is that “they must always be coherent,” or risk the wrath of the media, then apply those same standards to Congress, he said to applause.
Brown, Frum and Pawlenty, along with Washington Post columnist Matt Miller and Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer, were speaking at the conference’s dinner session dubbed: “America’s Political Landscape as the Midterms Approach.