Garofalo ambushed by Fox over tea party criticism

The actress and comedian had previously said that the protests were "about hating a black man in the White House."

By Alex Koppelman
Published May 12, 2009 4:45PM (EDT)

Fox News doesn't seem like it's going to stop conducting ambush interviews of people with whom its hosts have a political beef any time soon. The network's latest target was actress Janeane Garofalo, who was in the crosshairs for -- on MSNBC, of all places -- saying of the Tea Party protests:

Let's be very honest about what this is about. It's not about bashing Democrats. It's not about taxes. They have no idea what the Boston Tea party was about. They don't know their history at all. This is about hating a black man in the White House. This is racism straight up. That is nothing but a bunch of teabagging rednecks. There is no way around that.

And you know, you can tell these type of right wingers anything and they'll believe it, except the truth. You tell them the truth and they become -- it's like showing Frankenstein's monster fire. They become confused and angry and highly volatile... [T]heir limbic brain, we've discussed this before, the limbic brain inside a right-winger or Republican or conservative -- or your average white power activist -- the limbic brain is much larger in their head space than in a reasonable person, and it's pushing against the frontal lobe. So their synapses are misfiring.

For the record, I don't think there's anything worth defending in what she said. Her analysis of the motivation behind the Tea Parties is way too simplistic, and her brush is entirely too broad. I was at the Tea Party in New York City, and while there might have been a smattering of racism on display, that certainly was not the motivating factor for the vast majority of people there. Really, the truth is that the hype given to the parties from Fox News, from conservative blogs and from the GOP was all about bashing Democrats.

And don't get me started on her analysis of conservatives' brains: Not only is it offensive, and patently ridiculous, but it has a distinct whiff of phrenology to it. (And I know some readers are going to get on me in the letters for saying this, and are going to say that conservative brains are indeed deficient. Do what you like -- but know that they're saying the exact same thing about you, and it doesn't make anyone look good. It certainly doesn't help the discourse.)

That said, Garofalo did a pretty good job of defending herself during the ambush, both in the video you can see below and in a separate segment shown on "Hannity," which you can watch here. It is a little bizarre that Fox waited almost a month after Garofalo's comments to run the ambush, and it's also odd that they asked her only about the racism allegation, not the one about conservatives' brains -- a sign, perhaps,that they know they do well with their viewers by railing against accusations of racism.

Update: The Washington Independent's Dave Weigel points out that the people who interviewed Garofalo didn't disclose their affiliation with Fox when asked -- that's a pretty serious breach of journalistic ethics and practices.

Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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