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New York Protesters Hold “Fox News Shut-Up-A-Thon”

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Members of Code Pink and others gathered in front of Fox’s corporate headquarters in midtown Manhattan to protest the network’s biased coverage. We speak with Robert Greenwald, producer and director of the documentary “Outfoxed” and Medea Benjamin who was arrested. [includes rush transcript]

Nearly 1,000 people were arrested in New York yesterday in large protests against the Republican National Convention. Thousands of activists took to the streets to carry out a series of planned direct actions and civil disobedience at locations throughout the city yesterday.

A total of 1,500 people have now been arrested since protests against President Bush began six days ago. The protests yesterday were organized by the A31 Action Coalition, a decentralized umbrella group made up of scores of activist organizations and affinity groups.

The groups participating in yesterday’s coordinated actions ranged from the War Resisters League to the Ruckus Society to CODE Pink to Direct Action to the San Francisco-based Stop the War.

One of the day’s main events was the “Fox News Shut-Up-A-Thon” where members of Code Pink and others gathered in front of the of Fox’s corporate headquarters in midtown Manhattan. Filmmaker Robert Greenwald was also there. His latest film, “Outfoxed” accuses the Fox News Channel of tailoring its coverage to back President Bush.

  • Robert Greenwald, speaking yesterday in front of Fox’s corporate headquarters in midtown Manhattan.
  • Medea Benjamin, was arrested at the protest.

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: We spoke with Robert Greenwald, amongst the protesters.

ROBERT GREENWALD: I’m here to join this incredible folks from CODE Pink who organized this, and join up in asking O’Reilly and FOX to shut up.

AMY GOODMAN: What’s this bus that you just got off of?

ROBERT GREENWALD: The bus as a loop of O’Reilly telling everyone saying that he never said shut up once, and playing his shut up, shut up, shut up, shut up, which to this day he denies saying but we have it right here.

BILL O’REILLY: Paul Evans, Winston Salem, North Carolina: “Bill, if you are concerned about public figures being bad role models for children, please stop rudely interrupting your guests and telling them to shut up.” Well, the 'shut up' line has been only used once in six years.

GUEST: Well, I think that asking a student to stay in the closet —

BILL O’REILLY: I am asking you to shut up about sex—


GUEST: No, no, no. Please don’t tell me to shut up.


BILL O’REILLY: Why did you have to tell them you were an atheist if you didn’t have any trouble reading the oath? Why didn’t you just shut up?

BILL O’REILLY: What Jimmy Carter should do is privately give Mr. Bush his opinion and shut up publicly. That would be best for the country.

BILL O’REILLY: It is our duty as local Americans to shut up once the fighting begins. Once the war against Saddam begins,we expect every American to support our military, and if they can’t do that is to shut up.

BILL O’REILLY: All he has got in six-and-a-half years that I misspoke, that I labeled a Polk-awarded Peabody. He writes in his book. He tries to make —

GUEST: No, no, no, no —-—

BILL O’REILLY: Shut up! You had your 35 minutes. Shut up!

ROBERT GREENWALD: We’re waiting for him to join us. So far he hasn’t taken us up on his invitation.

AMY GOODMAN: You invited him down?

ROBERT GREENWALD: Oh yeah. Like always — yes, we did invite him down, but like all bullies, he has not showed up. He prefers to stay up there where he’s safe and yell and cut off people’s microphones.

AMY GOODMAN: Have you ever been up there interviewed?

ROBERT GREENWALD: No. I don’t — no, I have not been. But we’re expecting after the demonstration today that FOX News will go out of business and announce they realize that’s been a mistake and they shouldn’t be polluting the airwaves.

AMY GOODMAN: What kind of reaction have you gotten to Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch’s War on Journalism, your film.

ROBERT GREENWALD: I think it’s an amazing reaction, not the film, but the fact that we have gotten this very strong reaction, because people care so much about this issue. The issue of media and the issue of FOX News and the fact that it’s not a news organization. I have been shocked at — it’s in the movie theaters where we have broke the house record at the Quad. We sold over 150,000 DVD’s. It was number within on Amazon. That’s because people really care about the media. Media is trying to convince us they don’t care, but the truth is that people care passionately about this. As Bob McChesney says, until we change media, we will never get the kind of social justice that we would like in our society.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about some of the things that you found? Some of the examples? You talk about the one series of 'shut ups' of Bill O’Reilly though he denied that he tells people to shut up except once.

ROBERT GREENWALD: The wonderful thing about O’Reilly is that he denies it and then you show the clips and there he’s saying it. We essentially found four things in Outfoxed which prove the case not that it’s conservative but it’s republican partisan. There’s a difference. Conservative on budget, deficits, prudent foreign policy. They don’t do any of that if it goes against Bush. What we found through four ways was that we have the daily memos in which they instruct people not what story to cover, but how to cover stories politically. We have fine former members of FOX news who went public for the first time and they talk about receiving specific political instructions. They’re not complaining about the — what they were paid or the food. We have the great study by FAIR of the Brit Hume show. 25 weeks, they analyzed all of the guests: 80% Republican, 20% Democrats. Then we have hundreds of thousands of clips from FOX news which has there been done before either of evidence of their consistent support and partisan line, the Republican Party.

AMY GOODMAN: What responsibility do they have?

ROBERT GREENWALD: Well, that’s the question. You know, it’s — there’s legal and moral. Legally, because there’s no equal time access anymore, there doesn’t seem to be anything that can be done except AlterNet has the lawsuit against the trademark. FOX trying to trademark fair and balanced. AltaNet is here. Don Hazen here.

AMY GOODMAN: Don Hazen, can you come over here and talk about your lawsuit? We are talking about the lawsuit. We are looking at the news ticker of FOX news right now. ”VIOLENCE AFOOT. PLAINCLOTHED DETECTIVES ATTACKED NEAR MSG (MADISON SQUARE GARDEN) LAST NIGHT. STILL IN SERIOUS CONDITION. AS PEOPLE SHOUT HERE, ’SHUT THE FOX UP!”” Don Hazen, what’s the lawsuit?

DON HAZEN: It’s actually a legal challenge in patent and trademark court claiming that “Fair and Balanced” as a trademark is mis-descriptive and generic and that FOX should not have it. It’s a legal process just like court and we’re in discovery and are trying to force — right now, FOX has a monopoly on the words fair and balanced. Two weeks before they were going to have it forever, we intervened and we challenged them in this special court.

AMY GOODMAN: Is it because AlterNet wants the copyright for 'Fair and Balanced'?

DON HAZEN: No, we are basically saying that FOX is hardly fair and balanced. They are the opposite. We don’t want FOX to monopolize that term. Everybody should be able to use that term if they are fair and balanced.

AMY GOODMAN: What is your organization? AlterNet?

DON HAZEN: We have two million people. You know where AlterNet is, see us on the web, www.alternat.org.

AMY GOODMAN: But for listeners and viewers who may not know, we are also here with Canal Plus, which is the Spanish National Network in Spain.

DON HAZEN: Great. Hola. Que pasa?

AMY GOODMAN: What is AlterNet?

DON HAZEN: AlterNet is an independent web magazine with lots of stories about culture and politic. We are very progressive and we get lots of people to come and find out what to do about the news.

AMY GOODMAN: Robert Greenwald, do you think that FOX has changed since this film has come out? They have attacked you for not calling FOX to be on Outfoxed.

ROBERT GREENWALD: Yes. Well, what I love about it is they attacked us because we didn’t call them when I was making the movie. Of course, if I would have called them when I was make it, they could have sued to stop it. So, we finished the movie. They complained when I didn’t ask them for comments. So, I said, okay we’re finished. Do you have a comment? They said, “No Comment.” Then they proceeded, Bill O’Reilly has called me a smear merchant, which I consider a proud honor and an award that I have up on my wall. We haven’t seen any real change in FOX’s behavior, but we expect over time to, because what we’re starting to do is we’re affecting the sponsors, and we’re seeing an affect in that area, that’s what makes most concern to FOX news is sponsors know that democrats and liberals buy cars and soap. They don’t want to be identified with just one political point of view. So, we’re extremely hopeful over time, and with AlterNet’s lawsuit, that we will see change.

AMY GOODMAN: Are you going to continue to distribute? How will you distribute Outfoxed? You have an unorthodox method. You don’t open first in movie theaters.

ROBERT GREENWALD: Outfoxed was first available on DVD and through MoveOn, Center for American Progress, AlterNet and Buzz Flash. It’s available to people who want to buy it and have house parties. Now it’s also in the theaters. We’re seeing it in theaters. We are seeing people buy personally. It was number one on Amazon over two weeks.

AMY GOODMAN: What’s your response to what happened to your fellow filmmaking at the Republican National Convention, John McCain singles him out. In fact, Michael Moore was there as a columnist for USA Today as the entire — well, as many in the convention hall chanting, “four more years.” Michael Moore putting up the peace sign or at least the number two, perhaps meaning two more months, not clear, but what about that?

ROBERT GREENWALD: I’m thrilled that the Republicans are focusing on the most serious issue of the day, which is Michael Moore, rather than on terrorism, lack of jobs, lack of education, and this horrible war that’s going on.

AMY GOODMAN: Robert Greenwald, director and producer of Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch’s War on Journalism. Joining thousands, the crowd swelled to thousands of people outside FOX headquarters around 48th, 49th and Sixth Avenue yesterday. One of the many direct actions through the day, as people protested FOX news. At the beginning of the protests as the crowd was swelling, Andrea Buffa, one of the coordinators of the protest was on the shoulders, sitting on the shoulders of someone, so she could be seen. She had a police megaphone to tell people to move from the sidewalk and as she was giving it back, she continued to chant in the Shut Up-A-Thon, the police immediately ripped her down off the shoulders of the person who was holding her up, and she as well as CODE Pink’s Medea Benjamin were arrested, were taken away, though ultimately, they came back. This is Medea Benjamin explaining what happened.

MEDEA BENJAMIN: were put in the paddy wagon, driven around the block and they took all of my information and released me and said they would decide whether they would cite me or not.

AMY GOODMAN: Cite you for what?

MEDEA BENJAMIN: They thought I had illegally used a bullhorn because i was following Andrea Buffa who had used a bullhorn. They said it was their right to sweep up anyone they want to, whenever they want to and decide whether they want to arrest them or not?

AMY GOODMAN: Why you are here today?

MEDEA BENJAMIN: I’m so angry as the way FOX news has misrepresented what’s happening in the world, what’s — what the issues are about Iraq. I want the media to tell the truth so that the American people will be better informed so we can have a real democracy in this country.

AMY GOODMAN: Why are you singling out FOX?

MEDEA BENJAMIN: Because FOX has been the worst by far. I turn on FOX and i cannot believe we allow the lies to be on the public airwaves. I think the corporate media is bad, but FOX is by far the worst.

AMY GOODMAN: On what issues?

MEDEA BENJAMIN: On the war in Iraq, but basically on every issue. I’m not a Kerry supporter, but the way they have been portraying John Kerry, I find that totally disgusting. The way they have been laughing about his time in Vietnam. The way they have been making fun of his- the issue around his purple heart. Again, I don’t support Kerry, even, but I feel that the way they portray is terribly wrong. I would say just about every issue that I have seen FOX News cover, they don’t cover it seriously or objectively. I have tried so hard to be on FOX. I was on Bill O’Reilly’s show once and couldn’t get back on the show because they don’t let people like us on. They only let us once so they can make fun of us and laugh at us. They don’t consider us experts. I have been to Iraq four times, Afghanistan twice. I have got advanced degrees in many things, and people like myself should be considered experts. We get to see what the real people see on the ground in places like Iraq and Afghanistan and all over the world. And yet they would rather talk to the Pentagon people as the experts. So, we say let’s have balanced reporting and let’s have fair reporting. Let’s put on different sides and people that actually when they go to a place like Iraq, they don’t go embedded with U.S. soldiers. They go around the streets and put their lives at risk to talk to the real people.

AMY GOODMAN: That was Medea Benjamin, CODE Pink. It was 5:00 or 6:00, Tuesday afternoon outside FOX headquarters at the Shut Up-a-Thon. Five hours later, she was on the floor of the convention about 20 feet from vice president Dick Cheney and his family. Medea Benjamin there unfurled a banner that said “Pro-Life, Stop the Killing In Iraq.” She was taken away by security as she shouted, “Stop the killing in Iraq. Dick Cheney, how much money, did you make in the war today? This is Democracy Now!.

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