Why is the State Department having a New York Times reporter brief the foreign press on the Tea Party? 

At the State Department they have something known as the Foreign Press Center. Here’s how it’s described on the State Department’s website:

The United States Department of State has Foreign Press Centers in Washington, D.C. and New York. The Foreign Press Centers support U.S. policies by helping foreign media cover the U.S. Their goal is to promote the depth, accuracy, and balance of foreign reporting from the U.S., by providing direct access to authoritative American information sources.

Authoritative American sources, huh? Then someone please explain to me why the State Department is having Kate Zernike, the New York Times’ hackish Tea Party correspondent, brief the foreign press on the movement. For a primer on her wanting Tea Party coverage, see Examiner columnist Tim Carney’s discussion of her laughable innuendo that the Tea Party is racist here. Also see Jonah Goldberg’s more recent criticism where he notes that in Zernike was  ignorant (among other things) of what the phrase “rule of law” means.

Anyway, you can read the transcript of Zernike’s briefing at the State Department. She tries gamely to respond to questions of wildly varying degrees of intellectual sobriety, but her bias is laughably evident in a few places. Here’s her discussion of the Tea Party movement’s supposed hypocrisy on limited government issues:

One of the central contradictions of the movement has been that as much as this is a smaller government movement wanting less spending and less government intervention in our lives, about half the people of the supporters were on Medicare or Social Security or lived with someone who was.  Of course these are the biggest government programs in the country.  These are the chief areas that are driving up the national debt.

Pray tell, when did Social Security and Medicare become involuntary programs? We pay into them all our lives. Expecting or even needing to get something in return for what we’ve paid into those programs does not make you a limited government hypocrite for also pointing out that these programs are poorly designed and insolvent to the point they are bankrupting the country. This is a patently fallacious argument only adopted by the Tea Party’s most partisan opponents. Unfortunately, it’s not surprising to see Zernike parroting it

To be fair, Zernike does offer a number of impartial observations about the Tea Party, but still it’s a shame the State Department couldn’t get someone more informed and less overtly liberal to brief the foreign press. As evidenced by some of the foreign press’ questions for Zernike — it’s hard to tell, but one Norwegian journalist appeared to ask about the Tea Party’s relationship with to the Westboro Baptist Church! — elements of the foreign press could really use a better education on the subject.

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Mark Hemingway

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