June 30, 2011; Source: Fox News | Last week, Media Matters celebrated Glenn Beck’s last-ever show on Fox.  Beck is hardly the only Fox denizen that has attracted MM’s attention, often taking aim at the likes of Bill O’Reilly, Monica Crowley, Laura Ingraham, Steve Doocy, Brian Kilmeade, Lou Dobbs, and others.  What’s a conservative network to do when a watchdog watches — and criticizes things like Beck’s references to liberals as communists, his characterization of progressive policies as slavery, and his charge that President Obama holds a “deep-seated hatred for white people?” 

It’s not like there aren’t conservative counterparts to the liberal Media Matters, but that doesn’t seem to be a factor for Fox. The Fox response is this — get the IRS to pull the Media Matters tax exemption.

Apparently, the high-minded cover for the Fox campaign was a newspaper column penned by C. Boyden Gray, White House counsel under President George H.W. Bush.  According to Fox News, Gray “claimed [Media Matters] was running afoul of rulings that prohibit ‘inflammatory language’ for tax-exempt organizations and was too partisan.” 

One of the criticisms of Media Matters is that it has violated the “educational” mission that got it its tax exemption by presenting unsupported opinions.  Fox quoted a tax attorney named James King who said, “You may advocate a particular point of view, and you may do so strongly, but you can’t have it just be unsubstantiated opinion and you have to be reasonably objective about the way you present your views.”

Conservative pundit Charles Krauthammer added, “Media Matters is obviously not a media investigative organization that looks at everything.  It’s in a war on Fox. And you’re allowed to do that in a democracy. You can be nasty as you want. The only thing is don’t ask for a government subsidy. Nobody wants to stop them or to shut Media Matters down. It’s a question of whether your tax money and mine ought to be supporting it.”

The “Fair and Balanced” network is providing like-minded viewers help in challenging the Media Matters exemption. Viewers can download an IRS Form 13909 already filled in to challenge the Media Matters 501(c)(3) status. 

So what’s the legal analysis offered by Gray, Krauthammer, and Fox?  That if your opinion isn’t supported, you’re in violation of your (c)(3) status. If your opinions are seen by the people who are criticized as “nasty,” you’re jeopardizing your (c)(3) status. Somehow, we think that the Fox challenge of Media Matters isn’t exactly robust.—Rick Cohen