Media Fails to Disclose Liberal Groups Are Behind Town Hall Meeting Stunts

Citizen  Action of Wisconsin, a group with a strong leftist ideology, organized a “town hall meeting” in Central Wisconsin on February 23 in an effort to embarrass U.S. Senator Ron Johnson and 7th District Congressman Sean Duffy, both Republicans. But none of the Wausau media outlets covering the event disclosed the political leanings of CAW. The group placed two empty chairs at the front of the meeting room “reserved” for Johnson and Duffy, who were invited to the event. Placed on the chairs were cut-outs with likenesses of the two. Much of the reporting gave the impression that a local group alone organized the event and gave no indication of its CAW’s politics.

WAOW-TV referred to CAW as  a “citizen action group in Western Wisconsin. WAOW-TV put the story under the headline:

Local group invites representatives to Town Hall, neither attend

WSAU radio’s headline over its website story seemed to capture the intent of the effort:

Duffy and Johnson Targets of Town Hall

In fact, CAW is not a local Central or Western Wisconsin organization. It does, however, boast on its website of “co-ops” around the state; including in those two areas. Among the evidence of CAW’s political leanings you’ll find on its website

A quick Google search of Citizen Action of Wisconsin would have made this information readily available to the media outlets reporting on the “town hall meeting.” Either the outlets didn’t take the time to research CAW or chose not to include the political nature of the group in their stories.

Meawhile, a similar effort against Speaker of the House Paul Ryan on Sunday was organized by the group “Forward Kenosha.” Just as was the case with the Central Wisconsin Media, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel made no effort to to define Forward Kenosha for its readers. Admittedly the group isn’t as forthcoming about its nature on its website as CAW. But it’s Twitter Feed gives more clues to is nature:

Instead, the Journal-Sentinel advanced the narrative that Ryan was “skipping” a town hall meeting that he didn’t schedule because he feared a hostile crowd.

Disgruntled voters across the United States have complained loudly to their elected representatives at meetings and listening sessions since the November elections. U.S. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) has held several town-hall meetings this year where hundreds of people have shown up. U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) last week did not attend town hall meetings in Green Bay and Madison, telling organizers in advance that he was not coming. He held an electronic town hall, answering questions from constituents by phone.

Members of the House and Senate routinely schedule and attend listening sessions. It is not common practice for them to attend “town hall meetings” organized by a third-party group.