Several tea-party staffers have resigned from the Tea Party News Network, accusing the company of employing “despicable practices” that are “immoral and unethical” – and treating the movement’s patriotic activism as a “pain in the a–,” “not an opportunity to save the country.”
The exodus Thursday came on the heels of a Daily Beast expose that revealed readers’ concern that the Tea Party New Network, or TPNN, began to drift from the movement’s core values. Instead, they say, the company focuses on promoting sensational click bait – like video footage of street fights – between its news postings.
“It was supposed to be an educational tool for people who were upset with what is going on in the world,” tea-party activist Samuel J. Wurzelbacher, also known as “Joe the Plumber,” told the left-leaning Daily Beast. “But then they figured out, ‘Hell, we can make more money off of this.’ I stopped going to the site. It stopped being informative.”
According to the report, TPNN’s Facebook page even included a video of a large man punching a young woman through a large window at a U.K. restaurant. A caption on the post read, “Did the Big guy go too far or do you think the girl got what she deserved?”
Another post read, “VIDEO: Cowardly Sucker Punch Kills Autistic Man.” Others included: “Big Strutting Peacock Picks a Fight With the Wrong Guy” and “Homosexual Foster Dad Lets His Baby Die in a Hot Care; His Sentence is Outrageous.”
While there are mostly news stories posted on the Facebook page, WND also found posts encouraging followers to find cats in a large junk pile, detailing “not-so-flawless” photos of pop sensation Beyonce and depicting a “woman catapulted 50 feet by a passing car.”
“I won’t click on those d-mn stories. It’s about the shock factor. It has nothing to do with politics. It has to do with clicks,” Wurzelbacher said. “How far are they willing to go to compromise their integrity? It makes me sick, it makes me angry. It makes me want to go kick someone’s a–.”
TPNN’s Facebook page has more than 1.2 million likes. Media contact information for the company appears to have been removed from its website.
TPNN news director Scottie Hughes told the Beast that the videos help the company engage its readers.
“Nobody talks politics 24/7. People talk sports. People talk dog shows,” she said. “We are like other news outlets trying to figure out what works and what doesn’t. We are trying to make you a well-rounded person, so you can have stuff to talk about at the water cooler, so you aren’t just seen as the crazy tea party person who has been demonized for so long.”
Hughes said TPNN’s mission is “to rebrand what a tea-party person is,” but she added: “[W]e are all being pushed right now, and it is what it is for all of us in online media – get clicks, get clicks, get clicks, every one of us. Break news, break news, break news. Stories and clicks. And it is really hard for people like you and I who have studied journalism all our lives and who have this love for real, honest news.”
After the Daily Beast story ran, staffers submitted a resignation letter to TPNN, which was posted to Twitter. The letter signed by five staffers claims the company holds its writers in low esteem and treats readers as “unsophisticated simpletons.”
“We represent ourselves as ‘The Tea Party’ on Facebook and take no actions to hold ourselves to the higher standards of that designation,” the letter states. “Posts by fights.buzz and viral.buzz have become increasingly vile and unacceptable. The Tea Party is not TMZ and TPNN is not WorldStar.”
“The staff who work around the clock to produce timely and breaking content is regularly reminded that ‘writers are cheap,'” the letter continues. “The audience is regarded as unsophisticated simpletons. The activism that built all the infrastructure is considered a ‘pain in the ass’ not as an opportunity to save the country.”
TPNN, which was launched in 2012 to act as an “antidote to mainstream media bias,” is owned by TheTeaParty.net Founder Todd Cefaratti. According to the Daily Beast, TheTeaParty.net collected more than $6 million in donation during the most recent election cycle.
Cefaratti reportedly owns sites such as Fights.buzz and Viral.buzz, where many of the videos of fights posted by TPNN are found.
Read the resignation letter: