NBC Cheers Wall Street Protests as Liberal Version of Tea Party But Denounced Actual Tea Party

On Monday's NBC Today, correspondent Michelle Franzen reported on the left-wing "Occupy Wall Street" protests in New York and proclaimed: "Protesters fed up with the economy and social inequality turned out en masse over the weekend....Voicing their discontent and marching for change."

Touting the protest as "a movement that has taken off in the past few weeks with protests spreading to other cities around the country," Franzen declared: "Labor experts say uprisings overseas have empowered protesters to speak out." A sound bite was included of Columbia University's Dorian Warren arguing: "Those movements, those revolutions led by young people [in the Middle East]...I think that's another, let's say, inspiration for why they are sitting-in now."

On Saturday's Nightly News, Franzen offered a similar report, including another sound bite from Warren, who asserted the Wall Street protests were "a liberal version of the Tea Party." He added: "I think this could potentially carry over into the 2012 elections and get people to the polls."

On Sunday's Meet the Press, host David Gregory asked liberal Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne about the movement: "...your column out tomorrow talks about the equivalent Tea Party movement on the left. What did we see over the weekend in lower Manhattan and in Brooklyn, this 'Occupy Wall Street' movement....does the President, in a way, need more of this, more activism on the left to say, 'We need a response to what we're seeing on the conservative side'?"

Dionne agreed and lamented: "I think the President has been hurt by the lack of an organized left....A left would be out there saying, 'Wait a minute, Barack Obama is a moderate or a moderate sort of liberal. We want to push farther than this.' Right now, the whole discussion is skewed because the media has been obsessed by the Tea Party."

That media "obsession" with the Tea Party actually began as an attempt to completely dismiss it. Noting nationwide Tea Party tax day protests on the April 15, 2009 Today, chief White House correspondent Chuck Todd remarked: "There's been some grassroots conservatives who have organized so-called Tea Parties around the country, hoping the historical reference will help galvanize Americans against the President's economic ideas. But, I tell you, the idea hasn't really caught on."

As the Tea Party gained momentum, the media changed tactics, demonizing it as racially motivated. In an interview with Jimmy Carter on the September 14, 2009 Nightly News, anchor Brian Williams highlighted the former president's smear of the movement: "A certain number of signs and images at last weekend's big Tea Party march in Washington and at other recent events have featured racial and other violent themes, and President Carter today said he is extremely worried by it."

In contrast, NBC's reporting on the Wall Street protesters was free of criticism. In fact, on the September 27 Today, news anchor Natalie Morales announced: "Protesters camping out on Wall Street got an unexpected visit last night from filmmaker Michael Moore. The 'Occupy Wall Street' protest against corporate greed is in its second week. Protesters called Moore's visit a 'morale boost' after police arrested 87 demonstrators this weekend."

Despite such arrests, and another 700 that occurred on Saturday as protesters attempted to stop traffic on the Brooklyn Bridge, NBC reporters voiced no concern of potential violence or extremism from the left-wing group.

However, on the March 24, 2010 Nightly News, Williams warned viewers about the Tea Party: "It's getting ugly as anger over health care reform erupts into some over-the-top rhetoric, including threats now against members of Congress....It can now be said that the debate over health care reform has gone too far. It's now veered into threats of violence."

Unlike NBC, ABC and CBS have given little coverage to the "Occupy Wall Street" protests – simply featuring news briefs on their respective morning shows on Monday – but it was still slanted in favor of the left-wing movement.

On ABC's Good Morning America, Bianna Golodryga reported: "And the arrest of over 700 people in a weekend march across the Brooklyn Bridge has reinvigorated anti-Wall Street protestors. They now say that their message into going national is in, and they're digging in for the long haul."

On CBS's Early Show, Betty Nguyen noted: "Here in New York, those anti-Wall Street protesters are staying put. The activists are camped near the financial district. Demonstrations have entered a third week, and over the weekend, some 700 protesters were arrested as they crossed the Brooklyn Bridge. The groups plan to continue their demonstrations indefinitely."

Here is a full transcript of Franzen's October 3 report on Today:

7:16AM ET

SAVANNAH GUTHRIE: Outrage is growing on Wall Street as protestors dig in for the long haul. Seven hundred people were arrested over the weekend during demonstrations on the Brooklyn Bridge. NBC's Michelle Franzen is in lower Manhattan this morning with the latest. Michelle, good morning.

MICHELLE FRANZEN: Well, good morning, Savannah. Demonstrators are beginning their third week of protest here, sleeping out and camped out at this park near Wall Street, their message of discontent over the economy and big corporations is still taking shape but their movement is gaining more attention each day.

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: No Backing Down; Wall Street Protestors in it For the "Long Haul"]

CROWD CHANTING: We got sold out! Banks got bailed out!

FRANZEN: Protesters fed up with the economy and social inequality turned out en masse over the weekend. Demonstrators including this former Marine, who says despite having a job he is worried about the future.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: I barely make enough money to pay my way. You know, I don't even pay my student loans each month because I can't afford it.

CROWD: The whole world's watching!

FRANZEN: Voicing their discontent and marching for change. Some seven hundred were arrested for blocking traffic on New York's Brooklyn's Bridge Saturday. Growing tensions along with a movement that has taken off in the past few weeks with protests spreading to other cities around the country.

CROWD: We'll never be defeated!

FRANZEN: Labor experts say uprisings overseas have empowered protesters to speak out.

DORIAN WARREN [COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY]: Those movements, those revolutions led by young people and I think they've been unemployed and wondering what to do, so I think that's another, let's say, inspiration for why they are sitting in now.

FRANZEN: Near Wall Street, a park serves as base camp, where the grassroots efforts of community organizing and traditional media have merged with savvy social networking.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN B: It's becoming more and more organized each day and we're building the infrastructure and then every day we get bigger and find out that our infrastructure's inadequate.

FRANZEN: And those numbers are expected to grow here in the park, with protests today and they've also got the support over the last few days of major unions, and we could see the biggest rallies later this week, Savannah, that's when those union members are expected to turn out and show their support.

GUTHRIE: Alright, Michelle Franzen in lower Manhattan, thank you.

- Kyle Drennen is a news analyst at the Media Research Center. Click here to follow Kyle Drennen on Twitter.