The term “fourth estate” refers to the media (outside of the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of government). The term “fifth column” originated in the Spanish Civil War in 1936 and means a group of people that seek to undermine a larger group, such as a nation. Many comparisons have been made of the “fourth estate” to a “fifth column.”
“The fourth estate has become a fifth column” became a popular saying in the 2000s and has differing meanings. The U.S. presidential administration of George W. Bush (Republican) supported the war in Iraq; “the fourth estate has become a fifth column” meant journalists who were against the war. The following U.S. presidential administration was of Barack Obama (Democrat); “the fourth estate has become a fifth column” meant journalists who were overly loyal and unquestioning of Obama. The meaning of the saying varies, depending on whether one views the government as just (where media opposition would be a “fifth column”) or tyrannical (where media support would be a “fifth column”).
American journalist Bill Moyers (a liberal) wrote “Is the Fourth Estate a Fifth Column?” in 2008. Talk show host Michael Savage (a conservative) said “the fourth estate has become the fifth column” in 2009.
Wikipedia: Fourth Estate
The Fourth Estate (or fourth estate) is a societal or political force or institution whose influence is not consistently or officially recognized. “Fourth Estate” most commonly refers to the news media; especially print journalism or “the press”. Thomas Carlyle attributed the origin of the term to Edmund Burke, who used it in a parliamentary debate in 1787 on the opening up of press reporting of the House of Commons of Great Britain. Earlier writers have applied the term to lawyers, to the British queens consort (acting as a free agent, independent of the king), and to the proletariat. The term makes implicit reference to the earlier division of the three Estates of the Realm.
Wikipedia: Fifth column
A fifth column is any group of people who undermine a larger group, such as a nation or a besieged city, from within. The activities of a fifth column can be overt or clandestine. Forces gathered in secret can mobilize openly to assist an external attack. This term is also extended to organized actions by military personnel. Clandestine fifth column activities can involve acts of sabotage, disinformation, or espionage executed within defense lines by secret sympathizers with an external force.
Emilio Mola, a Nationalist General during the Spanish Civil War, told a journalist in 1936 that as his four columns of troops approached Madrid, a “fifth column” of supporters inside the city would support him and undermine the Republican government from within. The term was then widely used in Spain.
Google News Archive
7 October 1975, St. Petersburg (FL) Times, “Thank goodness, no rattlesnakes were caught” by Jan Glidewell, P Times, pg. 3, col. 1:
The hunt served its purpose—all members of the Fourth Estate (or, as they are sometimes referred to out San Antonio way—the fifth column) got a healthy dose of insect bites, …
Google News Archive
7 April 1982, Schenectady (NY) Gazette, “‘Inside Story Feature Is on Central America” by Kenneth R. Clark, pg. 16, col. 4:
This Friday he will probe for bias in news from El Salvador, Guatemala and Nicaragua, asking whether American reporters there constitute a Fourth Estate or a Fifth Column.
Google News Archive
16 October 1979, Palm Beach (FL) Post, ‘Resignation Is Welcomed By Council” by Sally D. Swartz, pg. B1, col. 5:
Silvia, he said, “failed to realize that certain elements of the fourth estate (press) have acted as a fifth column.”
The fourth estate has become the fifth column. John Weisman alleges TV news “lets us see things for ourselves.” Its single biggest flaw is the censorship that goes with the power to omit.
OCLC WorldCat record
“A fifth column in the fourth estate” : the Johnson Administration, the Associated Press and the Vietnam War
Author: Elsa Christina Arnett
Dissertation: Thesis (A.B., Honors)–Harvard University, 1989.
Edition/Format: Thesis/dissertation : Thesis/dissertation : Manuscript Archival Material : English
OCLC WorldCat record
The fourth estate as the fifth column
Author: Sukhdev Singh; Press Council of India.; Punjab Human Rights Organization.
Publisher: [Ludhiana] : Punjab Human Rights Organization, 
Edition/Format: Book : English : 1st ed
OCLC WorldCat record
Fourth estate or fifth column : media, the government and the state
Author: John Tusa
Publisher: Lagos : Nigerian Institute of International Affairs, 1992.
Series: Lecture series (Nigerian Institute of International Affairs), no. 75.
Edition/Format: Book : English
Washington (DC) Times
Fourth estate or fifth column?
By Thomas Sowell Friday, January 28, 2005
There are still people in the mainstream media who profess bewilderment they are accused of bias. But you need look no further than reporting on the war in Iraq to see the bias staring you in the face, day after day, on the Page One of the New York Times and in much of the rest of the media.
If a battle ends with Americans killing 100 guerrillas and terrorists, while sustaining 10 fatalities, that is an American victory. But not in the mainstream media. The headline is more likely to read: “Ten more Americans killed in Iraq today.”
This kind of journalism can turn victory into defeat in print or on TV. Kept up long enough, it can even end up in real defeat, when support for the war collapses at home and abroad.
Still, much of the Western media cannot call a spade a spade. The Fourth Estate sometimes seems more like a Fifth Column.
In These Times
FEATURES » JULY 11, 2008
Is the Fourth Estate a Fifth Column?
Corporate media colludes with democracy’s demise
BY BILL MOYERS
Following the March 2003 invasion, Vice President Dick Cheney dropped into a media dinner to thank the guests for their all-the-war-all-the-time coverage of the contrived and manufactured war.
Sadly, in many respects, the Fourth Estate has become the fifth column of democracy, colluding with the powers that be in a culture of deception that subverts the thing most necessary to freedom, and that is the truth.
Michael Savage Show Summary for 11/02/09: Eddie Fisher “Oh My Papa”, We have a Caesar in the White House, Jamie Dimon/Diamond/Demon, White House Visitor Lists, Keith Olbermann wearing diapers re urination problems, Savage did not invent line “fourth estate becoming a fifth column” Bill Moyers said it in July 2008,
November 3rd, 2009
Savage says the reason we are in such a sad state is because the fourth estate has become the fifth column.
Update: Savage claims to have invented the above phrase, now he may never have heard it before but he did not utter it first, just as he was not the first person to utter “trickle up poverty”, here is the evidence, from July of 2008, an article entitled “Is the fourth estate a fifth column” written by Bill Moyers. I hope Savage did not steal the line from Bill Moyers.
Gingrich book #tosaveamerica: New Enemy is the Enemy Within! Dr. #Savage put it: The Fourth Estate is the Fifth Column! http://ow.ly/1Opjr
7:03 PM – 21 May 2010
Brilliant: Michael Savage: We no longer have a Fourth Estate. We have a Fifth Column.
Date Posted: Thursday 23-Jan-2014
We no longer have a Fourth Estate. We have a Fifth Column.
Welcome to The Michael Savage Newsletter, your daily insider report on all things “Savage.”
In today’s issue: America is in very serious trouble, says Savage, because we no longer have any entity acting like the loyal opposition.
Both the Republican Party and the establishment media have abandoned their role as watchdogs and are acting more like lapdogs.
A free press is supposed to be the fourth estate, not a fifth column. http://fb.me/3vbdVbBjH
9:46 AM – 2 May 2014
Posted by Barry Popik
New York City • Government/Law/Politics/Military • Saturday, June 14, 2014 • Permalink
Popik is a contributor-consultant to the Oxford English Dictionary, Dictionary of American Regional English, Historical Dictionary of American Slang, and The Yale Book of Quotations. He is recognized as an expert on the origins of the terms “Big Apple”, “Windy City”, “hot dog”, and many other food and slang terms; he is a consulting editor of the Oxford Encyclopedia of Food and Drink in America. Ed Zotti described him in The Wall Street Journal as “the restless genius of American etymology”.
Popik’s theory on the etymology of Big Apple—that it was first popularized in the 1920s by sports writer John J. Fitz Gerald—led to the New York City street corner where Fitz Gerald lived being renamed “Big Apple Corner”.
Popik was the Republican Party and Liberal Party of New York candidate for election as Manhattan Borough President in 2005. Popik received more than 40,000 votes but finished second to Scott Stringer, who received more than 200,000 votes. Stringer spent more than $1.5 million on his election campaign, whereas Popik spent less than $10,000.
Barry Popik was born in 1961 and raised in Rockland County, New York. He was educated at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, in Troy, New York, graduating B.S. (Economics) in 1982, B.S. (Management) 1982; and in 1985 he graduated J.D. from Touro Law School in Huntington, New York. He and his wife, Angie, were long-time residents of Manhattan, where he served as a New York City administrative law judge in the Parking Violations Bureau of the City’s Department of Finance. The Popiks moved to Texas in 2006. He is a rated chess master.
- Cohen, Gerald Leonard; Barry A. Popik (1999). Studies in Slang: Part VI. Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang. ISBN 0-8204-4377-8. OCLC 62059348.
- Cohen, Gerald Leonard; Barry A. Popik (2006). Studies in Slang: Part VII.
- Consulting editor
- Smith, Andrew F. (2004). The Oxford Encyclopedia of Food and Drink in America. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-517552-3.OCLC 53476629. (Senior Consulting Editor)
- Shapiro, Fred R., editor (2006-10-30). The Yale Book of Quotations. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press. ISBN 978-0-300-10798-2. OCLC 66527213.(Consulting Editor)
- Brick, Michael (2010-11-26). “Etymologist Barry Popik’s word quest takes him from ‘Big Apple’ to ‘Dallas'”. Dallas Morning News. Retrieved 2014-03-07.
- Zotti, Ed (2001-01-02). “Hot Dog! ‘Big Apple’ Explained” (article preview; archive subscription required). The Wall Street Journal.
- “Mayor Giuliani signs legislation creating “Big Apple Corner” in Manhattan” (Press release). New York: Mayor’s Press Office. 1997-02-12. Retrieved 2014-03-07.
- “About the Site Editor”. http://www.barrypopik.com. Retrieved 2010-12-18.
- “USCF Member Services: Barry A. Popik”. Retrieved 2014-03-07.
- Sheehan, Susan; Howard G. Means (2002). The banana sculptor, the purple lady, and the all-night swimmer: hobbies, collecting, and other passionate pursuits. New York: Simon & Schuster. ISBN 978-0-7432-0122-3. OCLC 49407923.