For some reason ABC News saw fit to invite Roger Ailes, CEO of Fox News, onto ABC’s This Week to participate in the panel discussion. I wonder what Barbara Walters and the show’s producers thought Ailes would contribute. I wonder if they knew, when they sent the invitation, that Ailes would spend most of his time lying. I wonder if they ever gave consideration to inviting Michael Moore or Keith Olbermann. And I wonder if, in retrospect, they think the segment contributed to honest discourse and served to inform their viewers.
It may be unprecedented to have a CEO of a news network appearing on air as an advocate for the Republican Party. Just imagine the outrage that would ensue if the NBC or CBS chief took to the airwaves espousing Democratic politics. Ailes must have studied hard for his appearance because it shows in the quantity of grade A lies he produced (Media Matters has video). For instance:
Ailes said that the White House tried to ban Fox News from the media pool. That never happened. Fox failed to submit a request in time, so they were left off a list. As soon as they notified the White House, they were put back on by communications director Anita Dunn.
Ailes endorsed Glenn Beck’s accuracy but for “one unfortunate thing which he apologized for.” That was presumably in reference to Beck calling the president a racist who “has a deep-seated hatred for white people.” Beck has never apologized for that. In fact he affirmed it on his radio show the following day. He has subsequently lost more than 80 advertisers.
Ailes reviewed the State of the Union speech as “pretty good” except that the President “did some dumb things like take on the Supreme Court. But the media saved him by blaming it all on Alito.” Maybe, if by media he means Fox News. It was his own network that repeatedly replayed Alito calling the the President a liar (ala Joe Wilson). And they weren’t doing it to blame Alito for anything, but to agree with him and to attack the President. Furthermore, it wasn’t dumb to criticize the Court for a disastrous ruling that gives corporations even more power to influence elections.
This appearance on ABC may reveal why Ailes is so rarely seen on TV. He is neither compelling nor persuasive. Even worse, he is laughably illogical. In one segment he said about Obama…
“He is enormously likable and I think despite what everybody says, people would like him to succeed. But he came in with a belief that the radical change he wanted, or what some people say is the radical change he wanted, would be widely accepted.”
First of all, to preface his remarks by saying “despite what everybody says…” Ailes is asserting that everybody is saying that they don’t want the President to succeed. That may be true for him and for “everybody” on his network, but not for the rest of the nation. The way Ailes puts it, people want Obama to succeed despite saying that they don’t. Secondly, Ailes is promulgating the falsehood that Obama has a “radical” agenda. That’s right out of Beck’s playbook. And finally, if Obama does advocate radical change, and people find him likable and want him to succeed, then isn’t that a mandate for radical change? Ailes’ logic is working against his argument.
There were a couple of enjoyable exchanges. In one, Paul Krugman flustered Ailes with a classic example of Fox News’ “deliberate disinformation.” During the campaign Obama addressed a question about health care by prefacing it with his own question, “Why don’t we have a European style health care system?” Then Obama explained why we do not, and should not, and went on to describe his own plan. But Fox News just played the truncated clip implying that Obama favored the European system. Ailes’ response to that was to change the subject.
In another segment, Walters brought up the newest Fox News contributor, Sarah Palin:
Walters: Do you think she has the qualifications to be president?
Ailes: Fox News is fair and balanced. We had Geraldine Ferraro on for ten years as the only woman the Democrats ever nominated. Now we have the only woman that the Republicans ever nominated. I’m not in politics. I’m in ratings. We’re winning.
Hmmm. What’s missing from that answer? Oh yeah. Whether or not Palin has the qualifications to be president. I suspect he dodged this one because he must remain fair and balanced toward the four potential Republican presidential candidates who are on his payroll: Palin, Huckabee, Santorum, and Gingrich.
As much as I would like to castigate ABC for giving Ailes a platform on their political panel, I can’t help thinking that it might actually serve the country better to have him on TV even more. There aren’t too many less appealing spokespeople for conservative hogwash than Ailes. However, if they are going to host him and his kind, they need to do a lot better job of balancing his propaganda and self-congratulatory bluster with serious liberals who can disinfect the studio with some truth.