It goes without saying that Fox News is a seething cauldron of sensationalistic propaganda. There have been innumerable examples of bias so egregious it would be more accurate to call it fiction. Still, the degree of separation from reality, or the Fox Fake Factor (3F) is not uniform across the Fox schedule. It can be segmented into three general categories that I define as…
- Blatant Dishonesty (i.e. Sean Hannity)
- Acute Idiocy (i.e. Steve Doocy)
- Hysterical Dementia (i.e. Glenn Beck)
Defenders of Fox News argue that the network functions like a newspaper with clearly delineated sections containing straight news or editorial opinion. This includes Fox News CEO Roger Ailes, who went so far as to say that…
“…it’s a mistake to look at Fox News Channel’s primetime opinion shows and say they represent the channel’s journalism.”
In support of Ailes’ admission that his primetime lineup should not be mistaken for journalism, Fox’s Sr. VP Michael Clemente drew distinct boundaries in order to identify the channel’s actual “news” content. He said that it is just the hours of 9am to 4pm, and 6pm to 8pm, that air straight news. Of course that would include such thoroughly opinionated programs as Fox & Friends, Your World With Neil Cavuto, and Glenn Beck. It would also include Megyn Kelly.
For the past week or so, Kelly has been rabidly attached to a bogus two year old story about members of the New Black Panther Party who have been accused of voter intimidation. She has hosted numerous interviews with W. Christian Adams, a notoriously partisan activist who claims that Obama’s Department of Justice has adopted a policy of not pursuing cases involving white victims. Never mind the fact that it was the Bush Justice Department that degraded the case against the NBPP and concluded that the evidence did not merit criminal prosecution. Kelly would not let up and continued, day after day, to present the story with an overt expression of shock and judgmental disgust.
Kelly’s demeanor was hardly what one could call objective. In yesterday’s program she nearly bit the head off of Fox News Democrat, Kirsten Powers, who soldiered on despite Kelly’s insulting declarations that Powers didn’t know what she was talking about. And in a bid for total domination, Kelly even threatened to cut Powers’ mic.
This is not an isolated incident for Kelly. A few weeks ago she displayed the same sort of wild-eyed obsession over speculation of whether Pennsylvania senate candidate Joe Sestak had received improper incentives from the White House to drop out of the race. Sestak didn’t drop out, and there was never any evidence of wrongdoing on his part or that of the White House. But that didn’t stop Kelly from pushing the story incessantly. On one occasion she devoted fully 75% of her two hour program to just the Sestak matter, never once reporting on the gulf oil spill, Afghanistan or the economy.
Add to these the following journalistic indiscretions that seem to characterize Kelly’s absence of standards.
- The false assertion that the Department of Health and Human Services had authored a report that showed the costs of health care rising as a result of the new legislation, and the allegation that the report was suppressed by HHS and/or the White House prior to the vote in Congress. This story was debunked later by Fox’s own Bret Baier.
- The suppression of a letter revealing the marital infidelity of Senator John Ensign. Kelly kept the letter, from the husband of Ensign’s mistress, secret for five days, thus protecting the Senator from scandal. The story broke anyway and there is a possibility that it was Kelly who tipped off Ensign about the imminently breaking news.
- The promotion of a non-scientific survey on the military’s support of Obama as if it were a real poll. Kelly misrepresented the survey to disparage the President shortly after he received an endorsement from Gen. Colin Powell.
The behavior of Kelly in these examples is squarely in alignment with the mission of Fox News. However, it is directly contrary to what they claim. It is the antithesis of fairness or balance. And it puts Kelly in the running to surpass Glenn Beck on the scale of reportorial incompetence and deceit.
I know that’s a harsh assessment, but look at the facts. Beck is a purveyor of paranoid conspiracies. People expect him to be a hyperbolic nutcase. Kelly is on from 1:00pm to 3:00pm ET, smack in the middle of the news day. She is supposed to be, according to Ailes and others, a straight news reporter. Yet while Beck (who is also in the news daypart) can be placed into only one of the 3F categories above, Kelly may qualify for all three.
Sure, she’s not as bombastic as Beck, but Beck doesn’t have a law degree or the implied credibility that comes with it. And she’s not as inclined to present herself as a cult or spiritual leader, but she does impose her views on an audience that has been made gullible by fear and repetition. Her imputed authority, and the force of her argumentativeness, has the potential to sway people from realistic appraisals of current events. And she has the added benefit of not appearing to be as obviously disturbed as Beck, which helps her to advance her opinions.
The manner in which Kelly presents her reporting is every bit as phony as Beck’s hallucinatory drivel. But the only people who will believe Beck are those who are already inclined to accept delusion as truth. Kelly, on the other hand, manages to come off as a serious newscaster whose reports contain some semblance of substance. And that’s what makes Kelly worse, or potentially more dangerous, than Beck. While Beck casts himself as a rodeo clown, Kelly is portrayed as a wise and sober analyst.
In the larger picture, Kelly is merely following the Fox format which also has so-called “news” casters like Neil Cavuto, Jon Scott, Bill Hemmer, and Bret Baier engaging in observably biased broadcasts. It’s a deliberate and articulated strategy by Ailes, Murdoch, et al. It’s the Fox Way.