This morning on Fox & Friends (the stupidest ensemble, pseudo-news team on American TV), a prankster convinced the show’s producers that he was a college graduate who voted for Barack Obama in 2008, but who is now disappointed and intends to vote for Mitt Romney this November. The video of this train wreck appears to be the work of a stoned slacker who got a kick out of outsmarting the bigwig TV producers. And that may be true.
However, It was not my intention address this prank at first because it doesn’t really appear to be particularly well thought out or executed. What’s more, Gretchen Carlson seemed to quickly pick up on the fact that something was amiss. However, new information has emerged that is far more interesting than the event itself.
It seems that Fox News was determined to invent a story about disillusioned young people who were abandoning the President. This was not a “fair and balanced” study of attitudes among recent college grads, it was a deliberately biased piece of propaganda that jettisoned all journalistic principles in order to deliver their preconceived result.
Max Rice, the aforementioned prankster, spoke with various reporters after the fact and revealed the shoddy quality (or lack thereof) of Fox’s research. Rice told the bookers that he was a college graduate, but that could easily have been debunked by a Google search that would have found a video from his high school graduation only two years ago. Rice also gave contradictory answers to biographical questions, telling them at first that he was an English major, and later that he majored in Engineering.
Fox News let all of this go by because Rice fit the profile of a disaffected former Obama supporter. That was all they cared about. But even worse, Rice says that Fox coached him on what to say during the interview.
“They gave me a paragraph full of bullshit talking points. … They basically gave me a speech and they thought I was supposed to have it memorized.”
Rice is not a very good prankster, but his antics have allowed us to peer into the Fox machinery and see how their phony sausage is made. And that’s worth something all by itself. The news emanating from this episode should have less to do with the stunt that was pulled on the Fox & Friends crew, than with their dishonest attempt to fabricate a story with the intent of damaging Obama’s reputation.
Fox’s determination to manipulate their viewers and spread false information was clearly more important to them than doing proper research and fact-checking. And when all is said and done, this was not a story about a news team getting punked. It’s a story about a news network punking their audience.