Fox News is once again dredging up a controversy where none exists. They have been in a hysterical frenzy over the supposed outrage of critics of Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow and his gridiron genuflections.
Personally, I find it absurd, and even insulting, when a sports figure thanks God for their victory. It implies that the players on the opposite team are somehow allied with Satan or otherwise out of God’s favor. It further implies that God cares about the outcome of a ballgame as much as he does about the welfare of the world and the eternal souls of his children. But how people express their own spiritual beliefs is up to them and doesn’t rank very high on my outrage meter.
Fox News, on the other hand, is very disturbed by what appears to be an imaginary outcry in opposition to Tebow’s expression of faith. They have broadcast numerous stories vilifying Tebow’s critics, but have yet to identify a single one. They call Tebow “God’s Quarterback,” and lament his treatment by the secular press. Both Fox & Friends co-host Gretchen Carlson and America Live host Megyn Kelly have anchored recent segments speculating on what would occur if Tebow were Muslim instead of Christian. And both concluded that the reaction would be far more tolerant of Islamic expressions of faith.
Where on God’s green Earth did they get that idea? Coming from a network that has invented a War on Christmas and brazenly incited hateful opposition to a Muslim community center in Lower Manhattan, calling it the “ground zero mosque,” this approach to their non-story is decidedly delusional. An even worse example is the recent controversy over the Learning Channel’s program about ordinary Muslim-American families in Dearborn, Michigan.
TLC’s All American Muslim has been the victim of rabid acrimony from anti-Islam organizations and individuals. These bigots have succeeded in getting some advertisers (notably Lowe’s Home Improvement Center) to remove their ads from the show. Their complaint is that the program is deceptive in that it shows only peaceful, patriotic, families that are just like every other American household, rather than sneering terrorists bent on slaughtering their infidel neighbors.
The evidence is clear that if Tebow were a practicing Muslim who praised Allah after every touchdown pass, the same bigots who protested TLC and Lowe’s would show up to blitz Tebow with racist slurs and insults. And Fox News would lead the parade with story after story about how disrespectful it is to shove in the face of American sports fans what Fox would characterize as the religious perversions of a people who want to destroy the country.
Fox was adamant about what they portrayed as the immorality of allowing an Islamic community center to be built two blocks from the former site of the World Trade Center. Why would they behave any differently if a celebrity sports figure openly displayed his reverence for Islam? And why would the Fox audience suddenly acquire a tolerance of religious diversity that they have never demonstrated before?
As I noted above, it doesn’t matter to me how Tebow celebrates his victories on the field. And to his credit, he has said that he doesn’t believe that God cares who wins or loses these games. But it is disturbing that a major, mainstream news enterprise overtly professes to spiritualize a game by anointing a player as “God’s Quarterback” and then fabricates a campaign against him in order to whip up an evangelical firestorm, all in the pursuit of controversy and, ultimately, ratings.
The latest travesty of justice celebrated by Fox News is the horrific use of excessive force on a group of peaceful protesters at UC Davis. Lt. John Pike of the Campus Police casually and callously sprayed students with an abrasive substance that has been known to cause permanent harm and even death.
Fox News typically sided with the perpetrators of torture. Just as they cheer the use of waterboarding and drool over the prospect of nuking everything from Iran to Tijuana (and even San Francisco), Fox News embraces the police state oppression of citizens who oppose the economic rape of our nation by wealthy corporations and their benefactors in Washington.
Recently Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly told her colleague Bill O’Reilly that pepper spray was just “a food product, essentially.” O’Reilly agreed with Kelly that the police did nothing wrong and he went further to make the absurd claim that “I don’t think we have the right to Monday morning quarterback the police.”
We don’t? Does Bill O’Reilly believe that we live in a society where law enforcement authorities are indisputable? Isn’t that the sort of tyranny that he constantly (and falsely) accuses President Obama of attempting to enact?
The notion that pepper spray is merely a food product, or that waterboarding is just a bath, or that mustard gas is simply a condiment, is evidence of the brutal ignorance that has infected so much of modern conservatism. But it is also evidence of their obsession with diets that are harmful to your health. In the past few months Fox has published numerous articles castigating any effort to educate the American people about the benefits of good eating habits. Fox is similarly dismissive of any effort to protect children from harmful foods. Here is a brief compilation of some of the headlines from their gastronomic propaganda:
This Thanksgiving, Media Still Stuffed with Food Police Message
NYC Food Police Reach New Low
Even Obama’s School Potato Bill Fails
Liberals Going After Hot Dogs
SF Food Police Urge Meat-Free Mondays
Minneapolis Schools Ban Chocolate Milk
Food Police Try to Retire Ronald McDonald
Obama Identifies the Enemy: Tony the Tiger
Food Police Kill Cap’n Crunch
Obama Administration Getting Ready to Ditch Food Pyramid
Nanny Staters Crack Down on School Chocolate Milk
The Food Police Are Back! Coke and Pepsi Banned in S.F.!
Obama Food Police Messes With Your Chips
Food Police Attack Chocolate Milk
SF Hold First Public Hearing to Ban Happy Meals
Tater Nots: Gov’t Eyes School Lunch Potato Ban
Ronald McDonald Under Attack
With their abundant expertise in the culinary arts, it was only a matter of time until Fox launched their own show dedicated to diet and cooking. And now, with Lt. John Pike of the UC Davis Campus Police, they even have a star talent to helm the program. So stayed tuned to Fox News for the spring premiere of Pike’s Palate.
“Of all the presidents since World War II whose job-approval scores were lower than 50 percent one year before Election Day, only one went on to win a second term.”
On the surface, that’s an accurate conclusion. However, taking a closer look at the analysis reveals that the brilliant minds at the Washington Times calculated the electoral fates of all of the low-scoring incumbents – all three of them (Nixon, Ford, and Carter). Consequently, the conclusion is meaningless from a statistical point of view. It would be just as accurate to say that:
Of all the presidents since World War II whose job-approval scores were lower than 50 percent one year before Election Day, all were reelected except for two.
Sounds pretty good, doesn’t it? It certainly doesn’t sound nearly as desperate as Fox’s version that predicts Obama as a loser. Fox’s version also leaves out this commentary by Larry Sabato that was included in the Washington Times article:
“Presidential approval one full year out is not helpful in determining what will occur in November 2012.” Mr. Sabato said.
The only opinion in the article that affirms the conclusion in the Fox Nation headline is from the article’s author, Dave Boyer. And he offers no support whatsoever for that opinion. In fact, Boyer’s opinion is contradicted by his own reporting. He quotes Sabato as saying that the predictive value of approval ratings is only significant in the summer and fall months just prior to the election, not so much a year away. So not only is there not enough statistical data to draw a conclusion, the data they are using is irrelevant.
Nevertheless, Fox Nation composed their own headline that exacerbated the flaws in the Washington Times’ reporting. And the Fox Nationalists proved once again that they can’t tell reality from fiction. Or more accurately, they choose to present fiction as fact.
[Update: 11/7/11] Not surprisingly, Fox News has adopted the false premises described above. Megyn Kelly led off a segment this morning on the electoral history of low approval rated incumbents saying that in fifty years only one was reelected. Of course she neglected to note that in fifty years only two failed to win reelection. She might also have said that in the entire 235 year history of America an African-American presidential incumbent has NEVER lost reelection. So there you have it. Numbers don’t lie (but Fox does).
This is an excellent example of how bogus stories bubble up from disreputable sources like the Washington Times to mass media outlets like Fox News.
The next time you hear some FoxPod complain about Fox News being called the PR division of the Republican Party, show them this example of Fox using GOP talking points and passing them off as news developed by their “brain room.”
Today on Megyn Kelly’s program she moderated a discussion that was based on a series of “Fox Facts” that appear to have been cribbed directly from a Republican National Committee press release. The similarities are unmistakable. [h/t Media Matters]
RNC says: “$4.2 Trillion: Added To The National Debt Since Obama Took Office.” Fox says: “DEBT: Total Public Debt Outstanding has increased by $4.2 trillion.”
RNC says: “40.5: Number Of Weeks That It Takes To Find A Job.” Fox says: “AVERAGE WEEKS UNEMPLOYED: Unemployed out of work for an average of 40.5 weeks – that’s more than double since Jan 2009.”
RNC says: “2.2 Million: Jobs Lost Since Obama Took Office.” Fox says: “JOBS: 2.22 million jobs lost.”
RNC says: “15.1%: Americans Living In Poverty.” Fox says: “POVERTY: Nearly 3 million more Americans in poverty–poverty rate has gone from 13.2% to 15.1%.”
RNC says: “$1.17 Trillion: American Debt Held By China.” Fox says: “CHINA: Owns $1.17 trillion of our debt (as of July) – a 58% increase from January 2009.”
RNC says: “45,696: Pages Of New Rules Added To The Federal Register During Obama’s First Two Years In Office.” Fox says: “REGULATIONS – FEDERAL REGISTER: 45,696 pages of new regulatory rules were added to the Federal Register.”
RNC says: “818,000: Manufacturing Jobs Lost Since Obama Took Office.” Fox says: “MANUFACTURING: 818,000 manufacturing jobs lost — a -6.5% drop since.”
This is not the first time that Fox News tried to pass off Republican dogma as their own original reporting. Fox anchor Jon Scott was caught reading an RNC memo that he reproduced as a graphic complete with the same typos as on the original RNC document.
In another example of Fox News carrying water for the Republican Party, their White House correspondent, Ed Henry, asked President Obama a question today at a press conference. The question was ostensibly about the President’s response to the arrests of Iran-affiliated suspects in a plot to assassinate the Saudi Arabian ambassador. But Henry embellished his question in a peculiar way. Obama handled it nicely:
Henry: What specific steps will you take to hold Iran accountable, especially when Mitt Romney charged last week, “If you do not want America to be the strongest nation on Earth, I am not your President — you have that President today?”
OBAMA: Well, I didn’t know that you were the spokesperson for Mitt Romney.
Henry’s shout to Romney was entirely out of place. Romney was not commenting on the Iranian plot that was the subject of Henry’s question. In fact, Romney made the comment before the arrests. Henry just included it as a gratuitous slap at the President that was unrelated to the topic at hand. That’s what made the President’s retort so appropriate.
However, when Henry appeared on Megyn Kelly’s program and the press conference was brought up, the interview was limited to the crack about Romney and completely ignored Obama’s substantive answer to Henry’s question about Iran. That’s pretty clear evidence that Henry wasn’t the least bit interested in his own question. The whole thing was a setup to inject Romney’s criticism of Obama into the news cycle.
Like I said above, Fox News is the PR division of the Republican Party, and they don’t even seem to be hiding it anymore.
Nevada Senator John Ensign resigned from the Senate last week, but his troubles may not end there. The New York Times is reporting that the results of a Senate Ethics Committee investigation may leave Ensign liable for charges of obstructing an FEC investigation, violating federal lobbying bans, and making unlawful payments to the husband of his congressional aide with whom he was having an affair – among other things.
However, any investigation of this matter needs to include possible interference on the part of Fox News and Glenn Beck-wannabe, Megyn Kelly. There is evidence that Kelly, who received a letter from Doug Hampton revealing Ensign’s infidelity, warned Ensign that the news was about to come out rather than reporting on it. As I wrote on June 19, 2009:
“Fox News knew of Ensign’s infidelity five days before Ensign came forward. They got the information from the husband of Ensign’s mistress. That’s a pretty good source, especially when he asserts that he had corroborating evidence.”
First Fox denied having received any letter. Then they admitted that they had received the letter a day before the news broke. Then a FedEx receipt revealed that they had received the letter three days earlier. And Fox broadcast no stories about the Ensign affair during any of that time, or even for several days after.
When Ensign came forward to confess his sins, he told the press that he was doing so because the story was about to come out in the media. So the question is: did he learn that from Megyn Kelly?
The evidence strongly suggests that Kelly tipped Ensign off and set the stage for his announcement. Then she and Fox kept the story quiet in the days that followed. That is not the behavior of a “news” network. It is the behavior of an accomplice.
[Update 5/16/11] The Senate Ethics Committee report suggests former senator (and current GOP presidential candidate) Rick Santorum may have played a role in tipping off Ensign. If true, that does not mean that Kelly didn’t also give a head’s up to Ensign. And it certainly doesn’t explain the changing stories about when she received Hampton’s letter.
There is also the matter of Ensign’s reason for going public (that he was told that the media was going to break the news of the affair). That’s an alert that is more likely to come from Kelly (a Fox anchor) than from Santorum (a former senate colleague). However, it should be noted that Santorum was also a Fox News contributor at the time he is alleged to have tipped off Ensign. So Fox is entangled in this business no matter what.
There has already been a barrage of media analysis and discussion of Glenn Beck’s not-so-surprising separation from Fox News. For the most part that discussion has been focused on speculation as to the cause of the break up and on what will become of Beck. But any suggestion that Beck’s departure polishes Fox’s reputation is pure folly. The worst of Beck’s haunted imagination is securely woven into the Fox News dis-comforter. The trademark Fox invective, sophistry, and bias predate Beck and will outlive him.
Many in the press, however, are more interested in prattling on about the alleged animosity for Beck amongst “serious” conservatives and his colleagues at Fox who think that his doomsday rhetoric and conspiracy theories give the “news” network a bad name. The purveyors of conventional wisdom are very concerned about Fox’s teetering credibility and are scrambling to defend it:
Howard Kurtz, CNN, The Daily Beast: …many senior Fox executives are relieved to be rid of Beck. [and] …some journalists and executives at the network privately expressed concern that Beck was becoming the face of the network.
George Will, ABC News Washington Post: I think that Glenn Beck and his drift into more bizarre and extreme positions was threatening the Fox brand. So I wish Glenn Beck health and happiness but I think the health and happiness of Fox is served by his departure.
Michael Harrison, editor of Talkers Magazine: You can’t be a rodeo clown and maintain credibility,
Matt Lewis, The Daily Caller: My take is that while Beck’s show was individually a ratings hit, he also risked tarnishing the overall Fox News “brand”.
Jeffrey McCall, professor of media studies, DePauw University: Beck was no longer just a personality with a show on FNC. He became an easy target for Fox News critics to characterize him as representative of the entire channel.
These august observers have frightfully short memories. The truth is that Fox earned its nefarious reputation long before Beck arrived and there is every indication that they will preserve it after he’s gone. In fact, it’s that reputation that made Beck such a good fit to begin with and lured him to the network despite his admitted reluctance when first approached. The pundits who are advancing the premise that by losing Beck, Fox can be redeemed are, to put it kindly, mistaken. Here is why Fox News without Glenn Beck will be just as bad as Fox News with Glenn Beck:
1) Bill O’Reilly: Before Beck called President Obama a racist, Bill O’Reilly ventured to Sylvia’s in Harlem and expressed his surprise that the mostly African-American patrons weren’t acting like primitives. And when the First Lady was criticized for expressing her pride that America had evolved to the point where they would elect an African-American president O’Reilly considerately declared that “I don’t want to go on a lynching party against Michelle Obama unless there’s evidence.” Nice choice of words.
2) Sean Hannity: While Beck may suffer from an acute case of Nazi-Tourettes Syndrome (Louis Black™), Sean Hannity is a personal friend of the notorious neo-Nazi schlock-jock, Hal Turner, and graciously hosted him on his program. Turner won’t be be revisiting Hannity for a while because he is presently in prison serving 33 months for threatening judges.
3) Megyn Kelly: No one can spin a conspiracy theory quite like Beck, but Megyn Kelly comes pretty close. For months she’s been peddling a pseudo-scandal that alleges that the Department of Justice deliberately dismisses all charges of civil rights violations when the plaintiff is white. This has been debunked by the House Judiciary Committee’s Office of Professional Responsibility. Kelly also fronted phony investigations into the alleged terrorist ties of funders of the Park51 mosque in Manhattan. Somehow she left out the fact that one of those funders was Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal, the second largest shareholder of News Corp outside of the Murdoch family. Kelly has a permanently affixed expression of indignation and a vocal delivery that makes every story appear to be shocking. She is the human manifestation of Fox’s ever-present “FOX ALERT!”
4) Judge Andrew Napolitano: There are conspiratorial paths where even Beck fears to tread. Judge Andrew Napolitano has no such fears. He is a frequent guest of proto-conspiratorialist and Beck inspiration, Alex Jones. He is an avowed 9/11 Truther who says that the World Trade Center attack was an inside job. He believes that the health care bill contains provisions for a civilian military force to suppress domestic insurrection. And he also happens to be Beck’s most frequent fill-in host and a leading candidate to replace him.
5) Bill Sammon: Fox News’ Washington managing editor, Bill Sammon, has espoused a hard-core conservatism that predates Beck and emanates from the executive suites far above him. He came to Fox from the “Moonie” Washington Times and authored several books lionizing George W. Bush and lambasting Democrats. He was also caught authoring memos that directed his reporters to dispense a brazenly partisan point of view. For instance, he told them to refrain from using the term “public option” during the health care debate because focus group testing proved that the term “government-run” produced a more negative response. Even more disturbing, he was recorded admitting to a friendly audience on a conservative cruise that he “mischievously” cast Obama as a socialist even though he didn’t believe it himself. In other words, he lied to defame the President and rile up his gullible viewers. Beck must be so proud to have worked for him.
6) Neil Cavuto: The glorification of ignorance is a staple of Beck’s brand, but Neil Cavuto has been contributing to the collapse of America’s collective IQ far longer than Beck. He proudly hosts such respected policy analysts as Ted Nugent, Joe the Plumber, and any random Tea Bagger to help him unravel our nation’s dilemmas. One of his favorite idiocies is his insistence that Climate Change is a hoax because it gets cold in the winter. But Cavuto really shines when he brings in guests whose only connection to the segment is a juvenile pun. For instance, in a discussion about whether Tea Party support was grassroots or AstroTurf, Cavuto interviewed the CEO of AstroTurf Technologies, whose expertise with synthetic fiber products contributed nothing to the debate on campaign organization. Cavuto is the prop comic of pundits who delights in interrupting and shouting down Democrats who are naive enough to accept his invitations to appear.
7) Fox & Friends: While there will always be only one rodeo clown in the vast right-wing conspira-circus, there is no shortage of stooges, and three of them are featured on Fox & Friends. First we have Steve Doocy, who wondered “Why didn’t anybody ever mention that [Obama] spent the first decade of his life, raised by his Muslim father.” Perhaps because Obama actually never knew his father who left the family when he was two years old. Then there’s Brian Kilmeade who fans the racist flames by saying things like “all terrorists are Muslims.” And don’t forget Gretchen Carlson, who called the late Sen. Ted Kennedy a “hostile enemy” of the United States. All of these vile inanities were delivered without any help from Beck. However, it should be noted that when Beck made his infamous remarks about Obama being a racist he did it on Fox & Friends.
8) Fox Nation: Any good 21st century propaganda outfit has to have an Internet component, and for Fox News it is the Fox Nation. This web site’s sole purpose is to disseminate the most despicably dishonest disinformation it can invent. There are way too many examples to itemize, but here are a couple that represent the ridiculous and the repulsive. Last July Fox Nation featured a story that claimed that the Taliban was recruiting monkey mercenaries. This absurdity was sourced to the People’s Daily in China. Fox Nation also ran an item that speculated about Obama’s death. This article brought out the hate in the site’s readers who posted numerous comments indicating how welcome that would be. Many of the stories on Fox Nation percolate up to Fox News for broadcast and they they are no less deranged than the nonsense Beck comes up with.
9) Roger Ailes: The president and CEO of Fox News sets the tone for the network as a whole. Roger Ailes was a long-time media advisor to Republican candidates prior to launching Fox News. He is the network’s spiritual leader. If you ever wondered how Beck could get away with aligning President Obama (and anyone else with whom he disagrees) with Hitler, your curiosity was satisfied when Ailes lashed out at NPR saying that “They are, of course, Nazis. They have a kind of Nazi attitude. They are the left wing of Nazism.” Ailes’ remarks prove that the hate speech at Fox goes from the top down. It’s not now, and never has been, unique to Beck.
10) Rupert Murdoch: Speaking of the top – Rupert Murdoch, the Chairman and CEO of News Corp, is as high as you can get. He is the company’s captain and conscience. Every material decision requires his concurrence, including his employment of Glenn Beck. While Beck may be leaving, Murdoch is not (yet). It is, therefore, important to note that when Beck called the President a racist, Murdoch responded by saying that “it was something that, perhaps, shouldn’t have been said about the President, but if you actually assess what he [Beck] was talking about, he was right.”
Murdoch has consistently stood behind Beck for more than two years, defending him at every turn for every scandalous affair and affront. Even as advertisers fled in disgust, Murdoch never conceded an inch. In the television marketplace it is advertisers, not viewers, who are the broadcaster’s clients. Murdoch snubbed his clients in order to allow Beck’s Acute Paranoia Revue and Disinfotainment Revival Hour to continue poisoning minds and influencing elections.
More importantly, Murdoch and Ailes together have fashioned a network whose persona is infested with the same conservative extremist ideology popularized by Beck. The examples above illustrate how ingrained that ideology is into the Fox News schedule in all dayparts. And those programs are augmented by an army of propagandists that include Sarah Palin, Stuart Varney, Eric Bolling, Monica Crowley, Dick Morris, Frank Luntz, and many more.
With this dedicated team of activist anchors and contributors in place, Beck’s departure, though gossip-worthy, will change nothing at Fox News. Beck was not cast off because his message was objectionable, but because he was an ineffective messenger who was alienating the audience. His replacement will surely continue the sordid tradition of which Beck was just a small, irritating part. The Fox mission remains intact and any talk of redemption due merely to having thrown off this defective cog is naive and oblivious to the dark reality that is Fox News.
Much has been made about the curious “coincidence” that almost every female Fox News anchor is a young, attractive blond. I’m sure there is an innocent explanation for it. But anyone at Fox who complains about them being characterized as eye candy hired to exploit their sexuality had better first take a look at Megyn Kelly’s new spread for GQ Magazine. It’s not exactly a play for journalistic integrity.
Setting aside the cheesecake, Kelly is hardly a journalist. She makes headlines out of trivialities and seeks to sensationalize items that would be cut from the National Enquirer. Her stories about the New Black Panther Party never put into context that they were a tiny band of gadflies that no one took seriously. Her reports on the financing of the non-mosque that was not at ground zero were embarrassingly devoid of any evidence of the allegations she made. If you’re wondering why she hasn’t reported on that lately, it may be because her correspondent for the story, Charles Leaf, is in jail awaiting trial for sexually assaulting a four year old girl.
The feature in GQ includes an interview wherein Kelly reveals how seriously she takes her job as a journalist:
GQ: You sit behind a glass table that shows off your legs. Kelly: Well, It’s a visual business. People want to see the anchor.
That must be why Bill O’Reilly wears those low-cut blouses. In another example of her commitment to news, she was asked…
GQ: Do you think the act of deciding what to cover and what not to is in itself a political act? Kelly: It’s not political. Television is a service but it’s also a business. And in choosing what you’re going to put on your program, you have to figure out what’s going to appeal to your audience and what’s going to rate.
That explains the incessant bashing of liberals as well as the glass table. But how pathetic that she anchors a so-called news show and thinks that ratings should be the measure of what constitutes news. She goes on to boast about Fox being the number one cable news channel. But somehow she is not familiar with her colleagues on the network. She asserts that “I really don’t know much about the Glenn Beck empire.” However, she supports his right to free speech. To this GQ asked…
GQ: There’s the First Amendment and then there’s spreading obvious misinformation. Kelly: That happens at a lot of channels. I think some of those allegations against Beck may have foundation and that some are blown up by detractors. GQ: Which allegations have foundation? Kelly: I’m not going to get into specifics.
That’s swell. Kelly just declared that at least some of the allegations about Beck spreading misinformation are true. Let that sink in for a minute. One news network anchor is accusing her colleague of saying things on the air that are obviously false. Can you imagine the uproar if Anderson Cooper were to have said that about Wolf Blitzer? But my guess is that no one will even notice this. After all, everybody expects to be misinformed if they’re watching Fox News. It hardly matters if it’s Beck or Kelly or Hannity or Cavuto or O’Reilly. In fact, Kelly can hardly complain because she is just as guilty as Beck of misinforming her audience.
I suppose that if you believe that misinforming viewers is no big deal, and that ratings should decide news content, and that partisan, sensationalism is a reasonable substitute for honest reporting, then it shouldn’t surprise anyone when you pose for risque centerfolds for men’s magazines. Just please don’t ask to be taken seriously as a journalist.
The FOX News Channel has announced their plans for coverage of the midterm election results next Tuesday. And it should surprise no one that they are plotting to skew their reporting by putting overtly partisan, activist personalities in the anchor chair and over-weighting their analysts with avowed conservatives and Republican operatives.
When election results start to roll in, Fox will have Bret Baier co-hosting a special edition of America’s Election HQ with Megyn Kelly. Kelly is one of the most reliably biased and aggressive advocates of GOP doctrine on Fox News. She is arguably worse than Glenn Beck in many respects. Her trademark is sensationalizing otherwise obscure “controversies” to smear Democrats or progressive issues. Her coverage of the New Black Panther Party and the non-mosque that is not at ground zero are two examples of her hyperactive approach to trivialities in the news.
At the analyst’s table Fox will feature weak pseudo-Democrats like Juan Williams, Joe Trippi, Geraldine Ferraro, and Kirsten Powers. Those are names that are unlikely to make any Republican nervous. They will also have neo-neanderthal Pat Caddell, whom they continue to identify as a Democrat despite his open hostility to the party. He is the poster child for Fox News Democrats who fail to represent the party’s views and are more often critical than supportive.
On the other hand, Fox News is bringing out their big guns to represent the GOP: Karl Rove, Sarah Palin, Mike Huckabee, Newt Gingrich, and Charles Krauthammer. And if that’s not enough uber-conservative firepower, they can turn to their primetime attack-dogs Bill O’Reilly, Sean Hannity and Greta Van Susteren. The notoriety of FOX’s hard right flank on election night, as compared to their tepid roster of “lefties,” puts the lie to their ludicrous claim of being “fair and balanced.” It also contradicts their prior assertion that ideologues like O’Reilly would ever have a role in election night coverage:
Irena Briganti, FOX News VP of Media Relations: The notion that O’Reilly would anchor election coverage of any kind is beyond absurd and wildly inaccurate.
Beyond absurd is just the tip of the iceberg. The FOX press release for their election coverage plans notes that they will also include stories from Eric Shawn and Mike Tobin. Shawn’s beat will be “reporting on voter irregularities in New York.” For a preview of his reporting, refer to his previous coverage of the issue that was aimed exclusively at alleged Democratic irregularities. Tobin’s duties are described as “reporting on the Tea Party influence.” So FOX is dedicating a reporter to cover the phony Tea Baggers, but they have no similar assignment for anyone to report on the influence of progressive activists like labor (or civil rights, or seniors, or gays, or environmentalists, etc).
I don’t think any fair observer expected FOX to cover the election in a manner that was remotely impartial. After all, this is the network whose parent company actually donated a $1 million to the Republican Governor’s Association, and another million to the conservative/GOP affiliated U.S. Chamber of Commerce. But they have really outdone themselves with this lineup. If it tells us anything, it is that they have stopped sporting any pretense of neutrality.
So look for FOX’s coverage to be sharply skewed to the right (as usual). And look for them to gleefully cheer Republican victories and maliciously charge that any Democratic gains were the result of fraud.
On today’s episode of Megyn Kelly’s Court the subject was a bizarre phone call to Anita Hill from the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, Virginia.
Hill received a voice mail on her office phone purporting to be from Ginny Thomas and asking that Hill apologize for “what you did with my husband.” That’s an odd phrasing that implies they did “something” together. Thomas also asked that Hill give a “full explanation,” as if several days of senate confirmation hearings about pubic hairs and Long Dong Silver weren’t sufficiently detailed.
Kelly and her panel took on this raging twenty year old scandal from a uniquely Fox News perspective. They didn’t address the possible motivation of Thomas reigniting this controversy after two decades. They didn’t discuss the propriety of the wife of sitting Supreme Court justice (and herself a Tea Bagging AstroTurf activist) making such a phone call in the first place. No, the issue that got Kelly fired up was that Hill had “called the police” on Thomas.
Well, as usual, Kelly is either lying or ignorant of the facts. Had she read the report that originated with ABC News she would have known that Hill “initially thought it was a prank.” And if it was “thought the authorities should know about it.” Hill clearly did not call the police on Thomas, she was concerned that it was somebody else. Yet Kelly’s Court was all over the phony notion that Hill had overreacted and turned Thomas in to the FBI.
Kelly then concluded the segment with her “ruling” on the case. Not surprisingly, Kelly exonerated Thomas and closed by stating, with typical Kelly indignation, that Thomas had done nothing wrong but that Hill had. This was an obvious allusion to Hill’s testimony regarding Justice Thomas’ alleged sexual harassment. So Kelly has now taken it upon herself to rule that Hill’s testimony was false despite having nothing to affirm that position.
In this one segment Kelly has impugned the integrity of Hill and asserted that she committed perjury. Kelly also misstated the course of events surrounding the phone call and how the authorities were notified. Consequently, my ruling is that Kelly is disreputable and dishonest purveyor of propaganda and should not be regarded as credible in any respect. Case closed.
Alleged Child Molester Identified as Charles Leaf, Alleged Reporter for Fox News
Charles Leaf of Fox News is being held in New Jersey on charges of aggravated sexual assault on a four year old girl. He has been an investigative reporter with WNYW/Fox5 in New York and has also been featured on the Fox News Channel.
This is not the first time Leaf has been accused of assault. He was previously alleged to have assaulted a councilwoman in Mobile, Alabama, where he was working at the time for a local news outlet. There were no criminal charges filed in that case, but there was reportedly a substantial settlement paid by the station.
I profiled Leaf in September in an article titled, “Charles Leaf: The New Most Repulsive Fox News Reporter.” The article details his aggressive, dishonest, and unprofessional behavior in covering real estate developers associated with the Park51 project in Manhattan (the non-mosque that is not at ground zero). The coverage, featured prominently on Megyn Kelly’s Fox News program (as well as The O’Reilly Factor, The Fox Report, Fox & Friends, On the Record, and Geraldo at Large) was based entirely on innuendo and unsupported, sensationalist, allegations. I described his reports at the time as not even providing enough evidence to start a rumor:
First Leaf conducted an ambush interview on real estate developer, Sharif El-Gamal, that yielded nothing to support his contention that El-Gamal was corrupt. Leaf merely insinuated that something must be wrong because El-Gamal was a waiter eight years prior to investing in the Park51 project. The implication being that anyone who starts a small business, works hard for nearly a decade, and achieves success, is deserving of suspicion.
Then Leaf turned his focus to investor Hisham Elzanaty. Again, Leaf ambushed Elzanaty without acquiring any usable information. The only purpose for Leaf’s ambushes is to suggest something sinister when the target declines to talk to him. To that end Leaf made wild accusations about Elzanaty’s contribution to a Muslim charity. As it turns out, the charity, the Holy Land Foundation, was later investigated for ties to Hamas. But that wasn’t until two years after Elzanaty’s donation, and the feds acknowledged that contributors would not have known about the organization’s relationship with Hamas as it was deliberately concealed.
Both of these reports failed completely to produce evidence of any wrongdoing. They were exercises in insipidness and their only purpose was to insinuate and intimidate. They were utterly unprofessional and potentially libelous. Yet Leaf exalted himself as if he had exposed Watergate. And Fox News (particularly Megyn Kelly) went along by broadcasting Leaf’s empty innuendos and affirming the unsupported conclusions.
Megyn Kelly hosted Leaf on several occasions despite never having a verifiable story to report. This is further evidence of my contention that Kelly is at least as bad as Glenn Beck. It will be interesting to see if Kelly, or anyone at Fox, follows up on their new star reporter by covering his arrest. So far, the only comment from Fox is from a spokesman at the local Fox5 station who said that they are aware of the situation and are reviewing it.
Other Fox News perverts include Bill O’Reilly who paid a multimillion dollar settlement to a former producer whom he sexually harassed, and Dick Morris who was caught sucking the toes of a prostitute whom he let listen in on phone calls to President Clinton.
Is anyone taking odds on when Glenn Beck’s mug shot will rocket through the blogosphere?
In a bit of creative synergy, Fox News has figured out a way to give Republican candidates a platform without appearing overtly political. This tactic permits the candidate to get national media exposure without having to spend any money or to engage in any kind of informative debate that impacts their campaign.
Here’s how it works: This morning Megyn Kelly aired a segment on a parent who was arrested after he blew a verbal gasket on a school bus. He was upset because his daughter was being bullied by other students and the school allegedly failed to do anything about it.
That’s an issue that tugs at the heart but really has little significance to anyone but the people involved and the tabloid set who watch Fox News for gossip and melodrama. What makes this segment unique is that Kelly brought in two lawyers to debate the matter. One of the lawyers just happened to be Pam Biondi, the Republican candidate for Attorney General in Florida. While Kelly did mention that Biondi is a candidate in her introduction, throughout the segment the on-screen graphic identified her only as a “former Florida prosecutor.”
There is no good reason for Biondi to make an appearance like this on national TV to discuss a situation that has nothing to do with her campaign. What’s more, there is no good reason for Kelly to select Biondi for this debate. Well, except for the fact that Biondi is the GOP candidate for Attorney General. She is a far-right ideologue who wants to repeal the health care bill, opposes gay adoption, and supports Arizona’s immigration law. And in a touching aside, she was sued by a New Orleans family when she refused to return their dog who was lost during Hurricane Katrina (the family did get their dog back, eventually).
Oh yeah…Biondi also has the endorsement of Fox News contributor Sarah Palin, which I guess makes her a mama grizzly.
To put this in perspective, try to imagine Fox News inviting Kamala Harris, the Democratic candidate for Attorney General in California, into the studio for six minutes of expensive airtime to discuss a local school matter. At the very least Kelly could give equal time to Dan Gelber, Biondi’s Democratic opponent. She could have him on to weigh in on the school’s cafeteria menu.
This sort of booking policy is a not-so-thinly disguised method of making an in-kind contribution to Republican office-seekers. Television is the most expensive form of political advertising, and having a network that doles out campaign welfare in the form of free airtime is a distinct advantage. Fox should have to report these bookings as campaign donations.
On today’s segment of America Live on Fox News, host Megyn Kelly presented a segment (video below) about the developer of the Park51 Islamic community center near ground zero. It was promoted as an expose about the person responsible for the project and suggested that there would shocking new information about its financing. Of course everything Kelly reports appears to be shocking because it is a permanent part of her vocal delivery. She is the human manifestation of Fox’s ever-present “FOX ALERT!” Here is how Kelly introduced the segment (bearing in mind that it is impossible to convey in text the panicky cadence of her voice):
“Five years ago this man was waiting tables in Manhattan! Today he is spending millions – IN CASH – on New York real estate! Including on the building where this mosque will go!”
Kelly then tosses to Charles Leaf of WNYW (the NY Fox affiliate) for the “MUST SEE” report on Sharif El-Gamal. Having been set up as a staggering work of investigative journalism, the viewer is primed for a roller-coaster ride along the tracks of a scandal that saw a one-time waiter become the Muslim Donald Trump. Leaf spins his tale of melodrama and mystery with this prologue:
“Naturally we wanted to meet Sharif El-Gamal. We wanted to know more about the man and his plan. But apparently he didn’t want to meet with us. We made repeated requests for a sit-down interview with him, left him multiple voice messages, and he never returned any of our calls. We even went to his office and talked to some of his colleagues but we were turned away. So we were left with no choice but to go find him.”
Actually, Leaf was left with no choice but to go stalk him. Leaf took a camera crew and followed El-Gamal around asking questions that it was clear he would be getting no answers to. It was as journalistically edifying as Geraldo Rivera’s excursion into Al Capone’s vault.
According to Leaf, El-Gamal left his job as a waiter in 2002 to become a real estate broker and within a year had his own company, Soho Properties. Leaf interviewed an old boss from El-Gamal’s waiting days who was entirely complimentary and impressed with his ambition.
Leaf also interviewed an anonymous source who spoke on camera in shadows and with his voice (hilariously) altered. It was a spooky sequence that cast El-Gamal as potentially dangerous. Leaf never provided any context for this anonymous source or verification of his concerns of retribution. And the only thing we learned from this source was that El-Gamal liked to meet celebrities and go to parties. Quick, someone call the District Attorney.
There was nothing whatsoever in this segment that raised even the slightest suspicion as to El-Gamal’s business dealings. The reporter merely tried to imply that El-Gamel’s desire for privacy was evidence of some impropriety. But in America it isn’t illegal for private individuals to mind their own business. If Leaf had some evidence that something untoward was going on, then I would have no problem with his aggressive tactics. But he had nothing, not even rumor.
What we have here is the story of a man who achieved the American dream. He worked hard as a waiter (and apparently a very popular one) while he sought to improve his life by learning to be a real estate agent. He graduated from that to property owner who received plaudits from his tenants. Eventually he hit the big time buying and selling high income properties in Manhattan.
Isn’t this the reward that America promises to those who strive to excel? Why is El-Gamal being disparaged and smeared by Fox News? Obviously Fox is opposed to this country’s great tradition of opportunity for all. Obviously Megyn Kelly thinks that a successful developer must be a crook if he were at one time a waiter. How could a lowly servant ever become a respected businessman? It doesn’t make sense. He should stay in his class and be grateful for some hotwings and beer. Kelly may not be a waitress, but she is clearly taking orders – from Rupert Murdoch. And Murdoch wants to assure that the message that goes out from Kelly and Fox News is that the rewards of capitalism are only for the elite and well-bred.
A couple of weeks ago I wrote that Megyn Kelly was arguably as bad as her Fox News colleague Glenn Beck. Today she added weight to that theory.
In a discussion with Stuart Varney, Kelly introduced the results of a Fox News Opinion Dynamics poll to argue that Democrats are defying the will of the people by advocating the expiration of Bush’s tax cuts for the wealthy. Kelly displayed this graphic from the poll:
In her discussion with Varney, both of them asserted that these poll results revealed the public’s opposition to letting the the tax cuts expire. However, the poll actually says the exact opposite. While 44% did say to keep all the tax cuts, a plurality of respondents (50%) said to let them expire either entirely (14%) or at least for those earning more than $250,000 (36%). So, contrary to Kelly’s distortion of the facts, respondents actually favor taxing the rich more by a 6 point margin.
Kelly was forced to mischaracterize the results of this poll even though Fox News made a valiant effort to skew the poll in order to return numbers that favored her bias. The question asked (pdf) by the pollsters inquired as to whether the respondent would…
1. Continue the tax cuts for everyone.
2. Continue the tax cuts for everyone except families earning more than $250,000 dollars a year.
3. Allow the tax cuts to expire and let taxes go back up to their previous level.
The first problem with this construction is that it divides, and thus dilutes, the responses of those favoring expiration of the tax cuts. But more egregious is the phrasing. The first two choices offer options to “continue the tax cuts.” The third option inexplicably changes to allowing the tax cuts “to expire” and prejudicially adds “let taxes go back up.” A fair and balanced poll would have maintained a consistent tone and left out the commentary.
Of course, we know that Fox News has never really been interested in fairness or balance. But no matter how often I see it, it is still astonishing to watch these propagandists assert conclusions that are diametrically opposed to reality, even when the truth is right there on their own screen.
For the past few weeks Fox News has been ratcheting up the racial content of their tabloid fare. Megyn Kelly’s obsession with a trumped up story about the New Black Panther Party and their dozen or so members is a perfect example of the race-baiting that Fox passes off as journalism. They follow that up with the promotion of an Andrew Breitbart video that was blatantly edited to tar USDA employee Shirley Sherrod as a racist even though the opposite was evident when the video was viewed in its entirety.
But these recent events are not aberrations. They are representative of an agenda that cannot be anything but deliberate. Recall Fox’s use of offensive rhetoric with reference to President Obama and his family like “terrorist fist jab” and “Obama’s baby mama.” Then there was the time that Bill O’Reilly tried to explain his reluctance to be critical of the First Lady by saying that he didn’t “want to go on a lynching party.” Or the time he attempted to praise patrons of Sylvia’s Restaurant in Harlem by noting that they didn’t shout for their “mother-fucking iced teas.” And who could forget Glenn Beck calling Obama a racist with a deep-seated hatred for white people? Beck is escalating his racial insensitivity by holding his self-glorifying rally in DC on the anniversary of Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech next month.
Some people might wonder why Fox News would risk alienating a potentially significant portion of their audience. Well, we have the answer now. According to Brian Stelter of the New York Times, the African-American segment of viewers of Fox News in primetime this season is only 1.38%. That compares to 19.3% for MSNBC, and 20.7% for CNN, numbers that are much closer to the 14% of African-Americans in the population at large. These numbers also suggest that the black audience that might have been watching Fox have split evenly between MSNBC and CNN causing those networks to be over-weighted by about 6% each.
It is apparent that Fox News has little to lose by offending a segment of the television universe that doesn’t watch their programs anyway. Combine that with Fox’s political incentive to suppress Democratic votes and the strategy of inflaming racial animus doesn’t seem so bad in their warped perspective.
At the very least this explains why Fox persists in airing obviously offensive stories and why they think they can get away with it without adverse consequences. They have nothing to lose in financial terms, and much to gain by pandering to a prejudice demographic. It may be reprehensible to decent folks, but to Fox it’s just good business, and more importantly, good politics.
A new threat is being unraveled by the liberal media about a plot by the liberal media to advance the agenda of the liberal media against the dictates of the liberal media.
OK, if that didn’t make sense to you it’s because the the whole conspiracy being peddled doesn’t make sense. This breaking news first appeared in Tucker Carlson’s right-wing Daily Caller with this headline: Documents show media plotting to kill stories about Rev. Jeremiah Wright Not surprisingly, based on the shoddy record of Carlson & Co., there were no documents that said any such thing. What he had were private communications amongst individuals who were members of the JournoList listserv, a community of progressive columnists and academics, not powerful media barons. [The JournoList was recently discontinued due to the breach of privacy] But even these stolen, candid remarks did not amount to the conspiracy that the Caller alleged with unsupported assertions like this:
“According to records obtained by The Daily Caller, at several points during the 2008 presidential campaign a group of liberal journalists took radical steps to protect their favored candidate.”
The “radical steps” were nothing more sinister than like-minded colleagues commiserating amongst themselves about the sorry state of the media. They were mostly people recognized for their opinions, not straight reporting. They were not focusing on Rev. Wright, but on pointing out the “factual inaccuracies” of mainstream reporting and the abysmal performance of the anchors in the presidential debates. One comment on the JournoList even explicitly refuted the conclusion of the Caller:
“This isn’t about defending Obama. This is about how the [mainstream media] kills any chance of discourse that actually serves the people.”
Serving the people. That’s the sort of depraved plot the Daily Caller is outraged by. The Caller’s embarrassing analysis totally fails to explain why the media, which they regard as hopelessly liberal, would need to take such measures to insert their bias into the reporting that they supposedly control. And how could the stories about Wright have saturated the airwaves as they did when it’s the liberals that control them? Clearly the all-powerful liberal cabal was not able to kill the stories as the Caller charged.
The real irony here is that the Caller is accusing liberals in the press of something that they themselves are doing with this very item. No sooner was it posted on the Daily Caller’s web site this morning than it suddenly popped up on Fox Nation, the National Review, Hot Air, NewsBusters, WorldNetDaily, Pajamas Media, and the Wall Street Journal. Of course Fox News got in on the act with the execrable Megyn Kelly carrying the water of the conservative propaganda machine. She is making a specialty of trumped-up scandals. [Add Glenn Beck to the ConservoList crowd].
So the question is, what list is the right-wing circulating that would produce this instantaneous barrage of reporting on a fabricated scandal? As they attempt to stimulate outrage with regard to a fearsome liberal plot, they are instead exposing the clandestine workings of their own confederacy. And somehow the media that is supposed to be tainted by unfettered liberalism is still all too happy to cover this nonsense.
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.
Anyone with a functioning brain stem is aware of the multitude of problems facing our country and world in these “interesting” times. We are currently struggling to deal with what may be the worst man-made environmental catastrophe ever. We are still in the midst of perilous economic conditions. There are two wars raging and another more amorphous terror threat that has not receded. And in addition to those critical and extraordinary affairs, there are the routine events of life that demand our attention, like jobs, crime, government, even sports and entertainment. In short, there is a flood of information that goes into the news and the editorial decisions shaping it.
However, for Fox News today it was a pretty easy decision. Their prime directive is, as always, is to keep the people as stupid as possible. Therefore, despite all of the crises facing the country, Fox chose to focus on a single issue that has almost no significance to the average American. Fox turned over much their schedule to the trifling and phony pseudo-scandal circulating around a senate race in Pennsylvania.
Joe Sestak had previously asserted that the White House offered him a job if he would decline to challenge Arlen Specter in the Democratic primary for senator in PA. Sestak turned down the offer and eventually defeated Specter. Now Fox News is trying to blow this up into a Watergate-style controversy despite there being no evidence of wrongdoing. Their tactic to escalate this story is to run it incessantly with sly aspersions to criminality that they fail utterly to support.
Perhaps the worst offender is Megyn Kelly. Her two hour program was consumed by over an hour and a half of Sestak. When she did break away from Sestak it was to report on the restoration of a religious monument in Illinois, a scholarship for an illegal immigrant, a comment by Hillary Clinton about whether the rich pay their fair share, and a woman suing an airline for not waking her when the flight landed. She never brought up the gulf oil spill, Afghanistan or the economy once.
That was no accident. That was an exercise of editorial discretion as practiced by Fox News. It wasn’t that there wasn’t any other news occurring, it was that they had already decided to make Sestak the primary story for the day. Never mind that there was very little to report, which resulted in Kelly repeating the same trivialities over and over again as she waited for something of substance to report.
During the course of her Sestak-fest, Kelly interviewed three guests in her pursuit of Fox’s fabled fairness and balance: Dana Perino, George Bush’s press secretary, Michael Mukasey, Bush’s Attorney General, and Republican congressman Darrel Issa, who has been hammering on Sestak and President Obama, and even asserted that an impeachable offense may have been committed.
Despite Kelly’s badgering, Mukasey would not indict Sestak or the White House. He repeatedly said that there doesn’t appear to be any criminal act. He even pointed out that Kelly had misrepresented the law when she supposedly quoted the U.S. code that prohibits promising “any employment, position, compensation, contract, appointment, or other benefit…” Mukasey provided the additional context that the code only applies to positions created by Congress, which was not the case in this matter. And even as he said this, Kelly nodded and agreed, which means that she knew of her deceit from the start.
Perhaps the most disturbing segment of her show came when she was discussing the matter with Fox News correspondent Major Garrett. During this conversation Kelly asked Garrett why this is such a big story, with reporters asking about this instead of the Deep Horizon oil spill? Of course the obvious answer is that it is reporters like her who are doing the asking. How absurd is it for her to wonder why so much attention is being given to the story when she has just given 75% of her own program to it? The funny/pathetic part is that when she was wrapping up the segment with Garrett she praised him for being the only reporter who asked a question about this at the President’s press conference. In effect, she admitted that this isn’t a big story that all the reporters are asking about – it’s just Fox!
The whole Sestak affair is a fabrication invented by Fox News. There are no legal authorities or experts who believe that anything untoward occurred – even Bush’s Attorney General. This is just another attempt by the right and the right’s mouthpiece, Fox News, to smear the President and other Democrats. And they will pursue these smears to the detriment of the news product to which they they pretend to be so committed. Even to the detriment of Americans who end up being inadequately informed about the real crises that face them. And there are plenty of those.
It’s too bad that Fox isn’t in the business of reporting. It’s too bad that they would rather engage in defamation than journalism. But ultimately it will really be too bad for the country when they realize that they were deceived and made some seriously faulty decisions based on the omissions and lies they were fed by Fox News.
This morning on Fox News a report was broadcast revealing new revelations about the costs of the recently passed health care bill. Anchor Megyn Kelly introduced the story with obvious shock and disdain for what she characterized as an attempt to keep information secret from Congress and the public.
The thrust of this alleged scoop was 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. But the shocking part was the allegation that the report was suppressed by HHS and/or the White House prior to the vote in Congress.
Kelly spent almost seven minutes discussing this would-be scandal with Fox’s chief news anchor, Bret Baier, not some opinion show host like Sean Hannity. That’s seven minutes of valuable airtime devoted to a story that was picked up from the uber-conservative American Spectator, authored by someone who calls himself “the Prowler,” and backed up by a single anonymous source. And all of this was discussed after conceding that the story was unconfirmed.
Well, half an hour later, Kelly brings Baier back for a followup and guess what? The story was completely false. The HHS denied it and provided a timeline to document the course of events.
This perfectly illustrates the inner workings of Fox News and their standards for journalism. They will not hesitate to disseminate suspect information that is not backed up in the way that a responsible press operation would consider routine. Once their dubious report is released into the media atmosphere it is almost impossible to retrieve. There will have been numerous regurgitations on blogs and other Internet news sites. Emails will have started bouncing around the web even before Kelly finished the first bogus report. And by the time the truth is revealed, the lies are a part of the common knowledge in Wingnutia.
Rather than wait until a story has been checked out and confirmed, Fox News just lets it fly and crosses their fingers. Then when the facts become apparent they laugh it off or even portray it as an asset. This is what Kelly did after Baier crushed the HHS story. She proudly told her audience that “you saw it all unfold live, right here.” Indeed we did. We saw the poorly sourced, untrue accusations of a right-wing muckraker broadcast to millions over the air as if it were news. Then, if we were still tuned in, we saw the retraction of a story that was never fit to be aired in the first place.
A few days ago Sen. John Ensign admitted to having an extra-marital affair with Cythia Hampton, a woman who was an employee of his campaign operation and the wife of a staffer in his senate office. In the wake of this disclosure, Ensign has apologized, resigned his senate leadership post (but not his senate seat) and floated excuses for his confession that ran the gamut from media attention to blackmail.
Today, the Las Vegas Sun has identified another twist that puts Fox News squarely in the Ensign camp as a co-conspirator to hush up the affair.
“In a letter dated five days before Sen. John Ensign’s public confession of an extramarital affair, Doug Hampton pleaded to a national Fox News anchorwoman for help in exposing the senator’s ‘heinous conduct and pursuit’ of Hampton’s wife.”
So Fox News knew of Ensign’s infidelity five days before Ensign came forward. They got the information from the husband of Ensign’s mistress. That’s a pretty good source, especially when he asserts that he had corroborating evidence. Yet Fox News failed to report the affair prior to Ensign’s press conference, and has still neglected to disclose their receipt of the letter from Mr. Hampton.
Hampton addressed the letter to Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly. Both she and Fox News have yet to comment on the matter. However, the Sun obtained a copy of Hampton’s letter that began…
“More than any time in my life I understand why people take matters into their own hands. I am disheartened! I have sought wise counsel, tried to do the right thing and continue to run into road blocks (sic) in dealing with a very terrible circumstance and injustice that lives in my life. I am hoping you and Fox News can help.”
Hampton then summarized his relationship with Ensign and gave a brief description of the affair that roiled his family. He revealed that Ensign forthrightly pursued his wife, and would not desist even after confronted by other friends and colleagues, including Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn. The letter was sent to Kelly in an apparent, last resort plea for justice from someone he presumed would show fairness and empathy. He told Kelly that…
“I love this country and considered it a great privilege to work in the US (sic) Senate. I am bringing this to you and Fox News to address this professionally and correctly. I could have sought the most liberal, Republican hating media to expose this story, but there are people’s lives at stake and justice is about proper process as well as outcome. Senator Ensign has no business serving in the US (sic) Senate anymore!”
At this time there is no confirmation from Fox news that they received the letter. However, they did not deny having received it when given the opportunity. It seems improbable that a letter from a staff member of a U.S. senator, alleging that his boss and his wife were having an affair, would be ignored.
It is also curious how Ensign became aware that a major news organization was going to report the affair. Did he learn this from Kelly? That would not be surprising in the course of an investigation wherein a reporter sought comment from someone accused of impropriety. The problem is that, under ordinary circumstances, such a reporter would then publish the story, but neither Kelly, nor any other reporter at Fox did so. So if Ensign did learn of the letter to Fox News from Kelly, it was more of a tip off than a journalistic inquiry.
The Ensign scandal seems to get dirtier by the day. It is not merely a matter of his personal indiscretions, but Mrs. Hampton also received salary increases during the period the affair took place. And Ensign also gave the Hampton’s son, Brandon, a job at the National Republican Senatorial Committee, which Ensign chaired.
This combination of sexual, fiscal, and political improprieties, exacerbated by the collusion of a major television news network, would be juicy fare for a sensationalistic, tabloid news enterprise. Ironically, it would be perfect for Fox News, but i wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for their report.
“We never received any letter from Mr. Hampton,” Lowell told the Huffington Post. “He might have sent it, but we never received it. He did reach out to us about 24 hours before the news conference, and he sent an e-mail to a booker on my staff.”
“We followed up with him, but he seemed evasive and not credible, thus we didn’t pursue it,” he said.
Hampton was apparently so lacking in credibility that Ensign came out and confessed less than 24 hours after Fox decided not to pursue it. The Fox spokesman also denied tipping Ensign off. He said that “Somehow, somebody told the Senator something” but insisted it wasn’t anyone from their editorial staff. Uh huh…..
[Update 2] The Sun has some more details, including financial compensation Ensign doled out to the Hampton family.
After the news conference, Lowell passed Hampton’s contact information to his Washington bureau but did not send the letter or show it to senior Fox executives, who have expressed unhappiness at not being informed. “The letter was an allegation of an affair,” Lowell said. “I don’t know that it would have shined a light on anything new.”
Two problems: First, there were several new developments revealed in the letter, like the involvement of Sen. Coburn and the fact that the Hamptons were fired. Second, If the Fox executives were so unhappy about not being informed about the letter after Ensign’s press conference, then why have they still not produced a single story about it three days after the fact? To date there have been precisely ZERO stories on Fox News, FoxNews.com, or TheFox Nation.com, that address the existence of a letter they have had in their possession for at least five days.
It appears that the Fox producer for Megyn Kelly’s program is attempting to fall on his sword.
[Update 4] Apparently Fox News lied (again) about when they received the letter from Hampton. The Las Vegas Sun has a FedEx receipt that confirms that Fox received the letter on June 12, three days before they previously acknowledged receipt. So Fox had three extra days to investigate (which they didn’t do) and to tip off Ensign (which they probably did do).
Yesterday Barack Obama received the endorsement of General Colin Powell. This is a significant endorsement from a respected public figure who is a Republican that has served as Secretary of State, National Security Adviser, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and he is a decorated veteran of the Vietnam war. And it was no ordinary endorsement. Powell was as effusive in his praise of Obama as he was dismissive of John McCain.
Immediately following his appearance on Meet the Press, the Republican smear machine cranked up their toxic rhetoric to belittle Powell with allegations of everything from naivete to racism. But that wasn’t enough to blunt the impact of Powell’s support for Obama. So Fox News is now promoting what they call “poll” that shows overwhelming support (68% to 23%) for McCain by members of the military. In the segment, Fox’s Megyn Kelly introduces the poll and leads off with some broad conclusions about its results:
“Well the Military Times is polling active service members on their pick for president, and it seems pretty clear from that poll who the armed services would like as a Commander in Chief.”
What Kelly fails to mention is that the “poll” is not a scientifically conducted survey designed to represent the views of the military community. It is merely an expression of preference by a self-selecting group of respondents who happened to return a questionnaire sent to subscribers to the Military Times. There was no attempt to create a sample group whose responses could be expanded to the military at large. There was no demographic targeting. This poll has no more relevance than an online poll that simply collects the responses of those who feel like clicking on it. But none of that stopped Kelly from casting the results as “pretty clear,” nor did it stop reporter Jennifer Griffin from surmising that…
“Democrats, in essence, have not made the inroads into the military vote that they hoped to in the last four to eight years.”
[Update - 1/20/09: Sorry. It appears that the original video with Megyn Kelly has been removed. However, Fox News did exactly the same thing two weeks ago with John Kasich guest hosting on the O'Reilly Factor]
This deliberate distortion is wholly the work of Fox News. The Military Times responsibly reported their methodology for the poll on their web site. It says in part that…
“Characteristics of Military Times readers may also affect the results. The group surveyed is significantly older than the military as a whole, and the survey group contains a higher percentage of officers than is present in the military.”
“Conversely, junior enlisted troops, women and racial and ethnic minorities made up a smaller share of the sample than of the military at large. While it is difficult to predict how those factors affect the results, those groups are generally regarded as more supportive of Democratic candidates.”
Fox News purposely left out this information because it didn’t advance their agenda. Clearly their intention is to inject an argument to mitigate the newsmaking endorsement by Powell. So Fox News went looking for something to counter the credibility that Powell has with the military and the general public. They found this survey that was actually published two weeks ago, and they have elevated it to a major story that has run multiple times throughout the day.
So who do the military really support? The non-partisan Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) released a report grading the candidates on their support for military legislation. Obama received a “B”, while McCain barely passed with a “D”. Perhaps a better measure is one where troops are putting their money where their mouths are. A survey last August by the Center for Responsive Politics revealed that…
“U.S. soldiers have donated more presidential campaign money to Democrat Barack Obama than to Republican John McCain, a reversal of previous campaigns in which military donations tended to favor GOP White House hopefuls.”
It’s no coincidence that Fox News began touting the two week old Military Times poll on the day after Powell’s surprise announcement. And it’s no surprise that Fox would deliberately distort the poll and its meaning. What continues to surprise me is that anyone still gives any credence to anything that Fox News reports.