Today’s town hall meeting in New Hampshire with President Obama was highly promoted by all the major television news organizations, including Fox News. However, when the event took place, Fox News decided to bail out of the live broadcast just as the floor was opened to questions from the audience. Both CNN and MSNBC broadcast the Q&A in its entirety.
Fox News likes to promote itself as “fair and balanced.” Anyone with a functioning cerebrum knows that that isn’t true, but the brazen nature of this programming bias deserves special recognition. Fox has unambiguously proven that they are the network of melodrama. A civil discourse on public matters, no matter how important, will always lose out to a wild police car chase (which was actually on Fox prior to the Obama town hall).
The moment that Fox chose to abandon the event was just after the audience started asking questions. What became immediately obvious was that Fox had no interest in continuing coverage because they concluded that the event was not confrontational enough. The first couple of questions were not the sort that would incite the frothing anger that has become a staple of Fox News’ coverage of the health care debate. Even David Bauder of the Associated Press recognized the barely hidden motivation of Fox:
“Fox News Channel cut away from President Barack Obama’s town hall meeting on health care reform Tuesday as he faced a far more polite crowd than has attended many meetings hosted by members of Congress recently. CNN and MSNBC carried the session in full [...] The loud public debates have been a tonic for cable news networks during normally quiet August.”
If the AP gets it, you know it’s reached new levels of clarity. As the town hall progressed, the questions became more probing. They included inquiries into some of the most controversial matters that have characterized this issue: death panels, taxes, rationing, etc. But Fox News’ audience saw none of this despite the notice that anchor Trace Gallagher gave after they broke coverage:
“Any contentious questions, anybody yelling, we will bring it to you here.”
Well, that’s comforting. The striking thing about that statement, other than the fact that he did not adhere to it, is that it is an admission that Fox News is only interested in contentiousness and yelling. It is rather startling that Gallagher would make a promise to his viewers that amounts to a declaration that Fox will only present the President when he can be made to look embattled or unpopular. Fox never did return to the event.
Gallagher did, however, keep his promise to provide contentious programming. Much of the time that the Obama town hall was in progress, Fox News replayed arguments captured at town halls for senators Cardin and McCaskill. These shoutfests were aired with a little box in the corner showing Obama’s event minus the sound. So Fox made a deliberate decision to avoid the President’s newsmaking appearance and replace it with yesterday’s more pugnacious, albeit stale, news. The rest of the time was spent with Fox pundits predictably bashing the President even though they weren’t even listening to what he was saying.
It appears that the only way for Obama to get any airtime on Fox News would be to cater to Fox’s appetite for sensationalism and lead the police on a wild car chase. Or maybe to be caught having dinner with the OctoMom. Or better yet, lead the police on a wild car chase with the OctoMom, Michael Jackson’s doctor, and a piece of the Shroud of Turin.
This is, of course, all Obama’s fault. He should know by now that the one thing you never do if you want to be on Fox News is to be reasonable, intelligent, and honest. He should be ashamed of himself.