By now anyone who is paying attention knows that Fox News is a disreputable purveyor of heavily biased propaganda on behalf of the Republican Party and conservative politics. The network openly favors GOP/Tea Party pundits and politicians and has even been caught reporting Republican press releases verbatim as if they were independently sourced news stories.
Now an excerpt from an upcoming biography of Fox News CEO Roger Ailes provides an outstanding illustration of the mindset that runs Fox News. The book, “The Loudest Voice In The Room” by Gabriel Sherman, was excerpted in New York Magazine and includes a passage about how Ailes intervened with the reporting in a local newspaper he owns in Putnam County, New York, where he lives in a mountaintop estate. The entire excerpt offers a revealing look into the thought processes of Ailes as he seeks to dominate any environment in which he resides – even a small upstate New York hamlet and its local news, schools, and government.
Another drama erupted after a reporter named Michael Turton was assigned to cover Haldane Middle School’s mock presidential election. After the event, Turton filed a report headlined “Mock Election Generated Excitement at Haldane; Obama Defeats McCain by 2–1 Margin.” He went on, “The 2008 U.S. presidential election is now history. And when the votes were tallied, Barack Obama had defeated John McCain by more than a two to one margin. The final vote count was 128 to 53.” Reading the published version a few days later, Turton was shocked. The headline had been changed: “Mock Presidential Election Held at Haldane; Middle School Students Vote to Learn Civic Responsibility.” So had the opening paragraph: “Haldane students in grades 6 through 8 were entitled to vote for president and they did so with great enthusiasm.” Obama’s margin of victory was struck from the article. His win was buried in the last paragraph.
Turton was upset, and wrote a questioning e-mail to [editor Maureen] Hunt, but never heard back. Instead, he received a series of accusatory e-mails from the Aileses. Turton had disregarded “specific instructions” for the piece, Beth wrote. “Do you anticipate this becoming an ongoing problem for you?” A short while later, Roger weighed in. Maureen Hunt’s instructions to focus on the school’s process for teaching about elections had been “very clear,” he wrote, and Turton’s “desire to change the story into a big Obama win” should have taken a backseat. Ailes described himself as “disappointed” by Turton’s failure “to follow the agreed upon direction.”
The unfolding of events in this deliberate act of interference with a journalist’s role in reporting the news mirrors perfectly the sort of heavy-handed control that Ailes wields over Fox News. It is easy to see the parallels between this microcosm of journalism and the obvious distortions of reality that occur on Fox News every day.
This excerpt is a tantalizing morsel of what the book promises to deliver when it is released later this month. It is written in a compelling way, with credible sources, profound revelations, and dramatic flair. Consequently, we can expect Fox News to mount a fierce smear campaign against the book and its author as its release nears and in the weeks that follow. Indeed, it has already begun.