The cable news network that once promised to be “fair and balanced” has demonstrated again that it was never either. Which may be why they ditched that slogan earlier this year. Friday it was revealed that Fox News breached a contract with billionaire activist Tom Steyer to air a commercial advocating the “Need to Impeach” Donald Trump. Steyer had bought airtime on Fox News and the ad did air at least once on Fox and Friends.
However, since then Fox News decided to yank the ad despite the fact that the time had already been paid for. They didn’t give Steyer any reason for breaching their contract. They didn’t even tell him they had done so. When Fox News was asked to explain why they pulled they ads they gave a surprisingly inappropriate response:
Jack Abernethy, Fox News co-president: Due to the strong negative reaction to their ad by our viewers, we could not in good conscience take their money.
If that’s true, it is an extraordinary development. It may be the first time that a television network made a programming decision for advertisements based on viewer response. Maybe the TV audience could speak up and get those disgusting cartoon bears that are obsessed with which toilet paper they wipe their cartoon butts with off the air.
More likely, Fox News axed these ads because the content was contrary to their political biases. The propaganda ministry at the network just could not abide an advertisement that made a strong case for removing Trump from office. Add to that the fact that Trump himself had registered his own complaint via Twitter saying:
Wacky & totally unhinged Tom Steyer, who has been fighting me and my Make America Great Again agenda from beginning, never wins elections!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 27, 2017
Steyer appeared on MSNBC’s All In with Chris Hayes on Friday when the subject of the ad came up (video below). He told Hayes about Fox’s action and explicitly called out the network for kowtowing to Trump. Steyer also had his attorneys contact Fox News to seek answers as to why they would unilaterally terminate the contract. The letter they wrote said in part that:
“Fox News abruptly pulled the advertisement without explanation (the ‘Cancellation’). We write to protest this baseless and unethical decision. The Cancellation is not only a breach of your agreement with Mr. Steyer – it is also a profound failure of journalistic integrity, a suppression of constitutionally protected speech, and likely a consequence of inexcusable political pressure.”
There are some good reasons for networks to decline to air certain ads. For instance, if the content is provably false, or if it is deliberately harmful or libelous. Political disagreement is not among the legitimate reasons. That would be censorship. Particularly if the President had a role in the decision.
However, the reasons that Fox News would have are easier to predict. They surely would not want to expose their viewers to this sort of information. And they wouldn’t want to piss off their prime benefactor in the White House. But the excuse that they felt guilty about taking Steyer’s money is patently absurd. That sort of argument would lead to rejecting any ads from Democratic candidates. Their predominantly Republican audience wouldn’t like those either. But maybe that’s precisely the ultra-partisan, spin doctoring that Fox News is aiming for.
How Fox News Deceives and Controls Their Flock:
Fox Nation vs. Reality: The Fox News Cult of Ignorance.
Available now at Amazon.