The split personality of Fox News is on display with regard to the controversy over their treatment of CNN’s White House correspondent Jim Acosta. The Trump administration revoked Acosta’s press pass last week after a contentious exchange with Donald Trump at a press conference. Trump’s behavior at the event was over the top, even for him. He viciously lashed out and insulted Acosta and several other reporters, including three African-American women.
However, what’s making the headlines now is the administration’s revocation of access to the White House for Acosta and the subsequent lawsuit filed by CNN to restore his First Amendment rights. The suit has been hailed by most of the journalistic community including the White House Correspondents Association and the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. And even Fox News issued a statement in support of CNN’s lawsuit:
“FOX News supports CNN in its legal effort to regain its White House reporter’s press credential. We intend to file an amicus brief with the U.S. District Court. Secret Service passes for working White House journalists should never be weaponized. While we don’t condone the growing antagonistic tone by both the President and the press at recent media avails, we do support a free press, access and open exchanges for the American people.”
Fox couldn’t resist highlighting what they called an “antagonistic tone.” but at least they included Trump in the criticism. The rest of the statement is a solid defense of the First Amendment. The problem is that this sentiment expressed by their management is not shared by their program hosts.
For instance, on her Tuesday night program Laura Ingraham is not so supportive. She called the lawsuit a “stunt” and a “farce.” Fox’s media correspondent, Howard Kurtz, wrote an op-ed Tuesday criticizing CNN, saying that “By taking the president to court, CNN also reinforces its image among millions of Trump supporters as part of the opposition.” And Wednesday on the air Kurtz said that “I think this suit is more of a PR effort than a legal one.” Martha MacCallum hosted former Trump press secretary Sean Spicer who dismissed freedom of the press saying that “It’s not a right to be able to go over to the White House.” And Fox’s senior Trump-fluffer, Sean Hannity, complained bitterly for ten minutes about the lawsuit. He disparaged Acosta as “a far-left, grandstanding sycophant left-winger.” Trump was apparently watching, because he later used the “grandstanding” slur in an interview with Tucker Carlson’s rag, The Daily Caller. At no time did Hannity or the others stand up for the principles of freedom of the press.
This is representative of the two faces of Fox News. They like to pretend that they are a part of the journalistic community and committed to the constitutional provisions that protect the media. But their most watched personalities prefer the suppressive concepts favored by dictators who get to choose who cover them and what is permissible to say. And that’s also the position of the Trump White House that defended the President’s censorious punishment of Acosta in a statement that said:
“The President and White House possess the same broad discretion to regulate access to the White House for journalists (and other members of the public) that they possess to select which journalists receive interviews.”
Actually, that isn’t the same thing at all. While Trump has been extremely selective with regard to interviews (the vast majority of which have been with Fox News), a press conference is an open event during which all attendees have equal access. And by selectively banning a reporter who asks tough questions, Trump is manipulating the coverage of his media avails to only those with whom he agrees, or believes he can overcome with bullying, filibustering, and lies. That is not how the Founding Fathers envisioned a free press. And Fox doesn’t get to be a “news” enterprise by issuing a statement in support of the First Amendment, while they put hacks on the air who advocate against it.
How Fox News Deceives and Controls Their Flock:
Fox Nation vs. Reality: The Fox News Cult of Ignorance.
Available now at Amazon.