Last week The Daily Show’s Jon Stewart appeared on Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace. The interview included a discussion of Fox’s well known conservative bias and disinformation. While noting that Fox’s Washington chief, Bill Sammon, dictated “marching orders” to the network’s anchors and reporters (a segment that Fox edited out of the television broadcast), Stewart remarked that “the most consistently misinformed? Fox. Fox viewers, consistently, every poll.”
Subsequently, the non-partisan fact-checkers at PolitiFact analyzed Stewart’s comment and concluded that it was false. This set off a flurry of activity in the blogosphere with lefties defending Stewart and righties hailing PolitiFact.
To be sure, there is room for debate on the matter of Stewart’s accuracy. Stewart himself accepted PolitiFact’s findings and apologized. But Media Matters made an excellent case refuting PolitiFact’s analysis and charging that they were making dissimilar comparisons. For instance, PolitiFact cited surveys that measured the civic knowledge of viewers. However, asking whether a viewer knows how many amendments there are to the Constitution is not the same asking whether the viewer believes that the health care bill contains “death panels.” The former is a civics lesson, the latter is misinformation.
One fact that is inarguable is that Fox is responsible for a great deal of misinformation. Politfact’s conclusion was strictly literal, holding Stewart accountable for saying specifically that “every poll” found Fox viewers the most misinformed. That may have been an exaggeration and, had Stewart said simply that many polls placed Fox viewers at or near the bottom of the pack, he would have been correct and PolitiFact would have agreed. On several points PolitiFact noted that…
- Fox isn’t last on the list, although it’s close.
- Once again, Fox News as a whole ranked fairly low among regularly used media outlets.
- Fox clearly did the worst among the major news outlets.
After reporting PolitiFact’s findings, and apologizing, Stewart made a another attempt to illustrate the point he was originally making with Chris Wallace: that Fox misinforms their viewers, and they do so frequently. He used PolitiFact’s own research to make this point by enumerating some of the incidences where PolitiFact ruled against Fox News. It was a hilarious bit that itemized them in a rapid-fire fashion. As a public service I am reprinting them here, following the video, for those who wish to take their time to savor the irony:
- Glenn Beck: “Less than 10 percent of Obama’s Cabinet appointees have worked in the private sector.” — False (December 2, 2009)
- Steve Doocy: “White House Political Director once served as right-hand to ACORN chief.” — False (September 30, 2009)
- Gretchen Carlson: “The Texas State Board of Education may eliminate references to Christmas and the Constitution in textbooks.” — A Pants on Fire! liar award (March 12, 2010)
- PolitiFact’s 2010 Lie of the Year: “Health care reform is a government take-over of health care.” (December 16, 2010)
- Glenn Beck: “The Muslim Brotherhood has openly stated they want to declare war on Israel.” — False (February 15, 2011)
- Karl Rove: “American troops have never been under the formal control of another nation.” — False (March 29, 2011)
- Brian Kilmeade: “Florida Gov. Rick Scott’s approval ratings are up.” — False (April 15, 2011)
- Laura Ingraham: “The Massachusetts health care plan is wildly unpopular among state residents.” — False (May 16, 2011)
- Sarah Palin: “There’s been more debt under Obama than all other presidents combined.” — False (June 1, 2011)
- PolitiFact’s 2009 Lie of the Year: “Health care bill includes Death Panels” (December 18, 2009)
- Kimberly Guilfoyle: “Cash for Clunkers will give government complete access to your home computer.” — False (August 3, 2009)
- Sarah Palin: “Halting Gulf drilling costs $8 billion a day in imports.” — A “Pants on Fire!” liar award (June 3, 2011)
- Sarah Palin: “Democrats plan largest tax increase in history.” — A “Pants on Fire!” liar award (August 4, 2010)
- Bill O’Reilly: “Attorney General Eric Holder was involved in the dismissal of criminal charges against the New Black Panthers.” — False (July 23, 2010)
- Sarah Palin: “Obama voted ‘present’ in the U.S. Senate quite often. ” — False (February 8, 2010)
- Glenn Beck: “John Holdren proposed forced abortions and putting sterilants in drinking water.” — A “Pants on Fire!” liar award (July 29, 2009)
- Glenn Beck: “Labor union president Andy Stern is the most frequent visitor at the White House.” — False (December 7, 2009)
- Glenn Beck: “America is the only country without automatic citizenship upon birth.” — False (June 19, 2009)
- Bill O’Reilly: “O’Reilly never called Dr. George Tiller a baby killer, only reporting what others called him.” — False (June 5, 2009)
- Bill O’Reilly: “Only Fox News picked up that Anita Dunn said Mao was one of her favorite philosophers.” — False (October 27, 2009)
- Bill O’Reilly: “Nobody at Fox News ever said you’re going to jail if you don’t buy health insurance.” — A “Pants on Fire!” liar award (April 27, 2010)
Is that misinformed enough for y’all?