For much of this week Fox News has been engaged in a scorched earth campaign to smear the reputation of Media Matters timed to the release of a new book from the watchdog group (The Fox Effect: How Roger Ailes Turned a Network into a Propaganda Machine). They have blanketed their news properties with stories sourced from The Daily Caller (TDC), which is run, coincidentally, by Fox News contributor Tucker Carlson. Never mind that TDC’s “investigation” has uncovered nothing of significance and almost everything it has published was either old news published elsewhere, or laughably obvious and not news at all (i.e. the latest installment that jolts its readers with the surprise revelation that Media Matters receives funding from progressive donors. Shocking, I know). To date Fox has featured the story twelve times on its Fox Nation web site and at least as many times on the Fox News Channel. And all of that “news” activity occurred in just three days. You’d think this was the equivalent of the Berlin Wall coming down.
On Thursday the story made the leap online from Fox Nation to the mothership, FoxNews.com.
This promotion took the form of three articles on the same day – one in the opinion section and two categorized as “Politics.” The subject matter for the articles covered two angles that any enterprising journalist would regard as evocative of nothing but boredom. All of the articles failed to produce anything that could be considered newsworthy, and even fell short of the tabloid appeal that Fox usually exploits so well.
First up was an article reporting that Media Matters had received a $50,000 grant to scrutinize religious media. Fox framed this as some sort of attack on religion, a topic it has been hammering on recently anyway. However, the work done by Media Matters in this area has focused exclusively on religious broadcasters who feature news as a part of their programming. For example, Pat Robertson’s 700 Club. Robertson is a veteran of political activism and even ran for the GOP nomination for president. His program routinely discusses political issues and has its own news segments. The story, as reported by TDC and Fox, contained no examples of any work done by Media Matters that was critical of religious content from Robertson or any other religious broadcaster. Media Matters has remained true to their mission of monitoring bias in the news, regardless of the venue on which it appears and TDC produced nothing to show otherwise.
Secondly, there as article on FoxNews.com that sought to manufacture some controversy over an allegation that “Media Matters Took Gun-Control Money While Boss Paid A Bodyguard…Packin’ Heat.” The first point that should be recognized is that TDC has produced no evidence whatsoever that this allegation is true. It was made by a single anonymous source and is uncorroborated by any other documentary proof. But even if we accept the allegation hypothetically, so what? Advocates of gun control, contrary to the frantic hyperbole of right-ringers, are not opposed to the existence of guns. They are, as the label makes clear, advocates of “controlling” access to weapons so that they are not easily available to people who would use them to commit crimes or harm others. A gun in the possession of a bodyguard is entirely appropriate and would not be objected to by gun control advocates or the pro-gun-control Media Matters donor.
So once again, Fox News has succeeded only in pumping up their highly coordinated and self-serving campaign to misinform their audience about Media Matters and to damage their reputation. And this campaign is all taking place the week prior to the release of a book by Media Matters that pulls the curtain aside to reveal the makings of The Fox Effect. I’m sure that the timing of the Fox smear is totally unrelated to the book’s release.