Hillary Clinton’s rendezvous with O’Reilly is now history. All that is left is to try to assess the damage and establish what lessons were learned.
The Damage: Bill O’Reilly’s ratings leaped 81% in total viewers and 43% in the 25-54 demo (two night average). That is a massive, though temporary, increase and it will have the effect of inflating his average over time. I’m assuming that the bulk of the new viewers were Clinton supporters, curious independents, or morbid voyeurs hoping to observe a train wreck. It is highly unlikely that these numbers will endure. Last year I did an analysis that showed that Fox News viewers were more loyal to the network and its stars than they were to Bush or Republicans: The Cult Of Foxonalityâ„¢. O’Reilly’s base audience will quickly return to normal, probably tonight. (For the record, The Factor’s ratings dropped significantly from part one of the Clinton interview, to part two. There was a 12% decline in total viewers and a 26% drop in the 25-54 demo).
However, the damage is done. O’Reilly gets his ratings spike, bragging rights, and legitimacy transferred by osmosis from Clinton. Clinton gets nothing. O’Reilly’s base audience is firmly predisposed against her. The visiting viewers have all had plenty of opportunities to see her on other networks. So if you’re scoring it’s O’Reilly: 1.2 million (viewers) – Clinton: zero.
The Lessons: Now that both Clinton and Obama have capitulated to Fox News, will Fox abandon their crusade to defeat Democrats? Hardly. Consider a couple of the classic taunts frequently leveled at Democrats by Foxies:
“If you can’t deal with Fox how can you deal with Iran or Al Qaeda?”
Now that the Democrats have dealt with Fox, will Fox announce their confidence in the Democrats’ ability to deal with terrorists and hostile nations?
“The Democratic Party is held hostage by “far-left, liberal interests groups” like MoveOn, DailyKos, and MediaMatters, who pressure them to reject Fox.”
Now that the Democrats have accepted Fox, proving that these groups are not controlling them, will Fox cease to make these accusations? Will they refrain from disparaging our patriotism? Will they stop insinuating that we’re socialists? Will they present honestly our positions on war, faith, global warming, health care, etc.?
Clearly the answer to the questions above is “No on all counts!” In fact, the reversion to form has already begun. Chris Wallace can hardly contain his glee that the Democrats have folded. This morning he explained to the Fox & Friends crew why he was in such a good mood:
“…after all the boycotting, after all the huffing and puffing, [the Democrats] have found their way to Fox News, and you know, it’s really fun to watch, and particularly to watch the heartburn among the left-wing base – the anti-war, the MoveOn.org, they can’t stand it.”
In this spew of triumphant ecstasy, Wallace has just admitted his own personal bias against a broad swath of progressive citizens. And, shockingly, it is not just a political bias. He is actually deriving pleasure from the pain of the ideologically diverse majority of Americans who oppose the war. Indeed, he is laughing at them … at us.
He also joked with F&F that John Edwards’ poor performance in the presidential race is somehow attributable to his refusal to go on Fox? By that logic, Obama’s and Clinton’s success in the race is likewise attributable to their refusals to go on Fox. They only just agreed to appear this week, so all of their prior success was achieved without Fox and, therefore, due to its Foxlessness.
O’Reilly has been in just as good a mood as Wallace.
“The greatest thing about this interview . . . is that it’s emasculated all these far-left extortion types like MoveOn and the Kos, which threatened Hillary Clinton and threatened Barack Obama and all the other Democrats.”
So the greatest thing to O’Reilly is “emasculate[ing] all these far-left extortion types.” The most fun for Wallace is “watch[ing] the heartburn among the left-wing base.” It should be noted that the number of members of MoveOn and DailyKos alone exceed the number of viewers of many of Fox’s programs. And there is much more to the liberal base than those two examples. From what part of this should Democrats and progressives draw comfort? Fox doesn’t care about the interview. They don’t care about informing the public. They only care about how badly they can cripple their enemies.
Bill O’Reilly, Chris Wallace, Brit Hume, et al, were flailing pathetically when they were being ignored by the cool kids. We were having a real impact on their ratings, their revenue, their reputation, and their respiration. It was unwise to loosen the screws at this time. Hopefully, after having seen how they’ve reacted to our largess, our Democratic representatives will realize that Fox News is unfriendly and untrustworthy. They will whine about not being invited to the party, but will break all your furniture when you admit them. Then the whining will begin all over again.
Just stay the HELL off of Fox News!