Chris Wallace: A Hen In The Fox House

Chris Wallace, host of Fox News Sunday, was interviewed by Stephen Battaglio of TV Guide. His performance reveals an ineffectual spokesperson struggling to embrace his network’s prejudices. Many of the questions dealt with the Democrats’ rejection of Fox News as a host for their presidential primary debates. If Wallace’s answers represent the Fox viewpoint, Democrats should consider rejecting appearances on his program as well – though not because they would have anything tangible to fear.

Some excerpts:

TVGuide: Why do you think the Democratic candidates for president have pulled out of the debates cosponsored by Fox News?
Wallace: I think there is a sense of empowerment on the part of the Democrats. They won [the House and Senate] and they’re feeling their oats. In addition, I think the left wing of the party – and I’m talking about the “net roots” – have decided to try to put Democratic candidates through a kind of loyalty test.

Wallace doesn’t bother to explain how rebuffing Fox’ invitations translates into either loyalty or a demonstration of empowerment. The only way for his assertions to make sense is if he is conceding that Fox deserves their reputation for bias. Why else would there be a benefit for Democrats to snub the network? And while his answer includes a baseless swipe at the party’s “left wing/net roots,” he nimbly avoids stirring any substance into his response. For instance, admitting that Democrats may have an aversion to handing over their intra-party debate to an overtly hostile network.

TVGuide: Why do you think they are trying to marginalize Fox News? It really seems like some of the party activists are trying to make Fox News seem less legitimate.
Wallace: I don’t think it’s the presidential candidates. Frankly, I think they are pandering to that constituency […] It will end when they need us. They’ll need us when we get closer to the general election and [they] are going to want to reach the independents, moderate Republicans and Democrats who watch Fox News routinely and form the majority of our audience.

First of all, it is Fox News that is making Fox News seem less legitimate, not Democrats. And in support of that effort, Wallace makes an utterly absurd declaration as to the composition of the majority of the Fox audience. Democrats do not need Fox and the evidence of that was documented in this poll by the Mellman Group who found that…

“Fox News viewers supported George Bush over John Kerry by 88 percent to 7 percent. No demographic segment, other than Republicans, was as united in supporting Bush. Conservatives, white evangelical Christians, gun owners, and supporters of the Iraq war all gave Bush fewer votes than did regular Fox News viewers.”

TVGuide: Do you think they have a case, in terms of feeling that Fox News Channel has been unfair to them?
Wallace: No more than I think Republicans have a case in saying that the mainstream media has been unfair to them.

There are three very profound revelations in that brief response. First, just who does Wallace think the “mainstream media” is when Fox News is the #1 cable news network in the country and its parent, News Corp., additionally owns multiple newspapers, magazines, Internet sites and TV and radio stations? Secondly, it should be noted that Wallace is not making a distinction between Fox News and some other news entity. He is positioning Fox against all other news entities that he ambiguously labels mainstream. That confrontation illustrates his perception of Fox as a beleaguered outcast amongst its journalistic peers which means, by extension, that it espouses a unique (i.e. biased) point of view. Thirdly, he doesn’t actually answer the question as to whether Democrats’ objections to Fox are justified. He merely insinuates that the other kids do it too.

TVGuide: Do you think the popularity of Fox’s conservative commentators overshadows the straight news reporting?
Wallace: The people who want to misunderstand Fox will use some of the prime-time conservative commentators as an excuse.

Of course they can also use Brit Hume, Carl Cameron, Jim Angle, Neil Cavuto, and the former Fox anchor, Tony Snow, who has since been transferred to the Fox division at the White House. The premise of the question assumes facts not in evidence – i.e. that Fox is capable of “straight news reporting.”

Wallace (cont’d): Over the last three years we’ve had Hillary Clinton, Ted Kennedy, Howard Dean repeatedly – I think they are able to distinguish between Fox News and the opinion shows. We don’t have a problem booking Democrats at all. It didn’t work out the way anyone expected, but we had Bill Clinton in September.

It’s rather astonishing that Wallace actually brings up, without any hint of irony, the Bill Clinton interview, of which the highlight was Clinton’s withering accusations of bias on the part of Wallace and Fox. However, he fails to grasp that Democrats, by not participating in Fox-sponsored debates, are not engaging in a boycott of all appearances on the network. There is big difference between routine media availability and party-specific events.

In the end, I suppose we all should be grateful for Wallace’s inadvertent transparency. It makes it that much easier to prove that Fox really does deserve to be marginalized as an illegitimate news source. Thanks, Chris.

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The Media’s Take on Alberto Gonzales

These are the headlines from Google News the evening after Alberto Gonzales testified before the U. S. Senate to explain the firing of U. S. Attorneys:

GOP Senator Calls for Gonzales to Resign – Forbes, NY
GOP Senator Calls for Gonzales to Resign – FOX News
Gonzales losing GOP support – Dallas Morning News
On a very hot seat with little cover and less support – Int’l Herald Tribune
Gonzales Endures Harsh Session With Senate Panel – New York Times
Gop Senator Calls For Gonzales To Resign – Guardian Unlimited
Gonzales losing GOP support – Houston Chronicle
Gonzales Rejects Call For His Ouster – Guardian Unlimited
White House says attorney gen’l has Bush’s ‘full confidence’ – MarketWatch
Gonzales Struggles to Sway Skeptics – ABC News
Gonzales rejects call for his ouster – Boston Globe
Gonzales’s Candor, Judgment Questioned by Senators – Bloomberg
Gonzales can’t sway skeptical senators – San Diego Union Tribune

Which of these things is not like the other? And how long will it be before Bush tells Gonzales that he’s doing, “a heckuva job?”

Bomb Bomb Iran

Once again, the Conventional Media takes its cue from the New Media. This embarrassing bit of warmongering karoake from John McCain was ignored until it showed up on YouTube.

Mourner In Chief?

While America is struggling with the disbelief and sympathy provoked by the Virginia Tech massacre, some in the media are trying to salve the wounds in a most peculiar way.

Brian Williams of NBC went on air yesterday peddling his view of President Bush as the empathetic vessel for the nation’s grief, saying that Bush…

“has been effective as a mourner-in-chief. He is quite good at it, quite soothing at it.”

I might have excused this delusional analysis had Williams himself been a grief-stricken victim of this crime. But as he is not, it is simply an insensitive misrepresentation of reality.

This is the same Bush that has not attended a single funeral for the 3,200 Americans killed in Iraq. In fact, he prohibits the rest of the country from mourning by forbidding news coverage of funerals or returning caskets even when the families prefer it. And that’s to say nothing of the tens (hundreds?) of thousands of Iraqis who lost their lives.

This is the same Bush that took six days to acknowledge the loss of over 1,800 Americans due to Hurricane Katrina. In fact, Bush was celebrating John McCain’s birthday as the levees breached, despite having been warned of the danger. In his first stumbling attempts at consolation, he praised his incompetent FEMA director and assured victims that they would be cared for and the region would be restored. That was almost two years ago.

This is the same Bush under whose direction the Attorney General mocked the Geneva Convention and justified torture.

This is the same Bush that set records for executions as governor of Texas.

This is the same Bush that ignored warnings from the CIA saying “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S.” In fact, the warning came while he vacationed at his ranch in Crawford, Texas, but he didn’t even consider it necessary to interrupt his recreation to perhaps prevent a massive terrorist attack.

This is the same Bush that smirks when hailing the “haves and haves more” that he refers to as his “base” and scowls while insisting that senior citizens should happily exchange the dependability of Social Security for the vagaries of the stock market; the same Bush that trusts pharmaceutical conglomerates to attend to the interests of patients instead of their bottom line; the same Bush that defiantly rejects the world’s climate experts’ proof of global warming.

He clearly doesn’t expect to be around to console the future victims of his destructive and short-sighted policies. And he has certainly not been there for the victims of the past. Even his signature issue, which he exploits endlessly, the terrorist attacks on 9/11, demonstrates a callousness that is revolting. When informed that the nation was under attack, he sat paralyzed before a group of school children, unable respond. When he eventually did respond, it was to stand atop a pile of rubble (that likely contained human remains) and issue empty threats to the perpetrators. He did not use that “megaphone moment” to bring comfort to a stunned nation. He used it to display a bravado that he knew he would not have to back up personally. And it should be noted that he did not even apprehend “the people who knocked down these buildings,” as he pompously promised.

Brian Williams’ depiction of Bush as “quite soothing” can only be described as a severe hallucination. Bush is the last person I would turn to for solace in a time of grief. And the only plausible context for designating him “mourner-in-chief,” would be because he is such a productive supplier of the world’s death and misery.

Update: Ann Compton of ABC News has also joined the chorus saying:

“When the nation mourns, the president kind of has to be the mourner in chief.”

Daily Show/Colbert Viewers Most Informed – Fox, Not So Much

The Pew Research Center for the People and the Press has published a new study that measures the public’s knowledge of national and international news. The results are not likely to surprise anyone but Fox viewers, who come in at the bottom of the list (they probably don’t know that there is a list – or what a list is). And, although I’m not surprised to see the Daily Show/Colbert Report place high on the list, it is a bit of a jolt to see them at the very top. It would not likely shock Stephen Colbert, and not just because he would have felt it in his gut. While still with the Daily Show he explained why their audience reportedly got much of their news from the comedy program.

“Stephen Colbert, a Daily Show correspondent, has said that he doesn’t believe that viewers learn anything from the show. He contends that, if they weren’t already knowledgeable about political and social affairs, they wouldn’t get the jokes.”

That, of course, is true, and may help to explain these new statistics.

Knowledge Levels By News Source:
News Source High Mod Low
Daily Show/Colbert Report 54 25 21
Major Newspaper websites 54 26 20
News Hour w/Jim Lehrer 53 19 28
O’Reilly Factor 51 32 17
National Public Radio 50 29 21
Rush Limbaugh 50 29 21
News magazines 48 27 25
TV News websites 44 33 23
Daily newspaper 43 31 26
CNN 41 30 29
Google, Yahoo, etc. 41 35 24
Network evening news 38 33 29
Online news blogs 37 26 37
Local TV news 35 33 32
Fox News 35 30 35
Network morning shows 34 36 30

These results confirm previous studies that showed Fox viewers as being, not only the least informed, but also more likely to hold beliefs about news that were demonstrably false. You might think that the quantity and frequency of these studies would have some effect on how the rest of the media deals with Fox. They are simply not to be taken seriously. And their viewers are not an audience that is open to diverse points of view. They are too focused on their fabrications of reality.

While I have not seen a study that confirms this, I don’t believe that Fox viewers are misinformed because of Fox. I believe that they self-select the news source that comports with their prejudices. Anyone who suggests that such an audience presents an opportunity for progressives to convey an alternate view is ignoring the deep-seated, built-in biases that attract an audience to Fox in the first place. Consequently, Democrats would have absolutely nothing to gain by appearing on a Fox-sponsored debate.

The study also makes some good points in support of the position that a decentralized and diverse media universe promotes greater knowledge. The study reports that…

“…people who use more news sources know more than those who use fewer sources.”

Some of this may seem obvious, but the Republican majority commissioners at the Federal Communications Commission still have to be convinced. They are presently conducting public hearings to determine whether media ownership caps should be loosened or repealed. This, despite the fact that numerous studies have agreed with the Pew Center’s conclusions. In October of 2006, the Benton Foundation released a set of studies that…

“…make clear that media consolidation does not create better, more local or more diverse media content. To the contrary, they strongly suggest that media ownership rules should be tightened not relaxed.”

And even the FCC’s own research concurred in a report that was buried, and ordered destroyed, by then FCC Chairman Michael Powell. [You can help persuade the FCC not to allow more consolidation by contacting them through the FreePress-sponsored StopBig Media campaign].

The importance of having varied and independent sources for news has never been clearer. The myopia of Fox and it’s audience is both frightening and depressing. If we ever hope to address the larger issues that face our country and our world, we will need an informed and energized citizenry. But the effect of corporate media megaliths works in diametric opposition to that goal. They are, in fact, producing a nation steeped in ignorance and division, and this study is just another nail in that coffin. Those of us who see through the veil must continue to fight for a truly free press, the keystone of democracy and the only path to true liberty.

The Pew Center has an online version of the survey that you can complete and compare your score with the rest of the survey group.

Democrats And Fox: Still Misunderstood

David Bauder of the Associated Press attempts to unravel the knotted complexities of the Democratic Party’s objection to Fox News hosting their presidential primary debates.

Note to David Bauder: It’s not complicated, and you’ve still missed point.

Bauder begins his exercise by asserting that Democrats are engaged in this dispute in order to “target” Fox, just as they do President Bush. So right off the bat he has reduced the dispute to a partisan triviality and is dismissing the genuine concerns that the network is verifiably unfriendly territory for Democrats. Worse than that, however, he perpetuates the utterly false and shallow accusation that by ditching Fox, Democrats are afraid to face the psuedo-news network:

“The risk to this strategy is it could make the candidates look like, well, weenies.”

Note to David Bauder: On the contrary, it makes them look stronger.

There is nothing about standing up for yourself, refusing to let known enemies exploit you, and challenging liars and propagandists, that can reasonably be construed as weakness. Fox’ own Bill O’Reilly pulls this stunt all the time, calling those who decline to appear on his program cowards. The real reason people turn down O’Reilly, and Fox News debates, is that they don’t want to dirty themselves with the biased, low-brow, anti-intellectual, sensationalism that Fox dispenses by the truckload. What’s more, poking a finger in the eye of the biggest bully on the cable news block is not the act of a coward.

The ludicrous notion that assertively rejecting Fox suggests an inability to face hostile foreign leaders, as Bauder reports, fails on two grounds: As previously noted, it is strength, not weakness, that is displayed by the shunning of Fox; and Fox is not the equivalent of a sovereign state that might have an impact on U. S. national security and it’s just plain silly to elevate them to such status.

While there has been voluminous documentation that Fox operates as a virtual arm of the Republican PR machine, Bauder obliging illustrates the problem in his own article, so we don’t even have to turn the page for corroborating evidence of Fox bias:

“A feud against Fox might not be the best long-term plan, either. People there have been known to hold a grudge.”

This ironic, and apparently inadvertent, admission really tells the whole story. Fox is not an impartial observer. If you cross them, they will “hold a grudge.” And Bauder acknowledges that they “have been known” to do so in the past.

Note to David Bauder: A reputable news organization does not hold grudges. And Democrats who refuse to certify Fox as a legitimate journalistic enterprise deserve praise for their integrity and their courage.

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Tom DeLay vs. Rosie O’Donnell

Competing for the title of International Fly-weight Champion, Tom “The Hammer” DeLay, America’s X-Terminator, will battle TV gab-queen and lesbian communist, Rosie “The Riveter” O’Donnell.

You won’t want to miss this clash of the TITANS as The Hammer NAILS another nemesis to the Holy Cross of Isaac, Jacob and Abramoff.

If the Left takes Imus, We’ll take Rosie
“I am CALLING ON CONSERVATIVES to use the available media (radio talk shows, blogs, letters to the editor) to protest and DEMAND that Rosie O’Donnell be kicked off The View. Where are the demonstrations in front of ABC? Where are the boycott THREATS for The View’s advertisers, or its parent company, Disney? Who is holding Barbara Walters accountable for Rosie’s offenses? We can FIGHT like the Left, too. If Don Imus falls to the pleas of political correctness, WE’RE TAKING ROSIE O’DONNELL DOWN with him.”

With those fearsome words in support of the racist and sexist radio bloviator, Don Imus, the gauntlet is laid down. Get your tickets TODAY because there won’t be a single empty seat for what will surely be this year’s main event in the WAR ON TERROR!

Imus goes DOWN!
“From the outset, I believe all of us have been deeply upset and revulsed by the statements that were made on our air about the young women who represented Rutgers University in the NCAA Women’s Basketball Championship with such class, energy and talent.” ~ CBS President and CEO, Leslie Moonves.

The Hammer’s challenge has been accepted and the Fracas with the Jackass will undoubdtedly be this season’s most talked about matchup. Will The Hammer lock up his fragrant opponent, or will Rosie wilt? Or will DeLay’s tag team partner, Bull “Da Fracture” O’Reilly step in and shut the whole stadium up? These questions will be answered when The Hammer’s wrath comes DOWN.


How To Handle Fox News

The Politico speculates that Fox News might retaliate against John Edwards for his principled stand against participating in debates sponsored by the network devoted to defeating Democrats. But it doesn’t require much imagination because Fox has already stooped to issuing veiled threats directed at independent minded politicians:

“Any candidate for high office from either party who believes he can blacklist any news organization is making a terrible mistake about journalists.” ~ Roger Ailes, Fox CEO.

To which I would respond:

“Any news organization who believes they can smear any candidate for high office from either party is making a terrible mistake about democracy.”

Roger Ailes is not someone to whom I would turn for advice on journalistic ethics. This is, after all, the same man who said, with a shamelessly straight face…

“The greatest danger to journalism is a newsroom or a profession where everyone thinks alike.”

Then he hires Bill O’Reilly, Sean Hannity, John Gibson, Fred Barnes, Neil Cavuto, Tony Snow, Brit Hume, John Moody, etc. Now that the right wing tunnel vision that plagues Fox has resulted in the objects of their scorn declining to submit to the abuse, Fox gets cranky.

Earlier this year, the publicist for Joan Baez protected her client from a pre-Grammy assault by Mike Straka, VP and Executive Producer of Straka wrote of his surprise at being avoided, saying…

“she was on her way over to talk to Anita Vogel and me when her publicist whisked her away shouting, “They’re FOX. We don’t talk to FOX.”

Imagine that. Straka, the author of “Grrr! Celebrities Are Ruining Our Country,” was surprised that a celebrity didn’t want to talk to him. Sounds like an alert publicist to me.

So what’s wrong with the Congressional Black Caucus who, despite having been rejected by Edwards, Barack Obama, and Hillary Clinton, insist that their Fox-sponsored Democratic primary debate is still on:
“As a nonprofit and nonpartisan organization, the CBC Institute is holding the debates to help educate African-Americans and others on key issues of national policy.”

I submit that the CBC could go a lot further to help educate African-Americans by refusing to be exploited by a network that has repeatedly slandered them. And if they really think that debates on Fox represent…

“…a unique and rare opportunity for the candidates to present their message and ideas to millions of voters in a manner that is unfiltered by any political or news organization.”

Well, I’d just have to conclude that they are acutely naive.

It’s nice to see that the Edwards camp isn’t caving in to Fox’ tantrums. Edwards’ aide Jonathan Prince, responding to the prospect of vengeance from a spurned Fox, said:

“What are they going to do? The more that they behave outrageously, the more they show that they’re not a legitimate objective source of news.”

Bingo! If there is anyone who is still intimidated by the cable news neighborhood bully, this is all you need to know. It is now safe to stand up for honest reporting and unbiased coverage. Fox can’t persist with their defamatory behavior and expect their targets to stay silent and absorb the blows. And they can’t fight back either because it would just confirm their image as antagonistic and ideologically slanted.

The jig is up. Fear not, for there is no wizard behind the curtain. If you stand up to Fox, Fox will stand down – or fall down, flat on its face.

New Tribune Boss Smacks Google

The new owner of the Tribune Company, Sam Zell, has previously stated that his interest in purchasing the media conglomerate was purely financial. He is wasting no time in throwing out challenges to those he perceives as stepping on his profit opportunities:

“If all of the newspapers in America did not allow Google to steal their content for nothing, what would Google do? We have a situation today where effectively the content is being paid for by the newspapers and stolen by Google, etcetera. That can last for a short time, but it can’t last forever. I think Google and the boys understand that. We’re going to see new deals and new formulas in the media space that reflect the reality of cost benefit.”

That’s pretty tough talk for a guy who has never spent a single day working in media. Zell callously accuses Google, and thousands of other on- and off-line publishers, of theft for merely printing excerpts of stories and links to the source. His ignorance of fair-use threatens to criminalize methods of distributing information that are both legal and beneficial to a free society.

If Zell intends to raise revenue by reversing long-held precedents in journalism, he better expect some blowback. David Garrity, a research director with an investment bank, believes Zell will try to work out settlements with the Googles of the world, but may resort to litigation. It seems appropriate that the bank Garrity represents is Dinosaur Securities, because the world has long since evolved past the stage where news can be hoarded by corporate misers.

Iraq: Exploding With Freedom

White house spokesman, Gordon Johndroe, has stumbled upon the same tranquil Baghdad that charmed John McCain. When asked his reaction to Muqtada al Sadr’s urging his followers to rise up against the U.S. forces in Iraq, he said this:

“Iraq, four years on, is now a place where people can freely gather and express their opinions.”

“And that was something they could not do under Saddam. And while we have much more progress ahead of us…this is a country that has come a long way from the tyranny of Saddam Hussein.”

You’ve come along way, Baghdad! And looking back on four years of progress, we feel nothing but excitement knowing that there is “much more progress ahead.”

We congratulate you on your newfound freedom to advocate the killing of American soldiers. How exhilarating it must be for you to experience this gift of democracy that was denied to you by the dictator Saddam. We are so proud, as Americans, to know the part we have played in your liberation to snipe at us from behind bombed out storefronts, or plant IEDs under our unarmored Humvees.

But remember, that along with democracy comes responsibility. Just because you are now able to hold massive rallies calling for the ouster of foreign occupiers, that doesn’t mean that the occupiers, or even your own government, has to listen to you. As you learn about democracy, you will notice that, even in America, leaders are not bound to pay the slightest bit of attention to the majority of our citizens who want their soldiers to return home from Iraq. This may seem confusing to you, but when you’ve had as much experience with the democratic process as we have, it will all become clear. You will eventually have your own experts, like Karl Rove, to explain it all to you.

In the meantime, enjoy your great good fortune at having partners like the United States to introduce you to a world of liberty. And rejoice in knowing that, although the past four years seem to have been roiled in mass murder and destruction, it was actually progress, and there is much more of that on the way. In fact, we expect that, by this time next year, there will have been so much progress that Iraq will be as peaceful as a deserted island whose tranquility is ne’er disturbed by living souls – and for the same reason.