When Fox News Anchor Megyn Kelly Is Right, She’s Right

You have to give Megyn Kelly some credit. Today she conducted a scintillating debate about the cover of Newsweek magazine that featured President Obama and the headline, “Why Are Obama’s Critics So Dumb?”

Kelly’s razor sharp intellect immediately focused in on the most relevant question that arose from that controversial title. It didn’t have anything to do with the substance of the article. Why would that be of interest to anyone watching Fox News? Kelly quickly dismissed the fact that the author, Andrew Sullivan, was criticizing Obama’s critics from both the left and the right, although only the right seemed to take any offense They apparently know themselves so well that if somebody yells “Hey stupid.” in a crowded Walmart, only the right-wingers will turn and say “What?”

The core point of interest that Kelly recognized had to do with the credentials of Sullivan and his place on the cover of a news magazine. Without hesitation she directed this probing inquiry to her guest news analysts:

“Don’t you think that most people when they go to the store and they see Newsweek there they assume it’s like a real journalist who’s actually going to report the news in an objective way?”

Exactly! And don’t you also think that when most people turn on a television network with the word “news” in its name that they assume a real journalist is actually going to be anchoring the program? If you do then you’ve obviously never watched Fox News.

In addition to Kelly’s rank hypocrisy, the very fact that she was discussing this issue with a couple of pundits that had no inside knowledge of either the Newsweek article or the process by which the cover or headline was selected, illustrated the shallowness of Fox’s reporting standards. Sullivan happened to see the segment and issued a challenge to Fox News: If you want to trash my work, have me on to defend it. Any time, Megyn. Any time. What are you afraid of?

As a final dagger in the heart of ethical journalism, during the segment Fox displayed the Newsweek cover in a graphic. But for some reason they chose to blur out Andrew Sullivan’s name.

Fox News Newsweek Cover

Why they would do this when they were using his name in the discussion is puzzling. But I wouldn’t spend too much time trying to unravel that mystery when we still haven’t figured out why Fox thinks that Megyn Kelly is a journalist who can question the credentials of other journalists.

[Update] Megyn Kelly’s Fox sister, Gretchen Carlson, joined the parade on Fox whining about the Newsweek story. Carlson, in a fit of self-delusion, challenged her guest, Jerry Springer, on the subject of bias in the media. Springer responded that it was disingenuous for Fox to be decrying bias on Newsweek’s part:

“We’re here on Fox News. Every single day, in fairness, you guys, every single day bash President Obama. […] Every single morning you are slamming Obama. You know you are.”

Carlson wasn’t going to take that lying down. She quickly retorted that…

“Jerry, you obviously don’t watch our show because you do not understand that there’s a reason – I’ll speak for myself. I sit in the middle as the independent on the panel – and quite frankly we present both sides of the story and we leave it up to our viewers to decide where they fall.”

If Carlson is sitting in the middle because she is the independent, then who on the Fox & Friends panel is she implying is the liberal? Steve Doocy? Her claim is so absurd it approaches surreal performance art.

Gibson And Stephanopoulos: The Keystone Flops

The Democratic debate in Philadelphia last night was dominated by a wall of stupid painstakingly constructed by ABC’s moderators, Charlie Gibson and George Stephanopoulos.

Their obsession with trivia and avoidance of substance submerged this affair from its opening introduction. It’s hard to say it much better than Washington Post critic Tom Shales who leads off by saying that “Charlie Gibson and George Stephanopoulos, turned in shoddy, despicable performances,” and then proceeds to say what he really thinks.

And he’s not alone…

Tom Shales (Washington Post) – “For the first 52 minutes of the two-hour, commercial-crammed show, Gibson and Stephanopoulos dwelled entirely on specious and gossipy trivia that already has been hashed and rehashed, in the hope of getting the candidates to claw at one another over disputes that are no longer news. Some were barely news to begin with.”

Will Bunch (Philadelphia Daily News) – “By so badly botching arguably the most critical debate of such an important election, in a time of both war and economic misery, you disgraced the American voters, and in fact even disgraced democracy itself.”

Greg Mitchell (Editor and Publisher) – “In perhaps the most embarrassing performance by the media in a major presidential debate in years, ABC News hosts Charles Gibson and George Stephanopolous focused mainly on trivial issues as Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama faced off in Philadelphia.”

Andrew Sullivan (The Atlantic) – “The loser was ABC News: one of the worst media performances I can remember – petty, shallow, process-obsessed, trivial where substantive, and utterly divorced from the actual issues that Americans want to talk about.”

Joanne Ostrow (Denver Post) – “Wednesday’s televised candidates’ debate from Philadelphia, tape delayed in Denver, got around to issues eventually. But the first round- devoted to pettiness and word obsession and gaffes- was more revealing.”

Joe Klein (Time) – “The ABC moderators clearly didn’t spend much time thinking about creative substantive gambits. They asked banal, lapidary questions, rather than trying to break new ground.”

Michael Grunwald (Time) – “At a time of foreign wars, economic collapse and environmental peril, the cringe-worthy first half of the debate focused on such crucial matters as Senator Obama’s comments about rural bitterness, his former pastor, an obscure sixties radical with whom he was allegedly “friendly,” and the burning constitutional question of why he doesn’t wear an American flag pin on his lapel.”

Richard Adams (The Guardian) – “A stinker, an absolute car crash – thanks to the host network ABC. It was worse than even those debates last year with 18 candidates on stage, including crazy old Mike Gravel.”

Noam Scheiber (New Republic) – “The first half of the debate felt like a 45-minute negative ad, reprising the most chewed over anti-Obama allegations (bittergate, Jeremiah Wright, patriotism) and even some relatively obscure ones (his vague association with former Weatherman radical Bill Ayers).”

Daniel Rubin (Philadelphia Inquirer) – “We’ve revisted bitter. We’ve gone back to Bosnia. We’ve dragged Rev. Wright back up onto the podium. We’ve mis-spent this debate by allowing Charlie Gibson and George Stephanopoulos to ask questions that skirt what in my mind is what we need to know now. What would they do about the mess they’d inherit? The war. Health care. The economy. Stupid.”

Cathleen Decker and Noam N. Levey (Los Angeles Times) – “With the moderators and Clinton raising assorted questions about Obama’s past for the first half of the debate, issues received relatively short shrift. Not until 50 minutes in was a policy issue — Iraq — asked about by the moderators. More than an hour went by before a question was asked about what Stephanopoulos called “the No. 1 issue on Americans’ minds” — the economy.”

Stephanoupolos defended himself by saying that voters are concerned with

“…experience, character [and] credibility. You can’t find a presidential election where those issues didn’t come into play.”

The problem is that you can’t find a but a trace of questions in this debate where those issues did come into play. The moderators had obviously decided that they were going to chase petty controversy and ratings by focusing on tabloid trivialities. Their cynical smugness and conceit are a sad commentary on the state of journalism and politics.

MoveOn has started a petition to ask the media to “stop hurting the national dialogue in this important election year.”

FAIR is urging citizens to write to ABC: netaudr@abc.com