Top 10 Reasons the DNC Was Right to Refuse a Fox News Hosted Democratic Primary Debate

A few weeks ago the chairman of the Democratic National Committee (DNC), Tom Perez, was asked by Fox News anchor Bret Baier whether he would consider scheduling a Democratic Party primary debate on Fox News. Perez responded saying “Absolutely, we’re having discussions with Fox and others.” That reply was widely criticized by Democrats appalled at the notion of rewarding the propaganda arm of the Trump White House with that kind of opportunity to continue their campaign of political sabotage.

Fox News Sad

However, after the publication of Jane Mayer’s article in the New Yorker that detailed the all-consuming embrace between Donald Trump and Fox News, it appears that Perez has had a wise and welcome change of heart. He now says that:

“I believe that a key pathway to victory is to continue to expand our electorate and reach all voters. That is why I have made it a priority to talk to a broad array of potential media partners, including Fox News. Recent reporting in the New Yorker on the inappropriate relationship between President Trump, his administration and Fox News has led me to conclude that the network is not in a position to host a fair and neutral debate for our candidates. Therefore, Fox News will not serve as a media partner for the 2020 Democratic primary debates.”

That decision should have been an easy one from the start. Fox News has not made a secret of it’s prejudices. They spend twenty-four hours a day promoting Trump as the savior of America, shielding him from any and all criticism, and viciously maligning Democrats and others who dare to challenge Trump’s divine right to absolute power.

It’s tempting to invoke analogies about putting foxes in charge of hen houses, but that’s way too easy. It would have to also include hiring Colonel Sanders to run the operation. And if anyone isn’t convinced that Fox News is unfit to produce an impartial and nonpartisan debate program, here are some recent segments that Fox has aired that reveal the extremities of their bias:

  1. Fox News accuses Democrats of advocating infanticide.
  2. Fox News brazenly lies to smear Democrats on a mission of mercy to reduce global poverty.
  3. Sean Hannity of Fox News thinks Americans shouldn’t ever see the Mueller report on Trump.
  4. Trump confirms that Fox News shills are his chief influencers.
  5. Fox News refused to run an ad for an Oscar-nominated anti-Nazi documentary.
  6. Tucker Carlson of Fox News insists that there was ‘no collusion’ between Trump and Russia because there just wasn’t any.
  7. Fox News Fails to see any Russian collusion in Roger Stone’s indictment.
  8. Fox News compares Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to Hitler and Stalin in unhinged rant.
  9. Fox News airs Ruth Bader Ginsburg obituary graphic.
  10. Fox News hosts blatantly push him to declare a national emergency over his border wall funding.

Can anyone make a credible case for the network that spews those lies and slander to host a debate by the party they have been unambiguously trying to destroy? Well, Fox News senior vice president Bill Sammon can. He said that:

“We hope the DNC will reconsider its decision to bar Chris Wallace, Bret Baier and Martha MacCallum, all of whom embody the ultimate journalistic integrity and professionalism, from moderating a Democratic presidential debate. They’re the best debate team in the business and they offer candidates an important opportunity to make their case to the largest TV news audience in America, which includes many persuadable voters.”

There is so much in there that is just plain nonsense. To begin with, it’s already been established that “journalistic integrity and professionalism” is nonexistent on Fox News. They do not have “the largest TV news audience in America.” In fact, Rachel Maddow of MSNBC has beaten her competition, Sean Hannity, nearly every night for four straight months. And Fox’s audience is the least persuadable bunch of right-wing cult worshipers in TV land. They are more reliably Republican voters than even members of the GOP. There simply isn’t a significant number of Fox News viewers who will ever vote for a Democrat.

Nevertheless, Fox News still believes that they should get a chance to host a Democratic debate. Despite being a network whose hosts and contributors have universally banded together to disparage special counsel Robert Mueller – an American hero who has devoted his entire life to public service – as a corrupt, conflicted, Stalinist, traitor to America. They remain silent when Trump calls the media “the enemy of the people.” creating an environment that encourages censorship and violence. They have advised Trump to act illegally by ignoring judicial rulings and issuing executive orders that violate the Constitution. And no one on Fox said a word when Trump declared that he knows – and could name – Democrats in Congress who hate America.

How Fox News Deceives and Controls Their Flock:
Fox Nation vs. Reality: The Fox News Cult of Ignorance.
Available now at Amazon.

Does that sound like a network that should be allowed to host a debate by members of the party that they are railing against in the most despicable terms? Obviously Perez came to his senses by nixing Fox as a debate host. And if anyone thinks that it’s discriminatory, just remember that Trump has already nixed the networks that he doesn’t like. While he has give more than forty interviews to Fox News, he has given zero to CNN and MSNBC. And he is supposed to be the president of all the people, not just the GOP/Trump-friendly ones he finds at Fox News. The Democratic Party has no such obligation. And they certainly have no obligation to present themselves to their sworn enemies for an orchestrated political assault.

UPDATE: Naturally Trump weighed in on this via Twitter:

Which is funny, because he actually boycotted a Fox News debate himself. It was because he didn’t like Megyn Kelly who was one of the moderators. Now he’s all verklempt because Democrats don’t want to legitimize a network that does nothing but insult them.

Also, Trump has already done the same thing. He’s given 40+ interviews to Fox and zero to CNN and MSNBC. What’s more, most Americans would love it if he boycotted debates not on Fox. The less of him, the better.

The Fox Effect: The Book That Terrifies Roger Ailes And Fox News

A new book from Media Matters was just released that chronicles the history of Fox News and explains how a small group of wealthy, politically connected conservative partisans conspired to build a pseudo-news network with the intent of advancing the right-wing agenda of the Republican Party. And that network, known for its drooling anti-liberalism, is scared spitless.

The Fox Effect: How Roger Ailes Turned a Network into a Propaganda Machine, was written by David Brock and Ari Rabin-Havt (and others) of Media Matters. It begins by looking back at the early career of Fox News CEO Roger Ailes and his role as a media consultant for Republican politicians, including former president Richard Nixon. From the start Ailes was a brash, creative proponent of the power of television to influence a mass audience. He guided the media-challenged Nixon through a treacherous new era of news and political PR, and his experiences formed the basis for what would become his life’s grand achievement: a “news” network devoted to a political party, its candidates, and its platform.

When Ailes partnered with international newspaper mogul Rupert Murdoch to launch a new 24 hour cable news channel, he was given an unprecedented measure of control to shape the network’s business and ideology. The Fox Effect examines the underpinnings of the philosophy that Ailes brought to the venture. His earliest observations exhibit an appreciation for the tabloid-style sensationalism that would become a hallmark of Fox’s reporting. Ailes summed it up in an interview in 1988 as something he called his “orchestra pit theory” of politics:

“If you have two guys on stage and one guy says ‘I have a solution to the Middle East problem,’ and the other guy falls into the orchestra pit, who do you think is going to be on the evening news?”

That’s the sort of thinking that produced Fox’s promotion of hollering town hall protesters during the health care debate and their focus on lurid but phony issues like death panels. It is a flavor of journalism that elevates melodrama over factual discourse.

This article also appears on

The book exposes how Fox was more of a participant in the news than a reporter of it. Through interviews with Fox insiders and leaked internal communications, The Fox Effect documents the depths to which the network collaborated with political partisans to invent stories with the intent of manipulating public opinion. The authors reveal memos from the Washington managing editor of Fox News, Bill Sammon, directing anchors and reporters on how to present certain subjects. For instance, he ordered them never to use the term “public option” when referring to health insurance reform. Focus group testing by Fox pollster Frank Luntz had found that the phrase “government option” left a more negative impression, and they were instructed to use that instead.

There is a chapter on the Tea Party that describes how integral Fox was to its inception and development. The network literally branded the fledgling movement as FNC Tea Parties and dispatched its top anchors to host live broadcasts from rallies. The Fox Effect also details the extensive coverage devoted to the deceitfully edited videos that brought down ACORN. Fox was instrumental in promoting the story and stirring up a public backlash that resulted in congressional investigations and loss of funding. The book followed the story from Andrew Breitbart’s new and little known BigGovernment blog to Glenn Beck’s conspiracy factory to the wall-to-wall coverage it enjoyed on Fox’s primetime. This chapter is where the authors introduce what they call “The Six Steps” that Fox employs to create national controversies:

  • STEP 1: Conservative activists introduce the lie.
  • STEP 2: Fox News devotes massive coverage to the story.
  • STEP 3: Fox attacks other outlets for ignoring the controversy.
  • STEP 4: Mainstream outlets begin reporting on the story.
  • STEP 5: Media critics, pundits praise Fox News’s coverage.
  • STEP 6: The story falls apart once the damage has been done.

This is a pattern that has played out with varying degrees of success. Fox used this blueprint to engineer the career-ending slander of presidential adviser Van Jones and Department of Agriculture official Shirley Sherrod. But the strategy was less effective when used against Attorney General Eric Holder and Planned Parenthood, although not for lack of effort.

These, and other examples of deliberate bias, illustrate why most neutral observers regard Fox News as the PR arm of the Republican Party. The Fox Effect makes a convincing case to affirm that view and even offers admissions to that effect by Fox insiders. It is a damning exposé of how a political operative and a right-wing billionaire built a propaganda machine thinly disguised as a news network. The research and documentation are extensive and compelling.

For that reason, Fox News has mounted an unprecedented attack on Media Matters in advance of the book’s release. [Note: Actually it’s not so unprecedented. Fox set the precedent itself last year with a sustained campaign to do tangible harm by tacking an article to the top of the Fox Nation web site with a headline that read “Want to File an IRS Complaint Against Media Matters? Click Here…”] In the week prior to publication of The Fox Effect, Fox News broadcast no fewer than a dozen derogatory segments across all dayparts and on their most popular programs, including The O’Reilly Factor, Hannity, Fox & Friends, etc. It was the sort of blanket coverage usually reserved for a natural disaster, a declaration of war, or a lewd TwitPic of a politician. The attacks never contained any substantive argument or even example of error on the part of Media Matters. However, they are brimming with the most nasty form of personal invective imaginable.

The basis for the Fox News broadcasts was a series of articles by the Daily Caller (TDC), the conservative web site of Tucker Carlson, who just happens to also be on the Fox News payroll. The gist of the story, as described by TDC, is that Media Matters is manipulating news organizations, coordinating messaging with the White House, and struggling to cope with the “volatile and erratic behavior” of Brock, whom TDC alleges is mentally ill. TDC never reveals from where they got their psychiatric credentials, nor when they had an opportunity to examine and diagnose Brock. Likewise, they never reveal where they got any of the other information for the allegations they make against Media Matters as every source is anonymous.

Media analysts have universally condemned TDC’s reporting. Howard Kurtz interviewed author Vince Coglianese on CNN’s Reliable Sources and assailed the absence of any evidence to corroborate the allegations of his anonymous sources. Coglianese could not even confirm that events alleged in the article ever occurred. He laughably argued that the absence of a denial from Brock was evidence of guilt, rather than a simple disinclination to raise the profile of a poorly written article. Jack Shafer wrote for Reuters that “the Daily Caller is attacking Media Matters with bad journalism and lame propaganda.”

Media Matters was created to document conservative media bias and work to implement reforms that would produce more balanced reporting. Yet, Fox is confused by the fact that Media Matters’ research is cited by progressive organizations and publishers. The grunt work of aggregating video and other reporting is appreciated by those who use Media Matters materials. Much of it is provided without any editorializing. The right has always been fearful of any entity that would simply record their disinformation, nonsense, and hostility, and then hold them accountable for it. But they have yet to criticize NewsBusters or their parent organization, the Media Research Center, despite the cozy relationship they have with Fox News. Brit Hume, the former managing editor of Fox News, however, was abundantly grateful:

Hume: I want to say a word, however, of thanks to Brent [Bozell] and the team at the Media Research Center […] for the tremendous amount of material that the Media Research Center provided me for so many years when I was anchoring Special Report, I don’t know what we would’ve done without them. It was a daily buffet of material to work from, and we certainly made tremendous use of it.

Joining in on the assault is the Fox Nation web site that is engaged in a relentless barrage of critical articles with disturbingly insulting and hyperbolic headlines. For instance:

  • Is Media Matters’ David Brock A ‘Dangerous’ Man?
  • Were Media Matters Donors Duped?
  • Inside Media Matters: Founder Believed to be Regularly Using Illegal Drugs, Including Cocaine.

But even those paled in comparison to what Fox News was posting on the screen graphics that accompanied their broadcasts:

  • MEDIA MATTERS’ MONEY: David Brock is an admitted drug user
  • THE MONEY BEHIND THE MACHINE: David Brock committed to a quiet room
  • A LIBERAL INFLUENCE: Brock spent time in a mental ward

Fox News - Media Matters

Note that the subjects of the broadcasts were financial in nature. Fox was reporting on TDC’s discovery that Media Matters donors were largely progressive individuals and foundations (not exactly what one would call a scoop). However, Fox News appended assertions as to the mental stability of Brock, which had nothing to do with their topic. It was merely an opportunity for them to take swipes at a perceived enemy. And this mud-slinging occurred during what Fox regards as their “news” programming, not the evening hours that they designate as the opinion portion of their schedule.

In order to cement the impression that David Brock is a mental defective, unfit to lead any organization or to be given serious consideration, Fox News brought in their resident psycho analyst, “Dr” Keith Ablow. As a part of the Fox News Medical “A” Team, Ablow appeared on the air in a segment that painted Brock as seriously disturbed and even dangerous:

“If you are filled with self-loathing you will see demons on every street corner because you project that self-hatred. […] He’s a dangerous man because having followers and waging war, as he says, or previously being a right-wing hitman, this isn’t accidental language. It’s about violence, destruction, and he feels destroyed in himself.”

This diagnosis was an invention by Ablow who has never examined Brock, or even met him. That in itself is a violation of the American Psychiatric Association’s Principles of Medical Ethics, something Ablow does not need to concern himself with because last year he was compelled to separate himself from the APA due to ethical “differences.”

This is actually the second time Ablow has appeared on Fox News with his absurd fantasies (or projections) about Brock. And Brock isn’t his only pretend patient. A few weeks ago he published an op-ed on that praised Newt Gingrich’s serial infidelity as evidence of traits that would help him to make America stronger were he president. Seriously! And who could forget his deranged psycho analysis of President Obama?

If Fox News wants to engage in “remote” psychiatry they ought to at least be fair and balanced about it. However they pointedly make no mention of the reported paranoia of Fox News CEO Roger Ailes. No mention that he was cited as the reason that the NYPD provided police protection for the Fox headquarters at a cost of $500,000 a year to the people of New York. No mention of the obsessive fears described by Tim Dickinson in a Rolling Stone profile:

“Ailes is also deeply paranoid. Convinced that he has personally been targeted by Al Qaeda for assassination, he surrounds himself with an aggressive security detail and is licensed to carry a concealed handgun. […] Murdoch installed Ailes in the corner office on Fox’s second floor at 1211 Avenue of the Americas in Manhattan. The location made Ailes queasy: It was close to the street, and he lived in fear that gay activists would try to attack him in retaliation over his hostility to gay rights. (In 1989, Ailes had broken up a protest of a Rudy Giuliani speech by gay activists, grabbing demonstrator by the throat and shoving him out the door.) Barricading himself behind a massive mahogany desk, Ailes insisted on having ‘bombproof glass’ installed in the windows – even going so far as to personally inspect samples of high-tech plexiglass, as though he were picking out new carpet.”

I really have to wonder if even the Fox News audience is so intellectually comatose that they wouldn’t recognize the feverish anxiety gushing from Fox in advance of the Media Matters book. A tree stump would notice that they are laying it on awfully thick. So the obvious question is what are they so afraid of? And the answer is that Fox News can no longer hide from their reputation as a dishonest purveyor of slanted propaganda and tabloid trash on behalf of a right-wing agenda and the political operatives who advance it and benefit from it.

The Fox Effect is a thoroughly documented investigation into the inner workings of both the organization and its principle managers and backers. It peels away the layers of the conservative cabal that has so effectively poisoned the public discourse on many significant issues. And like the fraudulent Wizard in the city of Oz, Fox wants us all to pay no attention to the man behind the curtain (Roger Ailes), or to the curtain (Fox News), or the corporation that controls it all (News Corp). And to that end Fox has embarked on a massive smear campaign to destroy the credibility of the book, its authors, and the organization that produced it. But Media Matters has already succeeded. As noted in the book’s epilogue:

“Fox News will no longer be able to conduct its campaign under the false pretense that the network is a journalistic institution. There is heightened awareness in the progressive community and in the general public of the damage Fox causes.”

And that is exactly what Fox is afraid of.

10 People Fox News Should Fire, But Haven’t

This article also appears on

Every media organization has had to, at one time or another, discipline staff who crossed an ethical line. If a reporter loses his or her cool and becomes offensive in the course of their work, they must be held accountable to some set of professional standards. Ideally the standards would be a set of objective criteria that focused on verifiable breaches of honesty or civility. A credible news organization must never tolerate a reporter lying or engaging in personal attacks. I repeat, a “credible” news organization…

Unfortunately, there is a disturbing lack of oversight in this regard. Often offenders are excused without consequence or, conversely, punishment is meted out to an innocent party. For example, NPR terminated their relationship with a couple of executives who were victims of false allegations in a video produced by James O’Keefe, the criminally convicted, right-wing activist best known for deceptively edited videos.

This past week presented a revealing lesson in contrast as to how different media enterprises deal differently with anchors and other editorial personnel who fail the test of principles that ought to govern all journalists.

CNN was put to the test this week when Roland Martin posted a Tweet that appeared to advocate violence against gays. Martin pointed out that it was not meant seriously and wasn’t even directed at gays, but at the sport of soccer. Nevertheless, CNN acted quickly to suspend Martin indefinitely.

By contrast, Fox News contributor Liz Trotta delivered a commentary on Sunday berating women in the military for complaining that they get raped too much (Trotta did not define what an “acceptable” amount of rape is). The news that triggered this revolting commentary was a Pentagon report that rape and sexual assault had increased 64%, a statistic that Trotta cavalierly dismissed. She further asserted that servicewomen should “expect” to be raped because they work closely with men. Fox News has had no comment on this matter despite fierce criticism from women’s groups and veterans offended by the assertion that male soldiers are innately animals and female soldiers should quietly accept assault as a part of military life.

These two examples illustrate the differences between a news enterprise that attempts to act responsibly and one that disregards such restraints in order to forge ahead with a sensationalistic approach and to pander to the scandal-lust of their viewers. CNN has faced this dilemma in the past by meting out punishments for ethical infractions to Lou Dobbs, Rick Sanchez, Octavia Nasr, Susan Roesgen, Peter Arnett, and Eason Jordan. MSNBC has done the same to Keith Olbermann, David Shuster, Mark Halperin, Markos Moulitsas, and Pat Buchanan. Some of these chastisements were warranted (Dobbs, Buchanan), and some were executions of petulant grudges (Markos), and CNN still inexplicably employs miscreants like Erick Erickson and Dana Loesch. So CNN and MSNBC should not necessarily be held up as models of morality. But at least there is some evidence of an internal criteria for ethical behavior of some sort.

Fox News, however, has yet to make any news staffer pay a price for professional indiscretions, despite the fact that things got so bad at Fox they had to distribute a memo asserting a “Zero Tolerance Policy” that warned of “letters to personnel files, suspensions, and other possible actions up to and including termination.” The memo was issued after numerous, embarrassing on-air blunders by Fox reporters and producers. But rather than undergoing discipline, Fox News bent over backwards to reward reporters who behaved badly. In fact, while other networks were firing such violators, Fox seems to be on a mission to recruit them. For instance: Juan Williams, Don Imus, Doug McKelway, and Lou Dobbs were all put on the Fox payroll after having been terminated for cause at other networks. Even Glenn Beck who, while no longer hosting his own program, appears regularly with Bill O’Reilly and others.

Fox maintains a clubby environment for recalcitrant reporters, and there remains a full stable of them on the air. Here is a selection of some of the more obviously repulsive people that Fox News should have fired for their absence of morality and professionalism, but to date have not even had their wrists slapped. And make no mistake, the job security enjoyed by these weasels is not due to carelessness on the part of Fox News. Controversy, hostility, and rabid right-wing advocacy are the hallmarks of Fox’s business model. It’s how they cultivate and reward the loyalty of their audience. What other explanation could justify this:

Todd Starnes: Unsurprisingly, Fox News has smeared the Occupy Movement from its inception. They have disparaged them as everything from unfocused to unclean to un-American. But it took Starnes, the host of Fox News & Commentary on Fox Radio, to equate them to mass murderers by asking, “What should be done with the domestic terrorists who are occupying our cities and college campuses?” By comparing Occupiers to the likes of Timothy McVeigh, Starnes is engaging in rhetorical terrorism and insulting hundreds of thousands of concerned Americans.

Cody Willard: This Fox Business reporter brazenly exposed his bias when he attended a Tea Party rally and feverishly barked at the camera this call to arms against the U.S. government, “Guys, when are we going to wake up and start fighting the fascism that seems to be permeating this country?”

Andrew Napolitano: The “Judge” is a notorious 9/11 Truther who believes that the attack on the World Trade Center towers was an inside job, orchestrated by agents of the United States government. That’s a position considered so crazy by Fox Newsers that it was instrumental in their campaign to get Van Jones fired from his post as a green jobs adviser to President Obama. But, in typical Foxian hypocrisy, it has no impact on the employment of Napolitano. [Note: The entire primetime schedule of the Fox Business Network, including Napolitano, Eric Bolling and David Asman, was recently canceled. But it was due to poor ratings, not content. And all remain active Fox News contributors.]

Bill Sammon: The Fox News Washington managing editor was recorded admitting to a friendly audience on a conservative cruise that he would go on air and “mischievously” cast Obama as a socialist even though he didn’t believe it himself. In other words, he lied to defame the President and rile up his gullible viewers. That would be cause for termination at most news networks, but probably earned Sammon a bonus at Fox.

Eric Bolling: Hoping to sustain Fox’s leadership in inappropriate Nazi references, Bolling accused President Obama of engaging in class warfare that was “forged in Marxist Germany.” And if that wasn’t asinine enough, he sided with Iran against the U.S. by accusing the American hikers who were held in an Iranian prison of being spies and said that Iran should have kept them.

Bill O’Reilly: Dr. George Tiller, a family physician in Kansas, was murdered by an anti-abortion extremist who may have been incited to violence by rhetoric like this from O’Reilly: “Now, we have bad news to report that Tiller the baby killer out in Kansas, acquitted. Acquitted today of murdering babies.” O’Reilly regards the acquittal of a doctor for performing legal medical services “bad news,” and the services themselves “murder.” But he never took any responsibility for fanning the flames of violent incivility that led to the actual murder of Dr. Tiller.

Col. Ralph Peters (Ret): In a rant that argued that the United States should fight back against our enemies with the same tactics they use against us, Peters turned the media into military targets: “Although it seems unthinkable now, future wars may require censorship, news blackouts and, ultimately, military attacks on the partisan media. And like Bolling, Peters also took the side of our foes by suggesting, without evidence, that a missing American soldier was a deserter and that “the Taliban can save us a lot of legal hassles and legal bills,” presumably by killing him.

Michael Scheuer: This former CIA analyst was concerned that the American people were not sufficiently afraid of future terrorist attacks. He regards that absence of fear as dangerous complacency. But he has a solution: “The only chance we have as a country right now is for Osama bin Laden to deploy and detonate a major weapon in the United States.”

Roger Ailes: The CEO of Fox News proves that a fish stinks from its head. In response to NPR’s firing of Juan Willimas for bigoted remarks about Muslims, Ailes let loose a tirade wherein he viciously attacked the NPR executives saying that… “They are, of course, Nazis. They have a kind of Nazi attitude. They are the left wing of Nazism.”

Liz Trotta: Ending up where we began, this abhorrent attempt at comedy simply could not be left off of this list. What started out as a verbal stumble became a call for assassination when Trotta said, “Now we have what some are reading as a suggestion that somebody knock off Osama, umm, Obama. Well, both if we could.”

It’s difficult to believe that anyone could retain a job in the media after making statements like those above. These were not mistakes or misunderstandings. They are not out of context. They were considered, deliberate expressions of opinion that represented the reporter’s views at the time. Yet all of these people are still employed and active at Fox News.

To be fair, there is an example of Fox News firing reporters who crossed a line that even Fox could not abide. Steve Wilson and Jane Akre investigated a story that detailed the health risks posed by the use of recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH), a milk additive manufactured by chemical giant Monsanto. Fox objected to the story’s negative portrayal of a major advertiser and ordered the reporters to make modifications that they knew were false. When the reporters refused they were fired. In the subsequent litigation Fox argued in court that the network had a right to determine the content of their stories, and even to lie, and that employees who declined to comply could be terminated as insubordinate.

So while Fox News has no problem with their analysts advocating terrorism against Americans, they draw the line when it comes to suppressing their Constitutional right to lie. Fox has taken great care to set their priorities and to draw their ethical lines in sand that is always under the prevailing tide.

[Update] This week racist Pat Buchanan was sacked by MSNBC and radio schlock jocks John & Ken were suspended for calling Whitney Houston a “crack ho”. But Liz Trotta, Eric Bolling, et al are still happily working at Fox.

Has Chris Wallace Ever Watched Jon Stewart?

Consider this article the flip side of my November 2010 article titled: Has Jon Stewart Ever Watched Chris Wallace? At that time I criticized Stewart for praising Wallace as a credible journalist despite the evidence to the contrary, which I enumerated in the article.

In this interview of Stewart on Wallace’s Fox News Sunday, Stewart continued to extol Wallace’s credibility even as Wallace demonstrated that he had none. However, Stewart was somewhat more on point distinguishing the rabid partisanship of Fox News from other media. Wallace opened the interview with a relevant and insightful quote by Stewart describing Fox News as…

“…a relentless agenda-driven 24 hour news opinion propaganda delivery system.”

So far so good. Then Wallace asked…

“Are you willing to say the same thing about the mainstream media – about ABC, CBS, NBC, Washington Post, New York Times?”

To this Stewart responded with an unequivocal “No.” He later elaborated saying that the bias of much of the media is toward “sensationalism, conflict, and laziness,” rather than liberalism. That was certainly borne out by the recent coverage that fixated on a liberal congressman’s adventures in sexting. Wallace is as oblivious to the mainstream media’s frequent bias against liberals as he is to Stewart’s regular satirizing of them.

When Wallace suggested that Stewart’s comparison of the editing techniques used in a Sarah Palin video and an advertisement for a Herpes medication was political, Stewart pointedly told Wallace, “You’re insane!” But Wallace was utterly incapable of comprehending the difference between the mockery of a person or a practice. It is the same distinction that many people miss with regard to The Daily Show. It is not, in fact, a program of political satire. It is media satire, and to the extent that it addresses politics, it is almost always with respect to how it is covered in the press.

For much of the interview Wallace attempted to portray Stewart as a “political player,” while Stewart maintained that he was, first and foremost, a comedian. In Wallace’s view there is no difference between what Stewart does and what Wallace himself does. I would say that at least one difference is that, while people are laughing with Stewart, they are laughing at Wallace. And when Wallace said that he thinks Stewart is an idealistic, partisan, activist, Stewart responded that “That’s the soup you swim in,” implying that Wallace simply can’t see it differently because of the partisanship that envelops Wallace’s perspective.

So far so good. Then Stewart referenced “ideological regimes” that get “marching orders” and Wallace asked…

“Then how do you explain me? Do you think I get marching orders?”

And here is where Stewart stumbled saying…

“I think that you are here, in some respects, to bring a credibility and an integrity to an organization that might not otherwise have it without your presence.”

Stewart is right, of course, about Fox’s lack of credibility, but he completely missed the fact that Fox is well known for issuing marching orders to their reporters. Former Fox News VP John Moody used to do so in his “Morning Memos,” and current Fox Washington Bureau chief, Bill Sammon, has repeatedly issued directives to cover stories with a specific bias. For example, he told his staff to use the phrase “government-run health care” instead of “Public Option” after establishing that public option tested better among voters. Likewise, he prohibited talk of global warming without disclaimers that there was disagreement about the theory, despite the fact that every legitimate climate scientist agrees that climate change is occurring and it is caused by humans.

Stewart should have been able to counter Wallace’s query on marching orders. Instead he gave Wallace a wholly undeserved compliment. How can Stewart regard Wallace as fair and balanced when Wallace is on record saying that, on the whole, he agrees with Sean Hannity? And where is Wallace’s integrity when he responds to Stewart’s assertion that news consumers are disappointed by saying that…

“I don’t think our viewers are the least bit disappointed with us. I think our viewers think, “Finally!” they are getting somebody who tells the other side of the story.”

That is a brazen admission that Fox’s purpose is to be biased and take sides on the way news stories are told. That quote should be chiseled into the facade of the Fox News headquarters building in New York, and it should settle, once and for all, the argument as to whether Fox News is biased.

But Stewart did get in a final dig that really sums up the role Fox plays in modern media when he noted that Fox has “the most consistently misinformed viewers.” That was a pretty gutsy thing to say to the Fox viewers who will be watching this. [Note: Stewart must have forgotten that his own viewers were rated the most knowledgeable]. Wallace didn’t even bother to rebut the point, instead he showed a vulgar and unrelated clip from a celebrity roast on Comedy Central and implied that Stewart had something to do with it. That was just a cheap shot that landed with a thud. More to the point is the fact that Stewart’s Daily Show is more popular than Fox News. Let Wallace deal with that.

[Update] I just swapped in the video above. This video contains portions of the interview that were cut out of the on-air version. Some notable segments that didn’t make it to air include Stewart asking Wallace if he “think[s] that Fox News is exactly the ideological equivalent of NBC News?” In response, Wallace said that “I think we’re the counterweight. I think they have a liberal agenda, and I think that we tell the other side of the story.” That’s another confession by Wallace that Fox is deliberately biased in a partisan way.

Also cut out was Stewart mentioning Bill Sammon’s emails, and the incident when all three networks cut away from Nancy Pelosi after she said she would be commenting on jobs and Medicare, but not Weiner. I wonder why Fox didn’t want their viewers to hear these segments.

[Update II] Jon Stewart has addressed the concerns of critics (and some commenters here) regarding the PolitiFact assessment of his remarks on Fox’s proclivity for misinformation. He notes that Fox has earned PolitiFact’s “Lie of the Year” award for two years running. But that aint all. Here is his informative and hilarious smackdown:

Fox News To Hire Judgment Day Preacher Harold Camping

Pray for Fox NewsWith his latest prediction of Armageddon behind him, Judgment Day Preacher Harold Camping is looking forward to his new position at Fox News as a politics and religion commentator. The announcement of this addition to Fox’s roster of pundits came this morning from Fox Vice President and Washington managing editor Bill Sammon:

Sammon: We are pleased to begin what we believe will be a long and fruitful relationship with this distinguished observer of American culture, religion and society. Harold has a keen insight into current affairs and a connection to America’s faith-based community. He also has a predictive track record that fits squarely with the team at Fox News.

Sammon is quite correct in that assessment of Camping’s history of forecasting. He is at least as accurate as the stars on the network. For instance:

  • Bill Kristol predicted in 2003 that “American and alliance forces will be welcomed in Baghdad as liberators.” In 2008 he predicted that “Barack Obama is not going to beat Hillary Clinton in a single Democratic primary.”
  • Glenn Beck predicted an economic collapse in November of 2009 and warned his viewers to “find the exit closet to you and prepare for a crash landing. Be prepared, it’s coming. Most likely after Christmas, you’ll start seeing the effects of what they are doing to the economy.” The Dow is up 25%, and unemployment down 10% since then.
  • Newt Gingrich’s prediction about a post-Iraq war was that “once you don’t have Saddam Hussein in Iraq […] the Syrians will start backing down and the Iranians will start backing down.”
  • Dick Morris predicted the candidates for the 2008 race for president would be Hillary Clinton vs. Condoleezza Rice.
  • Sarah Palin predicted that the result of passage of the health care bill would mean that “my baby with Down Syndrome will have to stand in front of Obama’s ‘death panel.'”
  • Cal Thomas Predicted that “euthanasia is coming. You can call them death panels. That’s exactly what they’re going to be.”

A couple of weeks ago a study was released that showed that most pundits are only right in their prognostications about 50% of the time. The numbers were even worse for conservative pundits who, according to the researchers, were wrong more often than liberals.

Camping, a popular Christian radio broadcaster, could flow smoothly into Fox’s lineup. He shares most of the editorial slant favored by the network’s veterans. When reached for comment he said…

“What? Fox News? Oh yeah. Me and Roger [Ailes, CEO of Fox News] had lunch and discussed the return of Jesus. The world is ending, you know? What date is it? Could someone shut the window?”

That’s why Camping should fit right in with the rest of Fox’s commentators. There is certainly nothing in his past that would indicate that he would lower Fox’s average for accurate forecasting. He might even be a good replacement for the departing Glenn Beck. His areas of interest (politics, morality, the end of all human existence) match closely Beck’s favorite subject matter. In fact, with a little make up, Beck’s audience may not even be able to tell the difference.

10 Reasons Why Fox News After Glenn Beck Will Still Suck

“If I were lying I’d be off the air.”
  ~ Glenn Beck, Jan 4, 2010.
“I’m going to be leaving this program later this year.”
  ~ Glenn Beck, Apr 6, 2011.

There has already been a barrage of media analysis and discussion of Glenn Beck’s not-so-surprising separation from Fox News. For the most part that discussion has been focused on speculation as to the cause of the break up and on what will become of Beck. But any suggestion that Beck’s departure polishes Fox’s reputation is pure folly. The worst of Beck’s haunted imagination is securely woven into the Fox News dis-comforter. The trademark Fox invective, sophistry, and bias predate Beck and will outlive him.

Many in the press, however, are more interested in prattling on about the alleged animosity for Beck amongst “serious” conservatives and his colleagues at Fox who think that his doomsday rhetoric and conspiracy theories give the “news” network a bad name. The purveyors of conventional wisdom are very concerned about Fox’s teetering credibility and are scrambling to defend it:

Howard Kurtz, CNN, The Daily Beast: …many senior Fox executives are relieved to be rid of Beck. [and] …some journalists and executives at the network privately expressed concern that Beck was becoming the face of the network.

George Will, ABC News Washington Post: I think that Glenn Beck and his drift into more bizarre and extreme positions was threatening the Fox brand. So I wish Glenn Beck health and happiness but I think the health and happiness of Fox is served by his departure.

Michael Harrison, editor of Talkers Magazine: You can’t be a rodeo clown and maintain credibility,

Matt Lewis, The Daily Caller: My take is that while Beck’s show was individually a ratings hit, he also risked tarnishing the overall Fox News “brand”.

Jeffrey McCall, professor of media studies, DePauw University: Beck was no longer just a personality with a show on FNC. He became an easy target for Fox News critics to characterize him as representative of the entire channel.

These august observers have frightfully short memories. The truth is that Fox earned its nefarious reputation long before Beck arrived and there is every indication that they will preserve it after he’s gone. In fact, it’s that reputation that made Beck such a good fit to begin with and lured him to the network despite his admitted reluctance when first approached. The pundits who are advancing the premise that by losing Beck, Fox can be redeemed are, to put it kindly, mistaken. Here is why Fox News without Glenn Beck will be just as bad as Fox News with Glenn Beck:

1) Bill O’Reilly: Before Beck called President Obama a racist, Bill O’Reilly ventured to Sylvia’s in Harlem and expressed his surprise that the mostly African-American patrons weren’t acting like primitives. And when the First Lady was criticized for expressing her pride that America had evolved to the point where they would elect an African-American president O’Reilly considerately declared that “I don’t want to go on a lynching party against Michelle Obama unless there’s evidence.” Nice choice of words.

2) Sean Hannity: While Beck may suffer from an acute case of Nazi-Tourettes Syndrome (Louis Black™), Sean Hannity is a personal friend of the notorious neo-Nazi schlock-jock, Hal Turner, and graciously hosted him on his program. Turner won’t be be revisiting Hannity for a while because he is presently in prison serving 33 months for threatening judges.

3) Megyn Kelly: No one can spin a conspiracy theory quite like Beck, but Megyn Kelly comes pretty close. For months she’s been peddling a pseudo-scandal that alleges that the Department of Justice deliberately dismisses all charges of civil rights violations when the plaintiff is white. This has been debunked by the House Judiciary Committee’s Office of Professional Responsibility. Kelly also fronted phony investigations into the alleged terrorist ties of funders of the Park51 mosque in Manhattan. Somehow she left out the fact that one of those funders was Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal, the second largest shareholder of News Corp outside of the Murdoch family. Kelly has a permanently affixed expression of indignation and a vocal delivery that makes every story appear to be shocking. She is the human manifestation of Fox’s ever-present “FOX ALERT!”

4) Judge Andrew Napolitano: There are conspiratorial paths where even Beck fears to tread. Judge Andrew Napolitano has no such fears. He is a frequent guest of proto-conspiratorialist and Beck inspiration, Alex Jones. He is an avowed 9/11 Truther who says that the World Trade Center attack was an inside job. He believes that the health care bill contains provisions for a civilian military force to suppress domestic insurrection. And he also happens to be Beck’s most frequent fill-in host and a leading candidate to replace him.

5) Bill Sammon: Fox News’ Washington managing editor, Bill Sammon, has espoused a hard-core conservatism that predates Beck and emanates from the executive suites far above him. He came to Fox from the “Moonie” Washington Times and authored several books lionizing George W. Bush and lambasting Democrats. He was also caught authoring memos that directed his reporters to dispense a brazenly partisan point of view. For instance, he told them to refrain from using the term “public option” during the health care debate because focus group testing proved that the term “government-run” produced a more negative response. Even more disturbing, he was recorded admitting to a friendly audience on a conservative cruise that he “mischievously” cast Obama as a socialist even though he didn’t believe it himself. In other words, he lied to defame the President and rile up his gullible viewers. Beck must be so proud to have worked for him.

6) Neil Cavuto: The glorification of ignorance is a staple of Beck’s brand, but Neil Cavuto has been contributing to the collapse of America’s collective IQ far longer than Beck. He proudly hosts such respected policy analysts as Ted Nugent, Joe the Plumber, and any random Tea Bagger to help him unravel our nation’s dilemmas. One of his favorite idiocies is his insistence that Climate Change is a hoax because it gets cold in the winter. But Cavuto really shines when he brings in guests whose only connection to the segment is a juvenile pun. For instance, in a discussion about whether Tea Party support was grassroots or AstroTurf, Cavuto interviewed the CEO of AstroTurf Technologies, whose expertise with synthetic fiber products contributed nothing to the debate on campaign organization. Cavuto is the prop comic of pundits who delights in interrupting and shouting down Democrats who are naive enough to accept his invitations to appear.

7) Fox & Friends: While there will always be only one rodeo clown in the vast right-wing conspira-circus, there is no shortage of stooges, and three of them are featured on Fox & Friends. First we have Steve Doocy, who wondered “Why didn’t anybody ever mention that [Obama] spent the first decade of his life, raised by his Muslim father.” Perhaps because Obama actually never knew his father who left the family when he was two years old. Then there’s Brian Kilmeade who fans the racist flames by saying things like “all terrorists are Muslims.” And don’t forget Gretchen Carlson, who called the late Sen. Ted Kennedy a “hostile enemy” of the United States. All of these vile inanities were delivered without any help from Beck. However, it should be noted that when Beck made his infamous remarks about Obama being a racist he did it on Fox & Friends.

8) Fox Nation: Any good 21st century propaganda outfit has to have an Internet component, and for Fox News it is the Fox Nation. This web site’s sole purpose is to disseminate the most despicably dishonest disinformation it can invent. There are way too many examples to itemize, but here are a couple that represent the ridiculous and the repulsive. Last July Fox Nation featured a story that claimed that the Taliban was recruiting monkey mercenaries. This absurdity was sourced to the People’s Daily in China. Fox Nation also ran an item that speculated about Obama’s death. This article brought out the hate in the site’s readers who posted numerous comments indicating how welcome that would be. Many of the stories on Fox Nation percolate up to Fox News for broadcast and they they are no less deranged than the nonsense Beck comes up with.

9) Roger Ailes: The president and CEO of Fox News sets the tone for the network as a whole. Roger Ailes was a long-time media advisor to Republican candidates prior to launching Fox News. He is the network’s spiritual leader. If you ever wondered how Beck could get away with aligning President Obama (and anyone else with whom he disagrees) with Hitler, your curiosity was satisfied when Ailes lashed out at NPR saying that “They are, of course, Nazis. They have a kind of Nazi attitude. They are the left wing of Nazism.” Ailes’ remarks prove that the hate speech at Fox goes from the top down. It’s not now, and never has been, unique to Beck.

10) Rupert Murdoch: Speaking of the top – Rupert Murdoch, the Chairman and CEO of News Corp, is as high as you can get. He is the company’s captain and conscience. Every material decision requires his concurrence, including his employment of Glenn Beck. While Beck may be leaving, Murdoch is not (yet). It is, therefore, important to note that when Beck called the President a racist, Murdoch responded by saying that “it was something that, perhaps, shouldn’t have been said about the President, but if you actually assess what he [Beck] was talking about, he was right.”

Murdoch has consistently stood behind Beck for more than two years, defending him at every turn for every scandalous affair and affront. Even as advertisers fled in disgust, Murdoch never conceded an inch. In the television marketplace it is advertisers, not viewers, who are the broadcaster’s clients. Murdoch snubbed his clients in order to allow Beck’s Acute Paranoia Revue and Disinfotainment Revival Hour to continue poisoning minds and influencing elections.

More importantly, Murdoch and Ailes together have fashioned a network whose persona is infested with the same conservative extremist ideology popularized by Beck. The examples above illustrate how ingrained that ideology is into the Fox News schedule in all dayparts. And those programs are augmented by an army of propagandists that include Sarah Palin, Stuart Varney, Eric Bolling, Monica Crowley, Dick Morris, Frank Luntz, and many more.

With this dedicated team of activist anchors and contributors in place, Beck’s departure, though gossip-worthy, will change nothing at Fox News. Beck was not cast off because his message was objectionable, but because he was an ineffective messenger who was alienating the audience. His replacement will surely continue the sordid tradition of which Beck was just a small, irritating part. The Fox mission remains intact and any talk of redemption due merely to having thrown off this defective cog is naive and oblivious to the dark reality that is Fox News.

PolitiFact Lie Of The Year: Government Takeover Of Health Care

PolitiFact, an independent fact-checking project from the St. Petersburg Times, has selected their “Lie of the Year” from the hundreds that are dispensed annually by politicians and pundits. It must have been a grueling exercise, but their selection is more than deserving.

“PolitiFact editors and reporters have chosen “government takeover of health care” as the 2010 Lie of the Year. Uttered by dozens of politicians and pundits, it played an important role in shaping public opinion about the health care plan and was a significant factor in the Democrats’ shellacking in the November elections.”

The folks at PolitiFact cited several examples of this lie’s use by prominent by public figures and documented the basis for their decision. The phrase was coined by GOP pollster Frank Luntz and adopted by the Republican Party and conservative lobbying groups and think tanks like FreedomWorks and the Heritage Foundation.

The one criticism I have with PolitiFact’s analysis is that it doesn’t give sufficient blame to the media in general and Fox News in particular. Fox News acted as the PR agency for promoting this flagrant lie. There was even a leaked memo from Bill Sammon, the Washington managing editor, that instructed Fox producers and reporters to refrain from using the more neutral “public option” in favor of “government-run.” So this lie, which was certainly on the lips of Republican politicians, was company policy at Fox News.

PolitiFact did report that the media had participated in disseminating the lie. However, they said that “an accurate tally was unfeasible because it had been repeated so frequently in so many places.” Did its use by Fox overload the PolitFact database servers? The report then went on to cite examples such as 79 occurrences of its use on CNN. Seeing as how Fox News incorporated the lie into their style guide, it would have been helpful to get an estimate of its use on that network. Suffice to say that it probably went into the hundreds, if not thousands.

In defense of PolitiFact, if they were to document every lie that is told on Fox News they would have to recruit an army of researchers that would rival the U.S. Infantry.

Another Leaked Email Exposes More Fox News Bias

A few days ago an email leaked from Fox News revealed an edict from the top brass to the troops ordering them to negatively characterize the health care bill’s public option proposal whenever they mentioned it on air. Today another email, this time addressing climate change, demonstrates that the first was not an anomaly.

Media Matters is reporting that the same news executive, Bill Sammon, issued these marching orders to producers and talent:

“Given the controversy over the veracity of climate change data we should refrain from asserting that the planet has warmed (or cooled) in any given period without IMMEDIATELY pointing out that such theories are based upon data that critics have called into question. It is not our place as journalists to assert such notions as facts, especially as this debate intensifies.”

Sammon’s rejection of climate change science is absurd. The facts are affirmed in hundreds of peer reviewed studies by independent researchers. His complaint that the “theories” are “based on data that critics have called into question” exposes the rank anti-intellectual bias favored by Fox News. If all it takes is for some critics to call something into question, then how can Fox claim that their network is “fair and balanced” when millions of critics have called that into question? Fox News believes that the way to achieve balance is to pair every truth-teller with a liar. There may be a twisted sense of balance in that, but it isn’t journalism.

In addition to the blatant slanting of the news by Fox’s editors, producers, and commentators, there is a measure of hypocrisy here that is mind boggling. Sammon’s memo seeks to align his news room’s perspective behind a false premise that climate change is unproven. However, the CEO of Fox News parent, News Corporation, has made it clear that he believes the climate change debate is over. And he isn’t the only one:

Rupert Murdoch: “News Corporation has always been about imagining the future and then making that vision a reality. We seek new ways to reach our global audiences and we address those issues that have the greatest impact on their lives. Global climate change is clearly one of those issues.”

Bill O’Reilly: “I have never understood the resistance to the concept of global warming. […] America needs to stop arguing over the cause of global warming and begin a disciplined 10-year plan to use fewer polluting agents, more conservation, and tons more innovation.”

Glenn Beck: “You’d be an idiot not to notice the temperature change,” [Beck] says. He also says there’s a legit case that global warming has, at least in part, been caused by mankind. He has tried to do his part by buying a home with a “green” design and using energy saving products.

There is obviously a disconnect between what these people say one day and what they say the next. All of them have been critical of environmentalists and climate change science at one time or another. Beck has said that all Global Warming activists are socialists and that television networks like NBC are shilling for the Obama White House when they engage in “Green Week” promotions. He might want to catch his own show during Green Week when it sports a snazzy green-tinged version of the Fox News logo:

It’s impossible to resolve these hoary contradictions without copious amounts of drugs. The lip service these people pay to common sense scientific facts is immediately reversed by their articulation of ignorant criticisms that are wholly lacking in substance. It is why recent studies have shown that just watching Fox News makes you functionally stupid. It isn’t accidental. As the emails that are now getting leaked from Fox illustrate, it is by design. Fox is purposely making their audience dumber by the hour.

BUSTED: Fox News Memo Reveals Coordinated Bias

In August of 2009, while the debate over health insurance reform was in full swing, GOP pollster Frank Luntz appeared on Sean Hannity’s program and advised Hannity and other Republican operatives to stop using the term “public option.” As a result of his own polling Luntz discovered that…

“…if you call it a ‘public option,’ the American people are split, [but] if you call it the ‘government option,’ the public is overwhelmingly against it.”

Luntz is a Republican pollster who specializes in language. His web site, The Word Doctors, sports the motto “It’s not what you say. It’s what people hear.” He is responsible for introducing rhetorical distortions such as the “death tax” into the public discourse. He truly does have a gift for doctoring words.

Two months after Luntz’s appearance with Hannity, Bill Sammon, Fox News’ Washington managing editor, issued a memo to Fox producers ordering them cease the use of the term “public option.” Media Matters published the memo today:

From: Sammon, Bill
Sent: Tuesday, October 27, 2009 8:23 AM
To: 054 -FNSunday; 169 -SPECIAL REPORT; 069 -Politics; 030 -Root (FoxNews.Com); 036 -FOX.WHU; 050 -Senior Producers; 051 -Producers
Subject: friendly reminder: let’s not slip back into calling it the “public option”

1) Please use the term “government-run health insurance” or, when brevity is a concern, “government option,” whenever possible.
2) When it is necessary to use the term “public option” (which is, after all, firmly ensconced in the nation’s lexicon), use the qualifier “so-called,” as in “the so-called public option.”
3) Here’s another way to phrase it: “The public option, which is the government-run plan.”
4) When newsmakers and sources use the term “public option” in our stories, there’s not a lot we can do about it, since quotes are of course sacrosanct.

This is about as clear a demonstration of institutional bias at Fox News as you’ll ever see. The evidence of their bias has always been apparent on the air, but this shows that it isn’t merely the opinions of the presenters, but that it is a coordinated policy embraced and enforced from Fox News’ executive suites. It is also contrary to an earlier memo Sammon distributed disingenuously asserting that, “We do not cheerlead for one cause or another.” However it is perfectly aligned with Sammon’s ideology as expressed in his books:

Bill Sammon Books

  • The Evangelical President: George Bush’s Struggle to Spread a Moral Democracy Throughout the World
  • At Any Cost: How Al Gore Tried to Steal the Election
  • Strategery: How George W. Bush Is Defeating Terrorists, Outwitting Democrats, and Confounding the Mainstream Media.
  • Fighting Back: The War on Terrorism from Inside the White House
  • Misunderestimated: The President Battles Terrorism, Media Bias and the Bush Haters

In an interview on The Daily Beast. Howard Kurtz got Sammon to respond to the email flap:

“The term public option, he said, ‘is a vague, bland, undescriptive phrase,’ and that after all, ‘who would be against a public park?’ The phrase ‘government-run plan,’ he said, is ‘a more neutral term,’ and was used just last week by a New York Times columnist. I have no idea what the Republicans were pushing or not,’ Sammons says. ‘It’s simply an accurate, fair, objective term.’

If you believe that you’re probably already a loyal Glenn Beck viewer. Sammon’s complaint that “public option” is vague and bland is actually an endorsement of its neutrality and makes it more appropriate for unbiased reporting. Sammon knows full well that “government-run” is a loaded phrase. It certainly would have an impact on the anti-government Tea Party that is the foundation of both his network and the Republican Party.

His claim that he has no idea what Republicans were pushing is utterly implausible. If it were true it would mean that he is an incompetent manager and an uninformed journalist. How could he not know the GOP preference for “government-run” when it was broadcast on the second highest rated Fox News program? Does he expect people to believe that Frank Luntz could conduct polling on the phrases and report the results to Sean Hannity, without him having any knowledge of it? And was he entirely oblivious to the fact that only Republicans ever used the term “government-run”? His defense forces us conclude that he is either a liar or an idiot.

When Sammon objected to accusations that he was biased, Kurtz correctly pointed out a number of incidents that supported the accusations. He also mentioned a couple of Sammon’s books. However, I can’t let this little escape from reality go without comment:

Kurtz: “The significance of the marching orders is that they were issued to the news division, which aims to be fair and balanced and is run separately from the opinion side, populated by the likes of Hannity and Glenn Beck.”

I would like to see Kurtz provide any evidence that the news division at Fox is run separately from the opinion side. Or that they aim to be fair and balanced. The significance of the marching orders is that they were marching orders. An ethical network would not impose such constraints, even on their editorial commentators. The only sort of enterprise that would do so is one that is focused, not on news, but on propaganda; one that has an agenda and seeks to maintain ideological purity in their messaging. In other words: Fox News.

The Sacred Trust Of Fox News

A little over a week ago, Fox News sponsored a rally in Washington, D.C. to vent their bitterness over having lost the election last year to a black man. The 9/12 Tea Party Project was conceived and promoted entirely by Fox televangelist Glenn Beck, and for six months it was peddled to his viewers with the help of just about every other personality on the network. The whole affair could have had a Fox logo stamped on the bottom.

Then, a few days ago, Media Matters posted a video showing a Fox News producer stage managing a live event at the Tea Party by whipping up the crowd to cheer for correspondent and ambusher, Griff Jenkins. It was an obvious violation of journalistic ethics caught on videotape, but I had no intention of writing about it because it seemed a rather insignificant incident for a network that had fabricated an entire rally. Jenkins’ reporting (and everything of Fox News) was already drenched with bias before this producer sought to manufacture the crowd response.

But now, in the aftermath of that embarrassing display, Fox News VP and Washington Managing Editor, Bill Sammon, has issued a memo on the subject of “standards” that raises the bar for irony:

For those of us who have only been at Fox for a relatively short period of time, it’s useful to remind ourselves that, as journalists, we must always be careful to cover the story without becoming part of the story. At news events, we’re supposed to function as dispassionate observers, not active participants. We are there to chronicle the news, not create it.

That means we ask questions in a fair, impartial manner. When approaching interviewees, we identify ourselves, by both name and news organization, up front. We seek out a variety of voices and views. We take note of the scene in order to bring color and context to our viewers.

We do not cheerlead for one cause or another. We do not rile up a crowd. If a crowd happens to be boisterous when we show it on TV, so be it. If it happens to be quiet, that’s fine, too. It’s not our job to affect the crowd’s behavior one way or the other. Again, we’re journalists, not participants – and certainly not performers.

Indeed, any effort to affect the crowd’s behavior only serves to undermine our legitimate journalistic role as detached eyewitnesses. Remember, our viewers are counting on us to be honest brokers when it comes to reporting – not altering -the important events of the day. That is nothing less than a sacred trust. We must always take pains to preserve that trust.

The fact that Sammon finds it necessary to remind his colleagues that journalists do not create the news is pretty sad to begin with. But it’s all the more astonishing when Fox News is presently plastering its air with reports about ACORN by James O’Keefe who explicitly states that…

“I’m not just reporting on something, I’m becoming something I’m reporting on.”

Sammon is being disingenuous and dishonest by pretending that he is interested in dispassionate observations. His pathetic admonitions sound like a scolding to the staff of a junior high school newspaper. His own appearances on Fox News are littered with prejudice and intended to sway the opinion of the audience. His confirmed partisanship is revealed in his reporting as well as the collection of books he has written.

The fallacy that Sammon is perpetuating that Fox News is either fair or balanced is beyond a joke. They do not seek out a variety of voices and views. They routinely cheerlead for one cause. It’s impossible for them to undermine their legitimate journalistic role because that would presuppose they were legitimate. What’s more, the last thing their viewers are counting on is for them to be honest brokers. To the contrary, their viewers are counting on them to provide the non-stop partisan propaganda that feeds their paranoia and rage. That’s the only sacred trust Fox News seeks to preserve.