Perverted Priorities: The Editorial Hypocrisy Of Fox News

In recent days Fox News has ramped up coverage of the Philadelphia trial of an abortion doctor accused of numerous horrific crimes. To be clear, the spike in coverage was not about the underlying facts of the case or the suffering of the patients. It was about Fox’s contention that the prosecution has been ignored by a liberal press corps for political reasons.

Fox News - Gosnell

First of all, we need to set aside the false notion that the media has any incentive to suppress reporting on this case due to a liberal bias. The alleged criminal acts committed by this doctor run counter to the values of the pro-choice community whose position is that restrictions on safe and legal reproductive services are what is responsible for creating the conditions from which rogue clinics like this one emerge in the first place.

However, for Fox to get huffy about a media blackout orchestrated by liberals stretches the boundaries of hypocrisy. On numerous segments in the past week Fox has castigated other media outlets for not having covered this trial. The problem with that complaint is that Fox hasn’t covered it either. Nevertheless, Bret Baier hosted a segment of his “Special Report” wherein he read off a list of the offenders in the press who have ignored this story. Conspicuously absent from the list was Fox News. If Fox had indeed reported the story, they would certainly have included the number of times on their graphic to shame their competitors. They left themselves off because their performance was no different than the rest.

In another example of Fox’s self-serving spin, they posted a photo of the seating area in the courtroom that was reserved for the media. The fact that there was no one sitting there was evidence to Fox that the press was negligent and biased. However, also revealed by the photo was that no one from Fox News was sitting there either. They presumably thought that that little detail would just slip by unnoticed by their viewers (and they were probably right. Their viewers are not known for their intellectual prowess).

Clearly Fox’s editorial decision-making is drenched with bias and self-promotion. We can easily ascertain what is important to the network by their programming choices, and apparently the Philly doctor’s trial was not important to Fox. So what was important?

Fox’s closest competitor in the ratings is MSNBC. In the months following the election MSNBC has demonstrated surprising growth while Fox has lost audience share, slipping to levels it has not seen since 2001 (although still maintaining its lead). Consequently, Fox has resumed their onslaught against MSNBC which they escalate whenever they feel threatened.

The latest attack by Fox deals with a promo that MSNBC ran in support of their weekend anchor Melissa Harris-Perry. The promo features Harris-Perry delivering an uncontroversial commentary about the value of society investing in education and child welfare. To Fox, that commonly held principle of a unified family of American citizens was tantamount to Maoist socialism. Fox blanketed their airwaves with exasperated outrage day and night over this 30 second ad. In fact, as reported by MSNBC’s Chris Hayes, Fox committed more than 15 times the airtime to MSNBC’s promo than MSNBC did.

MSNBC Promo

In conclusion, an analysis of the distribution of time allocated to content tells us that Fox is obviously more concerned about how MSNBC advertises its own programs than they are about heinous criminal activity. And when their attention is drawn to the heinous crimes, they only seem to care about how other media reports it (ignoring their own failures), and not the crime itself or the victims. Remember this the next time you hear Fox complaining about not being taken seriously as credible journalists.

Mitt Romney Even Fouls Out When Pitched Softballs By Fox News

Following the Republican National Kvetch-a-Sketch, Mitt Romney announced that his first post-convention interview would be with – wait for it – Fox News. Surprised?

You might think that this press availability would be a pretty easy affair for Romney. After all, Fox is the PR division of the GOP and has been handling Romney’s promotional campaign for months. However, it didn’t take long for Romney to expose himself as nearly as incompetent an interview subject as Sarah Palin, who couldn’t name a single newspaper that she read (and considered that a “gotcha” question). Fox’s account executive …er… news anchor, Bret Baier saved a probing question for the end of his interview when he asked Romney…

“To hear several speakers in Charlotte, they were essentially saying that you don’t care about the U.S. military because you didn’t mention U.S. troops and the war in Afghanistan in your nomination acceptance speech. Do you regret opening up this line of attack, now a recurring attack, by leaving out that issue in the speech?

Notice that Baier is not asking whether Romney regrets that he failed to acknowledge and thank the American troops who are serving their country in a time of war. Baier is only asking whether Romney regrets that his omission has provided an opening for his opponents to criticize him. So it wasn’t a question about the troops at all. It was a question about the Democrats.

Nevertheless, Romney managed to utterly embarrass himself with an answer that further disregarded the troops and cast himself as even more devoid of human-like characteristics than previously thought.

“I only regret you’re repeating it day in and day out. When you give a speech you don’t go through a laundry list, you talk about the things that you think are important and I described in my speech, my commitment to a strong military unlike the president’s decision to cut our military. And I didn’t use the word troops, I used the word military. I think they refer to the same thing.”

So the only thing that Romney regrets is that the press has an interest in the words that he spoke in perhaps the most important speech of his life, and are seeking to understand his meaning. And if that weren’t bad enough, by his own admission Romney doesn’t think that thanking our soldiers is important, or else he would have talked about it.

Romney goes on to say that he expressed his commitment to a strong military, and that “military” and “troops” are the same thing. Actually, they’re not.

Mitt Romney and Troops

The military is a massive bureaucracy that manages various divisions of public and private enterprises engaged in defense operations and preparedness. Troops are people who train and fight and bleed and die. His context was made clear with his reference to “cut[ting] the military.” Obviously he is referring to cutting budgets, not human flesh.

This failure by Romney to draw a distinction between the two echoes his famous inarticulate insensitivity when he said that “Corporations are people, my friend.” Romney has a tendency to relate better to institutions than to mortal persons. This is further revealed in the “Plan for Jobs and Economic Growth” that is on his web site. It refers to workers as “Human Capital.” Makes your heart tingle, doesn’t it? For Romney everything is reduced to a line item on a profit and loss statement.

And this dreadfully mishandled answer was to a question from his pals at Fox News. Just wait until he has to answer questions from more neutral news organizations or those he will encounter in his debates with President Obama.

The Fox Nation Is Suffering Full Blown Obama Derangement Syndrome

In my ongoing series “Fox Nation vs. Reality” I have endeavored to expose some of the more brazen departures from truthful reporting that so often make their way onto the pages of the Fox Nation web site. But today the Fox Nationalists have ventured beyond even their typical separation from the facts by posting as their headline story this sensationalistic declaration: White House ‘Panicked’ Over Gas Prices, President Becoming ‘Incoherent’

Fox Nation

The associated article said nothing about the White House being panicked. It said nothing about the President being incoherent. Despite those words being put in quotes in the headline, they were not referencing any citation by any person. In fact, they were not a part of the story in any respect – not directly, indirectly, insinuated, implied, hypothetical, allegorical, or…well you get the idea. The entire piece consisted of a video of a Fox News report on the presidential campaign, an excerpt of results from a Fox News poll, and one paragraph that briefly abstracted part of the content of the video.

Where the Fox Nation editors got the idea that the president was panicked and incoherent is a mystery. The only explanation is that they are so infected with Obama Derangement Syndrome that they were in the throes of a hallucinatory seizure. Either that or their determination to slander the President is so overpowering that they could not resist the urge to invent derogatory adjectives to attach to his name.

It’s bad enough when the Fox Nationalists post stories with pejorative quotes from the likes of Hannity or Limbaugh as if it were news, but when they don’t even have a source and they still put their insults in quotes, they have crossed a line that could only be acceptable to the most untrustworthy purveyors of schlock journalism – aka Fox News.

Update: The Fox Nationalists edited the article this morning. They swapped out the video for one that consists of a panel discussion with Jonah Goldberg, who made the following statement in response to a question from anchor Bret Baier:

Baier: The president is out almost every other day, it seems, talking about gas prices. Is it a sign that this White House is concerned about this issue? What does it tell us?

Goldberg: I think it tells us they’re in something of a panic over it. We’ve seen his poll numbers drop precipitously. And you can’t prove it, but most people think the gas thing is a major driver of it. And the problem is that he basically beyond doubling down, he’s tripling down on the same stuff he was saying three years ago, and it’s fundamentally incoherent.

So now they have the basis for their quotes – a highly partisan right-winger with an agenda to peddle. However, from the same segment they completely ignored the statements by panelist Kirsten Powers who called it hypocritical:

Powers: This is a real exercise in hypocrisy because when George Bush was being blamed for high prices by Democrats, Republicans were saying the president doesn’t have any control over that and now we have the exact reverse.

Obviously somebody at Fox Nation wasn’t paying attention when they first posted this item. But what’s worse is that the correction includes a clip of Fox’s chief news anchor, citing a Fox News poll, saying that “the majority said the president is to blame for gas prices.” Except that the majority in the Fox poll said exactly the opposite. The majority (52%) said the President is not to blame, and only 40% said that he is. So Fox News compounds their erroneous reporting even as they attempt to correct it.

Republicans Reveal Their Top Priority For America In Iowa Debate

At a time when the nation faces some formidable challenges on critical matters of economics, employment, national defense, health care, etc., the Republican candidates for president met in Iowa to debate the issues that they regard as most important to voters and the country.

Leading off the Fox News sponsored debate, Fox anchor Bret Baier summarized just what issues the GOP held as their highest priority, and it wasn’t any of those enumerated in the paragraph above.

Bret Baier: We have received thousands of tweets, Facebook messages and emails with suggested questions. And the overall majority of them had one theme: Electability. People want to know which one of you on this stage is able to be in the best position to beat President Obama in the general election. And that’s the number one goal for Republican voters, obviously.

So there you have it. The number one goal is not restoring the nation’s economic health. It is not creating jobs or strengthening the middle-class. It is not Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, Al Qaeda, or any other source of international hostility. It isn’t even Republican pet causes of guns, gays, God, or repealing ObamaCare. The number on issue is electability. Republicans are focused squarely on the singular issue of evicting the Kenyan socialist from the White House, to the exclusion of all other principles or positions. Just like Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said shortly after Obama was inaugurated.

Taking this theme to heart, the debate continued with a series of question that addressed nothing substantive other than the candidate’s prospects for beating President Obama next November. Here are the first seven questions asked at Thursday’s debate:

Bret Baier: Speaker Gingrich, since our last debate your position in this race has changed dramatically. You are now physically in the center of the stage, which means that you are at the top of the polls, yet many Republicans seem conflicted about you, They say that you’re smart, that you’re a big thinker. At the same time many of those same Republicans worry deeply about your electability in a general election saying perhaps Gov. Romney is a safer bet. Can you put to rest, once and for all, the persistent doubts that you are indeed the right candidate on this stage to go up and beat President Obama?

Megyn Kelly: Cong. Paul, you have some bold ideas, some very fervent supporters, and probably the most organized ground campaign here in Iowa, but there are many Republicans, inside and outside of this state, who openly doubt whether you can be elected president. How can you convince them otherwise, and if you don’t wind up winning this nomination, will you pledge here tonight that you will support the ultimate nominee?

Megyn Kelly: Sen. Santorum, no one has spent more time in Iowa than you. You have visited every county in the state. And yet, while we have seen no fewer than four Republican candidates surge in the polls, sometimes in extraordinary ways, so far you and your campaign have failed to catch fire with the voters. Why?

Chris Wallace: Gov. Romney, I want to follow up on Bret’s line of questioning to the Speaker because many of our viewers tell us that they are supporting Newt Gingrich because they think that he will be tougher than you in taking the fight to Barack Obama in next fall’s debates. Why would you be able to make the Republican’s case against the President more effectively than the Speaker?

Chris Wallace: Cong. Bachmann, no one questions your conservative credentials, but what about your appeal to Independents who are so crucial in a general election? If you are fortunate enough to become the Republican nominee, how would you counter the efforts by the Barack Obama campaign to paint you as too conservative to moderate voters?

Neil Cavuto: Gov. Perry, by your own admission you are not a great debater. You have said as much and downplayed debating skills in general. But if you were to become your party’s nominee you would be going up against an accomplished debater in Barack Obama. There are many in this audience tonight, sir, who fear that possibility and don’t think you’re up for the fight. Allay them of their concerns.

Neil Cavuto: Gov. Huntsman, your campaign has been praised by moderates, but many question your ability to galvanize the Republicans, energize the conservative base of the party. They’re especially leery of your refusal to sign on to a “no tax hike” pledge. How can you reassure them tonight.

Nothing is more revealing of a party’s intentions than what they themselves place at the forefront of their campaigns. And nothing could be more clear than the fact that Republicans simply do not care about issues or the welfare of the American people as much as they do about their own selfish quest for power.

What’s more, the debate sponsor, Fox News, and other right-wing spokesmodels concur with the GOP’s directive on beating Obama above all else. That’s why the questions were littered with words like “worry,” “doubt,” “fear,” and “leery,” to describe the electorate’s mood toward the GOP frontrunners. And the debate amongst Republican elites is raging at an unprecedented pace. Rush Limbaugh thinks Romney is a milquetoast candidate. Glenn Beck called Gingrich a progressive (a pejorative for Beck) and the one candidate he would not vote for. Even Fox’s Chris Wallace slammed Ron Paul saying that a win by Paul in Iowa would discredit the state’s caucuses.

So what we have here is both the candidates and the media fixated on electability. All they talk about is the horse race and not the underlying issues. And of course, the reason for that is that they don’t care about the issues, only the power that comes from political control. And now they have confessed this obsession unabashedly.

Unfortunately for these polito-Narcissists, they aren’t quite smart enough to craft accurate predictions of who is or isn’t electable. They will undoubtedly make the wrong choice and their anointed candidate will suffer an embarrassing defeat. But to be honest, that’s an easy call for me to make because any of the current GOP candidates would be the wrong choice. They are all presently losing to Obama in national polls, and that’s quite a feat considering Obama’s low favorability ratings. The best thing that’s happened for Obama’s reelection prospects is that he’s running against this batch of pathetic Republicans.

Jon Stewart Skewers Bret Baier Of Fox News

In a rollicking discussion of Fox News and its obvious agenda-driven editorial slant, Jon Stewart leaves anchor Bret Baier literally speechless on a number of occasions. Baier is frequently held up as the example (or “human shield” as Stewart quips) of straight-forward reporting on the network. But that just makes him the proverbial “thinnest kid at fat camp.” Any honest appraisal of Fox has to concede that there is an inherent institutional bias. Stewart tries valiantly to elicit such an appraisal from Baier with little success, but much hilarity.

Stewart: I would not say that Fox’s main thrust is objective news gathering. I would say that their main thrust is…it is somewhat of a cover for a more political operation that exists underneath.
Baier: Come on Jon, really?
Stewart: I don’t think I’m alone in that, by the way. I think that there are other people.
Baier: Why then are we, Jon, the best rated news show?
Stewart: That’s a very interesting point. I wasn’t aware that ratings equals quality. But now that I know that I’m gonna reassess my feelings about the show Three’s Company. But you know that the two are not related. I’m suggesting not that it’s not popular or powerful, so is crack.

Baier is regurgitating what his boss, Rupert Murdoch says, on this subject:

“If we weren’t fair and balanced, we wouldn’t have the number one network in news – by a very wide margin. People believe we’re fair and balanced, and they love us.”

Actually, people watch Fox because it validates their preconceptions. If Fox were balanced their partisan viewers would change the channel. For years I have been making the point that ratings only measure viewership, not content. After all, McDonald’s is the #1 restaurant in America. I don’t think that anyone interprets that to mean that they have the best food. What they have is the cheapest crap that is loaded with filler and seasoning to appeal to the largest number of consumers with the least sophisticated taste. And that’s a pretty good description of Fox.

Stewart continues to search for some sliver of integrity from Baier, noting that even Fox’s hard news is “framed through a prism of this more conservative ideology.” When Stewart points out that by watching Fox “you would think the greatest threat to the country is ACORN, the Black Panthers, and Fannie Mae,” all that Baeir can must is a whimpering
“That’s not fair.” But later Stewart lands a blow that staples Baeir’s lips shut completely:

Stewart: A guy gets fired from NPR for being taped undercover saying “I think the Tea Baggers are,” blah, blah, blah. He said a bunch of terrible things. Roger Ailes said, on the record, NPR are Nazis. Doesn’t that strike you as odd?
Baier: {crickets}

Exactly! The hypocrisy at Fox is legendary. Baeir responded the only way he could. He certainly couldn’t defend the retention of an executive who called his peers Nazis. But neither could he criticize his tyrannical employer and expect to live through the night.

More often than not the interview segment on the Daily Show is my least favorite. Stewart has a tendency to be exceedingly deferential to conservative guests in order to ensure that they continue to take his calls (IMHO). But this segment was classic. Stewart was aggressive yet respectful, and importantly, funny. That’s a tricky routine with a high degree of difficulty.

Fox News Hosts Candidate Debates After Giving $1 Million To GOP

This is precisely why the News Corp donation of a million dollars to the Republican Governor’s Association was such a violation of ethical standards in media and politics.

Fox News Channel Reporters To Moderate Debates For Governor And U.S. Senator

How can we expect any semblance of objectivity from Carl Cameron as he moderates the debate between the Republican and Democratic candidates for governor of Connecticut? We already know that the company that employs him is bankrolling the Republican candidate. It wouldn’t even matter if Cameron were completely above reproach and capable of being a fair moderator. The perception of bias invalidates his participation and that of his employer.

For the record, Cameron is not above reproach. His bias during the presidential campaign of 2004 was plainly apparent. His wife worked for the Bush campaign, which he never disclosed when covering it.

Similarly, Bret Baier cannot be considered an impartial moderator for the senate debate. He has repeatedly reported on the brush with controversy over statements made regarding service in Vietnam of Richard Blumenthal, the Democratic candidate. But Baier has virtually ignored the controversial financing and the association with drug use of former employees of the Republican candidate, Linda McMahon.

During the 2008 election Democrats refused to participate in any primary debates sponsored by Fox News. That would be a good policy to reinstate with regard to this year’s general election.

Fox News (Lack Of) Journalistic Standards In Practice

This morning on Fox News a report was broadcast revealing new revelations about the costs of the recently passed health care bill. Anchor Megyn Kelly introduced the story with obvious shock and disdain for what she characterized as an attempt to keep information secret from Congress and the public.

The thrust of this alleged scoop was that the Department of Health and Human Services had authored a report that showed the costs of health care rising as a result of the new legislation. But the shocking part was the allegation that the report was suppressed by HHS and/or the White House prior to the vote in Congress.

Kelly spent almost seven minutes discussing this would-be scandal with Fox’s chief news anchor, Bret Baier, not some opinion show host like Sean Hannity. That’s seven minutes of valuable airtime devoted to a story that was picked up from the uber-conservative American Spectator, authored by someone who calls himself “the Prowler,” and backed up by a single anonymous source. And all of this was discussed after conceding that the story was unconfirmed.

Well, half an hour later, Kelly brings Baier back for a followup and guess what? The story was completely false. The HHS denied it and provided a timeline to document the course of events.

This perfectly illustrates the inner workings of Fox News and their standards for journalism. They will not hesitate to disseminate suspect information that is not backed up in the way that a responsible press operation would consider routine. Once their dubious report is released into the media atmosphere it is almost impossible to retrieve. There will have been numerous regurgitations on blogs and other Internet news sites. Emails will have started bouncing around the web even before Kelly finished the first bogus report. And by the time the truth is revealed, the lies are a part of the common knowledge in Wingnutia.

Rather than wait until a story has been checked out and confirmed, Fox News just lets it fly and crosses their fingers. Then when the facts become apparent they laugh it off or even portray it as an asset. This is what Kelly did after Baier crushed the HHS story. She proudly told her audience that “you saw it all unfold live, right here.” Indeed we did. We saw the poorly sourced, untrue accusations of a right-wing muckraker broadcast to millions over the air as if it were news. Then, if we were still tuned in, we saw the retraction of a story that was never fit to be aired in the first place.

Nice work Fox.

Bret Baier: The Same Old Fox News Nonsense

The Washington Managing Editor for Fox News, and anchor of Special Report, Brit Hume, has now officially moved from the anchor chair to the rocking chair. In his place is Bret Baier, who was interviewed today by Howard Kurtz of the Washington Post.

Baier considers himself an independent (so does Bill O’Reilly), but his remarks in this interview reveal a somewhat more partisan stance. For instance, he commented on the presidential campaing saying…

“…this campaign has at times been an easy ride for the Obama team. If that were to continue, people would be disappointed.

That would be true if what he means by an “easy time” is having the press continually harangue the candidate as a radical, Socialist, Muslim-raised, inexperienced, unpatriotic, elitist, who palled around with terrorists. Sure, it was a breeze. And I think that the people Baier asserts would be disappointed are Republicans and Fox viewers. But the next comment by Baier may well disappoint those viewers:

“Fox doesn’t have to be in a mode of attack…”

No, it doesn’t “have to be.” That’s just the way they like it. But the newsmaking moment of the interview came when Baier said:

“I hope the media will cover the Obama administration with as much aggressiveness as they covered the Bush administration.”

Really? So Baier wants the media to sit back and let Obama get away with things like lying to initiate an illegal war; with usurping power by presidential fiat; with rolling back Constitutional rights; with demonstrating ignorance and arrogance as he drives the nation into a death spiral? Does Baier want the press to attend parties with Obama and dispatch lobbyists seeking favor for their corporate enterprises? All of that would have to happen for the media to cover Obama as they did Bush.

In this era of change, the only thing changing at Fox News is the scowling old visage of Brit Hume for a younger, smiling version of the same thing.