Thanks Trump! The Pumpkinhead President Scares Fox News Ratings Into an Abyss

The month of October has been a frightening experience for Donald Trump. His Chief of Staff, Mick Mulvaney, admitted on national TV that there was a quid pro quo with Ukraine to dig up dirt on Joe Biden. His personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, had a nervous breakdown on Fox News. He was forced to reverse an idiotic plan to host the 2020 G7 summit at his Doral golf resort in Miami. And his one bit of good news – the death of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi – produced a paltry two point bounce in a poll by his favorite, ultra-biased pollster, Rasmussen. Scary, huh?

Donald Trump, Fox News, Halloween

Trump was so terrified throughout the month that he fear-posted 104 panic-tweets attacking the fearsome chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Adam Schiff. And as if the Offender-in-Chief doesn’t already have enough reasons to soil his trousers, the Trump-fluffing “news” network that he relies on to prop him up with worshipful propaganda, Fox News, fell on some hard times as well. The ratings for October reveal that impeachment has been good news for both America and Fox’s chief competitor, MSNBC.

The total day ratings for Fox News declined by a whopping 27 percent in the all-important 25-54 demographic, compared to October of 2018. In the same period MSNBC rose 12 percent. MSNBC also increased total prime time viewers 25 percent, and prime time demo viewers 16 percent.

This growth was driven by impressive gains by The Rachel Maddow Show, which was the #1 cable news program for the month among adults 25-54. Her show was up 13 percent, while Fox News’ Hannity declined 21 percent in that time slot. In total viewers Maddow was up 22 percent, compared to Fox’s 2 percent drop. She beat her direct competition, Sean Hannity, as well as Fox’s other prime time stars, Tucker Carlson and Laura Ingraham.

These gains were also present in other MSNBC programs. The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell was up 20 percent (Fox News dropped 22 percent). The 11th Hour with Brian Williams finished #1 in the 11 p.m. hour, up 25 percent (Fox News declined 31 percent). The Beat with Ari Melber delivered the network’s most-watched month ever in the 6 p.m. time period, up 34 percent (Fox News down 12 percent). Deadline: White House with Nicolle Wallace was #1 in total viewers, up 13 percent (Fox News dropped 27 percent). All In with Chris Hayes was up 24 percent (Fox News was down 19 percent). Even the weekend had great news with total day gains of 10 percent (Fox News dips of 32 percent).

There could be several explanations for this powerful performance by MSNBC and the simultaneous collapse of Fox News. Trump’s impeachment might have stirred more interest by progressive news consumers to tune in more. At the same time, it might have discouraged conservatives from watching the news at all. But there’s another possible factor that drove Fox’s viewers away: Donald Trump. He spent a fair amount of time bashing his own own best media outlet and even telling his followers to turn off Fox.

For instance, after a Fox poll showed him losing to Biden, Trump tweeted that “I have NEVER had a good @FoxNews Poll. Whoever their Pollster is, they suck.” And then there was the time he tweeted that “@FoxNews doesn’t deliver for US anymore. It is so different than it used to be.” And not mincing words, Trump told his Deplorables that “We have to start looking for a new News Outlet. Fox isn’t working for us anymore!”

It’s hard to determine whether Trump’s Fox bashing had any real impact on their ratings. But it isn’t hard to see that he is a fickle and vengeful narcissist who demands 100 percent adoration at all times, lest you be cast into the corn fields, aka TrumpScorn. However, it is more likely that television audiences were simply more interested in getting honest presentations of the news by real journalists instead of slobbering, glassy-eyed sycophants. And since a majority of Americans favor Trump being impeached and removed from office (even in that Fox News poll), even the opinion side of MSNBC would figure to be more popular.

If Trump has anything going for him at this time, it’s the “bloody highway crash” appeal that might cause viewers to tune to Fox in order to see exactly how his mental breakdown will unfold in real time. Sure, it’s morbid and gruesome, but hell, it’s Halloween. Everybody may just be in a weird mood.

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

Bill O’Reilly Left Out Of Discussion On Lying Anchors By Fox News Media Liars

On this week’s episode of Fox News MediaBuzz with Howard Kurtz, the host invited TV critic David Zurawik to continue the pummeling of Brian Williams, who NBC just announced would be taking a role on MSNBC rather than returning to the anchor desk on the Nightly News.

Brian Williams has only himself to blame for the predicament he finds himself in. It was wholly uncalled for when he invented an exciting but false narrative of his exploits in Iraq. NBC is justified in reassigning him, as would any network be after discovering that their anchor had embellished his resume with fabrications. The problem here is that Fox News spent an entire segment pontificating on the issue of credibility without paying the least bit of attention to their own disgraced anchor, Bill O’Reilly.

Bill O'Reilly

O’Reilly was discovered to have lied far more seriously and often than Williams. And after being caught with incontrovertible proof, O’Reilly continued to deny the charges and slander his critics. Unlike Williams, he showed absolutely no remorse or contrition. He accepted no responsibility and even hung his former colleagues out to dry, implying that they were lying. For a quick refresher, here is what News Corpse reported when O’Reilly’s lies were first revealed:

ONE: The parade of falsehoods began with O’Reilly’s claim to have been “on the ground in active war zones” during the Falkland Islands war with the United Kingdom. He wasn’t. And now there is video of him reporting from Buenos Aires, Argentina that contradicts the accounts he gave afterward.

TWO: O’Reilly also claimed to have been outside the Florida home of George de Mohrenschildt where he said that he heard the shotgun blast that marked his suicide. De Mohrenschildt was an associate of Lee Harvey Oswald and was scheduled to testify at a congressional hearing on the JFK assassination. However, a recording of a contemporaneous phone call shows that O’Reilly wasn’t even in Florida when de Mohrenschildt died.

THREE: On another occasion, O’Reilly told a story about how he “saw nuns get shot in the back of the head” in El Salvador. That also was not true and O’Reilly himself admitted it in a statement that said he had actually just seen some “images of violence” but did not witness the incidents himself. Oddly, while admitting that his original assertions were false, he neither apologized nor acknowledged any wrongdoing.

FOUR: This was a similar case where O’Reilly spoke of his visit to Northern Ireland. While there he claimed to have witnessed bombings, however, when challenged Fox News issued a statement similar to the one about El Salvador that said he had merely seen pictures.

FIVE: Then there was the time that O’Reilly was covering the riots in Los Angeles sparked by the acquittal of the police officers who beat Rodney King. He claimed to have been the target of attacks by rioters, however, his associates covering the story deny that any of them were assaulted or injured. They do, however, contend that some tensions flared due to O’Reilly being an asshole.

These fabrications by the guy who pretends to be running a “No Spin Zone” are hardly the only times he has lied. There have been numerous other episodes including bragging about winning two Peabody Awards (he didn’t), and claiming to be a registered Independent (he was a Republican for several years at the time).

Some other incidents may not have been lies technically, just horribly wrong statements that he refused to correct. For instance, he once argued that there were no homeless veterans in America; as proof that his boycott of France was working he offered a report by the “Paris Business Review,” which does not exist; and he insisted, after doing extensive research, that no one on Fox ever said that people who didn’t pay ObamaCare penalties would be subject to prison. PolitiFact gave that one a “Pants on Fire.”

All of that was swept under the rug as Kurtz and Zurawik lit into Williams and suggested that he should not have been given a second chance at MSNBC. Zurawik was apoplectic as he insisted that Williams should have been “banished” and sanctimoniously declared that “the moral reasoning here is so tortured that you have to wonder why would NBC not just end its relationship with him.” He went on to preach about journalistic standards saying that “people who lie in the news business, if you give everybody a second chance, we’re going to have no standards.”

Of course, none of this moralizing is meant to refer to Fox’s own primetime dissembler, Bill O’Reilly. And for some reason Zurawik and Kurtz are not concerned about the morality or credibility of a network that not only doesn’t punish their liars, but lets them continue their multi-million dollar careers without so much as a sideways glance. The reason for that, of course, is that O’Reilly’s lies are not regarded as violating Fox’s standards. In fact, he is the perfect representative of the Fox News brand. He’s the biggest liar on the network of lies. If the bulk of your programming is littered with partisan bullcrap, than Bill O’Reilly isn’t a problem at all. He’s your poster boy.

News Corpse Presents: The ALL NEW 2nd volume of
Fox Nation vs. Reality: The Fox News Cult of Ignorance.
Available now at Amazon.

Watch Bill Maher Let Loose On ‘Blatant, Bald-Assed Liar’ Bill O’Reilly

The heat is being turned up on pathological liar Bill O’Reilly and his enablers at Fox News. The numerous accounts of his deliberately falsifying his resume with self-aggrandizing tales of journalistic heroism continue to be the source of deserved criticism and ridicule. The latest dishonorable mention for O’Reilly comes from comedian Bill Maher, who was characteristically candid on his HBO program last night (video below).

Bill O'Reilly - Bill Maher

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Maher was puzzled about the lack of attention that O’Reilly has received from much of the press for his obvious embellishments and outright lies about his experiences as a reporter. So Maher let O’Reilly’s own words bury him by merely reading the things that O’Reilly said that have been proven to be false.

“These are out-and-out lies. Now, I understand why Fox News backs him because they’re not really a news service. They’re like, ‘You expect the truth? That’s not what we do here.’ But why isn’t the mainstream media going after him with the same ferocity – the supposedly ‘liberal media’ – as they did to Brian Williams?”

Good question. At this point the evidence of O’Reilly’s dishonesty is overwhelming. His resorting to overt threats aimed at reporters covering the story is typical of his bullying tactics. His cowardly refusal to address the substance of the allegations proves that he has no defense other than to shout and stamp his feet and brag about his ratings.

Indeed, O’Reilly’s ratings are quite good for a cable news program. But that’s nothing to brag about when your product is unmitigated bullcrap. By failing to hold O’Reilly accountable, Fox News is embracing and condoning his moral and professional transgressions and conceding that their network proudly employs liars and engages in unabashed deception. It is an insult to their viewers who they presume will accept any heaping portion of steaming shitola that’s put in front of them. Well, on that note Fox may be right. After all, their viewers have been eating up O’Reilly and Sean Hannity and Sarah Palin and Donald Trump for years.

The mindset of Fox was perfectly framed by Maher’s conservative panelist, Genevieve Wood of the ultra-rightist Heritage Foundation. She excused Fox’s failure to sanction O’Reilly because, unlike Williams who acknowledged and apologized for his embellishments, O’Reilly stubbornly denies that he misrepresented anything in his past, the facts notwithstanding. In a state of severe delusional panic, Wood said…

“Fox is going to defend him as long as he’s saying ‘I did what I said I did,’ and nobody else is really able to challenge it.”

Huh? Everybody else is able to challenge it. And it isn’t just people who have different recollections of the distant past. There are contemporaneous videos and tape recordings of O’Reilly himself that contradict his present day mythologies about his grand adventures. But Wood’s justification neatly fits the Fox view of news. They regard it as a mutable commodity that can be molded to whatever serves their agenda. And Fox will indeed continue to defend O’Reilly because he is doing what they pay him to do – which is to lie.

Consequently, it is time that the rest of the media acknowledge that Fox is not in any way, shape, or form a news enterprise. They are purveyors of propaganda and disseminaters of deception. They have no journalistic principles or respect for their audience. They are comfortable with liars like O’Reilly because lying doesn’t violate their standards, it upholds them. And for those who say that O’Reilly’s malfeasance is different than Williams’ because O’Reilly is an opinion commentator and not a journalist, they need to remember that he was, in fact, a journalist when he did the things about which he is lying today. Also, when discussing factual events there is no exemption from truth-telling for opinion commentators.

Finally, for those who say that catching Fox News lying isn’t newsworthy because everyone knows they do it, that is a cop-out. It remains the obligation of legitimate news operations to report the sort of serious departures from the truth that O’Reilly has demonstrated. And any news organization that condones such dishonesty must not be treated as a credible news source. The media cannot continue to pretend that Fox has anything to do with news.

News Corpse Presents: The ALL NEW 2nd volume of
Fox Nation vs. Reality: The Fox News Cult of Ignorance.
Available now at Amazon.

Fox News Helps Bill O’Reilly Defend His Combat Lies By Lying Even More

[Be sure to see this update (2/22/15) with O’Reilly’s interview on Fox’s MediaBuzz]

Two weeks ago News Corpse reported that Bill O’Reilly had committed substantially the same sins of historical “embellishment” that got NBC’s Brian Williams a six month suspension. He said on numerous occasions that he had been personally involved in combat situations where his life was at risk. None of it was true.

Fox News Bill O'Reilly

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This week David Corn of Mother Jones did a more in-depth article that documented additional instances of O’Reilly misrepresenting his war reporting. Corn’s piece was a fair investigation into O’Reilly’s own accounts of his past that significantly differ from reality. It’s a must read to understand the full measure of O’Reilly’s dishonesty.

Not surprisingly, Fox News and O’Reilly himself are hitting back hard to dispute Corn’s well researched article. O’Reilly has resorted to the most childish sort of response by calling Corn names such as “guttersnipe, irresponsible, liar,” and that old O’Reilly stand-by, “far left zealot.” What he never does is refute a single charge made in the article with any facts. The whole of O’Reilly’s defense is his insistence that “Everything I’ve reported about my journalistic career is true.” If that’s so, then why doesn’t he prove it?

The Fox Nation posted an advance transcript of O’Reilly’s Talking Points Memo that he delivers at the start of every broadcast. This is possibly the first time that has ever been done, which speaks to the gravity of this problem and how seriously O’Reilly considers the potential fallout. In the transcript O’Reilly repeats the insults aimed at Corn that he previously gave to reporters and adds more invective directed to his publisher, saying “Mother Jones … which has low circulation … considered by many the bottom rung of journalism in America.”

The “many” to which O’Reilly refers is likely his family and the dimwits who watch his program. In the real world Mother Jones is a respected publication that has distinguished itself by winning numerous journalism awards including honors from the National Press Club, The PEN American Center, American Society of Magazine Editors, Society of Professional Journalists, Online News Association, and a 2012 George Polk Award for Corn’s investigation of the now famous 47% speech by Mitt Romney. The Polk Award may have provided the harshest sting because it is one that O’Reilly was caught lying about having received himself. It was now-Sen. Al Franken who exposed that O’Reilly fib.

Rushing to O’Reilly’s aid is Fox’s media analyst and host of MediaBuzz, Howard Kurtz. In an article posted to the Fox News website, Kurtz whitewashes O’Reilly’s self-mythologizing by asserting that “the Mother Jones piece appears to turn on semantics.” Then Kurtz posts some of O’Reilly’s false statements that are not remotely semantic in nature. For instance:

–In a 2001 book, O’Reilly said: “I’ve reported on the ground in active war zones from El Salvador to the Falklands.”

–In a Washington panel discussion, O’Reilly said: “I’ve covered wars, okay? I’ve been there. The Falklands, Northern Ireland, the Middle East. I’ve almost been killed three times, okay.”

–In a 2004 column, O’Reilly wrote: “Having survived a combat situation in Argentina during the Falklands war, I know that life-and-death decisions are made in a flash.”

Kurtz writes that in these statements “the dispute comes down to O’Reilly’s shorthand use of the Falklands and the term “war zone.” Huh? What on Earth does that mean? Is Kurtz excusing outright lies with the explanation that O’Reilly was using the lies as shorthand for the truth, and therefore it’s OK?

It’s clear from the statements that Kurtz himself referenced that O’Reilly had put himself “on the ground in active war zones,” and said that he was “there…in the Falklands,” and that he “survived a combat situation in Argentina.” Since there was no combat anywhere in Argentina other than on the Falkland Islands, O’Reilly is implying that that’s where he was. Which he wasn’t. He also was not in Argentina “during the Falklands war,” but arrived after it was over.

Kurtz ignored all of these obviously mis-factual statements in order to absolve O’Reilly of any guilt. Later Kurtz writes that “Corn’s own piece largely backs up O’Reilly’s account of the dangerous situation.” No, actually, it does not. Corn did point out that some of the statements O’Reilly made were corroborated by other accounts, but he never came close to dismissing the multiple assertions by O’Reilly (like those above) that were blatantly false.

In the end Kurtz attempted an awkward exoneration of O’Reilly by claiming that Corn’s reporting was “a far cry from a bogus claim of having been shot down in a helicopter.” How so? By any fair standard O’Reilly’s remarks that placed him in harm’s way on a battlefield (“almost been killed three times”) are at least three times worse than Williams’ mis-remembering of a single event.

News Corpse Presents: The ALL NEW 2nd volume of
Fox Nation vs. Reality: The Fox News Cult of Ignorance.
Available now at Amazon.

O’Reilly’s lies are a repulsive attempt to exalt himself and his faux bravado. He has repeated these lies for decades in books, on television, and in personal appearances, and now, even after being caught, he refuses to apologize. If anyone deserves to be suspended for an extended period of time, it’s O’Reilly. But he has nothing to worry about on that score. Fox News has never acquitted itself in a respectable manner, particularly when it comes to journalistic integrity. They aren’t about to start now.

However, the stain O’Reilly leaves has now spread to Howard Kurtz, whose groveling and desperate defense is deceitful, unethical, and embarrassing. He should be suspended as well for aiding and abetting O’Reilly’s fraudulent fabrications. Of course, Kurtz will also escape accountability. It’s a perk that comes with working for Fox News. Unscrupulous dishonesty will never be a cause for punishment. At Fox News it is more likely to earn a promotion.

UPDATE: The festering ego we know as Bill O’Reilly came to his own rescue last night by devoting a chunk of his program to piling on more lies about his war reporting. He recruited his pals Bernie Goldberg and Geraldo Rivera as his character witnesses. Meanwhile, actual war correspondents are coming forward to criticize O’Reilly and veterans groups are calling for Fox News to take O’Reilly off the air:

VoteVets: “NBC acted completely appropriately in taking Brian Williams off the air and looking into claims he’s made over the years. Fox News has to do the same thing. […] Men and women have fought, died, been wounded, and scarred by war. There are many journalists who actually were in the crossfire, who died, trying to bring the story to the American people. What Bill O’Reilly has done is steal their valor, and it is wrong.”

Jon Stewart Is Leaving The Daily Show – Brian Williams Is Leaving NBC News – COINCIDENCE?

Breaking News in the Mediasphere: The controversy surrounding Brian Williams has led to an announcement by NBC management that, effective immediately, Williams will be put on a six month suspension without pay. They describe the punishment as “severe and appropriate” and leave the door open for a return, although without making any overt assurances of that outcome.

Within a couple of hours of that announcement, it was reported that Jon Stewart, host of Comedy Central’s The Daily Show, will also be stepping down sometime this year. While there is no scandal associated with Stewart’s separation (that we know of), it is nevertheless a profound blow to the world of media. Stewart has been a sharp, insightful, and hilarious observer of news programming for the past seventeen years.

So what to make of these near simultaneous bulletins? After digesting all of the possible repercussions and consequences, intended and otherwise, there is only one reasonable conclusion that can be reached:

Jon Stewart NBC News

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That’s right. Jon Stewart will be taking over the NBC Nightly News and assuming the duties of managing editor for the network’s news division. It’s an obvious choice considering his long history of media criticism and deep understanding of the workings of contemporary journalism. Stewart knows precisely where the pitfalls are for reporting stories that have real impact on the lives of ordinary Americans. He, more than anyone else, will be able to avoid the sort of embarrassing gaffes that he so deftly mocked on The Daily Show.

As for Brian Williams… What better assignment for someone with an abundance of experience on late night talk shows like David Letterman and Jimmy Fallon (where Williams so brilliantly slow-jammed the news) than to take over the now empty seat on The Daily Show? Williams has proven that he has a quick wit and his spellbinding tales of wartime peril show that he can handle fake news as well as any satirist.

On a serious note, Jon Stewart would be sorely missed under any circumstances. But coming so soon after the loss of Stephen Colbert, the state of political satire is taking a real punch to the gut. Stewart has won nineteen Emmys as writer and producer during his tenure at The Daily Show. And despite the fact that right-wingers suffer a knee-jerk animosity for him, Stewart has been more than fair and balanced. This has even been documented by Fox News who have done more than forty stories (listed here and here) celebrating Stewart’s willingness to go after President Obama and other liberal people or ideas. And his reputation for honesty and accuracy far outshines that of Fox News (see Fox News vs Jon Stewart vs Politifact).

Of Course, whatever grief comedy lovers feel today may be temporary. Colbert will shortly reemerge as the host of CBS’ Late Night. And a new host for The Daily Show will be christened and could be just as talented and stinging as Stewart. Think Lewis Black, W. Kamau Bell, Jessica Williams, Jeff Jeffries, or maybe the husband wife team of Jason Jones and Samantha Bee. Could John Oliver be coaxed back? Dare we hope for Tina Fey? And then we still don’t know what Stewart plans for his next act.

Clearly the landscape is shifting. But hopefully there will be some settling before we get too far into the 2016 election cycle. Till then, thanks for all the good times, Jon, and best wishes for the future. And now…your moment of Zen:

When Will Fox News Fire Bill O’Reilly For Lying About Combat Duty?

Conservatives have tenaciously sunk their fangs into the juicy scandal that is engulfing NBC News anchor Brian Williams. The fact that he has admitted (and apologized for) some false statements he made several years ago regarding his experiences covering the war in Iraq is troubling and particularly so for people who make their living on their reputation for honesty.

However, the degree to which the right has gone overboard with their overt hostility is a spectacle that is worth watching for the sheer entertainment value. Although it’s not as if they wouldn’t be showering their hatred on Williams and the rest of the so-called “lamestream” media even if their weren’t some budding scandal. For its part, Fox News has been exhibiting a Benghazi-like obsession with their relentless coverage of the story.

What’s missing from all of this is any sense of perspective or context. Has Fox given equal time to the false assertions by their own Geraldo Rivera who excused his lies as being the fault of the “fog of war?” Of course not. Neither do they make a distinction between the lies advanced by mis-remembering a distant event in the past in order to enhance one’s own personal image, and the lies perpetrated deliberately by national leaders (i.e. George Bush, Dick Cheney, etc.) that resulted in the violent deaths of thousands of American soldiers and hundreds of thousands of innocent, non-combatant Iraqis.

Brian Williams, George Bush

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Nearly every discussion about Williams in the Conservative Media Circus includes outright demands for his termination. Never mind that the false statements made over a decade ago were not made during a newscast or presented as part of his duties as a journalist. The wingnut brigade wants Williams fired for having said some things on David Letterman’s late-night comedy program.

Well, if that’s the standard they are embracing, then let them apply it to Bill O’Reilly as well. Back in 2006, O’Reilly took an extended book promotion tour to Kuwait where he visited with soldiers and signed copies of his book. Reports at the time described how “servicemembers asked O’Reilly about his own tour of duty in Kuwait during Desert Storm.” That might have been an interesting story except for the fact that O’Reilly never did a tour of duty in Kuwait during Desert Storm, or anywhere else since he never served in the military at all.

More recently, O’Reilly told his radio listeners about how he would have coaxed information out of an enemy soldier based on his personal experiences in combat (video below):

“I tell you what, I’ve been in combat. I’ve seen it. I’ve been close to it. And if my unit is in danger and I got a captured guy and the guy knows where the enemy is and I’m looking him in the eye, the guy better tell me. That’s all I’m gonna tell you. If it’s life or death, he’s going first.”

As noted above, and contrary to his statement, O’Reilly has never been in combat. Consequently, he has never commanded a unit or had to contemplate how he would deal with an enemy prisoner. His pretend bluster and machismo is all just a bunch of fantasizing of himself as a hero. So how is that any different than the offenses for which Williams is being pilloried?

There are, however, some very real differences between Williams and O’Reilly. Williams has been found to be less than truthful on this one occasion. O’Reilly has lied repeatedly over his career at Fox News with plenty of documentation to prove it. What’s more O’Reilly has demonstrated himself to be an arrogant, rude, bully who shoves his usually inane opinion down the throats of his guests and his viewers. That’s something that cannot be attributed to Williams.

So if anyone should lose their job over any of this, it would be most advantageous to the television viewing audience, and to society in general, if it is O’Reilly. But don’t count of Fox News to do the right thing. It would be against everything they hold dear.

News Corpse Presents: The ALL NEW 2nd volume of
Fox Nation vs. Reality: The Fox News Cult of Ignorance.
Available now at Amazon.


h/t Meteor Blades at Daily Kos for the video.

Fox News Confirms Arrest/No Arrest Of Boston Marathon Bomber

It is well known that Fox News is an unreliable network for anyone interested in factual representations of current events. They will unabashedly lie in order to advance the ideological agenda of their political and corporate allies. And yet, it is still unsettling when something like this happens:

Fox News

Within the space of about half an hour, Fox News vividly demonstrated that their issuance of a “confirmation” is of no value whatsoever. After announcing that an arrest had been made in the Boston Marathon bombing, Megyn Kelly repeatedly assured her viewers that the information she was reporting had been verified by multiple sources. But it didn’t take long before the bottom fell out of her assurances.

To be fair, CNN also misreported the story and had to make an embarrassing retraction. The only cable news network that applied the rigorous standards of journalism and refrained from jumping on the erroneous story was MSNBC. Pete Williams, NBC’s justice correspondent, and NBC anchor Brian Williams, both made appearances to refute the reports that were coming out of other news outlets.

Will these people never learn? A few months ago both CNN and Fox (also Megyn Kelly’s show) misreported the Supreme Court decision on ObamaCare. And again, only MSNBC got the ruling right. On that occasion CNN acknowledged their mistake and apologized to viewers. Fox refused to do either, claiming that their analysis was justifiable at the time because they believed it was correct and, therefore, there was nothing for which to apologize. I know…it’s crazy.

Nevertheless, a prolonged discussion took place in the media about the pressure to be first butting up against the responsibility to be right. And despite the universal agreement that accuracy is the measure by which news enterprises will be judged, they continue to fall short of the professional standards they profess to hold.

News organizations can be forgiven for making mistakes from time to time because they are staffed by people and people are not perfect. But they ought ot learn from their mistakes and they ought to demonstrate that they care about the product they produce. At least CNN respects their audience enough to show some remorse. Fox News doesn’t have that kind of class. In fact, their routine abuse of their audience via fabrications and distortions suggest that Fox couldn’t care less what their viewers think they know. From Fox’s perspective, the more confused their viewers are, the easier it is for Fox to continue to deceive them.

Sarah Palin: Beauty Queen At The Debate

With a brilliant smile and a confident swagger, Sarah Palin faced Joe Biden, and America, in the first and only vice presidential debate. But the face she presented was that of shallow Pollyanna with a woefully insufficient grasp of issues and facts.

Let’s set aside for the moment that she was flatly wrong when she said that there were fewer troops in Iraq than before the Surge. And never mind that she doesn’t know the name of the American commander in Afghanistan. Palin’s big problem was that she outright refused to answer the questions that were asked. Now, that is a venerable debate tactic and, when used skillfully, can be quite effective and undetectable. However, when Palin did it she clumsily announced that she was changing the subject, and then proceeded to deliver her memorized talking points.

What might have been an enlightening exchange between the candidates was severely constrained by a format and a moderator that discouraged direct interaction. The question arises as to whether Gwen Ifill was cowed by allegations that she would be partial due to the upcoming publication of her book on race in American politics. We may never know if that’s the case, but we do know that Ifill was a virtual non-entity on the stage and failed to ask probing follow-ups of either candidate. That could explain why Palin expressed such satisfaction with the event in her closing remarks:

“I like being able to answer these tough questions without the filter, even, of the mainstream media kind of telling viewers what they’ve just heard. I’d rather be able to just speak to the American people like we just did.”

First of all, she wasn’t asked any tough questions and I suspect that that is what she really liked. Secondly, the Mainstream Media to which she refers doesn’t apply filters to her interviews. The Gibson and Couric affairs simply allowed her to speak on her own, and any resultant embarrassment was of her own doing. Thirdly, her impression of speaking to the American people appears to rely heavily on the help she receives from her speech writers and a teleprompter.

Her statement above is a thinly veiled declaration that she intends to have no further association with the media for which she is so dismissive. I predict that she will have maybe one more interview with a reputable national journalist (probably Brian Williams), then will scurry off to the more comforting embrace of comrades like Hannity and Limbaugh and the Washington Times. By November 4th, she will not have had a single open press conference for the entire election cycle.

The fact that she relates so closely to Dick Cheney, whose warped and unconstitutional view of the Vice Presidency she shares, alarmingly foreshadows the sort of secretive cabal she seems even now to be shaping. The last thing this country needs is another administration that aspires to conceal itself and its actions at every turn and reside outside of public view in a secret undisclosed location.

Partisan Pied Pipers Part Republicans From Reporters

A new Harris Poll was released that purports to identify the most and least favorite news personalities. Harris’ definition of both “news” and “personalities” stretches credulity just by including names like Tucker Carlson. Nonetheless, there are still some interesting results.

Far and away, the consensus loser is Rush Limbaugh who was voted least favorite by 42% of respondents. He was first amongst the least of both Democrats and Independents. Plus, he was even the #3 choice for worst amongst Republicans.

Bill O’Reilly was the favorite choice of 23%. But he was also the least favorite of 23%. His place atop the favorites list was fueled by a block 42% of Republicans who prefer him. That’s about twice the number of any other choice on the list for Democrats or Independents.

This poll, however, tells us something more than the obvious popularity contest drivel. It tells us something about the perception gap between the right and the left with regard to what constitutes news.

The top three choices amongst Republicans are Bill O’Reilly (42%), Rush Limbaugh (28%), and Sean Hannity (27%), none of whom would be described as journalists by neutral observers. They are partisan commentators with well known biases. The top three choices amongst Democrats are Anderson Cooper (22%), Brian Williams (20%), and Charles Gibson (19%), all of whom are bona fide news professionals. They may have biases of their own, but they are also practicing journalists who at least attempt to keep their reporting opinion-free.

Keith Olbermann barely registered in the poll. What’s notable about that is not his standing. He is neither loved nor hated by the poll’s respondents, although there are predictable up/down ticks by party. What’s interesting is the conspicuous absence of anyone else like him on the list. He is the only subject in the study that is remotely progressive. Every other name is either a nonpartisan journalist or a right-winger. This comports with the ideological makeup of the television news community overall. Olbermann stands alone as voice for left-leaning viewers.

In the end, it’s the perception gap that is the most significant insight provided by this poll. When Republicans favor their ideological Pied Pipers over the more reputable Town Criers, you are left with villagers that are less informed, even misinformed, and unable to distinguish fact from fiction (see The Cult of Foxonality). While much in the mediasphere requires reform, it appears that there is an important flank that has been neglected. More work needs to be done to educate news consumers as to what really constitutes news. That does not mean that Republicans need to be re-educated into Democrats (although it wouldn’t…no, never mind). It means that they need to learn to differentiate commentary from journalism. Bill O’Reilly, whether you agree with him or not, is not a journalist. Anderson Cooper, whether you agree with him or not, is not a blathering, egomaniacal, browbeating purveyor of distortions and lies.