NPR Asks Mara Liasson To Reconsider Fox News

Now that it has been established that Fox News is not a legitimate news network, the question arises as to whether reporters from other news enterprises who appear on Fox are merely pawns in Fox’s game of alleged balance. I have long argued that such appearances serve no purpose other than to validate Fox’s brand of propaganda. Lately, there have been others who share that view, as illustrated in this article at Politico:

According to a source, [NPR’s Mara] Liasson was summoned in early October by NPR’s executive editor for news, Dick Meyer, and the networks supervising senior Washington editor, Ron Elving. The NPR executives said they had concerns that Fox’s programming had grown more partisan, and they asked Liasson to spend 30 days watching the network.

At a follow-up meeting last month, Liasson reported that she’d seen no significant change in Fox’s programming and planned to continue appearing on the network, the source said.

Liasson’s assertion that she doesn’t see any significant change in Fox’s programming is a bit of a dodge. It could easily be argued that Fox’s programming has not changed – it has always been partisan, dishonest, and factually challenged. In which case, she should never have agreed to appear on the network in the first place. However, Fox’s rightist slant has become noticeably steeper. So much so that it has even been noticed by people associated with Fox.

Just in the past couple of months, longtime Fox News contributor Jane Hall left the network citing the extremism of Glenn Beck as part of her reason. Also, former Fox anchor Eric Burns emerged to declare that he is grateful that he no longer has to “face the ethical problem of sharing an employer with Glenn Beck.”

While Fox News has indeed been solidly right-wing since its inception, recent changes have cemented their already hard-core partisanship. They hired Mike Huckabee and Glenn Beck. They parted ways with Alan Colmes. In fact every recent announcement from their editorial management took them farther to the right.

If Liasson can’t see this and admit that her ties with Fox are damaging her reputation and that of NPR, then perhaps her NPR handlers should take it upon themselves to cut ties with her. They previously had a similar situation with Juan Williams, an NPR contributor who also appears on Fox and sometimes fills in for Bill O’Reilly. Williams was ordered to stop identifying himself as an NPR reporter when he appeared on Fox’s opinion programs (which is most of them). NPR could go no further than that as Williams is not a full time employee.

As for Liasson, her blindness ought to yield some sort of consequences. NPR is not commenting, but Fox took the opportunity to demonstrate what a bunch of sanctimonious jerks they are by releasing this statement:

“With the ratings we have, NPR should be paying us to even be mentioned on our air.”

Any journalist who works with Fox News must be held accountable for that decision. It should follow them throughout their career and tag them as the disreputable hacks that they are. They should be regarded professionally as being in the same category as reporters from the National Enquirer. If Liasson wants the attention she gets from the Fox family, she will have to live with the scorn she receives from everyone else.

Guilt By Association With Fox News

Much has been made the past week of the so-called “war” between the White House and Fox News. Never mind the fact that there is nothing occurring that remotely approaches being characterized as even a metaphorical war. The administration merely expressed an opinion that Fox is more engaged in partisanship than journalism, a view most objective analysts would regard as obvious.

Ironically, it is Fox itself that has been the most vocal about the dispute. They have devoted more airtime to it and have enlisted their corporate cousins at Fox Nation, the New York Post, and the Wall Street Journal to pile on. And at the same time that they bemoan their being the target of a presidential smackdown, their own Glenn Beck offers his conspiratorial thesis that it is all an attempt to distract the public from the administration’s attempt to ram what he calls a socialistic, government-run health care bill through Congress. In a double-reverse, pitchback, fakeout, Beck’s accusation that this spat is nothing but a red herring is delivered even as he dedicates the majority of his own program to the fishy story. He is, therefore, a major contributor to the distraction about which he is complaining.

This is the sort of strategic schizophrenia that makes it difficult to even bother trying to engage with Fox. They want people to believe that they are a credible news enterprise, yet they sponsor anti-Obama tea party protests. They want people to believe that they are fair and balanced, but they populate their air with wall-to-wall propaganda and Republican talking points. They want people to discriminate between what they claim is their news and editorial content, but their news is fully contaminated by the right-wing fungi with which their editorial is fatally infected.

It appears that the only way to relate to Fox is to disengage. That is the course that Jane Hall, an associate professor in the School of Communication at American University, and a frequent Fox contributor, has taken. This weekend on CNN’s Reliable Sources she told Howard Kurtz that she has left Fox and gave as part of her reason that…

HALL: I’m also, frankly, uncomfortable with Beck, who I think should be called out as somebody whose language is way over the top. And it’s scary.

KURTZ: Was that a factor in your decision to leave Fox?

HALL: Yes, it was.

I can’t help but wonder why more people haven’t come to the same conclusion. An association with Fox can only bring derision and ill repute to anyone who actually covets a career in journalism. Being yoked to Fox ought to be regarded as scarlet letter that permanently stains any hope of a reputation for ethical reporting.

It is time to start holding people accountable for the choices they make and for the partners with whom they align themselves. If someone elects to be on the same team as Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity, that relationship cannot be swept under the rug. They must expect to be identified as the professional comrades that they are. Just as Jane Hall ankled Fox due to her objection to being affiliated with Beck, any others who share that objection ought to do the same thing.

This is not a case of an aversion to being affiliated with a deviant associate who broke the law or violated rules of the company or society. Certainly Katie Couric should not be held to blame because another employee of CBS News was caught blackmailing David Letterman. In the case of Fox, the deviants are celebrated and highly promoted by Fox. They are regarded as treasures and they contribute significantly to Fox’s success. They are not black sheep, they are leaders and they are the most visible icons of Fox’s identity.

For this reason people like Chris Wallace should not be able to set aside his relationship to Sean Hannity. In fact, Wallace has said of Hannity that “I generally agree with him.” Major Garrett cannot pretend to be a journalist when he shares airtime with Bill O’Reilly. In fact, Garrett, formerly of the Washington “Moonie” Times, is amongst many Fox presenters who has written books that are as overtly partisan as O’Reilly’s. And all the other wannabe reporters who rub shoulders with the likes of Dick Morris, Ann Coulter, Neil Cavuto, etc., should be made to feel the embarrassment they are due.

Most importantly, News Corp. CEO Rupert Murdoch cannot be permitted to wash the slime from his hands. Rupert Murdoch IS Glenn Beck. They are inseparable and indistinguishable. Murdoch likes to present himself as an old school news publisher, but he is actually a tabloid sensationalist who has done more to tarnish the profession of journalism than anyone before him. His purchase of the Wall Street Journal was intended in part to bring him respect and to co-opt the credibility of the iconic financial digest. But instead of the Journal lending its glow to Murdoch, Murdoch has leeched his bile onto the Journal. From now on the Wall Street Journal is the paper of Glenn Beck. His picture should appear in the masthead. In fact, Glenn Beck’s alternately smirking and scowling visage should grace the cover of every News Corp enterprise. It should be sewn onto the lapels of every News Corp reporter. It should edited into every Fox News program and promo.

It is precisely because the editorial content at Fox is indistinguishable from what they call news, that no one in the Murdoch family of companies should be allowed any distance from the insane ravings of Glenn Beck. From now on it is Glenn Beck’s Fox News, Glenn Beck’s Wall Street Journal, Glenn Beck’s Rupert Murdoch. If Murdoch is happy to sponsor Beck’s program, even as advertisers desert it, then let him be melded to it. If he is proud of his racist and incendiary provocateur, then fasten Beck around his neck and let this be the legacy he leaves. If Beck is what he wants, then Beck is what he gets. And Murdoch will forever be remembered, not as a media baron or press magnate, but as a disreputable exploiter of division and hate. His legacy, in the twilight of his career, is inextricably intertwined with the mugging buffoonery of Glenn Beck. And heretofore, no one will be able to conjure up the memory of Murdoch without being drenched in the spittle and dementia of Beck. Congratulations Rupert.

[Update:] Beck has responded to Jane Hall, calling her “that idiot who left Fox:”

BECK: “Well, don’t let the door hit you on the ass when you leave. I’m going to miss you, I am, whatever your name is.”

Here we have Glenn Beck, a drug-addicted, alcoholic dropout, calling Hall, a Phi Beta Kappa with a master’s degree in journalism from Columbia University, an idiot. And Beck doesn’t even know her name although she’s been a Fox News contributor for eleven years. No wonder she doesn’t want to be associated with that network anymore. Why would anyone want to be?