Fox News vs Fox News vs Girl Scout Cookies

This morning on Fox News there was a segment featuring two Girl Scouts who had initiated an ambitious campaign to save endangered orangutans. Madison Vorva and Rhiannon Tomtishen were researching the project when they discovered that the palm oil used to make the famous Girl Scout Cookies was a major factor in the depletion of the rainforest that is the orangutan’s habitat. Thus began their effort to get the Girl Scouts to find an alternative to the palm oil in the cookies.

Anchor Jon Scott complimented the girls saying that “You’ve got quite a story to tell and quite a determined nature to take into college. […] Congratulations. I’m sure the orangutans are very happy.” Co-host Jenna Lee effusively praised them and suggested that they be “signed up” right away.

This would seem seem like a rather typical, albeit inspiring, human interest story for most news organizations, but for Fox News there is always something nasty squirming beneath the surface. And the nasty squirmer is frequently Glenn Beck. On May 6, these industrious Girls Scouts were cited by Beck in an entirely different, and decidedly negative, context.

In a program about “Indoctrination in the Classroom,” Beck runs through a list of incidents involving young activists that he portrayed as reckless and insubordinate. I covered the program at the time noting Beck’s animosity toward youth in general. His targets included students in Tucson who protested the elimination of Mexican-American studies classes. He also criticized a group of young environmentalists who are taking action to protect the environment that they will inherit. And he had this to say about the little troublemakers who were messing with his cookies:

Beck: “We also have two Girl Scouts in Michigan leading a campaign against their organization’s cookies saying the heavy use of palm oil contributes to destroying the rain forest and killing endangered species like orangutans.

“Keep killing the orangutans. The cookies are yummy.”

What a jerk! Here are the two girls, to whom Beck was being so arrogantly disrespectful. They hardly deserve that sort of treatment. In fact, they have been remarkably successful in getting the Girl Scouts to address their concerns. Yet Beck still laments the devolution of schools where he now believes that “our children are not only being short-changed, they are being turned in to slaves eventually.” He goes on to complain that “They are removing God and the Bible out of schools and replacing him or it with intellectual neutrality.”

Intellectual neutrality in an academic institution? Oh, the horror! The only place I see slavery being imposed is by the likes of Beck who think that kids should keep their mouths shut and refrain from committing themselves to improving their world. Even Beck’s colleagues, Scott and Lee, applaud these young activists. Here’s hoping that Madison and Rhiannon continue to speak out and provide a positive role model to other young people.

Shameless Right-Wing Hypocrisy On Media Funding

There has lately been an excess of rage expressed over a couple of charitable donations by George Soros. Both NPR and Media Matters were beneficiaries of Soros’ generosity. These are both media-related entities that play no direct role in politics.

But the same rightist critics of donations don’t seem to have any problem with Rupert Murdoch giving millions of dollars to overtly political enterprises: the Republican Governor’s Association and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. That money is used to buy ads against Democrats on Fox News, so the money Murdoch donated ends up right back in his pocket. And another big difference in these donations is that Soros was open and honest about announcing his largesse, while Murdoch gave in secret and even remarked that he had anticipated that his donations would remain secret.

A fair observer would have to wonder why the munificence of Soros is problematic but the fact that Right-wingers are just as generous to their ideological allies isn’t worthy of discussion. They will never mention, for instance, that uber-rightist Richard Mellon Scaife has given millions to the conservative Media Research Center (which runs several right-wing operations like NewsBusters). And while Soros remains outside of the organizations to which he contributes, Murdoch has moved inside as a board member of the Associated Press.

The hypocrisy demonstrated by the right is world-class. While the left is taking heat for being totally transparent, the right takes pride in enforcing silence about its clandestine activities. Since they have admitted that they aspire to fund their friends in secret, we have no way of knowing what other donations have been made by folks like Murdoch and his billionaire comrades. Murdoch confessed that he gave the RGA money due to his friendship with John Kasich, a candidate for governor in Ohio and a former employee of Fox News. Karl Rove is presently an employee of Fox News. Is he also receiving financing from Murdoch? We don’t know because they are not required to disclose it and they keep it obsessively private.

What we do know is that Fox News has a record of shilling for the right. Their daytime anchor Jon Scott (who, ironically, is also the host of their Fox News Watch) once read an RNC document on the air as if it were his own research. He even displayed a graphic on screen that contained the same typo that was in the original RNC memo.

We also know that Fox News relies heavily on the work of the Media Research Center and NewsBusters. We know this because their top news anchor at the time, Brit Hume, said so in public:

Hume: I want to say a word, however, of thanks to Brent 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.

The left has nothing to compare with the media domination of the right. Only the right has their own cable news network. They rule talk radio in part because of conservative broadcasters who deliberately shut out liberal programming. Independent studies show that even the supposedly liberal segments of the press actually lean more to the right in their editorial positions, their guests and sources, and their staffing.

So it seems curious that all of sudden we have right-wingers going bonkers over a couple of donations that will certainly help those organizations, but will have little impact on the broader media landscape. It just proves that the right is focused on maintaining their competitive advantage, that they know the value of “working the refs,” and that they have no shame when it comes to acting out their hypocrisy.

Thank You Anita Dunn For Unmasking Fox News

Much of the press today is reporting the announcement that White House communications director, Anita Dunn, is leaving her post at the end of this month. And many of them are getting it wrong. This is a curious news item because it has been known since she accepted the position that it would be temporary. Nevertheless, right-wingers are falling all over themselves with delusional glee that Dunn has been “ousted.” It is just a matter of time before Glenn Beck takes credit and the Fox Nation claims victory.

On Fox News, anchor Jon Scott reported the non-event with added emphasis on her role as a Fox critic:

Anita Dunn is the person at the White House who decided it would be a good idea to try to freeze Fox News out of the White House operation, keep the president from doing interviews with Fox News personnel, keep high-level administration officials from doing interviews with Fox News personnel.

Actually, Dunn never tried to “freeze out” Fox or prevent anyone from doing interviews with them. I wish she had. The truth is that Dunn said explicitly that the President and others in his administration will engage with Fox. They will just do so with an awareness that Fox is “opinion masquerading as journalism.”

On Andrea Tantaros went further, stating falsely that Dunn was leaving “earlier than planned,” and implying that she was forced out. That was not the only false statement in her column. She also said that comments Dunn made referencing Mao (which were taken thoroughly out of context) were made after her comments about Fox. In fact, they were excerpted from videos made months prior. Then Tantaros outright lies saying that…

“Liberal groups are already spinning Dunn’s announcement, insisting that her role as communications director ‘was always meant to be temporary.’

Tantaros’ lies are revolving so fast she can’t see that it is she who is spinning. The truth is that Dunn was the President’s first choice for the position. She turned it down in November of 2008, to stay with her family and her job at a media consultancy. Obama’s second choice, Ellen Moran, took the job but later moved from that position to one in the Commerce Department. At that time Dunn agreed to come on board on an interim basis.

These facts were reported in real time when they occurred, as evident in the links above. They were not phony afterwords like those of Tantaros and countless more right-wing prevaricators.

A common argument against Dunn taking on Fox is that it backfired by helping Fox to increase its ratings. That’s a mistaken and irrelevant point. First of all, the ratings barely budged. Secondly, there is zero evidence that any change in the ratings was attributable to Dunn’s comments. Thirdly, and most importantly, the ratings don’t matter with regard to political advantage. Television ratings are a measure of a programs value to advertisers. They do not reflect public opinion on political matters. Nielsen does not have any way of knowing if a Fox viewer agrees with the content of a program. And if high ratings had anything to do with elections, then Democrats would not have trounced Republicans in 2006, nor would Obama have won in 2008. Fox was the ratings leader throughout that time period.

As Dunn returns to private life, she deserves a round of virtual applause. By daring to speak honestly about Fox, she initiated a dialogue that reverberated throughout the media. It got everyone into the debate as to the legitimacy of Fox News. That’s a discussion that produces positive results no matter which side of the fence you’re on. In fact, it is almost more enjoyable to hear Fox News advocates, and even their own anchors and commentators, batting the issue around. Every time someone poses the question of whether Fox is really news, it reminds everyone that Fox’s credentials are suspect at least. So let the debates continue.

And thank you, Anita. Thank you for your service to America. Thank you for your honesty and courage. And good luck in all your future endeavors. Be sure to check in once in a while to watch all the fun you set off.

Update: Anita is not done yet. At a Bloomberg conference, she once again took on Fox News. Her remarks covered recent incidents involving Jon Stewart (“That’s where you are getting fact-checking and investigative journalism these days.”), Karl Rove, MSNBC, and false reports from Fox about pending interviews with the President.

Confirmed: Fox News Is The PR Arm Of The Republican Party

As if it weren’t already abundantly clear, Fox News has generously demonstrated just how intertwined they are with the Republican Party. This item from Media Matters about the stimulus bill requires no further commentary from me:

Fox News / Republican PRIn tracking how and when the bill purportedly ‘grew,’ [Fox News host Jon] Scott referenced seven dates, as on-screen graphics cited various news sources from those time periods. However, all of the sources and cost figures Scott cited, as well as the accompanying on-screen text, were also contained in a February 10 press release issued by the Senate Republican Communications Center. One on-screen graphic during the segment even repeated a typo from the GOP document, further confirming that Scott was simply reading from a Republican press release.


Update 02/11/09: Jon Scott issued an apology on today’s program. However, he only apologized for the typo. He didn’t say anything about the fact that the whole segment was him reading from a Republican press release and presenting it as if it were independently produced news.

Scott and Fox News actually seem to believe that the problem here is an incorrect date and not that a so-called news enterprise is acting as the broadcast press agency for Republican Party propaganda.

Double Wow!