The First Refuge of Scoundrels: How Fox News Recruits From Reporting’s Worst Rejects

Journalism is a competitive field and the best and the brightest are highly valued assets by reputable news enterprises. And then there’s Fox News.

Tucker Carlson

No other “news” organization so aggressively hires the refuse cast off from other media employers. It must be a great comfort for wayward reporters and pundits to know that if they should violate the standards of ethics and/or decency demanded of them, they will always have somewhere to turn for sympathy and a fat paycheck, not to mention an undiscriminating audience.

For so many fallen television personalities, Fox News has been a support system that promises them a steady career path and a future that, in the past, would have meant well-deserved humiliation and disgrace. For these folks Fox was their white knight who stepped forward to whitewash their professional sins.

Pat Buchanan: The author of notoriously bigoted books like “State of Emergency: The Third World Invasion and Conquest of America,” Buchanan was released from his contract with MSNBC after he wrote that as a result of “the rise to power of an Obama rainbow coalition of peoples of color […] whites may discover what it is like to ride in the back of the bus.” He then complained that he was a victim of blacklisting by a coalition of blacks, gays, and Jews, before being swept up by Fox.

Juan Williams: A veteran correspondent for National Public Radio, Williams went astray when he confessed that “when I get on the plane, I got to tell you, if I see people who are in Muslim garb and I think, you know, they are identifying themselves first and foremost as Muslims, I get worried. I get nervous.” Williams failed to see the inherent racism in his commentary and refused to apologize. Shortly after NPR relieved him of his duties there, Fox signed him to a new multimillion dollar contract.

Judith Miller: In the lead-up to George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq, New York Times reporter Judith Miller coordinated with the administration to make the case for war. Her articles gave credibility to fabricated allegations that Saddam Hussein was developing weapons of mass destruction. Eventually her distortions were revealed and the Times sent her packing. And where else but Fox would have welcomed her with such open arms?

Erick Erickson: Following the election in November of 2012, many news outlets resolved to reexamine their operations and staff. At CNN they concluded that there was no longer a place for an ultra-conservative blogger who once called Supreme Court Justice David Souter a “goat-fucking child-molester.” Fox was also undergoing a self-examination and decided that Erickson was just what they were looking for.

Rick Sanchez: Not satisfied with calling Jon Stewart a bigot in a radio interview, Sanchez elaborated by falling back on the well-worn anti-Semitic theme of Jews controlling the media. “[E]verybody who runs CNN is a lot like Stewart,” Sanchez said, “and a lot of people who run all the other networks are a lot like Stewart, and to imply that somehow they – the people in this country who are Jewish – are an oppressed minority? Yeah.” Today Sanchez is a correspondent with Fox News Latino and MundoFox. Ironically, Sanchez once castigated Latinos who worked for Fox as “sell-outs,” and Fox responded by saying that “Everyone knows that Rick is an industry joke, he shows that he’s a hack everyday. And he doesn’t have to worry about working at FOX because we only hire talent who have the ability to generate ratings.”

Mark Fuhrman: A regular crime analyst on Fox, Fuhrman may be better known as the disgraced former Los Angeles police officer who upended the O.J. Simpson trial by falsely testifying that he had never used racist epithets. That sort of behavior, however, is not a problem for the editorial bosses at Fox.

Doug McKelway: A familiar face in Washington, D.C., McKelway anchored a local news broadcast until he drew complaints for having told a gay activist he was interviewing that he wanted to take him outside and punch him in the face. That episode capped a rocky tenure during which he often fought with producers over his perception that the station’s broadcasts were too liberal. He doesn’t have that problem anymore now that he is a correspondent at Fox.

Lou Dobbs: This long-time CNN anchor was ostensibly CNN’s financial expert. Somewhere along the way he assumed the role of an immigrant basher and a proponent of the racist notion that all terrorists are Muslim. And to sweeten the pot, Dobbs joined the Birther Brigade by repeatedly demanding that President Obama produce his “real” birth certificate. In retrospect, it seems like Dobbs was positioning himself for future work at Fox News.

Oliver North: Here’s an oldie but a goodie. Col. North was convicted of lying to congress about President Reagan’s arms-for-hostages affair. While the conviction was later overturned by an appellate court that ruled that North’s testimony had been immunized, the underlying facts were not in question. North’s confession to a host of illegal acts was not a hindrance to his becoming a host on Fox News.

Don Imus: What can be said about the guy who was fired for calling a group of women on a college basketball team “nappy-headed hos?” Fox calls him the anchor of the morning block on their financial network.

Tucker Carlson: Perhaps the poster child for Fox’s Disgraced Reporter Rescue Program is Tucker Carlson, who has managed to fail on CNN, PBS, and MSNBC before receiving salvation from Fox. And like Sanchez, Carlson once held Fox in low esteem calling them “a mean, sick group of people,” after they published his home phone number on the Fox web site. But when Carlson was jettisoned from MSNBC he worked his way back into the good graces of Fox as the editor of The Daily Caller blog, then as a Fox contributor, and now the co-host of the weekend edition of Fox & Friends.

This pattern of staff development by Fox relies heavily on applicants (or, in the case of Sanchez and Carlson, supplicants) with proven histories of impropriety. They seem to regard the discards of other networks as their richest vein of new talent. And if the prospect has any lingering felonies on their rap sheet, all the better. The frequency with which Fox acquires ethically-challenged employees belies any suggestion that it is mere coincidence. They are clearly drawn to the reportorial riffraff and regard moral defects as badges of honor.

Consequently, if anyone is interested in handicapping the next batch of Fox contributors, just check to see who has been recently terminated at some other news outlet or paroled from prison. And if their offense involved an injury to a liberal policy or person, double down, you’ve got a sure thing.

Did CNN Fire Rick Sanchez? Or Was It You Know Who?

Memo to CNN news hacks: Don’t fuck with Jon Stewart.

I’m not saying there is any connection, but the last time a CNN anchor went toe-to-toe with Stewart he also found himself out of job. Today Tucker Carlson is an Internet peddler of borrowed stories and Rupert Murdoch’s fluffer on Fox News.

When Rick Sanchez agreed to be interviewed today to plug his new book he probably had not planned to end his career, it was just one of those things that happens. We’ve all been through it. He just got caught up in the excitement of spewing anti-Semitic stereotypes and thought he could one-up Mel Gibson. Here is what he said:

“Everybody that runs CNN is a lot like [Jon] Stewart. And a lot of people who run all the other networks are a lot like Stewart. And to imply that somehow they – the people in this country who are Jewish – are an oppressed minority? Yeah.”

So Sanchez thinks that Jews are not victims of discrimination, and they are in control of the media. And he feels perfectly at ease expressing that opinion aloud. That is certainly justification for terminating a network anchor, but I am somewhat skeptical that that’s how it happened.

Generally it takes some period of time for a gaffe like this to build up a head of steam and accumulate some outrage from offended parties. But Sanchez got the boot before most of America even knew he had screwed up. What’s more, CNN has a new chief, Ken Jautz, who is not known for being controversy-averse. Jautz was the man who hired Glenn Beck at Headline News. With all the crap that Beck has said, we are now supposed to believe that Jautz was suddenly shocked by Sanchez’s remarks? Beck said that he hated the 9/11 victims’ families while he was working for Jautz. Then there was the time that Beck asked Keith Ellison, a Muslim member of Congress, to “prove to me that you are not working with our enemies.” Yet Jautz didn’t rush to call security and have Beck removed from the studio.

Beck has continued his reign of error at Fox News, famously saying that President Obama was “a racist with a deep-seated hatred for white people.” Yet Fox keeps him on the payroll, as they do Liz Trotta who joked that Obama should be “knocked off” along with Osama. Fox contributor Michael Scheuer opined that the only hope for America was for Bin Laden to hit us again with a WMD. And Ralph Peters, another Fox contributor, advocated military strikes on the media.

There doesn’t seem to be an outer limit of acceptable behavior for Fox. Which makes it a great place to work for bigots and psychopaths who won’t have to worry about saying something totally insane. On the other hand, MSNBC has David Shuster on an indefinite suspension for having done a screen test for CNN. And they canceled Don Imus for making racially insensitive comments about a women’s basketball team (he now works for, that’s right … Fox). CBS fired Jimmy the Greek. ESPN canned Rush Limbaugh. And now CNN shows Sanchez the door. Fox may not have a crossable line, but every other network seems to.

Still, I have to wonder what precipitated Sanchez’s departure. Could it really have been a revulsion of his clearly offensive remarks? Or did he walk out indignantly after being reprimanded? Perhaps Jautz wanted the schedule cleared for some new programming he is developing. Who knows? It just seems like there is more to this than has been made public. We may not know the answers for a while, or until Sanchez tweets. But just for old times sake, here are a couple of occasions where Sanchez did some work for which he could actually be proud:


This will actually be a good opportunity to find out what kind of programmer Jautz intends to be. Will he fill Sanchez’s slot with his next Beck-like discovery? Will he shoot for more tabloid sensationalism? Or will he develop a show that has journalistic ethics and standards and returns CNN to its original mission of producing honest news?

For the record, I had a suggestion for a new CNN program when Campbell Brown left the network: Replace Campbell Brown With The Daily Show. The idea still works. A man can dream, can’t he?

Who’s Afraid Of Fox News? A Confederacy Of Cowards!

The national embarrassment to honest journalism that is Fox News continues to contaminate our country’s airwaves with false and misleading information designed to promote a conservative Republican agenda and to demonize Democrats and progressives. Almost a year ago I wrote an article that asked the question: “Who’s Afraid Of Fox News?” My answer was: “The Rest Of The Media!” It was an examination of how Fox aggressively attacked their competitors and how their competitors simply rolled over, apparently afraid to fight back. Now, a year later, not much has changed.

Sure, there have been a few disjointed, lucid moments. For instance, Rick Sanchez of CNN, who called out Fox for a thoroughly dishonest report that claimed that no one but Fox covered a Tea Bagger event in Washington. However, not only did CNN cover it, Fox used photos from CNN’s coverage to make their false claim that there wasn’t any coverage. Another example was when former White House Communications Director, Anita Dunn, honestly told Howard Kurtz that Fox News operates as “the communications arm of the Republican Party.” Her remarks were seconded by Rahm Emanuel and David Axelrod. It was a promising trend.

But overall, there is still a deafening silence from most of the press. They still seem to be skittish and reluctant to offend the mighty Fox. That is, when they aren’t trying to emulate it. One voice that has arisen is that of Howell Raines, the former executive editor of the New York Times. He has written an op-ed for the Washington Post that is far more insightful and combative than anything he produced when he was at the Times. The article asks some questions that ought to have been asked long ago by every member of the media who values journalistic integrity:

Why don’t honest journalists take on Roger Ailes and Fox News?

Why haven’t America’s old-school news organizations blown the whistle on Roger Ailes, chief of Fox News, for using the network to conduct a propaganda campaign against the Obama administration — a campaign without precedent in our modern political history?

Why has our profession, through its general silence — or only spasmodic protest — helped Fox legitimize a style of journalism that is dishonest in its intellectual process, untrustworthy in its conclusions and biased in its gestalt?

Why can’t American journalists steeped in the traditional values of their profession be loud and candid about the fact that Murdoch does not belong to our team?

Why indeed? And why has it taken so long to ask these questions? And why aren’t all of Raines’ colleagues signing on to his rebuke of Fox, Murdoch, and Ailes? It shouldn’t take much courage for responsible journalists to defend their honor, but courage is in short supply in today’s press corps.

The sooner the rest of the media come to grips with the fact that Fox is NOT a news organization, the sooner they themselves can return to the business of news. Fox is in an entirely different category. It is a hybrid entertainment/soap opera/televangelist network. It is just as unnecessary for the media to worry about competition from Fox as it is to worry about competition from Nickelodeon (which, ironically, is a better source for news than Fox, and plays to a smarter audience).

It will be interesting to see if the questions Raines raises are taken up by others. And more importantly, will they provide answers? American media is in dire condition, and part of the reason is that news consumers do not perceive value in the product. That is going to have to change before things improve. And the most fruitful change would be to start behaving as real journalists and not tabloid sensationalists. In other words, abandon the Fox model and expose it for the phony, divisive, disinformation factory that it is. Of course, that would take real reporting and, at present, there is precious little of that in evidence.

CNN’s Rick Sanchez To Fox News: You Lie!

An advertisement for Fox News appeared in today’s Washington Post. The headline for the ad said:

“How did ABC, CBS, NBC, MSNBC, and CNN miss this story?”

The premise that Fox News is posing is that these other networks neglected to cover the Fox-sponsored Tea Bagging in Washington, DC. The truth is that they all covered the event, despite how little news value it contained. They all had correspondents at the scene and they filed updates at least hourly.

It is remarkable how Fox gets away with these attacks on their competitors who generally do nothing in response or in their defense. Last April I published an extended essay on the failure of the broader media community to stand up for itself. I included documentation of Fox’s repeated insults that were met only with silence. And I made the case for why it is imperative to speak up when your detractors are falsely disparaging you. Well, today, Rick Sanchez of CNN spoke up.

In this rare defense, Sanchez made some withering rebuttals. For instance, one of the photos in the Fox ad was actually of coverage provided by CNN. Let that sink in. In the very ad in which Fox was lambasting CNN for neglecting to cover the event was a photo of CNN covering the event. Furthermore, Fox’s own Bill O’Reilly referenced CNN’s coverage on his program. Sanchez also played multiple clips of their coverage of the event throughout the day.

In summing up his deconstruction of Fox’s dishonesty, Sanchez noted that Fox’s claim of covering the event was less than accurate. In fact, he notes, they were promoting it. That is something that was proven unequivocally by viewing the reports from Fox’s Griff Jenkins, who actually rode along with the Tea Party Express bus. And in closing, Sanchez pulled no punches by adopting Joe Wilson’s trademark exclamation which he directed at Fox News: You Lie!

This is not the first time that Sanchez has called out Fox for lying. Back in June of this year Bill O’Reilly asserted that no network other than Fox reported on the shooting of Pvt. William Long. On that occasion O’Reilly had to issue a correction, but typically, he lied while correcting himself.

Fox News has long had a reputation for shoddy journalism. Surveys show that their viewers are decidedly less informed than consumers of other media outlets. Studies have proven that it is Fox News that has failed to cover important and newsworthy events. For instance, they broadcast fewer reports on the Iraq war than any of their cable news colleagues. So it is the height of cynicism for them to publish ads that criticize their competitors and aggrandize themselves. In fact is beyond cynicism. It is deliberately false and an insult to news consumers everywhere.

In other words, it’s Fox News.

[Update:] The networks are issuing their responses. ABC, NBC and CBS have all criticized Fox for their demonstrably false advertisement. Fox is defending their ad saying:

“Generally speaking, it’s fair to say that from the tea party movement … to Acorn … to the march on 9/12, the networks either ignored the story, marginalized it or misrepresented the significance of it altogether,” said Michael Tammero, vice president of marketing for Fox News.”

It seems, though, that Fox is defending an ad they didn’t run. This ad has nothing to do with ACORN or any event other than the 9/12 rally. The Tea Bagging was a Fox-sponsored program from the start, and other news enterprises have no obligation to help to promote Fox’s programming.

Also, the Washington Post is defending their having printed the ad:

“The Post will not reject an advertisement based on its content or sponsor, unless the ad is illegal, false, advocates illegal actions, or is not in keeping with standards of taste. When we do not see anything in a particular ad that is contrary to these standards, we will not place limits on speech or content. That was our review and judgment in this case.”

They further claimed that the ad wasn’t false because Fox News was merely “expressing its opinion.” Of course, an opinion can also be (and in this case was) false, so that’s a pretty lame defense. An objective and independent observer would have to conclude that this ad violated the standards of the Post.

And CNN fires back:

Bill O’Reilly Lies About Army Recruiter Shooting

Ordinarily it would not be news to report that Bill O’Reilly lied about something. But in this case he is layering lies on top of lies as he squirms to extricate himself from his lies.

On June 1, Pvt. William Long, was fatally shot at an Army recruiting office in Arkansas. This was the day after Dr. George Tiller was shot and killed at a church service. Both of these tragic events deserved attention from the press and sympathy from the public. And that is just what they got.

Never the less, O’Reilly sought to politicize the matter by falsely claiming that there was a deliberate distortion in the news coverage in favor of Dr. Tiller. He delivered an outraged rant in which he asserted that Tiller’s murder was over-emphasized in the media, while Long’s shooting was virtually ignored – except, of course, by himself and Fox News. The problem with O’Reilly’s tantrum is that he was completely wrong on the facts. Rick Sanchez of CNN took the time to set O’Reilly straight:

The next day, O’Reilly recognized that he could not ignore the blatant factual errors in his screed. So he issued an apology of sorts. But his apology just revealed more of his arrogance and dishonesty. He starts off with a condescending declaration that this is a “rare” correction he is being forced to make. What he doesn’t say is that it is only rare because of his reluctance to admit his frequent errors, not because he doesn’t make any. He goes on to describe the person to whom he is supposedly apologizing as a “snide and surly guy.” This is the sort of graciousness O’Reilly offers when he is apologetic:

In addition to the crude and self-serving remarks noted above, O’Reilly based his entire apology on another fundamental lie. He sought to excuse himself for his mistake by saying that he was only “talking about primetime” but neglected to say that. But in his original remarks he specifically said:

“Only Anderson Cooper at 10 o’clock covered this. Nobody else. So all day long it wasn’t news to cover an Army recruiter gunned down in Arkansas.”

O’Reilly did not forget to mention that he was only talking about primetime. He explicitly stated that CNN’s failure to cover the Long shooting occurred “all day long.” So his so-called apology was just another obfuscation of the truth.

The whole premise of this segment was based on a trumped up controversy from the start. O’Reilly, and much of the right-wing media, were up in arms about what they perceived as a disparity in coverage between the Tiller and Long shootings. But they fail to grasp some basic realities of news coverage. While these were both tragic events, they were also different events.

Tiller was a well known public figure whose position as a lightening rod for controversy guaranteed scrutiny from the press. Long was unknown and, without further investigation, there was no cause to suspect that his murder was anything other than a personal dispute that got out of hand. So the immediate reaction from the media was understandably different. For better or worse, the death of an Anna Nicole Smith will always generate more buzz than the death of a Jane Doe.

Even after it was discovered that Long’s killer was a convert to Islam, and the shooting might have a political component, it was still not controversial in that all Americans would abhor such an act. In Tiller’s case, the overriding debate about abortion stirred conflicting reactions. And if there is anything that the media loves, it’s conflict. That’s the explanation for any disparity in reporting, not some imagined preference for Dr. Tiller’s life over Pvt. Long’s.

There are two things that we can learn from the aftermath of these events. First, that the press will always fan the flames of controversy. And second, that O’Reilly can always be counted on to be a lying jerk.

Update 6/9/09: After making such a big fuss about CNN not giving enough coverage to the army recruiter shooting, Fox News failed to cover today’s press conference given by the survivor of the attack. Both CNN and MSNBC covered it live. Fox chose, instead, to broadcast remarks by Newt Gingrich from the night before.