Karl Rove Confesses: Most Of Fox News Is Unfair

Today on Meet the Press, Tom Brokaw (sitting in for David Gregory) interviewed Fox News contributor Karl Rove. In the course of the discussion Rove spewed the routine misrepresentations and falsehoods that one one might expect of him. But there was one exchange that was surprisingly honest:

TOM BROKAW: You’re now at Fox News. Do you think that Fox News is fair to President Obama?

KARL ROVE: I think they – on the news side, absolutely. I think that they’ve got first-rate individuals at the White House who – do their job. And in an objective, fair, and balanced way, yeah, absolutely.

Notice the qualification Rove inserts into his answer: “on the news side.” His assessment of fairness explicitly excludes those portions of the Fox schedule that are designated as opinion programs. Now recall that Michael Clemente, senior vice president of Fox News, defines the hours of 9am to 4pm, and 6pm to 8pm, as the dayparts that air straight news. So by their own calculation, that’s just nine hours of “news” programming. But the Fox & Friends morning block, plus the afternoon Cavuto/Beck double bill, plus the primetime fare (which is repeated) and the late night Red Eye, all add up to 13 hours. So the majority of their schedule is what they themselves regard as editorial content. Which means the majority of their schedule is deliberately unfair in the view of Karl Rove, who went out of his way to say so.

Taking into consideration the fact that what they do call “news” is heavily infested with opinions straight out of Beckville and Hannityland, it’s clear why Fox has zero credibility when it comes to authentic journalism. Former New York times editor Howell Raines noted this absence of objectivity in a recent op-ed. And Bill O’Reilly, never one to miss an opportunity to demonstrate the thinness of his skin, fired back back at Raines saying…

“The Factor is the signature broadcast of the Fox News Channel and we have covered the Obama-care debate carefully and with fairness, as have most of my colleagues.”

So O’Reilly is contradicting both Rove and Clemente. First he asserts that his show is fair (notwithstanding Rove’s contrary assessment). Then he describes it, not just as a “news” broadcast, but as the network’s “signature” example of one (despite not complying with Clemente’s definition).

In the end, O’Reilly’s ego confirms Rove’s confession. Fox News is utterly unfair throughout most of its broadcast day and its hired goons can’t tell the difference.

The Figment Of The Center-Right Imagi-Nation

Throughout much of last year’s presidential campaign, and right on through the first weeks of Barack Obama’s administration, the media has persistently peddled the falsehood that America is a center-right nation, politically and socially. Now Media Matters has published a study (full pdf here) that thoroughly debunks this notion, and they do it by using surveys and facts that realistically portray the ideological character of the country – something the media may want to check in to.

The Media Matters study is a comprehensive look at the American electorate. It covers virtually every one of the most debated subjects of public discourse: Size of government; health care; taxes; abortion; gay rights. It also examines the demographics of age, ethnicity, gender, and geography. And every case the evidence shows that America is a progressive, and yes, a center-left nation.

And nowhere is this more misunderstood than in the media:

  • Tom Brokaw (NBC): “This country, even with the election of Barack Obama last night, remains a very centered country, or maybe even center-right in a lot of places.”
  • Jon Meacham (Newsweek): “…insisted that to govern successfully, Obama had to become a center-right leader in order to match America’s ‘instinctively conservative’ streak.”
  • David Broder (Washington Post): “…warned that too many victorious Democrats in Congress had ‘ideas of their own about what should be done in energy, health care and education.'”
  • Karl Rove (Fox News): “Barack Obama understands this is a center-right country.”
  • Chris Wallace (Fox News): “You could make the argument that this is still a center-right country.”
  • Chris Matthews (MSNBC): “I’ve noted that we’re right of center except when we’re in a crisis, when we’re left of center.”
  • Bob Schieffer (CBS): “These Democrats that were elected last night are conservative Democrats.”

I’m not sure exactly why the press is so brain dead in this regard. It’s not as if the record isn’t crystal clear. Obama was portrayed by Republicans, and most of the press, as a liberal extremist – even as a Socialist, or worse. And yet, Obama won a decisive victory. Democrats have also been winning larger majorities in the Congress with each election cycle. And Obama’s approval rating have maintained stratospheric levels. The public supports the President’s policies even when they are told that it may increase their taxes.

At the other end of the scale, Republicans are descending into historical depths of disrepute. Their de facto leaders are universally despised figures like Dick Cheney and Rush Limbaugh. Their policies, I’m sure, would be rejected with equal disdain, if they were to articulate any. As it is, they just regurgitate the same old slogans they have been chanting for decades, and those are not particularly well received.

It will be interesting to see what it will take to get the media to recognize what the rest the country already knows. This is a nation that has had its fill of rightist greed and incompetence. We have ousted many of the representatives in public office who led the nation down a path of war and recession. While we can, and did, adjust the make up of our government to more closely reflect our values, it will not be as easy to fix the media. But that doesn’t mean we should stop trying.

The Hermetically Sealed Presidential Debate

Heading into the final month of campaigning, John McCain is showing signs of desperation. His aides have announced that they cannot talk about the economy or they will lose. So they are resorting to personal smears and distractions. Sarah Palin is doing her part by associating Barack Obama with controversial figures from the past that he had little to do with.

All of this makes the stakes for tonight’s debate much higher for McCain who is falling farther behind in both national and state polls. But the debate format pretty much excludes any possibility for either candidate to make any significant movement.

The questions will from a group of allegedly uncommitted voters in the audience and on the Internet. Then moderator Tom Brokaw will select the actual questions the candidates are asked. There will be no follow-up questions from either the questioner or Brokaw. There will be no reaction shots following the answers. The candidates must stay within their “designated areas” and may not directly question each other.

Given these rules, I don’t why they even need to be in the same room. The format prevents any real interaction. This debate promises to be no more enlightening than a series of alternating clips of each candidate’s stump speech. The candidates can ignore the questions without repercussions, and their answers will never be challenged in a way that makes them accountable.

Designing the debate in this manner is a disservice to voters who will not get to see how the participants perform when challenged. It was negotiated months ago by representatives of the campaigns who obviously feared putting their candidate into a situation that could harm them politically. As it turns out, it will be a big advantage for Obama because it is McCain who needs to make a mark if he hopes to stop Obama’s momentum. This format will make that much more difficult for McCain.

Consequently, I predict that nothing of note will happen tonight, and McCain will hit the trail tomorrow with more and louder accusations and slander. He and Pit Bull Palin have much better luck manipulating the press at their rallies. They have even taken to corralling the media into virtual cages, not allowing them access to the candidate or even their supporters.

You can smell their fear. But so can the viewers, voters and the press. This election is all but over.