CEO Roger Ailes Says That Fox News “Has No Agenda”

Roger AilesDemonstrating that a fish stinks from the head, Fox News CEO Roger Ailes made some remarkably dishonest remarks in an interview with TVNewser’s Chris Ariens. Ailes was asked how he thought the next four years of the Obama administration would play out. He said…

“It’s day to day for us. We don’t — I know no one believes it — we have no agenda. If he runs into a burning building tomorrow and saves four kids, he’s gonna be the biggest goddamn hero Fox News ever saw. But if he leaves four guys behind on the battlefield but can’t explain it, then he’s gonna have a problem with Fox News.”

This is pretty good evidence that the liars on Fox News have taken their cues from the boss. The reason they are so comfortable making outrageous statements that are utterly devoid of factual basis is that Ailes has communicated clearly that it’s acceptable and he’s shown them how it’s done.

The notion that Fox News has no agenda is a fallacy that no one with a functioning brain would give credence. Even the most ardent conservatives recognize the partisan bias exercised at Fox, and they exploit it to their advantage. Sarah Palin once counseled a troubled GOP senate candidate to “Speak through Fox News.” Ailes himself has described his vision of Fox saying “I see this as the Alamo. If I just had somebody who was willing to sit on the other side of the camera until the last shot is fired, we’d be fine.” The network worked feverishly to oppose President Obama’s first term and reelection.

Ailes’ suggestion that he would praise the President if he did something worthy is provably false. In the days that followed the killing of Osama Bin Laden, Fox News ran numerous stories suggesting that the mission was unlawful. Their coverage of the same issue during the presidential campaign portrayed Obama, not as a heroic and decisive leader, but as an egotistical braggart. It’s likely that Fox would handle a story about Obama saving children from a burning building in the same disparaging manner. And even though Obama did not leave “four guys behind on the battlefield,” an obvious reference to Benghazi, Ailes and Fox still characterize the story that way.

Ailes likes to pretend that he’s a “fair and balanced” journalist. But the assertion that he has no agenda is belied by what actually gets on the air. A couple of years ago he told the conservative National Review that he saw himself as merely a contrarian. “To be honest with you,” he said, “if all the media was tipped to the right, I’d be the biggest liberal in New York.” But he had plenty of opportunity to be contrary after 9/11 when the rest of the media was propping up George Bush, whose administration had failed to prevent the attack. He could have been a big liberal in 2003 when the rest of the media was jumping on Bush’s bandwagon for an unjustified and illegal war with Iraq.

Nope. Ailes is as he has always been: an unrepentant arch-conservative activist running a pseudo-news enterprise on behalf of a starkly right-wing agenda.

Keith Olbermann Was Right About TVNewser

In the recent dust up between Comedy Central’s Jon Stewart and CNBC’s Jim Cramer, TVNewser inserted itself into the controversy with an anonymously sourced item that asserted that MSNBC was told to refrain from stories on the matter. TVNewser’s Steve Krakauer did not reveal who told MSNBC to do this, nor who told him about the instruction.

Keith Olbermann responded to Krakauer’s claim in a posting on Daily Kos. He denied that any restrictions were placed on him, and he noted Krakauer’s and TVNewser’s reputation for partisanship and for regurgitating Fox News PR:

“Frankly, the guy who posted this, the site’s Associate Editor, Steve Krakauer (‘SteveK’), is well known around the industry as being entirely in Fox’s pocket […] Rachel [Maddow] could get the cover of Newsweek and he wouldn’t link to it.”

Well, this morning TVNewser is featuring two stories on its front page on Glenn Beck (both by Krakauer), including one that links to a Beck interview by The Daily Beast. But no mention that Rachel Maddow was on David Letterman last night.

Good call, Keith. I have previously documented other incidents of blatant bias by TVNewser. In one story about the marital infidelity of politicians Krakauer cited Hillary Clinton (who has never engaged in infidelity) and John Edwards (who, at the time, was the subject of unsupported rumors in the National Enquirer). He didn’t bother to mention the multiple marriages and notorious philandering of John McCain, Fred Thompson, and Rudy Giuliani. The other story offhandedly referred to Al Franken as “a rabid leftie.”

Krakauer is not only in Fox’s pocket, he is a former Fox News employee. The evidence of TVNewer’s bias is all over its web site. It’s apparent in what they chose to cover and what they chose to ignore. And, most of all, its community of commenters posting remarks to their articles is a buzzing hive of partisans so far to the right they would make RedStaters nervous. They congregate in items referencing Fox News and are devotedly defensive of anything and everything Fox does and says. Their boards are thoroughly useless as a forum for media discussions. Any comment that is contrary to the rightist hive-think is pounced on and assaulted in overtly personal terms.

TVNewser may eventually put up some notice of Maddow’s Letterman spot, but that will not resolve the larger problem that the site is infected with slanted coverage and lunatic rantings. It’s a shame, because there is a real need for a web site that offers balanced media news and informed discourse.

Update: Well, TVNewser did get around to posting a brief notice that Maddow appeared on Letterman. But they also followed it up immediately with a ridiculous Krakauer composed hit piece on Jon Stewart (more on that here).

TVNewser Completes Its Descent Into Tabloid Drudgery

Last night on the CBS Evening News, Katie Couric presented another in her series of Primary Questions to the candidates for president of both parties. The question for this installment dealt with marital fidelity and whether it should be a determinative factor when deciding for whom to vote.

This question, while not as elevating to the debate as questions about Iraq, global warming, the economy, or health care might have been, could still have produced some observable squirming from a number of the candidates. But in reporting on Couric’s broadcast, the rapidly deteriorating TVNewser was more interested in propagating rumors than in objective journalism. In an item by Steve Krakauer, who joined TVNewser last month and previously worked for Fox News, two candidates were singled out as having answers that would “be of interest.”

The first was Hillary Clinton, for whom a case could be made for a potentially interesting exchange. Although it should be noted that it was not Hillary, but her husband, who was guilty of infidelity. Since the context of the question was whether someone who was not true to their spouse could be trusted to be true to the country, it really did not apply directly to any behavior on her part. And despite their troubles, a decade has past since the affair and they have managed to keep their marriage and family together.

The second candidate Krakauer cited was John Edwards. And this is where Krakauer demonstrates either a woeful inability to mask his prejudice, or a professional immaturity that borders on incompetence. This is how he presents his next point:

“Also, with reports of a Sen. John Edwards extra-marital affair and subsequent pregnancy, his answer will be looked at more carefully as well.”

By referring to “reports” of Edwards’ “affair” Krakauer implies that there are credible allegations from responsible journalists and sources. The truth is that there is only a single allegation by an anonymous source as reported to the “National Enquirer” (to which I refuse to link) which is nobody’s idea of a responsible journal. And not a single reputable news organization has yet to follow the Enquirer’s smarmy lead, although Matt Drudge headlined it (good company).

The Enquirer’s story is fraught with ambiguity and error. Both Edwards and Rielle Hunter (the alleged other woman) describe the charges as untrue and ridiculous. Hunter, who is pregnant, has identified the father as Andrew Young, with whom she worked on Edwards’ campaign. Young confirmed his paternity, but that didn’t stop the Enquirer from asserting, with no evidence whatsoever, that everybody was just trying to cover up for Edwards. The Enquirer even faulted Edwards for not nipping the scandal in the bud early on by revealing the relationship between Hunter and Young. Of course Edwards could not have done that because he didn’t know anything about the relationship, as Young told the Enquirer.

This is the level of unsubstantiated innuendo that Krakauer pretends is newsworthy. In fact he is engaging in the most vile sort of rumor-mongering. He doesn’t even bother to explicitly inform his readers that his source is the Enquirer (he hides it in a link). And if all of this isn’t bad enough, in an article about the relevance of the breaking of marriage vows, Krakauer smears two candidates for whom there is no evidence of such behavior, but fails to mention others with known multiple marriages (McCain and Thompson) and notorious philandering (Giuliani).

So Krakauer thinks rumors spread by tabloid rags are interesting, but Mayors who keep their mistresses in the Mayor’s residence and use city funds to pay for trysts in the Hamptons are not even worth mentioning. What’s truly interesting and sad is how low TVNewser has sunk and how useless it has become. It is no better now than its new partner the Enquirer or, as I lamented in an earlier article, the Drudge Report. What an embarrassment for everyone involved.

Feel free to let TVNewser know what a pack of ethically-deprived journalistic lowlifes they are:

Chris Ariens, Editor, Exec. Producer
Laurel Touby, Founder, CEO

TVNewser Turning Into Drudge?

People who are in the television news business, or are interested in following the inside machinations of the media, have come to rely on a spunky little site called TVNewser. Recently, its founder, a college student at the time, Brian Stelter, graduated and was hired by the New York Times.

Well, it’s only been a week and there are already signs of trouble, as seen in this excerpt from an item about newsman Bob Franken:

“…his cousin, ex-Saturday Night Live star Al Franken, a rabid leftie, is running for the Senate in Minnesota.”

This is a disturbing and inauspicious beginning for new TVNewser, Chris Ariens. It exhibits the kind of juvenile disparagement one might expect from Matt Drudge. You could have reasonably described Franken as Liberal or Progressive, but “leftie” is a deliberately pejorative abbreviation. And what exactly is “rabid” about Franken’s positions, which fit squarely within the mainstream of America that is overwhelming against the war in Iraq, in favor of universal health care, worried about global warming, and disapproving of Bush and Cheney?

The next day, TVNewser had an item about liberal groups pressuring FNC advertisers. However they never reported on Bill O’Reilly’s targeting of liberal bloggers and their sponsors, which is what motivated the liberal groups to respond in kind.

This isn’t the first instance of a dubious omission. A couple of weeks ago, Glenn Beck filled in for Paula Zahn on CNN. He bombed in the ratings, but TVNewser, whose mission it is to report on such ratings performance, never mentioned it.

Jupiter Media purchased TVNewser’s parent, Media Bistro, earlier this year. While I have no reason to criticize Jupiter, I believe it is worth noting that the spunky little web site is now part of an expansive, publicly traded, Internet conglomerate.

Whether or not these changes are responsible for the recent degradation in tone at TVNewser, I can’t say with certainty. However, I can say that if this is what I can expect from TVNewser in the wake of Stelter’s departure, I will certainly not consider it a useful resource in the future, and I suspect that many others will agree with me.

Feel free to email your thoughts to TVNewser.