Assault on Fox News
I think I may have underestimated just how much Fox News annoys liberals and Democrats, but a story from UPI (via the Corner) shows that they've just blown a gasket and gone off the deep end (excuse my metaphors). The story says that not only is MoveOn.org gang suing Fox, a group of Democratic legislators has demanded to meet with Rupert Murdoch to discuss FNC's "bias toward Republicans." I'm almost at a loss of where to begin here. My first thought, though, is what are these people doing wasting their time, and presumably government money, on a pet peeve such as this? But I think what is really galling about this entire thing is the shameless double standard, or perhaps I should call it staggering hypocrisy. Either way, can you imagine a group of Republicans demanding ABCNNBCBS address conservative grievances over their biased reporting? Of course not, because it would never be taken seriously to begin with, and also because Republicans have more class than that. The arrogance displayed here is truly something to marvel at. Fox News must answer for its imagined slights. Again, I invite you to imagine a group of Republicans demanding this of CBS news. Dan Rather would laugh in their faces and then glower, saying, "Get out." In that situation, people would be screaming about freedom of the press, but in this case, this is all about "the responsibility of the media." Now, I've never been a fan of the arrogance and sense of entitlement the entrenched mainstream media have, but this is not the concern of lawmakers. They're free to treat news organizations with contempt, and many do. But, ultimately, news organizations are responsible to their readers and viewers, not to politicians. That's what freedom of the press is all about.
The next question to ask is, does this whining even have any basis in fact? Well, it's well known that Murdoch and FNC chief Roger Ailes are committed conservatives and that many of the FNC on-air talent leans right, especially Brit Hume, Shepard Smith, Steve Doocy, Brian Kilmeade, John Gibson, Neil Cavuto, Sean Hannity, and Oliver North. However, there is no lack of liberals at the network. Alan Colmes, Greta Van Sustren, Geraldo Rivera, and Judith Regan come to mind immediately. There are also some strong libertarians who are on the air often including Judge Napolitano, Cal Thomas, Bill O'Reilly (in the sense that he's a social conservative with libertarian sensibilities), and E.D. Hill. So, even with the preponderance of conservatives, Fox News has the most ideologically diverse on-air talent in the entire business. No other network can boast anywhere near the number of conservatives (some failing to have even one) and I don't think any have so many libertarians. Then there are the regular commentators. People are generally familiar with the conservatives who come on to provide their punditry, including Ann Coulter Laura Ingrahm, Mike Gallagher, JD Hayworth, Orrin Hatch, Katherine Harris, Bill Bennett, and many more. Note that most of these people NEVER appear on other networks, though they have expressed a willingness to do so. What needs to be examined, though, are the liberal commentators who are on ALL THE TIME to provide their thoughts on events. They include Lanny Davis, Ellen Ratner, Susan Estrich, Robert Reich, Dick Morris (a liberal, even though he dislikes the Clintons), Greg Meeks, Anthony Weiner, RFK Jr., Bill Richardson, Patricia Ireland, Ellis Henican (I apologize to him because I think I got his name wrong; he fills in for Alan Colmes frequently), Howard Dean, Ed Rendell, and many, many others who don't come to mind now because I haven't been able to watch Fox News since May. I'm certain my co-bloggers can add to this list.
In all honesty, though, the above paragraph doesn't address the specific charge in this case. I think it does, however, show that the network works hard, much harder than others to live up to the mantra of "We Report, You Decide." The charge here, though, is that "Fox News network has a deliberate bias in favor of, and often serves as an extension of, the Republican Party's policies and ideology." I would like to dismiss this as nonsense on its face, since it is, but it can be explained fairly easily. This is coming from some the perspective of some very liberal people, and at least one socialist (Bernie Sanders), who don't think conservative views are even things reasonable people can believe. Now, on most networks, there is an almost complete lack of exposure to conservative ideology, but these legislators don't really have a problem with that because they think just the way the newsroom people do: conservative views are fringe and don't really need exposure because they're not serious thought. Besides, that's what talk radio is for. So, with people of this mindset observing, any serious discussion of conservative ideas, even alongside liberal ones, will look like a conservative slant. The same way that any serious attention to conservative thought, in contrast to the liberal networks where there is none, looks like a conservative bias. When everything is overwhelmingly liberal, even a little bit of conservatism looks like an overwhelming amount.
Just as ridiculous as the story reported in this UPI article is how the article itself is written. It was obviously written by someone who does not like Fox News very much at all, and is likely as bitter as those about whom he is writing. The article at least notes that it's the letter from the Democrats that cites Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting as a source, rather than going directly to them, but takes their conclusions as unbiased. Of course, what's not said is that FAIR is a notoriously liberal organization that has dedicated itself to "proving" that there is no liberal bias in the mainstream media. Unfortunately for them, they haven't had much luck in that department as polls not conducted by FAIR continue to show the overwhelming majority of journalists vote Democratic and agree with Democrats, though continue to call themselves moderates. Admissions of liberal bias from ABC News' The Note and the New York Times Public Editor don't help, either.
After discussing FAIR, the article cites a study by tghe Program on International Policy Attitudes about the "misperceptions" of Fox News viewers. The problem is the study was based on outright falsehoods. The UPI article says that one of the "misperceptions" that two thirds of Fox News viewers have is that there have been links found between Iraq and Al Qaeda. Of course, these links HAVE been found. What hasn't been shown is that Saddam played a role in the 9/11 attacks, which the 9/11 commission has stated, but that is not what the study says. It dismisses the reports of talks between one of the 9/11 hijackers and an official from Saddam's government in Prague as the only evidence offered of any link. It says that this report was discredited by US intelligence officials, but since it discusses the WMD situation, which was assured us by US intelligence officials, why are the necessarily right in one case and not the other? There is much, much, more evidence, but PIPA apparently wasn't interested in looking at the many reports on that. So the study, really, is bunk. But even this can be explained. Why are Fox News viewers likely to believe a link exists? Because Fox was the only network to REPORT evidence of a link. The UPI article goes on to state that another misperception is that WMDs were found in Iraq, but it also states that no evidence of a WMD program was found, which is an outright lie, as equipment and plans for building uranium enrichment equipment was found buried all over the country. The fact is, then, that Fox News viewers do not hold "misperceptions" at all. They know facts that have been labeled as misperceptions by the PIPA when the evidence clearly says otherwise. The only bias this study proves is that of the PIPA.
The UPI article goes on to report that the Democrats also cite a "documentary" called "Outfoxed" which supposedly shows Fox's bias. It was sponsored by the Center for American Progress, which is headed by Clinton's former chief of staff (which the UPI commendably reports) and (drum roll please) MoveOn.org. Well, now we get an idea where that's coming from. Though UPI revealed the leanings of the Center for American Progress, the article fails to say that MoveOn is a far left advocacy group. Even the AP, in its story about the Vote for Change tour, was able to correctly identify MoveOn as a liberal advocacy group, but no such modifier is present here. MoveOn's complaint against Fox News is that it misrepresents itself my saying FNC is "Fair and Balanced" even though they claim it is biased. Well, this is EXACTLY what conservatives have been saying for years about CBS, ABC, NBC, CNN, the New York Times, the LA Times, the Washington Post, and on and on. Those concerns were all dismissed with a wave or a comment about conservative paranoia, but when it's Fox News and MoveOn.org complaining, well, the courts simply MUST do something.
Evidence of bias given by "Outfoxed", and subsequently MoveOn, the Democratic complainers, and the UPI article includes a memo telling staffers to mention the president's "political courage and tactical cunning" on Middle East issues. Never is it considered that perhaps that's exactly what the president demonstrated in that case. Furthermore, how often did we hear about the "political courage and tactical cunning" of Bill Clinton during his 8 years? In fact, every time the man shows his face, we're still told what a brilliant guy he is. Clinton is certainly intelligent, and, yes, politically cunning. Is saying that evidence of bias? Not if it's true. Again, this reveals more about the biases of the "documentary" than Fox News.
And finally, Walter Cronkite is trotted out to denounce Fox News. Cronkite is a committed, admitted liberal and all-around Jimmy Carter fan. So, again, his views are suspect. He then lies, saying that he's never heard of any news organization doing anything like that. Really? I think Bernie Goldberg (formerly of CBS News) would have something to say about that.
In the end, this is just another volley in the endless assault on Fox News from the left and the liberal media. They absolutely cannot stand the fact that conservatives are now given equal face time and their views accorded equal respect. They can't stand the fact that a network actually hired gasp conservative talent, and they especially can't stand the fact that Fox News is drawing viewers away from the liberal networks and has helped break the dominance of the mainstream media. The liberals then turn to complaints about bias, and with their typically short memories (see Clinton, Bill, Praising Vietnam and) are engaging in the most blatant hypocrisy after ignoring the concerns of conservatives for so long. They long for the days of, "We Report, We Decide."