LA Times' Andrew Malcolm is wrong again, this time about Fox News

Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

Laura Bush's former flak steps in it (again!) while heaping credit on Fox News for uncovering the damaging DUI story back during the final days of the 2000 campaign. (The controversy's back in the news because of Karl Rove's forthcoming book, in which he addresses it.)

Malcolm's misleading headline:

The Fox News story that nearly sank a Bush presidency before it began

And lede [emphasis added]:

One of the overlooked details of the forever-fight over the widely-debated conservative leanings of the Fox News Channel (besides the fact that a third of its viewers are Democrats) is that it was Fox that broke the then-shocking story in 2000 of candidate George W. Bush's 24-year-old DUI charges.

OMG, Fox News can't really be an unprofessional bastion of conservative advocacy because it broke the DUI story ten years ago! If Fox News was deeply in the tank for the GOP, why did Fox News break the story that almost cost Bush the WH? It really is "fair and balanced."

Fox News chief Roger Ailes has used this bogus line in the past, and yeah, it's total nonsense.

Here's why: It was a local Fox affiliate, WPXT-TV in Portland, Maine, that uncovered the DUI story, not the partisan, national operation run by Ailes. (Traditionally, local TV Fox News outlets have been far more down-the-middle with their mostly local news coverage, and don't act as RNC outlets.)

As I detailed at Salon a few years ago, once the local Fox courthouse reporter stumbled onto the DUI story, word began to spread and other reporters started chasing it that day, which meant Fox News in NYC could not kill the story. Carl Cameron, who covered the Bush campaign for Fox News, was given the job of getting a comment from the Bush team about the local Maine scoop, and that's how Fox News came to air the story.

But please, anyone who thinks Ailes and company, desperately trying to push Bush across the finish line in 2000, dug this story up and then pushed it out, is delusional. In fact, immediately after the story broke -- a story that Rove admits nearly cost Bush the WH -- look at how national Fox News personalities shifted into damage control:

*Bill O'Reilly: "It is a non-issue in my opinion. The DUI incident has no relevance to the campaign."

*Brit Hume: "My sense is that there's no indication it hurt anybody or helped anybody in the polling. I think it's a wash."

*Cameron: "A lot of people are saying, '24 years ago? We knew the governor has already disclosed his alcohol problem. What's the big deal?'"

*Fox guest Matt Drudge: "We're talking tonight about a story about a guy pulled over for driving too slow with a little too many beers. This is amateur chump stuff."

*Fox News guest Mara Liasson: "I think it's going to have little effect on George W. Bush's chances for the White House. It's not a bombshell."

*Fox News contributor Mort Kontracke: "I think this is a minor story."

Fox News only 'broke' the DUI story because, thanks to the diligent work of a local Maine reporter, it had no choice. But then after airing the blockbuster, Fox News did its best to downplay its own 'scoop.'

But hey other than that, Malcolm got everything right.

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