Murdoch's WSJ Ignores Fox News' Role In "Build That" Controversy

Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

Today marks the two-week anniversary of Fox News' decision to launch campaign attack on President Obama over comments he made at a Roanoke, VA., campaign stop. Speaking to supporters for nearly an hour on July 13, the president touched on the topic of small business success and the collective forces that shape it, such as the U.S. infrastructure. Since then, Fox has led a right-wing charge claiming Obama insulted small businessmen and women by telling them of their accomplishments, "you didn't build that." (He was clearly referring to infrastructure.)

The Wall Street Journal recently published a newsroom review of how Obama's "build that" comment became such a big deal [emphasis added]:

<That was on Friday, July 13. Over the following weekend, state GOP communicators got calls from small-business owners grousing about the president's words, said Republican National Committee Communications Director Sean Spicer. By last Monday, what had been the germ of an idea in the brains of Mr. Spicer and other strategists grew into a full-court press.>

So according to the Journal's reporting, the idea of focusing on Obama's July 13 "build that" comments quickly took root inside the RNC, after officials were prompted by the spontaneous, angry reaction from businessmen. Then ten days later, the comment was at the center of a "full-court," "multi-pronged" GOP attack campaign, complete with commercials and two dozen staged rallies.  

How fascinating.

But what did Rupert Murdoch's Journal conveniently leave out of its tick-tock report on how the "build that" controversy unfolded? The indisputable fact that Rupert Murdoch Fox News promoted the whole story, and that if it weren't for Fox there would be no "build that" campaign for the GOP to run on Romney's behalf. And if it weren't for Fox and its purposefully dishonest promotion of the "build that" quote, the story would not be in play two weeks later.  

Fact: The "build that" tale was sponsored by Fox News, which has replaced the RNC as the launching pad for campaign attacks ads. After the story was bubbling on conservatives blogs, it was Fox that helped take Obama's "wildly out of context" comments and turn them into a national story. And it was Fox that obsessively spent hours of programming time spread out over two weeks hyping the falsehood that Obama said business owners didn't build their success.

This was not a supposed "gaffe" Obama made on the campaign trail, which Fox News fixated on for weeks in an effort to embarrass the president. Instead, Obama made straight-forward comments about business success and the importance of outside influences such as teachers as well as government-created infrastructure, and Fox decided to help splice up the comments, strip them of context and pretend Obama said something else; a fictitious claim the Romney camp then repeated and turned into an attack campaign.

The chronology is critical in terms of understanding the unprecedented role a "news" channel is playing in this year's general election campaign: It's manufacturing campaign ads for the GOP. That is what the actual tick-tock review of the "build that" comment looks like. And that's the startling tale serious campaign journalists ought to be telling.

Instead, from Murdoch's Journal newsroom, we're told Fox News played no part in rolling out the GOP's "build that" attack.

Posted In
Media Structures & Regulations
The Wall Street Journal
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