Media Structures & Regulations

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  • Vanity Fair's Glowing Megyn Kelly Profile Inadvertently Reveals Why She's Fox News' Most Dangerous Host

    Blog ››› ››› OLIVIA KITTEL

    Vanity Fair's new profile of Fox News host Megyn Kelly is the latest in a series of laudatory profiles that extol Kelly as the "brightest star at Fox News" while underplaying her bigotry and right-wing chicanery. However, buried in the article is the fact that her show, The Kelly File, is little more than a shill for conservative misinformation not unlike her primetime cohorts on the network.

    Evgenia Peretz lionized Megyn Kelly in the glowing January 4 profile, calling her a "feminist icon of sorts," and suggesting her "star power" is similar to that of Julia Roberts. (Peretz even highlighted Kelly's husband comparing her to "Walter Cronkite, Barbara Walters, Oprah Winfrey," and "Grace Kelly").

    But buried amid the praise, Peretz admitted exactly what makes Megyn Kelly so dangerous: though Kelly bills her show "as a 'news' show as opposed to an opinion show, like Hannity or The O'Reilly Factor, [it] is made up largely of the kind of stories you'd find on many other Fox News shows at any other time." In other words, beneath Kelly's veneer of credibility lies the same partisan misinformation typical of the network:

    The Kelly File, which Kelly bills as a "news" show as opposed to an opinion show, like Hannity or The O'Reilly Factor, is made up largely of the kind of stories you'd find on many other Fox News shows at any other time. Some recurring themes are political correctness run amok, the left-wing slant of the mainstream media, and the question of Hillary Clinton's trustworthiness. (Hint: "She's lying! She's absolutely lying!," says the mother of one of the Benghazi victims in a teaser.) Not so infrequently, the right-of-center axis roams into Hannity territory, like a recurring bit on "Ahmed, the clock boy," who was mistakenly arrested after school officials thought he might be building a bomb--and then got invited to the White House. Not only was the clock really lame, The Kelly File told us, "just wait until you see what we found on his father's Facebook page." (Supposedly it called 9/11 an American hoax to encourage a war against Islam.) A go-to guest on the subject of race and law enforcement is Mark Fuhrman, the disgraced race-baiting policeman from the O. J. Simpson trial.

    Even more alarming is the fact that prominent journalists not only praise Kelly, but also treat her as a credible reporter. Peretz noted praise for Kelly from "[v]eteran newswoman Katie Couric," former primetime host for CNN Campbell Brown, and former chief White House correspondent for CNN, Jessica Yellin, all applauding Kelly's "uncanny charm" and "dogged interviewing skills."

    Extolling Kelly for her ability to "Unnerv[e] would-be leaders, blowhards, and didacts from both parties," Peretz pointed to a few of Kelly's famous deviations from the typical Fox rhetoric -- so-called "Megyn moments" that call out a bit of right-wing nonsense -- including her 2016 Republican presidential primary debate takedown of Donald Trump's sexism, her 2012 election night dismantling of Karl Rove as he sputtered objections to Fox News calling Ohio for President Obama, and most infamously, her rebukes of Erick Erickson and Lou Dobbs for their antiquated views of women in the workplace.

    However, as Media Matters pointed out when her show was announced in 2013, for each of Kelly's "Megyn moments" there is an example of Kelly wielding her journalistic authority to prop up conservative misinformation as "news":

    Megyn Kelly, is a much more pernicious purveyor of political propaganda. Kelly has the unique ability to pluck misinformation and imbue it with a veneer of legitimacy that Sean Hannity has long since lost, if he ever had it at all. She can have a great moment chiding Fox colleagues Erick Erickson and Lou Dobbs for sexism, only to turn around and push the New Black Panthers scandal as something serious. Megyn Kelly can cover gay rights in a way that is occasionally not abominable, and then push Benghazi falsehoods that have long been debunked. Megyn Kelly will rebuke Dick Morris and Karl Rove, but then hosts a climate change denier during the president's climate address. Kelly smacked down Mike Gallagher on family leave, but she also defended Newt Gingrich's bizarre suggestion that schools should use children as janitors. The examples go on and on -- but the key for Fox is that her positive moments always get more press than her more dishonest moments.

    And thanks in part to Vanity Fair's latest profile, it appears they will continue to do so.

  • Las Vegas Review-Journal Editor Resigns Citing Adelson Ownership Of Newspaper

    Mike Hengel: "I think my resignation probably comes as a relief to the new owners."

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    CNN Money reported that Las Vegas Review-Journal editor Mike Hengel was offered and accepted a buyout and will step down as editor of Nevada's largest newspaper.

    Hengel's decision comes after the Review-Journal was purchased by an unnamed person later discovered to be top Republican donor and casino magnate Sheldon Adelson. The purchase has concerned many of the reporters at the paper who feared a loss of editorial control in deference to the new owner. Prior to stepping down, Hengel had instructed reporters to begin working on identifying the long list of "perceived conflicts of interest" that were likely to surround the paper and their new owner.

    CNN Money's December 22 article reporting his resignation said Hengel "thought his relationship with the Adelson family would be 'adversarial' and that it was best to let them pick their own editor."

    Mike Hengel, the top editor of the Las Vegas Review-Journal, is stepping aside, less than two weeks after the family of casino mogul Sheldon Adelson took control of the newspaper.

    One reporter said the newsroom was "stunned" by the announcement, which Hengel made on Tuesdayevening in the midst of a turbulent period for Nevada's biggest newspaper.

    Wednesday's edition will include a message from the Adelson family on the front page. It says "we pledge to publish a newspaper that is fair, unbiased and accurate." It describes plans for "new investments" and the establishment of an ombudsman.

    Retaining the trust of readers will be difficult for the paper, especially if other veteran journalists follow Hengel to the exit.

    A round of end-of-the-year buyouts were initiated before Adelson purchased the paper on December 10. Hengel was originally not eligible. But the eligibility rules were apparently changed for him.

    According to tweets and people who were present for the announcement, Hengel told his staffers that he did not ask for a buyout, but that he was offered one shortly after the change in ownership. He did not say who made the offer. But he said he thought his relationship with the Adelson family would be "adversarial" and that it was best to let them pick their own editor.

    "I think my resignation probably comes as a relief to the new owners, and it is in my best interest and those of my family," Hengel said, according to reporter Neal Morton.

    Hengel did not respond to a request for further comment.

    The owners' letter in Wednesday's paper said managers "will appoint an interim editor and will immediately begin a search for the next permanent Review-Journal editor."

    Hengel's departure comes at a time of widespread unease about what the new owners intend to do.

    Longtime Review-Journal columnist John L. Smith, who was once sued by Adelson, wrote over the weekend that "Adelson is precisely the wrong person to own this or any newspaper."

  • Media Highlight How GOP "Carping" Secured Hugh Hewitt's CNN Debate Moderator Gig

    ››› ››› CRISTINA LOPEZ

    Media outlets have called out CNN for selecting conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt as a moderator of the December 15 Republican primary debate, noting that the inclusion of this "highly [...] partisan" conservative media figure is the result of Republican Party "carping." The Republican National Committee (RNC) has pressured networks to include conservative media figures as debate moderators, a move received with criticism from former debate moderators and network executives.

  • Washington Post Editorial Board Slams The GOP's Debate Demands

    Blog ››› ››› TYLER CHERRY

    The Washington Post editorial board condemned the list of demands compiled by several presidential campaigns for media organizations sponsoring Republican primary debates, predicting that the stipulations "could harm the integrity of the debates." The board called the GOP letter "a threat" that "responsible journalists will ignore."

    Following conservative backlash against the October 28 CNBC moderators for their alleged liberal bias, GOP presidential candidates rallied to seek greater control over future debate formats. Republican lawyer Ben Ginsburg distributed a list of demands to media sponsors, including a commitment to not "ask the candidates to raise their hands to answer a question" and to "provide equal time/an equal number of questions to each candidate." Several media outlets have mocked the GOP for "whining" and drafting a "ridiculous manifesto" of unnecessary demands, with one journalist calling it an effort to "bully the press."

    On November 3, The Washington Post editorial board warned that there is great "potential for harm" in the debate demands and that "future moderators may now feel pressure to pull their punches." The board stated that "Republicans [choosing] to debate before conservative-friendly media organizations" with the goal of "replac[ing] perceived liberal bias among moderators with explicit and purposeful conservative bias" could be "the largest danger to the [debate] process":

    Three debates into the Republican presidential contest, the candidates are staging a revolt. Piling onto CNBC for its mediocre -- but hardly scandalous -- moderating last week, several campaigns are drawing up demands for the media organizations sponsoring debates during the rest of the nominating season. Others are issuing demands on their own. Their discontent has already led to real-world changes: The Republican National Committee reshuffled staff in response.

    A staff reshuffle is one thing.Anything that could harm the integrity of the debates, on the other hand, must be rejected.

    Some of the changes on the table are virtually irrelevant to the public at large. It won't matter much to anyone other than micromanaging campaign staff if TV networks keep debate halls below 67 degrees or decline to televise empty podiums. At least one suggestion -- that all debates be live-streamed online -- would, in fact, be helpful to those who don't have cable connections.

    But the potential for harm is much greater. Candidates appear to want to ban questions that require them to raise their hands or to give yes-or-no answers, on the pretext that such questions don't allow for substantive discussion. At times, that's certainly the case. At others -- such as when, in the 2012 nominating cycle, the Republican candidates raised their hands in opposition to a 10-to-1 budget deal in the GOP's favor -- binary questions can produce illuminating results.

    The same goes for the push to ban candidate-to-candidate questioning, or to allow campaigns to vet graphics and candidate biographies flashed on screen. Journalists should be vetting that material, not campaigns seeking soft treatment. Another potential demand -- for 30-second opening and closing statements so that the candidates can recite generally unenlightening prepared remarks -- is a plainly terrible idea.

    The largest danger to the process, though, is that this controversy might lead Republicans to choose to debate before conservative-friendly media organizations instead of outlets more likely to offer questions out of line with right-wing orthodoxies. Sen. Ted Cruz (Tex.) suggested that irresponsible ideologues Rush Limbaugh, Mark Levin or Sean Hannity moderate the GOP debates. Carly Fiorina wants the RNC to organize future debates with fringey networks such as the Blaze and One America News. The goal, it seems, is to replace perceived liberal bias among moderators with explicit and purposeful conservative bias.

    Even if that doesn't happen, future moderators may now feel pressure to pull their punches, particularly if their networks want to keep hosting debates that draw high ratings. A draft letter to television networks warns that "the quality and fairness of your moderators' questions" will determine "whether the candidates wish to participate in your future debates." This is a threat. Responsible journalists will ignore it.

  • Media Mock The GOP's "Ridiculous Manifesto" Of Presidential Debate Demands

    ››› ››› TYLER CHERRY & CRISTIANO LIMA

    Media commentators criticized the Republican presidential candidates' demands to media sponsors for future presidential primary debates, noting that because debates are "a chief means for Americans to hear and weigh the ideas of the candidates," they're "too important to be guided" by a "ridiculous manifesto" of demands from candidates.