33 internal FOX editorial memos reviewed by MMFA reveal FOX News Channel's inner workings

››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

FOX news exec John Moody on 9-11 Commission:

"Do not turn this into Watergate"

Moody on George W. Bush:

"His political courage and tactical cunning ar[e] [wo]rth noting in our reporting through the day"

Moody on Sen. John Kerry:

"starting to feel the heat for his flip-flop voting record"

Documentary filmmaker Robert Greenwald's new film Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch's War on Journalism, which interviews former FOX employees to provide "an in-depth look at Fox News [Channel] and the dangers of ever-enlarging corporations taking control of the public's right to know," premiered at the New School University in New York on July 13. The FOX News Channel markets itself as "fair and balanced," promising that "We report. You decide."

As The Washington Post reported on July 11, Greenwald's film features "a handful of memos from a top FOX executive that appear to suggest tilting the news." Media Matters for America has analyzed 33 such internal FOX memos, issued by FOX News Senior Vice President, News Editorial John Moody and Los Angeles Bureau Chief Ken LaCoste between May 9 and June 3, 2003 and March 12 and May 5, 2004.

In the memos, some of which appear in Outfoxed, Moody instructs employees on the approach to take on particular stories. His instructions reflect a clear interest in furthering a conservative agenda and in supporting the Bush administration. The Post quoted Larry Johnson, identified by the paper as "a former part-time Fox commentator who appears in the film," describing the Moody memos as "talking points instructing us what the themes are supposed to be, and God help you if you stray." On July 13, Salon.com reviewed the film, and provided "some of the most notable excerpts" from the memos, referred to as "marching orders" by Jon DuPre, whom Salon identifies as "formerly of Fox News."

In an interview with the Post, Moody rejected "the implication that I'm controlling the news coverage" and said, "People are free to call me or message me and say, 'I think you're off base.' Sometimes I take the advice, sometimes I don't."

The following is a sample of reporting instructions issued by Moody to the FOX News staff.

Moody on the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal:

[T]he pictures from Abu Graeb [sic] prison are disturbing. They have rightly provoked outrage. Today we have a picture -- aired on Al Arabiya -- of an American hostage being held with a scarf over his eyes, clearly against his will. Who's outraged on his behalf? It is important that we keep the Abu Graeb [sic] situation in perspective (5/5/04).

Moody on the war in Iraq:

As is often the case, the real news is [sic] Iraq is being obscured by temporary tragedy. The creation of a defense ministry, which will be run by Iraqis, is a major step forward in the country's redevelopment. Let's look at that, as well as the deaths of a US soldier in a roadside bombing (3/25/04).

Into Fallujah: It's called Operation Vigilant Resolve and it began Monday morning (NY time) with the US and Iraqi military surrounding Fallujah. We will cover this hour by hour today, explaining repeatedly why it is happening. It won't be long before some people start to decry the use of "excessive force". We won't be among that group (4/4/04).

The events in Iraq Tuesday are going to be the top story, unless and until something else (or worse) happens. Err on the side of doing too much Iraq rather than not enough. Do not fall into the easy trap of mourning the loss of US lives and asking out loud why are we there? The US is in Iraq to help a country brutalized for 30 years protect the gains made by Operation Iraqi Freedom and set it on the path to democracy. Some people in Iraq don't want that to happen. That is why American GIs are dying. And what we should remind our viewers (4/6/04).

If, as promised, the coalition decides to take Fallujah back by force, it will not be for lack of opportunities for the terrorists holed up there to negotiate. Let's not get lost in breast-beating about the sadness of the loss of life. They had a chance (4/22/04).

The continuing carnage in Iraq -- mostly the deaths of seven US troops in Sadr City -- is leaving the American military little choice but to punish perpetrators. When this happens, we should be ready to put in context the events that led to it. More than 600 US military dead, attacks on the UN headquarters last year, assassination of Iraqi officials who work with the coalition, the deaths of Spanish troops last fall, the outrage in Fallujah: whatever happens, it is richly deserved (4/4/04).

[L]et's refer to the US marines we see in the foreground [of pictures coming out of Fallujah] as "sharpshooters" not snipers, which carries a negative connotation (4/28/04).

Moody on abortion:

[Le]t's spend a good deal of time on the battle over judicial nominations, which [th]e President will address this morning. Nominees who both sides admit are [qu]alified are being held up because of their POSSIBLE, not demonstrated, views [on] one issue -- abortion. This should be a trademark issue for FNC today and in [th]e days to come (5/9/03).

Two style notes: [Eric Ru]dolph is charged with bombing an abortion clinic, not a "health clinic." ...[TO]DAY'S HEARING IS NOT AN ARRAIGNMENT. IT IS AN INITIAL HEARING (6/2/03).

Moody on Senator John Kerry (D-MA):

Kerry, starting to feel the heat for his flip-flop voting record, is in West Virginia. There's a near-meaningless primary in Illinois (3/16/04).

Ribbons or medals? Which did John Kerry throw away after he returned from Vietnam. This may become an issue for him today. His perceived disrespect for the military could be more damaging to the candidate than questions about his actions in uniform (4/26/04).

John Kerry may wish he'd taken off his microphone before trashing the GOP. Though he insists he meant republican [sic] "attack squads," his coarse description of his opponents has cast a lurid glow over the campaign (3/12/04).

Bill Clinton's book "My Life" may come out in time to let John Kerry have the spotlight by convention time. Then again, maybe it won't (4/27/04).

Moody on President George W. Bush:

[Th]e president is doing something that few of his predecessors dared undertake: [pu]tting the US case for mideast peace to an Arab summit. It's a distinctly [sk]eptical crowd that Bush faces. His political courage and tactical cunning ar[e] [wo]rth noting in our reporting through the day (6/3/03).

Moody on the 9/11 Commission:

The so-called 9/11 commission has already been meeting. In fact, this is its eighth session. The fact that former Clinton and both frmer [sic] and current Bush administration officials are testifying gives it a certain tension, but this is not "what did he know and when did he know it" stuff. Do not turn this into Watergate. Remember the fleeting sense of national unity that emerged from this tragedy. Let's not desecrate that (3/23/04).

Remember that while there are obvious political implications for Bush, the commission is looking at eight years of the Clinton Administration versus eight months (the time prior to 9/11 that Bush was in office) for the incumbent (3/24/04).

Moody on America's European "allies":

[At] the UN, Catherine Herridge will follow the US sponsored resolution calling [fo]r the lifting of sanctions against Iraq. Not surprisingly, we're facing [re]sistance from our erstwhile European buddies, the French and Germans (5/9/03).

[Bu]sh's G-8 trip is actually less important than his fledgling efforts to knock [t]ogether the Israeli and Palestinian PMs' heads. Let's keep in mind that the [G-]8 contains the most obstreperous dissidents against the war on terror. Bush [ha]s a long memory and new friends in Poland the rest of Eastern Europe (5/29/03).

Moody on what war footage to air and not air:

Five American GIs killed in Iraq in a bomb and an attack represent one of the grimmest days there in months. There is also footage of a mutilated body being dragged down a road which WE WILL NOT AIR UNTIL IT HAS BEEN CLEARED (3/31/04).

The pictures shown in the Times and NY Post today of the dead American contractors are exactly what we chose NOT to use yesterday. Please don't get sucked into this taste race to the bottom (4/1/04).

Moody on Bush's tax cut:

[Th]e tax cut passed last night by the Senate, though less than half what Bush [or]iginally proposed, contains some important victories for the administration. [Th]e DC crew will parse the bill and explain how it will fatten -- marginally - [yo]ur wallet (5/22/03).

Moody on rising gas prices:

Gas prices are at all time highs in the US. There are reasons for the surge, some economic, some mere business tactics. Remember: US prices, while they seem high to us, are a half or less the cost of gasoline elsewhere (3/16/04).

Moody on the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU):

For everyone's information, the hotel where our Baghdad bureau is housed was hit by some kind of explosive device overnight. ALL FOX PERSONNEL ARE OK. The incident is a reminder of the danger our colleagues in Baghdad face, day in and day out. Please offer a prayer of thanks for their safety to whatever God you revere (and let the ACLU stick it where the sun don't shine) (3/24/04).

We've changed our commenting system to Disqus.
Instructions for signing up and claiming your comment history are located here.
Updated rules for commenting are here.