Recounting an exchange with a network news "crew," Brit Hume said that crew members attributed Cheney's choice of Hume as his interviewer for his February 15 appearance on Fox News -- Cheney's first since he accidentally shot a hunting companion -- to Fox's association with "conservative causes." Hume dubiously claimed that Cheney had chosen Fox "probably because he wanted to go with ... the news channel with the largest audience." In fact, the broadcast network news programs each have at least three times Fox's highest average audience.
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During the "All-Star panel" segment of the February 15 edition of Special Report with Brit Hume, Fox News Washington managing editor Brit Hume dubiously claimed that Cheney had chosen Fox "probably because he wanted to go with ... the news channel with the largest audience." Hume made the comment while recounting an exchange he said he had with a news crew from one of the broadcast networks. Hume's response, however, contradicts the fact that if Cheney had given the interview to one of the network news shows, it would have reached many more viewers; the broadcast network news programs -- CBS Evening News, NBC Nightly News, and ABC World News Tonight -- each have at least three times Fox's highest average audience. Moreover, Cheney has previously expressed his admiration for Hume and Fox -- a network he praised in April 2004 as "more accurate in my experience, in those events that I'm personally involved in, than many of the other outlets."
Hume's response assumes that Cheney's only option would have been to take his interview to a cable news channel, which is simply not true. While Fox News Channel does have the highest ratings for the cable news channels, network news ratings far outstrip those of Fox News Channel, which garnered 2,325,000 viewers during its highest rated January show (The O'Reilly Factor). Hume's show averaged 1,596,000 viewers in January 2006. That audience, however, pales in comparison to the average audience of the broadcast network news programs. For the week of February 6, ABC's World News Tonight had 9.18 million viewers; CBS Evening News had 7.98 million; and NBC's Nightly News, 9.84 million. The ratings for the week of January 30 were similar. Two of those programs -- CBS' and ABC's -- overlap with Hume's show.
Despite this, a search of transcripts in the Lexis-Nexis database found that Cheney participated in at least 18 separate interviews on Fox News since 2001; eight of them took place in 2005 or 2006. These figures include Fox News Sunday, which airs on the Fox broadcast network in addition to Fox News. By contrast, since 2001, Cheney has had 11 interviews with NBC, five interviews with CBS, and nine interviews with ABC; however, only one of those interviews (ABC's Nightline, 12/19/2005) took place in 2005 or 2006, according to a similar search of Lexis-Nexis transcripts.
Cheney has previously expressed his appreciation for Hume and Fox News. The day after Hume interviewed Cheney on January 19, 2005, Cheney praised Hume during an interview with radio host Don Imus (on The Imus in the Morning radio show). As Media Matters for America has documented, when asked by Imus, "Do you watch the news at night?" Cheney responded, "I sometimes watch another network [besides MSNBC]. No, I'm a fan of Brit Hume's show. I think Brit does a good job." Cheney also praised the Fox News Channel during an April 29, 2004, Bush-Cheney 2004 conference call:
"It's easy to complain about the press -- I've been doing it for a good part of my career," Cheney said. "It's part of what goes with a free society. What I do is try to focus upon those elements of the press that I think do an effective job and try to be accurate in their portrayal of events. For example, I end up spending a lot of time watching Fox News, because they're more accurate in my experience, in those events that I'm personally involved in, than many of the other outlets." [The Washington Post, 4/30/04]
From the February 15 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Brit Hume:
HUME: I was in front of the White House today, and a network crew came up and asked me, "How did you get this interview? You at Fox News are associated with conservative causes. And -- and is that why you got the interview?"
And I said, no, I didn't think that was the reason. I thought it was probably because he wanted to go with -- with the net -- the news channel with the largest audience. I have a -- I have a feeling that that sound bite may never see the light of day. Just a -- just a hunch. Just a hunch.