Media Matters: The press needs to hold Fox News accountable, because Rupert Murdoch refuses to
Research ››› ››› BEN DIMIERO
It must be nice to work for Rupert Murdoch.
Every so often, the News Corp. CEO is questioned about Fox News' programming. His responses reveal that he either does not watch his own network and is therefore clueless about his flagship news property, or he instead chooses to play dumb about his network's role in poisoning the national discourse.
Yesterday, while testifying before a House subcommittee hearing, Murdoch spoke in favor of comprehensive immigration reform. Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) expressed support for Murdoch's proposal, but noted that she was "oftentimes stunned" by the anti-immigrant rhetoric on Fox News. Murdoch responded by saying that "we are home to all views on Fox," and that "we are not anti-immigrant on Fox News."
Of course, Fox News is a hotbed of anti-immigrant rhetoric. Not only do hosts and guests regularly distort the threat posed by illegal immigration and fight against rights already held by immigrants, but their coverage of the issue sometimes veers into thinly-veiled "white people are under attack!" xenophobia.
For example, in May of 2007, Bill O'Reilly, Fox News' top-rated host, fearmongered that the "unintended consequences" of immigration reform was that it would make America less white. On an April, 2006, edition of his syndicated radio show, O'Reilly suggested that the "hidden agenda" of the immigrant rights movement was to bring about the "browning of America." In 2006, former Fox host John Gibson exhorted white viewers to do "your duty" and "make more babies" in response to population growth by minorities.
Though Murdoch proudly proclaimed that Fox is "home to all views" on immigration, this welcoming mentality apparently includes mainstreaming anti-immigrant groups like the American Immigration Control Foundation, which has been classified as a "hate group" by the Anti-Defamation League.
And while Murdoch mocked the idea of "expelling 11 or 12 million people" as "nonsense," Fox host David Asman - while filling in for Neil Cavuto in April of 2006 - suggested that it may have been "the perfect time to round up" illegal immigrants and "ship them out."
To top it all off, Fox News has recently begun hosting disgraced former CNN host Lou Dobbs to repeatedly mislead on immigration issues, despite his long history of making incendiary and false claims about the topic.
But they "are not anti-immigrant on Fox." Right.
Murdoch's obliviousness - feigned or not - when it comes to Fox News' coverage of immigration follows a clear pattern.
On the subject of climate change, Murdoch has aligned himself with the vast majority of climate scientists and stated unequivocally that "climate change poses clear, catastrophic threats."
In 2007, Murdoch announced an initiative to make News Corp. carbon neutral in an attempt to "set an example" and inspire their "audiences" to fight climate change. While News Corp.'s initiative is commendable, its potential benefits and ability to "set an example" are undermined by Fox News' ongoing war on climate science and climate scientists. Fox hosts and personalities regularly mock climate change and any efforts to combat it.
A perfect example of how Fox News fails to "set an example" came during Earth Day this year. Rather than spend the day promoting environmentalism and conservation, Fox & Friends marked the occasion by rehashing smears of climate scientists with noted climatologist L. Brent Bozell.
Murdoch was right when he said that the carbon footprint of News Corp.'s audience is "10,000 times bigger than" the company's, which is why the benefits of his company's attempt to become carbon neutral pale in comparison to the damage done by the network's ongoing war on climate science. In fact, Murdoch's admission that he agrees with the "99 percent of scientists" on climate change makes him part of the "climate change cult," according to Fox News contributor Michelle Malkin.
Murdoch has also frequently promoted the phony distinction between Fox's news and opinion programming. Last year, Murdoch implied that Your World with Neil Cavuto and Fox & Friends (among others) are Fox shows that don't traffic in "commentary." This was false at the time - Fox News executives have included those shows as part of its "opinion" lineup -- and has become even more so as the network has continued its trip down the rabbit hole.
Neil Cavuto is the network's Senior Vice President of Business News, which, according to Fox, means he "oversees all business coverage for FNC" and "directs content and business news coverage for the FOX Business Network." If we are supposed to view Cavuto as some sort of business journalist, then he likely holds the distinction of being the only business journalist in the country with his own "Campaign Platform."
This week, Cavuto unveiled his "2010 Campaign Platform," which consisted of right-wing proposals like "No Tax Hikes On Anyone For Any Reason" and "A 10 Percent Across-The-Board Cut In Every Gov't Program." In addition to having a "Campaign Platform," Cavuto regularly promotes falsehoods that benefit the GOP and Tea Party at the expense of progressives and Democrats.
Murdoch's confusion about Fox & Friends' programming may be slightly more understandable. After all, Steve Doocy and Co. put on a show for their boss when he visited earlier this year, significantly toning down their usual rhetoric about immigration during his appearance, only to return to their usual antics as soon as he left the show.
Of course, the idea that Fox & Friends does not do "commentary" is a farce. Not only does the show spend three hours every morning misinforming their viewers about a wide range of issues, they have recently become the de facto launching pad for GOP general election campaigns.
Which brings us to Murdoch's most infamous "see no evil" moment. In April, Media Matters VP Ari Rabin-Havt questioned Murdoch about Fox's promotion of the Tea Party. Murdoch responded that Fox News shouldn't be "supporting the Tea Party or any other party." He added, "I'd like to investigate what you are saying before I condemn anyone." Almost six months later, we're still waiting to hear back.
As we detailed at the time, Fox's promotion of the Tea Party was beyond question - the network had aggressively encouraged viewers to attend tea parties, and even hosted several "FNC Tax Day Tea Parties" starring leading Fox personalities like Sean Hannity and Glenn Beck.
In the intervening months, Fox's Tea Party boosterism has continued unabated. Notably, in the past few weeks, Fox has gone all-in supporting Delaware Senate candidate Christine O'Donnell. In addition to giving her a safe haven from being inconvenienced by exposure to actual journalism, numerous hosts on the network have misleadingly claimed that her opponent has labeled himself a "bearded Marxist."
And what about that "other party" -- the GOP -- that Fox News shouldn't be "supporting," according to their boss? Well, in addition to lavishing coverage on the GOP's legislative agenda, Fox News hosts and personalities have raised millions of dollars for the GOP, supported GOP candidates with almost uniformly positive coverage, and, as always, spent every day smearing Democrats and progressives with blatant falsehoods.
In April, we argued that Fox News had basically become an arm of the GOP. It seems we may have had that backwards. At this point, the GOP is basically just an arm of Fox News.
As we detailed in a report this week, Fox News employs no less than five potential 2012 GOP presidential candidates. The Fox candidates have appeared on the network at least 269 times, appearances a GOP strategist reportedly called an "in-kind contribution."
Murdoch's network actually goes beyond just giving "in-kind contributions" to the GOP. Recently, they've discarded that relative subtlety and started spending boatloads of money in the hopes of helping to elect GOP candidates this fall.
Earlier this summer, News. Corp donated an unprecedented $1 million to the Republican Governors Association with the express purpose of supporting the "RGA's pro-business agenda." Last night, Politico's Ben Smith reported that News. Corp also donated $1 million to the GOP-aligned Chamber of Commerce. The Chamber has reportedly devoted millions of dollars this cycle to running political ads on behalf of Republican Senate candidates.
Fox News' political activism is becoming more and more brazen. Unfortunately the network is enabled by the rest of the media's reluctance to call them out on their behavior. At this point, it is clear that the CEO of News. Corp has no plans to act responsibly, so it is up to the press to hold Fox News accountable.
Fox News makes a mockery of the idea of journalism, and it's time for media outlets that actually care about the craft to speak out and say so.
This weekly wrap-up was compiled by Ben Dimiero, a research fellow at Media Matters for America.