Eric Bolling's star turn at Fox News has run into some recent turbulence with the host trafficking in offensive, race-baiting attacks on President Obama. Following Bolling's awkward and empty on-air apology for calling the White House a "crib" and "Hizzouse" while being occupied by the country's first black president, his Fox News audition continues to play out on TV.
Eyed as a possible replacement for Glenn Beck when he exits Fox News on June 30, Bolling has become a crossover star in Roger Ailes' programming galaxy, regularly appearing on Fox News when not hosting his own nightly program on sister channel, Fox Business.
That Bolling has been able to boost his profile and ride the career fast track at Fox News while peddling ugly, race-based rhetoric isn't surprising, given his employer. That Bolling's been able to climb that Fox News ladder while posting truly dreadful ratings numbers for his nightly Fox Business show is, however, rather odd.
How bad are Bolling's ratings?
Here's how bad Bollling's ratings are: For the months of April and May this year, his Follow the Money averaged just 47,000 viewers, according to Nielsen data. Only his Fox Business lead-in, America's Nightly Scoreboard, saved Bolling (and just barely) from hosting the lowest-rated primetime program on all of cable news.
Also, among male and female viewers between the ages of 18-34, Bolling has just 1,000 of them tuning in. (No, that's not a typo.)
Truth is, Bolling's basement ratings reflect Fox Business' sad state of Nielsen affairs. Launched with much fanfare in 2007 amid promises from its founder Rupert Murdoch to revolutionize business cable news, and specifically to take a big bite out of market leader CNBC, Fox Business today instead remains a commercial also-ran.
The channel draws a fraction of CNBC's audience; averaging 64,000 daily daytime viewers, compared to CNBC's 273,000. Yes, CNBC is available in 98 million cable homes, compared to Fox Business' base of 61 million. But as Murdoch insisted at the time of the channel's launch, "I'm not sure you need 90 million households. I think at 50 million to 60 million we can give [CNBC] a real run for their money."
Apparently Fox Business cannot.
Fox Business executives still play the plucky-upstart card in the press, suggesting the enterprise is just getting its footing, and that once it's upright and walking it'll only be a matter of time before CNBC falls in its path. But again, the channel's been in the air for four years. You know what Fox News accomplished in its first five years? It surpassed CNN as the most-watched cable news channel. Fox Business? It can't even break the six-figure mark in daily viewers.
And rather than being an outpost of sharp business news and analysis (quick, name a single industry story Fox Business has ever broken), the forgotten channel often seems more like a B-league holding bin, where wannabe Fox News hosts bide their time launching nutty attacks against Obama and airing embarrassing, juvenile stunts.
But Roger Ailes sees great things in Bolling's future, even if he teeters on being the lowest-rated host in all of cable news.
From the June 15 edition of Fox Business' Follow the Money:
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Media conservatives have found yet another excuse to push the myth that President Obama's economic policies have failed to increase employment, this time pointing to Obama's unremarkable observation that eliminating unnecessary regulations might speed up business activity and help create jobs. Economists have said that Obama's economic policies have boosted employment and raised gross domestic product.
As Media Matters reported, Fox Business' Eric Bolling recently made unacceptable and bizarre racially charged comments on Fox, including accusing President Obama of inviting "hoodlum[s]" to what he called the "hizzouse." But this wasn't the first time Bolling acted inappropriately while employed by Fox. Bolling has a long history of making false and misleading claims as well as using inflammatory rhetoric and smears during his time at Fox.
From the June 14 edition of ABC's The View:
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Once you're part of the Fox News team, it's notoriously difficult to actually get in trouble with the network. In fact, an almost complete lack of public accountability is apparently one of the biggest perks of working there.
When Fox host and senior judicial analyst Andrew Napolitano appeared on conspiracy theorist Alex Jones' radio show last year and announced that 9-11 "couldn't possibly have been done the way the government told us," the network turned a blind eye to his comments, despite the fact that Fox hosts and personalities had spent years harshly criticized anyone dabbling in 9-11 conspiracy theories.
Though Fox News prides itself on the (imaginary) wall separating its news and opinion divisions, the network has never publicly indicated that it has in any way punished Bill Sammon, its Washington managing editor, for his heavy-handed slanting of Fox's news coverage.
Which brings us to rising Fox star Eric Bolling. Last night, Bolling issued an insincere apology for the story he ran on his Fox Business program last week saying President Obama was hosting "hoodlum[s]" in "the hizzouse."
Bolling spent a grand total of 14 seconds addressing the widely-condemned segment. Notably, he neglected to explain exactly what had raised the ire of his critics, instead choosing to vaguely reference how "we got a little fast and loose with the language" which some had "interpreted as being disrespectful."
Only on Fox could this be considered an adequate apology for Friday's show.
So Eric Bolling apologized. Sort of. And it's pretty obvious he wasn't sincere.
On his Friday program, the Fox Business host called Gabonese president Ali Bongo and rapper Common "hoodlums" who had visited the "hizzouse," Bolling's term for the Obama White House. Last night, after much outcry over this flagrant racial stereotyping, Bolling delivered an "editorial note":
On Friday, we did a story about the president meeting with the president of Gabon. We got a little fast and loose with the language, and we know it's been interpreted as being disrespectful, and for that, I'm sorry. We did go a bit too far.
As we pointed out, this apology was quite dishonest -- what Bolling termed "fast and loose" language appeared to be scripted and was accompanied by inflammatory graphics. And Bolling's statement was an archetypal non-apology apology, in which he expressed regret for the interpretation of his words but not the words themselves (which he didn't actually revisit).
But let's step back a moment and take a broader look at the situation. After all, there were three whole days in between the offending segment and the apology, and while there may not have been any episodes of Follow The Money, that doesn't mean Bolling was silent. Far from it, in fact. Bolling spent the weekend on Twitter defending himself and lashing out at his critics.
Eric Bolling apologized Monday night on Fox Business for his story saying that President Obama is hosting "hoodlum[s]" in "the hizzouse":
BOLLING: One editorial note. On Friday, we did a story about the president meeting with the president of Gabon. We got a little fast and loose with the language, and we know it's been interpreted as being disrespectful, and for that, I'm sorry. We did go a bit too far. More Follow the Money coming up in just a minute.
This is a dishonest apology for several reasons.
First, it's simply not true that the problems on his Friday show consisted of him and his guests getting "a little fast and loose with the language." Some of the most racially inflammatory language Bolling used on his Friday show was in the two teases for the segment, both of which were apparently scripted and accompanied by equally inflammatory images.
From the June 13 edition of Fox Business' Follow The Money:
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From the June 13 edition of Fox Business' Follow the Money:
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Fox Business host Eric Bolling's remarks accusing President Obama of inviting "hoodlum[s]" to what he called the "hizzouse" is just the latest amid a growing list of unacceptable and bizarre racially charged comments Bolling has made.
Fox Business Network's Eric Bolling is taking a lot of heat for this performance from last Friday, in which he called Gabonese president Ali Bongo, who had recently visited the White House, "a hoodlum in the hizzouse," and inexplicably linked Bongo's visit to the rapper Common's appearance at a White House poetry event in May. It was the second time in less than a month that Bolling had attacked Obama using racial stereotypes; during Obama's state trip to Ireland, Bolling also said the president was "chugging a few 40s" instead of tending to tornado-ravaged towns in Missouri.
That Bolling would use his Fox News pedestal to deploy racially tinged attacks against the president is monstrous. But it's not surprising, given that Bolling is a late convert to the birther movement.
After the president released his long-form birth certificate in April, Bolling put together an obscene segment for his Fox Business program, Follow The Money, in which he proudly declared his birther curiosity:
BOLLING: We haven't touched this birth certificate issue since it began. We haven't touched it, but there is a legitimate question as to whether or not the president of the United States is allowed to be president of the United States. It is written in the constitution. You have to be a natural born citizen of America. I mean, it's an issue.
JUAN WILLIAMS: No, it isn't an issue, Eric. This issue has been settled since he was running for president even when he's in the Senate and produced the short form for people. Just never been an issue.
It's been something that has been elevated to some kind of -- they've used this as a surrogate I think to belittle the president. People who don't like his policies who think that they never voted for him, how can this guy be president. It is racially tinged. It is a damaging subject.
BOLLING: I just have tell you for purposefully, we didn't touch it because we didn't think it was an issue until I saw this document. When I saw the green border, the Photoshop border around the birth certificate, I said wait a minute.
This thing isn't a pure copy from a book, a ledger from Hawaii. This thing has been altered. Someone's playing with it. Once that came out, I said we have to at least ask the question Juan.That's all. We're not claiming it is ill legit whatever, but someone is playing around with this document. [Follow The Money, 4/27/2011, via Nexis]
Later in the same episode, Bolling conducted some "forensic analysis" of a large-scale blow-up of Obama's birth certificate with the assistance of Pamela Geller, an extremist Islamophobic bigot and leader of the birther movement.
That Bolling is given airtime on Fox Business to promote this race-baiting swill is bad enough. What's worse is that he's rumored to be among the candidates to fill the high profile 5 p.m. Fox News timeslot soon to be vacated by Glenn Beck.
Beck's own record on racial issues isn't exactly commendable. But at least he's not a birther.
With Glenn Beck's coveted 5 p.m. time slot set to open up with his June 30th departure from Fox News, Eric Bolling appears to be in the running as Beck's replacement. (He, among others.) It's been Bolling, along with Andrew Napolitano, who has most often filled in for a vacationing Beck in recent months. And it's Bolling who has been enjoying a higher profile on Fox News with a steady stream of appearances on The O'Reilly Factor and Fox & Friends, for instance. (Bolling's day job is hosting Follow The Money on the Fox Business Network.)
A move into Beck's 5 p.m. slot would be a career-changer for Bolling, instantly upping his profile both on Fox News and within the conservative media. But how to generate the kind of right-wing, Obama-hating buzz that would convince Roger Ailes that Bolling is the best person to carry on the Beck fearmongering legacy? In recent months, Bolling seems to think race baiting is his ticket to cable TV success.
From the insidious implications about President Obama's birth certificate, to insinuating Obama was "chugging 40s" in an Ireland pub (while Americans suffered hardship back home), and now employing obvious race baiting language about "hoods" visiting Obama's "Hizzouse," Bolling's full-court press for the Beck job is getting downright ugly.
Note that Bolling's latest racially charged attack on Obama did not take the form of a random tweet. Instead, it was a pre-planned, televised discussion that Bolling hosted, complete with "hoodlum" graphics, in which his guest accused the President of the United States of defecating on America's allies.
And that was on a business news channel.
Glenn Beck set a whole new standard for cable news crazy during his two-plus years at Fox News. Now, as successors jockey to fill his positions, it seems Beck's tradition of race-based Obama hate would be proudly carried on if Bolling were tapped for the 5 p.m. slot.
During the opening of Fox Business' Follow the Money on Friday, Eric Bolling teased a segment about the White House hosting the president of Gabon by saying, "Guess who's coming to dinner? A dictator. Mr. Obama shares a laugh with one of Africa's kleptocrats. It's not the first time he's had a hoodlum in the hizzouse."
During the tease, an image appeared of Obama meeting with the Gabonese president, Ali Bongo, at the White House:
As Bolling said that Obama had previously hosted "a hoodlum in the hizzouse," footage of the rapper Common aired:
The inclusion of Common may not make much sense to people who aren't regular viewers of Fox News -- it's a reference to the right-wing media's ginned-up smear of him as a "'cop killer' rapper" in the days before his recent performance at the White House.
Later in the show, Bolling teased the segment again: "Smile for the birdie. Our president's sitting with one of Africa's most wanted. It's not the first time he's had a hood in the big crib."
This time, an image of Bongo with a flashing tooth showed up as Bolling said, "Smile for the birdie":
Download Fox News' brand new iPad app and you'll notice something curious: there's an ExxonMobil advertisement on nearly every page, sometimes filling the whole screen. Click on it and you can watch a video of a smiling ExxonMobil geologist touting the natural gas boom. As the tech news website Mashable reported, this is because "Exxon is the exclusive launch partner for Fox News' iPad app":
"We decided we wanted to work with one sponsor," [Fox News' Jeremy] Steinberg said, explaining that there are always question marks surrounding a launch, so Fox News wanted a partner comfortable with that. He said Exxon, which is in the midst of a new branding campaign, thought the app was a perfect platform for broadcasting its message.
It makes sense that one of the biggest funders of interest groups that obfuscate the threat posed by global warming would team up with the news outlet that has done more than any other to promote misinformation about climate science.
The partnership further undermines ExxonMobil's 2008 pledge to stop funding groups "whose positions on climate change could divert attention" from the need to develop secure, clean energy. As an internal email revealed last year, it has been the policy of Fox News to question even the basic fact that the planet has warmed in recent decades.
Climate change is not the only issue on which ExxonMobil might find Fox News' coverage agreeable. Last month in the midst of both soaring profits for big oil and attempts by Congressional Democrats to roll back oil companies' tax breaks, ExxonMobil's spin could be heard on Fox News.
With the notable exception of Bill O'Reilly, many on Fox eagerly passed along talking points first outlined by ExxonMobil vice president of public affairs Ken Cohen in a series of blog posts designed to preempt any backlash against Exxon's massive first quarter earnings report.