The panelists on Fox News' media criticism show, Fox News Watch, had themselves a pity party over a recent study showing that Fox News was ranked ninth among all news outlets in the number of questions they got to ask at presidential news conferences in President Obama's first term. "Why does the president not like to call on us?" asked host Jon Scott. "Because he doesn't want to be embarrassed," was Fox contributor Kirsten Powers' response.
But did the president really unfairly shun the Murdoch network? Not particularly. In fact, there are a bunch of top-flight news outlets that should be jealous of the attention Fox received.
Let's look at this with a bit more perspective.
According to the study, Fox was called on 14 times in four years. That's more than The Washington Post (11), USA Today (9), The Wall Street Journal (8), McClatchy Newspapers (5), NPR (5), Politico (2), and Time (1). The network was only just behind CNN and The New York Times, both of which were called on 16 times. Fox News' 14 questions were nearly triple the combined total for Spanish-language news outlets Telemundo (3) and Univision (2).
So no, Fox's 14 questions were not the most of any news outlet, but they were more -- in some cases significantly more -- than many other large media organizations got to ask.
As for the idea that fear of "embarrassment" is why the president chose not to call on Fox as frequently as they would have liked over the past four years, it's possible that's true. Then again, it also might have had something to do with this. Or this. Or this. Or this...
Fox News used part of a 2007 speech by President Obama to falsely accuse him of hypocrisy for considering the use of executive orders to reduce gun violence. The 2007 speech was actually focused on the Iraq war, and in it, Obama never mentioned executive orders.
On Thursday's Happening Now, co-host Jon Scott reported that Vice President Joe Biden said Obama plans to use executive orders to respond to gun violence. Scott then said, "A few years ago, back in 2007, an Illinois senator named Barack Obama had some complaints about the White House issuing executive orders."
After playing video of Obama's speech, Scott said to guest A.B. Stoddard, "So, I guess things change once you get into the Oval Office?"
But the topic of Obama's speech had nothing to do with guns -- it was a foreign policy address regarding the Iraq war -- and Obama didn't use it to criticize the use of executive orders. (Full context below the jump.)
Earlier this week, Fox News deceptively cropped a 2008 speech by Obama to falsely accuse him of being hypocritical for reportedly supporting an assault weapons ban.
Media figures have smeared President Obama's nominee for secretary of defense, former Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE), by misrepresenting Hagel's support for sanctions against Iran and his support for Israel. The media have also cast doubt on the bipartisan support for Hagel's nomination.
Despite its long history of anti-immigrant rhetoric, Fox News promoted a conference sponsored by former President George W. Bush's foundation that discussed the benefits immigrants bring to the U.S. economy.
On the December 4 edition of America's Newsroom, Fox correspondent Casey Stegall reported live from the conference in Dallas where Bush was about to speak. According to Stegall, the conference featured discussions of "how immigration actually benefits the economy and how reform is really necessary to get the economic engines going." Stegall's report contained footage of a woman stating that "immigrants actually accelerate growth."
While waiting for Bush to take the podium, Happening Now co-host Jon Scott interviewed The Hill's A.B. Stoddard about how Bush now wants to have a role in the "reset" of the Republican Party on issues of immigration. Scott noted that Bush "did pretty well" with Hispanics as a presidential candidate, while Stoddard highlighted how Bush "spent so much time" in Texas "speaking Spanish, living among -- a place where the demographics were changing so quickly. ... He knew this had to be a part of the Republican tent." After airing about four minutes of Bush's speech, Scott and Stoddard returned to discuss immigration again.
It was the big media story of the last week. National security journalist Tom Ricks went on Fox News and accused the network of "operating as a wing of the Republican Party" with regard to its overblown Benghazi coverage, impelling anchor Jon Scott to cut short the segment. The aborted interview and ensuing behind-the-scenes wrangling provided fodder for media critics at other outlets to analyze Fox News' role within the media. But how did Fox News' media criticism show Fox News Watch, hosted by the very same Jon Scott, handle this big media story? By ignoring it completely.
One week later, we find ourselves with another big media story involving Fox News. According to the Washington Post, last spring Roger Ailes asked Fox News contributor K.T. MacFarland to use her trip to Afghanistan to pitch to David Patraeus the idea of running against President Obama as a Republican. MacFarland told Petraeus that Ailes was even willing to step down from his Fox post and become a campaign aide were the general to run.
The ethical lapses on display here stack high. Once again, this is choice material for media critics to chew over, and once again we should expect Fox News' media critic to handle the story as he handled Ricks: by ignoring it.
Ever since the election, much has been made of the "Republican bubble," wherein Republicans and conservatives spent the campaign enclosed within the safe confines of ideologically simpatico news outlets, convincing themselves that Mitt Romney was on a glide path to a landslide and dismissing all data pointing to the contrary as so much liberal spin. In the past month, we've seen no signs of that bubble popping. Indeed, Ricks took the opportunity (a vanishingly rare one) to pop the bubble from the inside, and Fox News responded by treating the incident as if it never happened.
Tom Ricks' bit of impromptu media criticism on Fox News over their Benghazi coverage, for which the Pulitzer-winning national security journalist had his interview cut short, was a rare thing to see. Self-criticism doesn't often happen on Fox airwaves, and they insist against all evidence that they play it straight and "have no agenda." But what makes Ricks' commentary especially noteworthy is the fact that the anchor who cut Ricks' interview short, Jon Scott, is himself Fox News' resident media critic.
Scott hosts the weekly program Fox News Watch, which approaches every media story from the premise that the media are liberally biased and, to borrow from Ricks, "a wing of the Democratic Party."
To give just a taste of how Fox News Watch does business, here's the intro to the November 10 edition, the first post-election show:
Scott asked if "media cheerleading" helped President Obama win reelection, whacked the "liberal press" for "tak[ing] shots" at Karl Rove and Fox News for their embarrassing election night squabble over Ohio, asked if the Obama second term will be "four more years of a media love fest," and suggested that CBS News helped the White House "hide the truth" about Benghazi. Then he introduced his panel: two conservative pundits (Cal Thomas and Jim Pinkerton), one disgraced former journalist (Judith Miller), and Kirsten Powers.
Scott's broad-ranging set of allegations put just about every sector of the media in the tank for the Democrats and specifically indicted one outlet for assisting in a White House cover-up (a cover-up for which there is no evidence). Meanwhile, Tom Ricks told Jon Scott that on one story Fox News has been pulling weight for the GOP, and he got thrown off the air, called "rude," and had his "strength of character" questioned by network brass.
One thing you can be sure of is that, in keeping with the moratorium on self-criticism, Scott and Fox News Watch will approach the Ricks fiasco in one of two ways: ignore it, as they've so often done with the Fox News' and News Corp.'s various and sundry ethical lapses; or cast themselves as the wrongly maligned victim of the "liberal media."
From the November 2 edition of Fox News' Happening Now:
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The contrast between Fox News' coverage of President Obama's first campaign speech after Hurricane Sandy and its coverage of Mitt Romney's rally in Virginia is a study in the network's notion of "fair and balanced." Fox aired Romney's entire speech, which lasted almost 25 minutes, but cut away from Obama's remarks after just six minutes.
By contrast, MSNBC aired both speeches in their entirety -- Obama's speech lasted about 23 minutes -- while CNN aired the entire Obama speech and all but the first two minutes of Romney's comments.
Obama appeared on Thursday in Green Bay, Wisconsin, to describe his agenda in a second term, and Romney was in Roanoke, Virginia, with Republican senatorial candidate George Allen for a campaign rally.
Fox aired Romney's speech from his opening remarks at 10:19 a.m. to his closing comments at 10:42 a.m., when he stated: "This November, I know you people in this room have very clear eyes, you know the consequence of what this election means. You have full hearts, and we can't lose. We need you, Virginia. We've got to take back America. I'm counting on you. George is counting on you. Let's make sure we keep America the hope of the Earth. Thank you so very much."
Four minutes later, following a commercial break, Fox hosted Obama campaign national press secretary Ben LaBolt to discuss Romney's comments.
By contrast, Fox aired the beginning of Obama's speech at 11:44 a.m. but cut away six minutes later at 11:50 a.m. following Obama's urging to the crowd not to boo, but to vote. Happening Now co-host Jon Scott then told viewers to head to FoxNews.com to listen to the rest of Obama's remarks.
Scott then led a discussion with Fox News contributor Tucker Carlson and Democratic strategist Chris Kofinis about Obama's speech, though it had not yet ended, and the tone of the campaign in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.
Carlson claimed the hurricane allowed Obama to "play president" and "pretend" that "he hasn't run this incredibly divisive, nasty campaign that literally singles out groups of Americans and blames them for America's problems, which is what he's done."
Scott also took the opportunity to mention the September 11 attack on the U.S. compound in Benghazi, Libya, which Fox News has continued to politicize in attacks on Obama.
From the October 25 edition of Fox News' Happening Now:
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From the October 22 edition of Fox News' Happening Now:
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Fox News anchor Jon Scott promoted the debunked claim that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton accused certain women of "whining." In fact, Clinton was actually talking about the character Holden Caulfield from the novel The Catcher in the Rye.
Scott's false claim originated from an interview between Clinton and Marie Claire writer Ayelet Waldman. After Marie Claire released excerpts of the interview, some outlets reported that Clinton was attacking a large percentage of women, or former State Department employee Anne-Marie Slaughter. In response, the State Department released a portion of the interview transcript that clarified what she had said.
Fox News contributor Julie Roginsky corrected Scott on Happening Now, saying, "It turns out, what the Clinton folks are saying is that she wasn't talking about women, she was actually responding to a question about The Catcher in the Rye, and about the protagonist, Holden Caulfield."
This didn't stop Scott from doubling down. Later in the segment, Scott said, "Julie, let me read you some more of this quote from Secretary Clinton, because it sure doesn't sound like she's talking about Catcher in the Rye."
From the October 18 edition of Fox News' Happening Now:
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Just minutes after the Supreme Court ruled to allow early voting in Ohio the weekend before Election Day, Fox News host Jon Scott falsely claimed that the Obama campaign sought to stop military families from early voting in the state. Scott further botched the state's early voting history when he claimed that Democrats sought to limit early voting when in fact, it was Republicans.
The real story is that Ohio expanded early voting in 2008 and 2010 in response to long wait times for thousands of voters during the 2004 election. But last year, the Republican-controlled legislature eliminated in-person voting during the three days before the election for everyone but military families and overseas voters.
Scott's rendition of these events conflicts with reality and ignores the role Republicans played to limit early voting:
SCOTT: Ohio's voting laws are going to be changing, it would appear. There was an early voting program voted in by the state of Ohio for military members and their families. They were to be allowed to vote early. The Democrats and the Obama campaign asked that that be blocked. They, for whatever reason, did not want military families and military members voting extra early. A couple of lower courts blocked the law -- again, at the request of the Obama campaign and state Democratic officials. Now it's gone to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court is going along with that block. According to our Shannon Bream, who covers the Supreme Court for us, we believe that is what is going to result from all of this is that everybody in Ohio is going to be allowed extra-early voting. No special privileges for military members and their families.
From the October 10 edition of Fox News' Happening Now:
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It took less than ten minutes after the Bureau of Labor Statistics released new jobs numbers this morning for Fox to start promoting conspiracy theories about the reported drop in unemployment.
Commenting on the jobs report as the numbers first came in this morning, Fox Business host Charles Payne speculated that "some people will be very cynical that a government number will come out this great on the eve of the election." Indeed, "some people" at Fox -- including Payne himself -- have subsequently spent much of the day trying to cast doubt on the numbers, with several Fox personalities and guests openly speculating that the BLS may have cooked the books to bolster Obama's chance at reelection.
In fact, much of Fox's coverage today has focused on the "questions" surrounding the supposedly "fishy" and "convenient" jobs report that the New York Times described as "unexpected good news" for President Obama.
Veteran economics journalists have dismissed these conspiracies as "implausible" and "unfounded."