Any claim Fox News has to being a legitimate news organization is premised on the supposed wall that separates their "news" and "opinion" programming.
When Fox execs or network personalities are challenged on the conservative tilt of the network, they often trot out this defense. Writing in October 2009 about the then-blossoming feud between the White House and Fox News, the New York Times' Brian Stelter reported that, "Fox argues that its news hours -- 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and 6 to 8 p.m. on weekdays -- are objective."
In the article, Fox News senior vice president for news, Michael Clemente, is quoted as saying: "The average consumer certainly knows the difference between the A section of the newspaper and the editorial page."
Special Report anchor Bret Baier spent much of his interview with Jon Stewart last week championing the supposed division between Fox's news and editorial content. Similar to Clemente, Baier said that Fox "respect[s] the viewers' ability to discern the difference" between their news and opinion programming.
The problem, of course, is that the division between the news and opinion programming at Fox is a farce. In addition to regularly promoting dubious stories and supposed scandals that damage liberals or benefit conservatives, Fox's Washington news bureau is run by a political hack.
It's not realistic to think that all journalists are automatons that have no political leanings -- they are human. A problem arises when their politics infect their news coverage, and that's what has clearly happened in Fox News' Washington bureau under the heavy hand of Bill Sammon.
So, for the sake of argument, let's set aside the fact that Sammon has fundraised for conservative groups and organizations. Ignore that he wrote numerous fawning books about the Bush campaigns and administration, which were published by a company that exists to prop up the conservative movement. And pay no attention to his Fox News colleagues saying he is "conservative" and "coming from that point of view."
What matters is whether Sammon lets his political leanings infect his supposed "journalism," and over the course of the past few months, that has become undeniably clear.
Last year, a source with knowledge of the situation at Fox's Washington bureau told Media Matters that Sammon shapes the network's news coverage in an "often brutish way." A separate Fox source told Media Matters that they "keep hearing things from staffers about Sammon," and that "when news is being tampered with, you have to worry."
As evidenced by the series of internal Fox emails Media Matters has released over the past several months, Fox's news is certainly being "tampered with."
Contractually, they're supposed to stay married until December, but the possible breakup between Fox News and Glenn Beck is already getting messy, and going public.
The increasingly pitched battle features a surprising number of leaks and anonymous attacks that appear to be coming from within Fox News, as sources there take aim at their own host in the pages of The New York Times, as well as other media outlets.
The swipes are especially unusual because Fox News chief Roger Ailes prides himself on overseeing a loyal team. As one former Fox News source recently told Media Matters, what Ailes "continually preaches is never piss outside the tent."
Suddenly though, there's a whole lot of pissing outside the tent going on. Either that, or more and more people at Fox News already view Beck as being outside that tent.
It's true that we've seen Fox News insiders take (anonymous) swipes at Beck in the press before. Last year, it was reported by the New York Times that Ailes had "complained about Beck's hawking his non-Fox ventures too much on his Fox show." The Times also detailed "friction" between Beck and Fox News journalists, some of whom felt the host embarrassed the organization.
What's different this time is that the swipes appear to be calculated and not coming from the Fox News room, but from its corporate offices.
In their ongoing attempt to smear unions, Fox News hosts and contributors have frequently criticized the annual salaries of union workers and union bosses. Yet most of these Fox News critics and their colleagues make several million dollars a year, while attacking union members for making considerably less.
The New York Times reported today that Fox News president Roger Ailes is identified in affidavits as the News Corp. executive who allegedly encouraged one of his colleagues to lie to federal investigators who were vetting Bernard Kerik's nomination to lead the Department of Homeland Security:
It was an incendiary allegation -- and a mystery of great intrigue in the media world: After the publishing powerhouse Judith Regan was fired by HarperCollins in 2006, she claimed that a senior executive at its parent company, News Corporation, had encouraged her to lie to federal investigators two years before.
The investigators had been vetting Bernard B. Kerik, the former New York City police commissioner who had been nominated to become secretary of Homeland Security and who had had an affair with Ms. Regan.
The goal of the News Corporation executive, according to Ms. Regan, was to keep the affair quiet and protect the then-nascent presidential aspirations of former Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, Mr. Kerik's mentor and supporter.
But Ms. Regan never revealed the identity of the executive, even as her allegation made headlines and she brought a wrongful termination suit against HarperCollins and News Corporation.
But now, affidavits filed in a separate lawsuit reveal the identity of the previously unnamed executive: Roger E. Ailes, chairman of Fox News.
What is more, the documents say that Ms. Regan taped the telephone call from Mr. Ailes in which Mr. Ailes discusses her relationship with Mr. Kerik.
The Times further reported:
Asked what most viewers and observers of Fox News would be surprised to learn about the controversial cable channel, a former insider from the world of Rupert Murdoch was quick with a response: "I don't think people would believe it's as concocted as it is; that stuff is just made up."
Indeed, a former Fox News employee who recently agreed to talk with Media Matters confirmed what critics have been saying for years about Murdoch's cable channel. Namely, that Fox News is run as a purely partisan operation, virtually every news story is actively spun by the staff, its primary goal is to prop up Republicans and knock down Democrats, and that staffers at Fox News routinely operate without the slightest regard for fairness or fact checking.
"It is their M.O. to undermine the administration and to undermine Democrats," says the source. "They're a propaganda outfit but they call themselves news."
And that's the word from inside Fox News.
Note the story here isn't that Fox News leans right. Everyone knows the channel pushes a conservative-friendly version of the news. Everyone who's been paying attention has known that since the channel's inception more than a decade ago. The real story, and the real danger posed by the cable outlet, is that over time Fox News stopped simply leaning to the right and instead became an open and active political player, sort of one-part character assassin and one-part propagandist, depending on which party was in power. And that the operation thrives on fabrications and falsehoods.
"They say one thing and do another. They insist on maintaining this charade, this façade, that they're balanced or that they're not right-wing extreme propagandist," says the source. But it's all a well-orchestrated lie, according this former insider. It's a lie that permeates the entire Fox News culture and one that staffers and producers have to learn quickly in order to survive professionally.
"You have to work there for a while to understand the nods and the winks," says the source. "And God help you if you don't because sooner or later you're going to get burned."
The source explains:
"Like any news channel there's lot of room for non-news content. The content that wasn't 'news,' they didn't care what we did with as long as it was amusing or quirky or entertaining; as along as it brought in eyeballs. But anything—anything--that was a news story you had to understand what the spin should be on it. If it was a big enough story it was explained to you in the morning [editorial] meeting. If it wasn't explained, it was up to you to know the conservative take on it. There's a conservative take on every story no matter what it is. So you either get told what it is or you better intuitively know what it is."
What if Fox News staffers aren't instinctively conservative or don't have an intuitive feeling for what the spin on a story should be? "My internal compass was to think like an intolerant meathead," the source explains. "You could never error on the side of not being intolerant enough."
Paging Roger Ailes... Boss Rupert Murdoch's newest pet project -- the tablet-only Daily -- seems to have made digs at Fox News contributor Sarah Palin part of its much-speculated-about editorial voice.
A Saturday rundown of potential Republican presidential nominees said of Palin:
The former vice presidential candidate's strengths -- her cult-like appeal to anti-elitist tea-partiers, her fundraising prowess -- are still vastly outweighed by her countless liabilities. For instance, try to pin her down on an issue of any gravity or complexity (the war in Iraq, say, or health care policy) and, political coaching be damned, you'll still get a meandering rant that sounds like it was cobbled together with some kind of Reagan-themed magnetic poetry set.
Days earlier, Daily op-ed columnist Michael Maiello wrote that Palin "really just doesn't have a grasp of recent history," citing her response to President Obama's Sputnik reference in the State of the Union address:
Former half-term Alaska governor and failed vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin is deeply concerned that President Obama has learned the wrong lesson from Russia's successful 1957 launch of Sputnik. It wasn't an advance that in turn motivated the United States, she suggested, but a failure: "Yeah, they won, but they also incurred so much debt at the time that it resulted in the inevitable collapse of the Soviet Union." I could suppose she means that Russia flew too high, Icarus-like, and was brought low as its wings were melted by the heat of its outsized ambitions. But I'd be wrong. She really just doesn't have a grasp of recent history.
We're still deciphering what Murdoch meant when he said The Daily's editorial stance would be "very patriotic," though for the moment, it doesn't seem to include knee-jerk support for Palin.
On January 26, The Washington Post ran an article on an open letter from Jewish Funds for Justice, signed by 400 rabbis, calling on News Corp CEO Rupert Murdoch to ask "Fox News chief Roger Ailes and conservative host Glenn Beck to cut out all their talk about Nazis and the Holocaust." From the article:
A coalition of rabbis wants Fox News chief Roger Ailes and conservative host Glenn Beck to cut out all their talk about Nazis and the Holocaust, and it's making its views known in an unusual place.
The rabbis have called on Fox News's owner, Rupert Murdoch, to sanction his two famous employees via a full-page ad in Thursday's editions of the Wall Street Journal - one of many other media properties controlled by Murdoch's News Corp.
The ad is signed by the heads of the Reform, Conservative and Reconstructionist movements as well as Orthodox rabbis.
"We share a belief that the Holocaust, of course, can and should be discussed appropriately in the media. But that is not what we have seen at Fox News," says the ad, signed by hundreds of rabbis and placed by the Jewish Funds for Justice, a nonprofit advocacy group. Earlier this month, the group organized a letter-writing campaign asking Murdoch to remove Beck from the air.
The rabbis were prompted by Beck's three-part program in November about liberal billionaire philanthropist George Soros, whom Beck described as a "Jewish boy helping send the Jews to the death camps" during World War II.
Soros was a young teenager in Nazi-occupied Hungary during the war and hid with a Christian family to escape the Holocaust. He once described accompanying his surrogate father while he confiscated property from Jews deported by the Nazis.
The Jewish Funds group has received financial support from Soros's Open Society Foundations.
Ailes, in a November interview with the Daily Beast Web site, called NPR executives "Nazis" for their decision to fire Juan Williams, also a Fox commentator. He later apologized to the Anti-Defamation League, but not to NPR, saying, "I was of course ad-libbing and should not have chosen that word, but I was angry at the time because of NPR's willingness to censor Juan Williams for not being liberal enough."
But Ailes, in the same interview, defended Beck's frequent use of Nazi references to describe his political opponents by attributing outrage over such remarks to "left-wing rabbis who basically don't think that anybody can ever use the word 'Holocaust' on the air." [The Washington Post, 1/26/11]
From Ailes' extended interview with Esquire's Tom Junod, describing the difference between MSNBC and Fox News [emphasis added]:
You have to be able to allow both points of view. Look at MSNBC. They have nobody on that doesn't agree with them. Nobody. I never see anybody who disagrees with them. I don't know whether their egos can't handle it or whether their... I don't get it. They absolutely despise anybody with a different opinion.
Because everyone knows Fox News' lineup is filled with balanced debate, right?
Good one, Roger.
An Esquire blog post sheds light on Fox News President Roger Ailes' response to outrage over Glenn Beck's incessant use of Nazi and Holocaust imagery to smear progressives and Beck's false smear that philanthropist George Soros helped "send the Jews" to "death camps" as a child:
The Roger Ailes Experience is simply the access -- or even the intimacy -- afforded by Roger Ailes when you engage him in argument, and the best example I heard in the interviews I conducted in order to write about him was provided by Simon Greer, who heads an advocacy group called Jews for Justice.
Greer was offended by Glenn Beck's incessant use of Holocaust references and co-signed a letter of complaint to Roger Ailes. "Within a week," Greer says, "we heard from Ailes, saying he'd be willing to meet at our convenience." So began Greer's Roger Ailes Experience: Not only did he wind up meeting Ailes along with a group of rabbis, he also wound up liking Ailes, indeed having a moment with him, in which humanity was revealed and sympathy presumed.
"I said, 'I have a young son. Imagine what it's like to watch this with him. Imagine what it's like to watch 400 Holocaust references from Glenn Beck. What should I say to him?' Roger looked visibly shaken by it. He said, 'This is a problem, this concerns us.' In the end, we agreed that the use of the word 'Nazi' for anything you happen to dislike is offensive. And he said, 'We'll talk to Glenn, and invite you back for a meeting with our producers.' He also said, 'The door is always open and you can always call us back.'"
Ten days later, Greer received a handwritten note of apology from Glenn Beck. He subsequently gave an interview to Yahoo's Upshot blog about the note and about the meeting that prompted it, after which he got an e-mail from Ailes, in which Ailes expressed his regret that Greer hadn't kept the meeting private. "But he said that I had characterized the meeting accurately, and basically said, 'We're good, Simon.'" And for a time Greer noticed a decrease in Beck's appropriation of Jewish suffering for his own purposes.
Then, in short order last fall, Beck devoted three programs to attacking Jewish financier George Soros, in part by implicating him as an agent of the Holocaust. Did Ailes take the resulting uproar seriously? "I think Rupert got a few letters," he told Esquire. "He sent them down to me. I answer them -- I just say, Well have you ever heard of freedom of speech? It's in the Constitution, we do it, and I'm sorry you didn't like, but if Mr. Soros would like to come on our channel and present an alternative view, we would be happy to have him."
Within days, Ailes himself referred to the executives who fired Juan Williams from NPR as Nazis, and in the face-saving apology he wrote to his friend Abe Foxman of the Anti-Defamation-League, he blamed Greer and the rabbis associated with Jews for Justice for starting the controversy with their "unscrupulous behavior" in publicizing the meeting they had with Ailes. Did Greer have anything to do with Ailes's invocation of Nazism in his description of NPR? No, but by this time Ailes was recasting the entire episode as yet another attempt to destroy him -- in fact, as an outright plot against him, which he survived by guile.
Earlier today Media Matters reported that in an interview with GlobalGrind.com Fox News President Roger Ailes had said that the "Democrat [sic] Party" had put out a map with targets on it as had Palin. He later added: "Both sides are wrong, but they both do it. I told all of our guys, shut up, tone it down, make your argument intellectually. You don't have to do it with bombast. I hope the other side does that."
Howard Kurtz reacted on Twitter:
In a recent interview on GlobalGrind.com, Fox News President Roger Ailes said that the "Democrat [sic] Party" had put out a map with targets on it as had Palin. He later added: "Both sides are wrong, but they both do it. I told all of our guys, shut up, tone it down, make your argument intellectually. You don't have to do it with bombast. I hope the other side does that." From the interview:
Russell Simmons: One thing I am sick of...I really want to see the people govern this country. And I want to see the people on the Right's voice be respected, and the people on the Left's voice be respected-
Roger Ailes: That's what should happen. You know, they're using this thing...apparently there was a map from one of Palin's things that had her (Congresswoman Giffords) targeted district. So, we looked at the internet and the first thing we found in 2007, the Democrat Party had a targeted map with targets on it for the Palin district. These maps have been used for for years that I know of. I have two pictures of myself with a bull's-eye on my head. This is just bullshit. This goes on... both sides are wrong, but they both do it.
I told all of our guys, shut up, tone it down, make your argument intellectually. You don't have to do it with bombast. I hope the other side does that.
Listen, I have a picture of Sarah Palin hanging from the end of a rope. They made a doll up like her and hung her. [GlobalGrind.com,1/10/11]
As Media Matters has been detailing for the last week, the silence emanating from Fox News has been deafening regarding the fact that on-air personality Andrew Napolitano has recently expressed support for the 9/11 truther conspiracy, suggesting the United States government is hiding facts about the terrorist attack.
Not only have Fox News flaks refused to comment to Media Matters about Napolitano's controversial 9/11 conspiracy views, but they also refused comment to CNN, which reported on the development. Perhaps even more bizarre has been the fact that since Napolitano endorsed the dark conspiratorial view of the 9/11 attacks, he's subsequently been popping up on scores of different Fox News programs where nobody (nobody) dares to ask him the obvious question: So what's the deal with the truther stuff?
It's so bizarre because I probably don't have to mention what the collective reaction would be from the Fox News team if an on-air personality at MSNBC or CNN, for example, had so publicly endorsed the notion that the government lied to us about what really happened on Sept. 11 at Ground Zero. What would the reaction be? If you took today's "deafening silence" that hovers over Fox News and the Napolitano 9/11 situation and replaced that with "cataclysmic howls," you wouldn't be far off form the truth.
So the nagging question has been, why the wall of silence?
A November 19 National Public Radio article titled "Fox News 'Nazi' Rhetoric Starts At The Top," reported on Fox News President Roger Ailes' recent comment that NPR executives "are, of course, Nazis. They have a kind of Nazi attitude. They are the left wing of Nazism." The article pointed out that "Ailes offered an apology of sorts, but his remarks were hardly out of character for [Fox News]," noting that "On his TV and radio shows, Glenn Beck has attacked the Obama administration and its liberal allies as Nazis several times." From NPR:
Fox News and NPR once again found themselves in the news Thursday, this time driven by the comments of Fox News chief Roger Ailes, who in published remarks referred to NPR executives as "Nazis" for terminating the contract of news analyst Juan Williams.
Ailes offered an apology of sorts, but his remarks were hardly out of character for the network.
On his TV and radio shows, Glenn Beck has attacked the Obama administration and its liberal allies as Nazis several times.
Beck and Ailes are by no means the first to call others Nazis. But Fox News does stand out amid mainstream media outlets for its ferocity and frequency in doing so. [Washington Post columnist Dana] Milbank found Beck had referred to Hitler or Nazis on his Fox News program several hundred times.
In remarks published in the Daily Beast on Thursday, Ailes said this of NPR executives: "They are, of course, Nazis. They have a kind of Nazi attitude. They are the left wing of Nazism."
Former Fox News Chief White House correspondent Major Garrett, who is now at the National Journal, has only positive things to say about Ailes. But when he first heard about Ailes' comments about NPR, he said: "I don't even know -- I don't even know where that comes from. It's um. Wow."
Ailes apologized, not to NPR, but in a letter to a Jewish advocacy group, saying he should have said "nasty inflexible bigot" -- not Nazi.
NPR officials say he's missing the point -- and that his rhetoric off the air, too, is an insult to NPR's journalists and listeners.
From the November 21 edition of CNN's Reliable Sources:
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