Media Matters: Fox Business: Low on ratings, high on Fox-patented GOP boosterism and falsehoods

When News Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch introduced the Fox Business Network in 2007, he made no attempt to hide the fact that the financial channel would reflect his own conservative philosophy. The financial media, in his view, should be in the business of “celebrat[ing]” free-market capitalism.

As Murdoch saw it, the existing media were too quick to ''leap on every scandal" and “are not as friendly to corporations and profits as they should be.” In contrast to purportedly anti-business CNBC, Fox Business would be ''more business friendly" and “celebrate the freedom and sense of optimism that free markets have given Americans.” America, according to Australian-born Murdoch, has the best “corruption-free companies in the world. Our companies are beacons of success that the rest of the world looks to, not that you'd know that through much of the business coverage we see every day.”

As he did with Fox News, executive Roger Ailes has imported Murdoch's conservative philosophy to FBN, where the network's coverage and most visible personalities are unabashedly conservative and dismissive of progressives. The head of FBN's news division is senior vice president, host, and tea-party booster Neil Cavuto, who donated to President Bush, bashed the “awful” Democratic health care bill, and sports a record of misinforming viewers about economic issues.

Morning anchor Stuart Varney is a British expat whose shtick involves complaining that “socialist” Democrats are pushing America in the direction of his former country. Varney is described by Fox Business as a “business journalist” and news "anchor." Yet he admits that he's “very partisan,” “very clearly partisan” and can't resist bashing Democrats while propping up Republicans. Varney also -- stop the presses -- misinforms viewers about economic issues,

David Asman, another "journalist," hosts the prime-time show America's Nightly Scoreboard. Asman, lover of Milton Friedman, makes it a habit to assail Social Security, Democrats, and “hypocrite” environmentalists who dare get in the way of activities like more oil drilling. Asman is one of the channel's biggest proponents of the tea parties, once telling viewers they “need to go” to a tea party merchandise site. Asman also -- hold the phone -- misinforms viewers about economic issues.

John Stossel, host of his own weekly “libertarian” show, has argued that the public accommodations section of the Civil Rights Act should be repealed to restore the right to discriminate and that the “free market” would have likely resolved the issue of racial discrimination by businesses -- a claim that civil rights expert Andrew Grant-Thomas called “ahistorical” and “unempirical.” Stossel recently keynoted a fundraising luncheon for a “research” organization with heavy ties to the energy industry. When Stossel joined Fox, Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace said he'd be “very natural fit” because “he's conservative.” Stossel also has a history of -- call grandma -- misinforming viewers.

Fox, which defends itself by claiming that its “fair and balanced” reporters just report the news, employs FBN "reporter" Tracy Byrnes, who said Democrats voting yes on health care “make me sick,” and "senior correspondent" Charles Gasparino, who said he wouldn't vote for the Democrats' health care bill ( “Who would?” ).

FBN also recently announced promotions for Eric Bolling and Andrew Napolitano. Bolling, previously of the canceled afternoon show Happy Hour, will get a weekday prime-time show, his apparent reward for shilling for Republican candidates, and -- start the Drudge siren -- misinforming viewers about economic issues.

Napolitano, meanwhile, will bring his previously online-only show Freedom Watch to FBN on a weekly basis. Napolitano is an unabashed libertarian, meaning that while he disagrees with some of his Fox colleagues on certain social and national security issues, he'll fit right in on economic matters. In its online iterations, Freedom Watch frequently gave a platform to fringe guests like 9-11 conspiracy leaders Alex Jones and Jesse Ventura; Thomas E. Woods Jr., who has been a member of the League of the South, which the Southern Poverty Law Center has called a “racist” hate group; and “libertarian anarchist” Lew Rockwell, who excoriates Abraham Lincoln and openly pushes for secession. Napolitano has used his Fox perch to push inane conspiracy theories and -- insert any remaining idiom here -- misinform viewers.

How many people not getting paychecks from Media Matters will actually watch those shows, though, remains a question. While Fox News has undoubtedly achieved ratings success, Fox Business, in its third year, continues to post "feeble" ratings. While CNBC is available in more than 90 million households, FBN is available in just 50 million. Vanity Fair's Matt Pressman wrote last November that “it's fairly safe to assume” that “most of its shows fall short of attracting 35,000 viewers,” or roughly one-tenth of CNBC's audience and a hundredth of SpongeBob SquarePants'.

The most high-profile show on FBN -- a dubious honor -- isn't even a business-oriented show. Last October, FBN began simulcasting Don Imus, best known for helping pioneer shock jock radio decades ago and smearing female basketball players. Imus, as he has self-deprecatingly acknowledged, has no expertise in business news, which is why FBN incorporates several business updates on his show.

Fox hopes to grow its fledgling business channel by cross-promoting it on Fox News, which also struggled with early ratings. Fox News has begun using hosts like apparent financial wizards Bill O'Reilly and Glenn Beck to tout FBN as “no-spin talk you can trust” and the network that “wants you to succeed.” Varney, Bolling, Byrnes, and others regularly appear on FNC, where they're touted as financial experts -- facts to the contrary -- while Cavuto incessantly uses his afternoon FNC show to implore viewers to “demand” FBN from their cable providers.

In a new ad for the network, Fox states that Fox Business and Fox News offer “two networks, twice the power.” Indeed, from its inception to its recent hiring decisions, Fox Business has made it clear that like its sister channel, “fair and balanced” is merely a wink and a nod to viewers looking for a reaffirmation of conservative myths and blatant GOP boosterism.

“Don't tease the panther” : Glenn Beck continues his public embarrassment tour

If a week goes by without Media Matters documenting something embarrassing or pathetic from Glenn Beck, it's probably because he's on vacation.

Case in point, the self-described “rodeo clown,” last seen making fun of an 11-year-old girl, refused to apologize for promoting the work of pro-Nazi, anti-Semitic, racist Elizabeth Dilling. As Beck tells it, he sat down with the book The Red Network one night and found it so inspiring that he had to share it the very next day. Yet The Red Network contains passages rife with racism ( “colored men” are dancing with white women!), anti-Semitism (let's be fair to Nazi Germany's anti-Jewish activities), and religious bigotry (Hinduism and Islam are “debasing and degrading” ; Judaism and Hinduism spread “propaganda” ).

On the topic of books, Beck will soon release his brand new “thriller” The Overton Window, which he promises will “drive the left insane.” Beck's right: Media Matters obtained a copy of the book before its Tuesday release, and as Media Matters' Simon Maloy and Ben Dimiero note, the “awful” novel contains “plot holes, ridiculous narrative devices, and long-winded limited-government sermonizing passed off as dialogue.” Beck's Overton Window includes the phrase soon to engulf college campuses and future Gossip Girl episodes: “Don't tease the panther.”

Beck also began touting his 8-28 rally -- the same day as Martin Luther King's 1963 March on Washington -- as one that will “reclaim the civil rights movement” and “be remembered as the moment America turned the corner.” Beck, who informed readers may know is not a civil rights hero, has compared himself to civil rights heroes Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, Gandhi, and African-Americans who had “dogs and fire hoses” released on them. Beck's even gone so far as to claim that he's advancing “the plan that [God] would have me articulate, I think” against “darkness.”

In an interview with The New York Times last year, multimillionaire rodeo clown Beck said that if people take what he says “as gospel, you're an idiot” -- food for thought for the Beck followers buying 8-28 rally plane tickets or Overton Window books.

Fox News hates Boxer, loves former colleague Fiorina

Fox doesn't like Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA).

According to those on the channel's payroll, Boxer is an embarrassing, condescending, big-spending, anti-military liberal "dope" who "stands for everything that is wrong with Washington."

While that hyperpartisan venting sounds like something from Fox News' “opinion” side, “reporter” William La Jeunesse has been one of Boxer's most frequent smearers. Not only did La Jeunesse state, in his own words, that Boxer “stands for everything that is wrong with Washington,” he also forwarded the ridiculously false attack by opponent Carly Fiorina (R) that Boxer “is more interested in protecting climate change and the weather than actually the public.”

Fiorina is a former member of the Fox News family, having been hired in October 2007 as a Fox Business Network contributor. Fiorina's financial disclosure statement states that she received nearly $58,000 for her employment with the “Fox Broadcasting Company.”

Unsurprisingly, Fiorina has received glowing coverage and interviews on the network and netted endorsements from Fox Newsers Sarah Palin, Rick Santorum, and Dick Morris. But she stumbled this week when an open mic caught her appearing to disparage Fox News host Sean Hannity. Perhaps realizing Fox's role in the GOP apparatus, Fiorina directly apologized to Hannity.

In the midst of embarrassments like Glenn Beck, the Fox Business Network, and its Fiorina coverage, Fox News is pushing to get Helen Thomas' front-row seat in the White House briefing room. Media Matters' Jeremy Holden wrote that the White House Correspondents Association should resist any efforts to give Fox the seat, given its history. Appearing on Imus, Wallace said that Fox getting the seat would be “poetic justice” since Thomas is considered liberal. After prodding from Imus, Wallace quickly backtracked by claiming he meant Fox News is “fair and balanced,” then added that maybe he should “stop digging.”

This weekly wrap-up was compiled by Eric Hananoki, a research fellow at Media Matters for America.