A Case Study On Why Fox News Can’t Be Trusted: Bret Baier Edition

Fox News anchor Bret Baier’s seemingly bombshell reporting about the Clinton Foundation and a “likely” indictment regarding Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton's use of a private email server, which was based on two unknown sources, collapsed within days when the anchor admitted he’d made a “mistake.” 

By the time Baier walked back his comments, his claims had already been parroted by Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, Fox hosts and correspondents, right-wing blogs, and some mainstream outlets like The Hill.

While Donald Trump’s own campaign manager Kellyanne Conway admitted that the story was wrong, she celebrated that “voters are hearing it” and  “the damage is done.” Therein lies the massive problem.

Baier made more than a “mistake.”  And if you need more evidence that Baier's Friday apology wasn't enough, look no further than Fox & Friends Saturday, where discredited conservative journalist Ed Klein touted dubious reporting to suggest that Clinton will likely face an indictment if she’s elected president. What’s more, Fox News senior political analyst Brit Hume tweeted on Saturday morning that “Fox News stands by Bret Baier's key finding: that the FBI [investigation] of the Clinton [Foundation] is open & active.”

Following the backlash from Bret Baier’s false smear about an impending Clinton indictment, and the doubling down from Fox News, I’m urging Fox News to take these additional steps to correct this miscoverage as soon as possible:

1) Fox News should fully retract Baier’s initial report. While Baier issued an apology that effectively walked back his three major claims, Fox should fully retract the report.

2) Fox News should devote the same amount of time to running Baier’s apology as it did to his faulty reporting. The network spent more than two hours of coverage and devoted at least 41 segments over a 24-hour period to Baier’s faulty reporting. This amounts to nearly 12 percent of the network’s total live airtime. 

3) Fox News should re-air its correction on Baier’s show, Special Report, and on The O’Reilly Factor, the network’s most watched show. Baier has yet to apologize on his own show. After years of convincing its viewers that all other news outlets are biased, there stands the very real possibility that the only place Fox viewers are likely to see Baier's apology is if it airs on Fox News. If the network will not devote equal time to the correction as it gave to Baier’s faulty reporting, then it should ensure the correction is seen by as many viewers as possible. 

To ensure that the above happens, Media Matters for America will be running a media awareness campaign online to make Fox viewers aware of Bret Baier’s serious reporting transgressions.