In May, new Fox News senior vice president Michael Clemente told TVNewser that “probably the most important imprint [of Fox News] has been the fact that no big story has ever had to be taken off the air, that for almost 13 years, there hasn't been the kind of issue that others have had in terms of having to take things down, or apologize, or pay out on. So I'd love to have the next 13 years be as strong as the previous 13 have been.”
Today, FishbowlDC posted a Fox News memo acknowledging “a series of mistakes on FNC in recent months” and pledging to “quality check everything before it makes air, and we never having [sic] to explain, retract, qualify or apologize again.” The memo added that "[m]istakes by any member of the show team that end up on air may result in immediate disciplinary action" and “jobs are on the line here.”
Fox News' first year under President Obama has been rife with errors, falsehoods and smears. We've documented that Fox News has apologized for some -- but certainly not the vast majority -- of its misinformation.
Over the years, Fox News has protected its brand by pushing the myth that it hasn't had to issue retractions for its stories. Like Clemente, in 2005, Fox News chairman and chief executive officer Roger Ailes was quoted by the Washington Post claiming that “in his nine years at Fox, 'I've never deleted a word, a phrase, a story. ... Unlike Newsweek and the Koran incident, [Ailes] adds, Fox hasn't just done a major retraction.”
While Fox News management may quibble about the definition of “big” and “major,” the Fox News “no retraction” line is silly. Even before Clemente and Ailes' remarks, Fox News issued multiple retractions and apologies. During the 2008 campaign, Fox News was one of the leaders in spreading the smear -- later retracted -- that Obama “spent the first decade of his life, raised by his Muslim father -- as a Muslim and was educated in a madrassa.” If you followed the cottage industry of smears against Obama, this was certainly a “big” story.
It's clear that Fox News has a cultural problem. What's not clear is whether Fox News management will make good on its threats.
To wit, Fox & Friends has been repeatedly admonished for airing multiple fake stories -- including the madrassa smear. Then-Fox News executive John Moody issued memos and statements warning staff to get things right. Sound familiar? Yet Fox & Friends and the offending hosts are still on the air, pushing smears and falsehoods - when not photoshopping pictures of New York Times reporters, or remarking on America's lack of pure genes.
More recently, Fox News apologized for starting the fake story that Obama watched an HBO documentary of himself instead of election returns. Fox News was apparently so serious about its apology that Fox News Watch host Jon Scott repeated the fake story again days later while mocking Obama.