“I'm not in politics” : Fox News president Ailes defends his network by pushing falsehoods

Fox News president Roger Ailes defended his network, claiming he doesn't “do politics,” and Fox addresses mistakes “quickly” and provides “fair and balanced report[s].” Yet Fox News regularly engages in political activism, Sean Hannity has not addressed his Cincinnati Tea Party scandal, and the network's “news” division regularly pushes smears, falsehoods, deceptive editing, and GOP talking points.

Ailes claims “I don't do politics, I do the news” -- but Fox openly engages in political advocacy

As TVNewser noted, The Naples Daily News (FL) reported on an April 26 speech that Fox News president Roger Ailes gave in Florida and quoted Ailes stating of how Republicans could win in the fall: “I can't help 'em. ... I'm not in politics anymore. I don't do politics, I do the news.” Yet Ailes' news organization regularly engages in open and blatant political advocacy on a regular basis. The following are just a few examples.

Fox News openly advocated against health care reform. During the debate over health care reform, Fox News openly advocated against the Democrats' efforts. In addition to routinely misinforming viewers, Fox News hosts, reporters, and contributors announced their opposition to reform; urged viewers to tell congressmembers to “vote no” ; pushed anti-reform protests; and solicited donations for ads opposing reform and for Republicans opposing pro-reform Democrats.

Fox personalities set goals to “get rid” of administration officials, “take the administration down.” Fox News' Glenn Beck has boasted about working on a project that he thinks will “take the administration down” and has asked his followers to dig up information on administration officials. Other Fox News personalities have also attacked numerous Obama administration officials and nominees and called for at least 19 of them resign, be fired, or have their nominations blocked.

Fox heavily promoted April 15, 2009, tea parties. Fox News heavily promoted and advocated for the April 15, 2009 tea parties, which it characterized as a response to Obama administration policies. Fox News frequently aired segments -- from both “opinion” and “news” personalities -- publicizing the protests and encouraging viewers to get involved with them. In many instances, Fox News provided attendance and organizing information, such as dates, locations and website URLs. In early April, Fox News announced that four hosts from the network -- Beck, Neil Cavuto, Greta Van Susteren, and Sean Hannity -- would appear live at four tea party sites and would broadcast the protests live throughout the day. At one point, Fox News even referred to the tea parties as “FNC Tax Day Tea Parties,” and the Fox Nation also hosted its own “virtual tea party.”

Fox personalities campaign for GOP candidates. Media Matters has extensively documented, Fox News contributor Dick Morris and host Mike Huckabee asked Fox viewers to donate to various political action committees and political organizations that oppose legislation proposed by Democrats or raise money for Republican campaigns. Also, Fox hosts and personalities have raised millions of dollars for Republican candidates, bolstered the efforts of Republican candidates or causes in 49 states, and have actively campaigned for them on and off the air.

Not in politics? Ailes gave political advice to Bush. The Washington Post wrote in November 2002 that, according to Bob Woodward's book Bush At War, Ailes “sent a confidential communication to the White House in the weeks after the terrorist attacks” :

Roger E. Ailes, a media coach for Bush's father and now chairman of the Fox News Channel, sent a confidential communication to the White House in the weeks after the terrorist attacks. Rove took the Ailes communication to the president. “His back-channel message: The American public would tolerate waiting and would be patient, but only as long as they were convinced that Bush was using the harshest measures possible,” Woodward wrote. He added that Ailes, who has angrily challenged reports that his news channel has a conservative bias, added a warning: “Support would dissipate if the public did not see Bush acting harshly.”

Ailes responded to the book by saying he “wrote a personal note to a White House staff member as a concerned American expressing my outrage about the attacks on our country. I did not give up my American citizenship to take this job.”

Ailes defends Fox by drawing false distinction between Palin and Ferraro

Ailes: Palin and Ferraro in “similar” position at Fox. In a report about Ailes' appearance in Florida, reporter Rob Koebel of Fox affiliate WFTX said that Fox News has been “battling against the Obama administration from time to time” and asked Ailes, “How do you defend to the critics that Fox News is far from being fair and balanced, especially when you've got a lineup of Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck, Hannity -- we know that was just in the news.” Ailes responded by stating: “Sarah Palin is a contributor to Fox News. Geraldine Ferraro has been a contributor to Fox News for over 10 years. We never had any problems with that. Suddenly we sign Sarah Palin in a similar position, and we have a problem. Now whose fault is that?”

Since her hiring, Palin has made 20 appearances on Fox's highest rated programs and FNS to Ferraro's zero. According to a Nexis search* of transcribed Fox News shows, since January 11, Palin has appeared 20 times as a contributor and "news analyst." Media Matters did not find an instance in Nexis of Ferraro appearing on those same shows (The O'Reilly Factor, Hannity, Glenn Beck, On The Record and Fox News Sunday) since January 11. Palin appeared on Hannity (April 27, April 7, March 22, March 17, February 25, January 27, January 20, January 14), On the Record (April 23, March 26, March 19, January 28, January 27, January 19), Fox News Sunday (February 7), The O'Reilly Factor (February 16, January 20, January 12) and Glenn Beck (March 18, January 13). According to a search of TVEyes.com, Ferraro most recently appeared on the daytime program America's Newsroom (April 9).

Palin reportedly makes $1 million a year. According to an April 25 New York article, “This January, she signed a three-year contributor deal with Fox News worth $1 million a year, according to people familiar with the deal.” New York added that Fox News shows compete to have her booked on their shows, writing: “Her star power at Fox has sparked competition among the various personalities, all of whom would like more Palin on their shows. Shine is responsible for making sure everyone gets equal time, to maximize her ratings appeal across the network.” Media Matters did not find a report on the yearly salary of Ferraro.

Palin hosts a Fox News series -- Ferraro does not. Upon her hiring on January 11, FoxNews.com wrote that Palin will “host periodic episodes of Fox News Channel's 'Real American Stories,' a series exploring inspirational real-life tales of overcoming adversity throughout the American landscape that will debut in 2010.” Palin's program debuted on April 1. By contrast, Geraldine Ferraro does not host a series on Fox News.

Ailes falsely suggests Fox News addressed Tea Party scandal “on the air”

Ailes responded to question about Hannity scandal by saying, “If [mistakes] happen, you go on the air quickly” and address them. Ailes was asked by WFTX about Fox News executives removing host Sean Hannity from a Cincinnati Tea Party event that charged admission. Ailes said: “Sometimes mistake happen. If they happen, you go on the air quickly, say this is what happened, this is what we did and keep moving. And that's what we do.”

But Hannity hasn't addressed the scandal on-air. While Fox News executive Bill Shine issued statements to the media about the scandal, as Think Progress noted, “Hannity has yet to address on-air Fox's decision to cancel his appearance at the Cincinnati Tea Party.” Fox News Watch, Fox News' weekly media criticism show, has also ignored the scandal in the two programs following Hannity's April 15 cancellation.

LA Times: Hannity staff appears to have not suffered any “serious disciplinary measures.” The Los Angeles Times wrote on April 23 of the Tea Party incident: “While there have been post-mortem discussions about the incident, it does not appear that they have resulted in any serious disciplinary measures taken against any staffers involved. ... On Friday, a network spokeswoman would only reiterate a statement given to New York Magazine, which said: 'We're not going to discuss internal matters any further.'” Media Matters' Simon Maloy has noted that Fox News has a history of failing to take action against ethical problems within the organization.

Ailes pushes false distinction between “news” and “opinion” divisions

Reporter Koebel said that Ailes “also pointed out people like Sarah Palin are contributors hired to give opinions, but his journalists are exactly that and are hired to give a fair and balanced report for newscasts.”

Fox News' “opinion” and “news” sides echo each other by regularly pushing smears and falsehoods. In October 2009, Fox News responded to White House criticisms of its network by claiming that while its “editorial” programs are filled with “vibrant opinion,” its news hours -- which it reportedly defined as “9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and 6 to 8 p.m. on weekdays” -- are objective. However, Media Matters for America has compiled numerous examples showing how Fox's “news” division echoes its “opinion” programs by pushing smears, falsehoods, doctored and deceptive editing, and GOP talking points.

Fox's “news” division routinely promotes and echoes Beck. Washington Post media critic Howard Kurtz reported in March that some “Fox journalists” believe that colleague Glenn Beck “uses distorted or inflammatory rhetoric that undermines their credibility.” Nevertheless, Fox News' reporters and “news” programs have routinely promoted and echoed Beck on stories such as the 9-12 Project, tea party protests, ACORN and former White House officials Van Jones and Anita Dunn.

*Nexis search terms: BYLINE(Palin); GUESTS(PALIN); BYLINE(Ferraro); GUESTS(Ferraro)