Washington Post media critic Howard Kurtz recently reported 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.
Kurtz: Some “Fox journalists” worried Beck “undermines their credibility”
From Kurtz's March 15 Washington Post column:
In just over a year, Glenn Beck's blinding burst of stardom has often seemed to overshadow the rest of Fox News.
And that may not be a good thing for the top-rated cable news channel, as many of its staffers are acutely aware.
With his celebrity fueled by a Time cover story, best-selling books, cheerleading role at protest rallies and steady stream of divisive remarks, Beck is drawing big ratings. But there is a deep split within Fox between those -- led by Chairman Roger Ailes -- who are supportive, and many journalists who are worried about the prospect that Beck is becoming the face of the network.
By calling President Obama a racist and branding progressivism a “cancer,” Beck has achieved a lightning-rod status that is unusual even for the network owned by Rupert Murdoch. And that, in turn, has complicated the channel's efforts to neutralize White House criticism that Fox is not really a news organization. Beck has become a constant topic of conversation among Fox journalists, some of whom say they believe he uses distorted or inflammatory rhetoric that undermines their credibility.
Friction between opinionated cable personalities and journalists has also flared occasionally at MSNBC. But Beck has caused such anguish at Fox that some of its journalists celebrated the failure of last week's interview with embattled ex-congressman Eric Massa, which Beck pronounced a waste of time.
One thing is beyond debate: Beck provides a strong lead-in for the network's evening lineup. “The significance of Beck to Fox's bottom line cannot be underestimated,” says Tyndall, the industry analyst. “Getting an audience that size at 5 p.m. is absolutely unheard of.”
But that growth has come at a price, at least for those at Fox who believe that Beck is beginning to define their brand. Glenn Beck is a media phenomenon married to a phenomenally successful network, but away from the cameras, theirs is a troubled relationship.
The New York Times reported on October 11, 2009, that Fox News claims its news hours are objective and defined as “9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and 6 to 8 p.m. on weekdays.” Those weekday hours include America's Newsroom, Happening Now, America Live, Studio B, Special Report, and The Fox Report. America Live replaced Live Desk in early 2010.
“News” division takes cues from Beck on ACORN tapes
Beck brings ACORN videos to Fox. On the September 9, 2009, edition of his Fox News program, Beck previewed an “exclusive” that would air on his program the next day, which he claimed would make “things change a lot for those in power.” Beck later aired snippets of a video from James O'Keefe and Hannah Giles in which they entered the Baltimore office of ACORN. Beck suggested the video was the “exclusive stuff” that he predicted the media would be “talking about” instead of health care. On September 10, Beck interviewed Giles and credited Andrew Breitbart with starting the story. On September 15, Beck again hosted O'Keefe for a “one-hour special.” Beck continued pushing subsequent ACORN videos from O'Keefe and Giles in the following months. Investigations later found significant problems with the ACORN tapes and cleared ACORN of criminal wrongdoing.
Fox “news” programs follow Beck's lead, seize on ACORN videos. Following Beck's “exclusive” preview, on September 10, 2009, through 7 p.m., Fox News dedicated at least 17 segments to the ACORN video. Fox “news” programs covering the video included: America's Newsroom; Happening Now; Live Desk; and Special Report.
Fox “news” programs hype Beck-promoted San Bernardino ACORN tapes. On September 15 and 16, 2009, Fox “news” programs devoted significant programming to O'Keefe and Giles' video of their interactions with an ACORN worker in San Bernardino, CA, who claimed that she murdered her husband and gave advice on how to run a brothel. The worker stated after the video was released that she hadn't murdered her husband -- which was confirmed by police -- and was attempting to “shock them as much as they were shocking me.” Live Desk teased the video, with co-host Martha MacCallum stating: “We can now tell you that you are going to see yet another big development in the ACORN story. Another tape is expected to come out tonight after 5 p.m.” -- a reference to Glenn Beck's program. At 5 p.m., Beck devoted a “special program” to the San Bernardino video. Following Beck, Special Report and America's Newsroom ran reports on the video.
Fox News Sunday devoted 18 minutes, over two consecutive broadcasts, to ACORN controversy. In September, Fox News Sunday devoted a total of 18 minutes of programming time on two consecutive broadcasts to covering the ACORN tapes. During his September 20 broadcast, host Chris Wallace conducted an interview with ACORN CEO Bertha Lewis and Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) to discuss the story. During the September 27 broadcast of the program, Wallace aired a segment on O'Keefe, in which he advanced several of O'Keefe's claims without noting that they are contradicted by readily available evidence and labeled O'Keefe the “Power Player of the Week.”
“News” division follows Beck's lead on bogus Dunn controversy
Beck pushed concocted story that Dunn “worships” and “revere[s]” Mao Zedong. Throughout his October 15, 2009, program, Beck claimed that then-White House communications director Anita Dunn “worships” and “idolizes” “her hero” Mao Zedong. As evidence, Beck aired a video in which Dunn cited two of her “favorite political philosophers,” Mao Zedong and Mother Teresa during a speech to high school graduates. However, Dunn offered no endorsement of Mao's ideology or actions -- rather, she spoke of Mao and Mother Teresa as two of her favorite “political philosophers,” and based on short quotes from them, she offered the advice that “you don't have to follow other people's choices and paths” or “let external definition define how good you are internally.” Indeed, numerous conservatives, including Newt Gingrich and John McCain, have approvingly cited the tactics of Mao, Vladimir Lenin, and the Viet Cong, stated that they had used those tactics in their political work, or have otherwise highlighted their philosophies.
Beck continued attacking Dunn for Mao comments. Beck continued his campaign against Dunn after the October 15, 2009, program, claiming that she has "admiration" for Mao and that President Obama has “surrounded himself with Mao supporters.”
Special Report followed Beck's lead in highlighting Dunn's “Mao” comments. On October 19, 2009, Fox News' Special Report aired a truncated clip of Dunn's Mao quote, and Fox News contributor Brit Hume responded: “Well, she also said that this is the two people she turns to most. This doesn't sound like it was a one-off attempt to make a joke and imitate the Republican strategist Lee Atwater.”
“News” division follows Beck's campaign against Van Jones
Beck led the charge against Van Jones. Beck repeatedly attacked then-White House green jobs adviser Van Jones. Beck has falsely accused Van Jones of being a “convicted felon,” misleadingly referred to Jones as a “self-avowed radical revolutionary communist,” and stated that Jones' place in the Obama administration “says that the president has an agenda that is radical, revolutionary, and in some cases, Marxist.” A September 6, 2009, New York Times article stated that "[c]hief among those keeping the story alive was Glenn Beck, the conservative host of a Fox News Channel program. Mr. Beck began criticizing Mr. Jones in July, first in segments on his syndicated talk radio show and then, on July 23, on his Fox News program, said Christopher Balfe, the president of Mr. Beck's production company."
“News” division picks up Jones “controversy.” On September 3, 2009, America's Newsroom, Live Desk, and Special Report ran segments on the “controversy” over Jones. Fox News dispatched at least two reporters, Molly Henneberg and James Rosen, to the Van Jones story. For instance, America's Newsroom's Megyn Kelly said Jones has a “somewhat radical and sometimes racially-charged past,” and asked Henneberg if Jones “described himself as a communist.” Kelly further wondered how Jones became a “czar.” From America's Newsroom:
Live Desk covered Jones' past remarks with Rosen and promoted the results of a non-scientific poll finding that 97 percent of Fox News viewers aren't “satisfied with Van Jones' apology” for past remarks:
On Special Report, host Bret Baier introduced a report by Rosen by stating that there's a “troubling pattern of behavior by one of the president's top advisers [Jones]” and later concluded, “We'll see if the national hoo-rah develops” over Jones.
Van Jones resigns; Beck and Fox “stories” receive credit. On September 6, 2009, Jones resigned, citing that he “cannot in good conscience ask my colleagues to expend precious time and energy defending or explaining my past.” The Huffington Post's Ryan Grim noted that "[b]efore Beck mentioned Jones in the last few weeks on his Fox News television show, Jones remained an obscure figure in the administration. After Beck mentioned him, protesters at town hall meetings made Jones a staple of their complaints." In an October 28, 2009, speech (retrieved from the Congressional Record) on the House floor, Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX) said: “Fox reports the stories that the national media ignore. For example, without Fox News, you might not have heard about the recent ACORN scandal. You might not have heard about the troubling political associations of the President's former green jobs czar, which eventually led to his resignation.”
Wallace: It is “certainly the case that Van Jones had a history as a radical, as a self-professed communist.” In a panel discussion about Jones' resignation on the September 6, 2009, edition of Fox News Sunday, Wallace stated that “it certainly is the case that Van Jones had a history as a radical, as a self-professed communist, and also, the fact that is -- that he signed a 2004 petition suggesting that there be an investigation of whether or not the government had a role in 9/11.”
“News” division continues to track Jones post-resignation. Fox News' Special Report has continued to discuss Van Jones despite his White House resignation. Since Jones' resignation, according to Nexis, Special Report has mentioned Van Jones on February 25, February 24, October 19, October 6, September 28, September 16, and September 10.
“News” division promotes Beck's 9-12 special and rally
Beck started conservative 9-12 Project, whose members helped organize 9-12 protests. On March 13, 2009, during his “You Are Not Alone” special, Beck announced the launch of his 9-12 Project, whose members helped organize and turn out participants to a protest on September 12, 2009. Beck routinely implored his audience to attend the Washington, D.C. rally on his Fox News show. Beck then aired a special edition of his television show live from 1 to 3 p.m. ET on Fox News on September 12.
Happening Now promotes Beck's original 9-12 Project special. On March 13, 2009, Happening Now hosted Beck to promote his special. From Happening Now:
Live Desk promotes Beck's original special as “the place to be.” On the March 13, 2009, edition of Live Desk, co-host Trace Gallagher started a countdown to Beck's special and said Beck's show is “gathering steam across the country.” Co-host Martha MacCallum added that Beck's special is “the place to be this Friday night.” Gallagher said that Beck's first principle is “America is good and we seemed to have forgotten that.” Gallagher interviewed Beck live outside Fox News' offices while he and Fox News graphics repeatedly promoted the special:
Wallace: “I'm a big Glenn Beck fan.” On the March 13, 2009, edition of Fox News' Studio B, while discussing Beck's special, Wallace said he sensed that Fox News host Shepard Smith was “begrudging” Glenn Beck and that he himself is a “big Glenn Beck fan” and is “on the Glenn Beck bandwagon.”
Fox News heavily promoted the Beck-fueled 9-12 rally. Fox News heavily promoted the 9-12 Tea Party rally and the Tea Party Express tour, whose last stop was on September 12 in Washington. For instance, during the August 23, 2009, edition of America's News HQ, host and reporter Shannon Bream said, “We want to let folks know” the Tea Party Express' schedule so “they can be a part” of the events. And on August 28, 2009, Fox News dispatched reporters Griff Jenkins and William La Jeunesse to the Tea Party Express kickoff in Sacramento, California. Jenkins also reported from the 9-12 rally for Beck's special; a Fox News producer was caught encouraging the crowd to cheer during Jenkins' report.
“News” division heavily promotes April 15 Tea Parties -- featuring Glenn Beck
Beck promotes, hosts a “FNC Tax Day” Tea Party. While discussing the April 15, 2009, Tea Party protests on his April 6, 2009, program, Glenn Beck suggested that viewers could "[c]elebrate with Fox News" by either attending a protest or watching it on Fox News. Beck stated that in addition to himself, hosts Neil Cavuto, Greta Van Susteren, and Sean Hannity would be “live” at different protests. While Beck spoke, on-screen text labeled those protests as “FNC Tax Day Tea Parties.” In the lead-up to April 15, Beck repeatedly promoted the tea parties and urged viewers to attend them.
Like Beck, Fox “news” programs repeatedly urged attendance at tea parties. In the lead-up to the April 15, 2009, tea parties, Fox's “news” programs and anchors frequently aired segments publicizing and encouraging viewers to get involved with the protests. For instance, Special Report host Baier noted the URL of TaxDayTeaParty.com and stated that the protests have been “largely ignored by the mainstream media,” while America's Newsroom frequently hosted tea party organizers and posted on-screen organizing information, such as protest dates and locations. Host Bill Hemmer also repeatedly directed viewers to the show's section on the Fox News website, which posted a list of tea party protests. The following are some of the graphics America's Newsroom aired to promote the April 15 tea parties:
Hemmer promotes Beck's appearance at the Alamo. While guest-hosting the April 12, 2009, edition of Fox News Watch, news anchor Hemmer promoted Beck's appearance at the Alamo tea party, stating:
HEMMER: While the mainstream is ignoring the tea party movement, here at the Fox News Channel, we're gearing up to bring you special coverage of the events all across the country. Sean Hannity is in Atlanta. Glenn Beck is at the Alamo. Where else would he be? San Antonio. Neil Cavuto is live in Sacramento and Greta is in Washington, D.C.
Can't get to a tea party? Fox Nation hosts a virtual tea party. You can check it out on the site for the location of a tea party in your area. Again, that is Wednesday, the 15th of April.