Fox Fights Imaginary Media Bias With Actual Media Bias

Sean Hannity hosted the Media Research Center's (MRC) Brent Bozell on his Fox program Hannity, and together the pair weaved a distorted caricature of the ongoing government shutdown and the media coverage surrounding it. From their seats on one of the nation's largest news networks, Hannity and Bozell complained that liberal media bias was to blame for the public's low opinion of congressional Republicans' role in the shutdown, supporting their façade with a series of lies, omissions, and a dose of their own bias.

On October 1, the federal government shut down when congressional Republicans refused to pass legislation funding operations unless the funding was tied to the delay or defunding of the Affordable Care Act (ACA or Obamacare). 

On the October 3 edition of his Fox News show, Hannity and Bozell discussed media coverage of the shutdown, reflecting on “all the ways the mainstream media puts their liberal spin on the news,” as Hannity put it. He proceeded to open the segment with his own conservative spin on the news, accusing President Obama of refusing to talk to Republicans about the shutdown and absolving Republicans of responsibility. But in fact, the president has called and met with Republican leadership, who are holding fast to their ACA demands.

Bozell stepped in to agree that media's focus on Republicans is inappropriate, complaining that, “In the media coverage -- 21 stories blaming Republicans, not one story blaming Democrats.” Bozell's MRC study focused on network evening news stories, ignoring the multitude of Fox News segments blaming Democrats for the shutdown.

Bozell's study in fact confirms that network news is providing reality-based coverage of the shutdown, which persists because of a Republican refusal to extricate its opposition to the ACA from the nation's budget. Bozell fails to acknowledge this fact, and his complaints amount to little more than an argument in favor of journalistic "false equivalency." 

Hannity then focused on attacking the “mainstream media” for its purported use of extreme rhetoric directed against congressional Republicans. Bozell responded with extreme language of his own, arguing that because 56 percent of the American public disfavor the ACA (according to a CNN poll), the media's rhetoric is by extension describing 56 percent of the American people as “suicide vests.”

However, Bozell's claim is misleading. Polls indicate that only one-third of Americans are actually in favor of the Republican plans to repeal, defund, or delay Obamacare. Most importantly, voters overwhelmingly oppose shutting down the government as a way of obstructing the health care law's implementation. It should also be noted that Fox News is no stranger to inflammatory rhetoric.

The segment went even further downhill when Hannity accused MSNBC's Martin Bashir of unfairly slandering Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus, buttressing his criticism by unfairly slandering Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV). Hannity implied a fair target for Bashir would have been Reid, saying, “This is even after Harry Reid's comments, 'Why would I do that, why would I help one kid with cancer?'”

Of course, this doctored characterization of Reid's comments is a right-wing smear, and thus Hannity committed the very act he was attempting to condemn all in one breath.

Hannity concluded by accusing NBC of shilling for the Democratic Party, complaining, “It's not NBC, it's DNC TV. Full time. 24/7.” With no hint of irony, Hannity -- whose show is predicated upon empowering and directing the Republican Party -- immediately followed up his accusation with instructions for House Republicans, urging them to "hold the line" on the shutdown while subtly acknowledging that he knows they're listening.

The Fox segment had promised a dissection of media bias from the “mainstream media.” It did not deliver, in large part because of the media bias that littered the discussion itself -- but also because of the astounding implication that Fox News, the nation's largest cable news network by far, is still somehow separate from the mainstream.