Media Matters president Burns: Fox News "a 24/7 political operation" geared to destroy Obama presidency, progressive agenda

Media Matters president Burns: Fox News "a 24/7 political operation" geared to destroy Obama presidency, progressive agenda


From the October 12 edition of MSNBC's Countdown with Keith Olbermann:

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LAWRENCE O'DONNELL (guest host): If you want evidence that the Fox News Channel views itself as an arm of the Republican Party, listen to the man behind the curtain: former Republican Party media adviser Roger Ailes.

In March of this year, Glenn Beck told the LA Times that before he was hired at Fox News, that network's president, Roger Ailes, told him how he saw Fox's coverage of the Obama administration. Quote, "I view this as the Alamo. If I just had somebody who was willing to sit on the other side of the camera until the last shot is fired, we'd be fine."

In our number one story, the Obama administration is officially fighting back by publicly calling out the Fox News Channel for what it is. In an interview with Time magazine last week, White House communications director Anita Dunn called Fox News, quote, "opinion journalism masquerading as news."

Dunn's criticism centered not on the network's news gathering capacity -- she has no problem with White House reporter Major Garrett, for example. The problem the White House sees is pervasive in the channel's entire programming lineup, in its opinion shows and news, and the problem begins with story selection.

From CNN's Reliable Sources yesterday.

DUNN [video clip]: If we went back a year ago to the fall of 2008, to the campaign, that -- you know, it was a time this country was in two wars. That we'd had a financial collapse probably more significant than any financial collapse since the Great Depression. If you were a Fox News viewer in the fall election, what you would have seen would have been that the biggest stories and biggest threats facing America were a guy named Bill Ayers and something called ACORN. I mean, the reality of it is that Fox News often operates almost as either the research arm or the communications arm of the Republican Party.

O'DONNELL: When asked if the president would appear on Fox News Channel again, Dunn said the following.

DUNN [video clip]: The answer is yes. Obviously, he will go on Fox, because he engages with ideological opponents, and he has done that before and he will do it again. I can't give you a date, because, frankly, I can't give you dates for anybody else right now. But what I will say is that when he goes on Fox, he understands he is not going on it really as a news network at this point. He is going on to debate the opposition.

O'DONNELL: Joining us now is Eric Burns, president of Media Matters for America, a not-for-profit group that monitors conservative misinformation in the U.S. media. Eric, welcome.

BURNS: Thank you.

O'DONNELL: Why has the White House finally come out and stated the obvious, that the Fox News Channel is opinion journalism masquerading as news?

BURNS: Look, Anita Dunn has it exactly right with her description of Fox News, and I said as much on this program just two weeks ago. But I take it a step further, Lawrence. I think that what we have all thought of as a conservative news organization has really morphed itself this year into a 24/7 political operation with a very specific goal. And that is to destroy this presidency, and destroy any sort of progressive policy agenda that the American people voted for in November.

That's their goal. They've said it. You saw it at the top of your clip. And I think that that's what we are dealing with. And so Anita Dunn is absolutely right to call them out for that.

O'DONNELL: But why -- strategically for the White House, why would they choose now to raise attention to Fox's attacks on the White House?

BURNS: Well, you know, Fox's attacks on the White House -- their attacks on the White House have gotten more and more vicious. They have been going on for quite awhile. But they have gone on a czar witch-hunt, which of course we've all seen. Most of it based on specious facts or no facts at all, especially in the case of -- the recent case of Kevin Jennings, a Department of Education official, that Sean Hannity repeatedly claimed condoned statutory rape. Media Matters was able to completely disprove that.

And they've got a -- they've got a big board of 30 or so of these folks that they have actively targeted and said they are going to go after and try to get fired.

That doesn't sound like a news organization. That's a political operation. I've certainly, Lawrence, have been involved in campaigns, as you have. And that certainly sounds a lot more like what you see out of a political campaign.

O'DONNELL: Now is part of the White House method here to, in effect, quarantine the misinformation that Fox News puts out? Because sometimes Fox News will generate one of these phony controversies, and then other outlets will pick it up because they are covering the controversy. They don't -- they're not covering the thing that started it, the falsehoods that Fox promoted to start it.

BURNS: I think quarantining Fox News is something that is very important. We have worked to do that -- the misinformation coming out of Fox News. It's very important. It's something we have worked to do very hard at Media Matters, and I think successfully in the past. But, as I said, you know, Fox News has really morphed and changed into a political organization.

They're much more dangerous. They're much more powerful. So I'm not sure that that's enough to get the job done. Folks are going to have to really go at Fox News.

And really Fox News is the story. You've got to understand that we have, you know, Mike Huckabee and others -- you know, Dick Morris -- openly raising money for their political action committees on Fox News. We have Fox News folks -- hosts like Glenn Beck organizing political activists -- rather partisan political activist protests -- the 9-12 rallies, the tea party protests. Fox did 22 segments promoting those tea party protests, 37 paid teaser advertisements on that.

They are deeply, deeply involved in the political activities of the conservative movement. And I would say that they are essentially directing them, from all available evidence.

O'DONNELL: I think there is very little evidence that Fox is going to respond in any kind of positive way to this White House criticism. Don't you agree with that?

BURNS: I don't think so. But, you know, I'll tell you what. From, you know, from the guy that -- that created the Willie Horton ad, who is running Fox News, I don't know what anybody can really expect. We're just going to have to get tough with them --

O'DONNELL: Yeah, there's not much to expect there.

BURNS: -- and the news media is going to have to get tough with them.

O'DONNELL: Right. Eric Burns, president of Media Matters for America, thanks for your time tonight.

BURNS: Thank you, Lawrence.

Countdown with Keith Olbermann
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