This weekend, a minor news story popped up that should probably get a little more attention than it will. Appearing on CNN's Reliable Sources, White House communications director Anita Dunn gave what Huffington Post's Sam Stein called, "a lengthy and brutal denunciation of Fox News, calling the cable outlet a vehicle for Republican Party propaganda and an ideological opponent of the president." Stein includes a few examples:
"If we went back a year ago to the fall of 2008, to the campaign, that was a time this country was in two wars that we 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 were that the biggest stories and the biggest threats facing America were a guy named Bill Ayers and a something called ACORN."
"The reality of it is that Fox News often operates almost as either the research arm or the communications arm of the Republican Party. And it is not ideological... what I think is fair to say about Fox, and the way we view it, is that it is more of a wing of the Republican Party."
"Obviously [the President] will go on Fox because he engages with ideological opponents. He has done that before and he will do it again... when he goes on Fox he understands he is not going on it as a news network at this point. He is going on it to debate the opposition."
"[Fox is] widely viewed as a part of the Republican Party: take their talking points and put them on the air, take their opposition research and put it on the air. And that's fine. But let's not pretend they're a news organization like CNN is."
The only real disagreement I have with Dunn here is that I don't know that I'd call CNN a "news organization." They report a lot of stuff, but they don't do a lot of journalism -- no cable news organization really does that. Maybe they're a "news-repeating organization." Otherwise, dead on.
This becomes obvious enough when we point our browsers over to the network's The FOX Nation website, where the top story at this particular moment is "What are the Nobel Prize Committee Chairman's Socialist Ties?"
There we go then. Case closed. Shortest morning post I ever wrote. But this isn't the only example, it's just the most recent. During the summer, Fox's bias was incredibly blatant. "Fox News has in dozens of instances provided attendance and organizing information for future protests, such as protest dates, locations and website URLs," Media Matters reported at the time. "Fox News websites have also posted information and publicity material for protests. Fox News hosts have repeatedly encouraged viewers to join them at several April 15 protests that they are attending and covering."
"The network has also been pushing the movement’s talking points, saying that people are 'angry,' 'upset,' and 'feeling disenfranchised,' which is why they're organizing this 'nationwide grassroots movement.'" added Think Progress. "Promising 'fair and balanced' coverage, hosts such as Glenn Beck, Neil Cavuto, and Sean Hannity are all planning to broadcast live from the events. The Fox broadcasts are in turn being used by the tea party organizers to promote their protests."
For their part, Fox has all but dropped any pretense of being unbiased. That "fair and balanced" motto has often been misunderstood; the network itself was never meant to be balanced in their reporting, but to provide a balance to the perceived "liberal bias" of the rest of the media. With the firing of their only liberal -- Alan Colmes -- and picking up the warmed-over John Bircherism of Glenn Beck, the network has gone fullblown wingnut with the election of Barack Obama.
"The roots of Fox News Channel's day-to-day on-air bias are actual and direct," former Fox News producer Charlie Reina once emailed The Poynter Institute's journalism training center. "They come in the form of an executive memo distributed electronically each morning, addressing what stories will be covered and, often, suggesting how they should be covered. To the newsroom personnel responsible for the channel's daytime programming, The Memo is the bible. If, on any given day, you notice that the Fox anchors seem to be trying to drive a particular point home, you can bet The Memo is behind it.
"The Memo was born with the Bush administration, early in 2001, and, intentionally or not, has ensured that the administration's point of view consistently comes across on FNC. This year, of course, the war in Iraq became a constant subject of The Memo. But along with the obvious -- information on who is where and what they'll be covering -- there have been subtle hints as to the tone of the anchors' copy."
And Reina backed up what Dunn suggested on CNN in an 2003 interview with Salon. "I'll tell you, it's interesting," he said. "On that same day [that Fox management distributed a memo suggesting suicide bombings be called 'homicide bombings'], the White House had made the same suggestion -- well, the Bush administration, whether it was the White House or the Pentagon or whatever. That's the background to it. By the next day, enough people [at Fox] were saying, 'What about this?' So the next day's memo kind of reluctantly said, 'Well, you could use either one.' But by then, everyone -- and again, we're talking about young people who don't have any perspective on this; all they know is that you do what they're told -- they know what management's feeling about this is. So... it's 'homicide bombings.' And that's the beginnings of a new P.C."
The same day that the Bush administration came out with a new spin-term for suicide bombings, Fox sent out a memo suggesting people use a new spin-term for suicide bombings... the exact same term the White House was trying to launch into common usage. Either this was Fox executives getting their talking points off the fax from the Republican National Committee or this was a colossal coincidence. Fox News looks a lot like the Republican Party's press office.
Get updates via Twitter