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Category

 Political

Published

 October, 2009

Synopsis

 How Fox News Paints the News

The War on Fox News

I truly enjoy having spirited discussions about national politics with Fox News watchers.

After about a minute, they’ve usually exhausted their complete inventory of Fox-fed talking points.

That’s why I’m glad the White House has declared it doesn’t think Fox News is real news. I agree. It could be widely viewed gossip, but news is something completely different.

Even the term “widely viewed” is questionable. Among cable news channels, Fox News is undoubtedly the leader.

In recent Nielsen ratings, Fox averaged 2.1 million primetime viewers, from Monday through Sunday, and between 8-11 p.m. There’s no question that number dwarfs Fox’ nearest competitor – MSNBC – with its 699,000 views.

But 129,391,711 people voted in the 2008 presidential election. Fox News only spoon feeds its version of “journalism” to a miniscule fraction (1.6%) of them. Its influence among most of America’s serious voters is minimal.

For Bill O’Reilly, Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity and the others to imply they’re serious players on the American political landscape is like saying the Pittsburgh Steelers have won far more Super Bowls than any other Pittsburgh-based NFL team.

It doesn’t really mean anything.

Thus, the White House bristles and balks at any claim Fox News makes to its own legitimacy about matters that really count.

Of course, Fox News was ready with a weak counterpunch.

Steve Doocy, a member of the Fox News’ early morning triumvirate, Fox and Friends, claimed he’d Googled the administration’s attacks on Fox and a “Newsweek column said that it is essentially un-American.”

That Newsweek article said nothing of the sort. Doocy, in one sentence, proved the administration’s point.

If he’d been a real journalist Doocy would’ve read the article’s headline: “The O’Garbage Factor: Fox News isn’t just bad. It’s Un-American.”

And if Doocy wanted to dispel the notion that Fox News plays fast-and-loose with the facts, and is prepared with the ready-made daily premise (about our supposedly un-American president) he wouldn’t have mentioned the Newsweek article in the first place.

“The Australian-British continental model of politicized media that (Fox Chairman) Rupert Murdoch has applied to Fox is un-American, so much so that he has little choice but go on denying what he’s doing as he does it. For Murdoch, (Fox News president) Roger Aisles, and company, “fair and balanced” is a necessary lie,” Jacob Weisberg wrote in his wholly uncomplimentary take on Fox News.

Yet, the war on phony political pyrotechnics should begin with Rush Limbaugh. It’s sometimes his ridiculous premises that start the anti-Obama ball rolling. Fox News, in many cases, is just a handy co-conspirator.

Although, I’ll admit, there’re times when Limbaugh’s penchant for political low blows aren’t even repeated on Fox News.

That happened a couple of weeks ago, when Limbaugh told his radio audience he’d found proof that President Obama “Doesn’t like the constitution.”

Limbaugh claimed, “President Obama attacked the founders and the constitution,” when he wrote one of his college term papers.

So wishful was Limbaugh’s thinking that Obama’s pro-American mask had been pulled off, he read from the “term paper.”

“The so-called founders did not allow for economic freedom,” Obama the Columbia University student was said to have written.

“The constitution is the most liberty promoting and freedom acknowledging document in the history of the world, and this LITTLE BOY in college writing about it with utter disdain. And he still shares those same feelings,” Limbaugh bellowed.

But there was a slight hitch. The entire story about the newly excavated Obama term paper was a joke. It had been published on a web site called “Jumping in Pools,” that had a tagline that read, “With no money and lots of time, what else is there to do?”

A neo-conservative blogger picked it up and ran with it, and soon so did Limbaugh. When he couldn’t find proof that Obama had, in fact, written that term paper, Limbaugh launched a new attack.

“I don’t care that these quotes are made up. I know Obama thinks it,” he said. In other words, as with Fox News, the premise is more important that the facts.

Edward A. Owens is a three time Emmy Award winner and 20 year veteran of television news. E-mail him at freedoms@bellatlantic.net