Stephen Hayes makes stuff up while defending Fox News

Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

Irony alert: While defending his employer from White House charges that Fox News isn't a real news outlet, Fox News commentator and Special Report regular, Hayes made stuff up in a futile attempt to knock down the claim.

Oops.

White House strategist Anita Dunn told CNN's Howard Kurtz that Fox News isn't a real news outlet, and here's one example she gave [emphasis added]:

For instance, Howie, "The New York Times" had a front page story about Nevada Senator John Ensign and the fact that he had gotten his former chief of staff a job as a lobbyist and his former chief of staff's wife was someone Ensign had had an affair with.

The Times broke that specific story about Ensign's former chief of staff on October 2.

Here's what Hayes said on Fox News last week:

And the example she used was the John Ensign affair story. And she said basically if you watch Fox, you didn't know about that story.

So I went back and looked at the month after the John Ensign story broke, and on this show, we discussed this 11 times, sometimes in extended reports, sometimes in a discussion like this. That's 11 times in 20 days. That's every other day.

Hayes did some actual research! He went back and checked the transepts. But oops, Hayes botched his research because Hayes ended up disproving a claim Dunn never made. Dunn never told CNN that Fox News ignored the Ensign affair story, which broke in July. She specifically said that Fox News ignored the follow-up scoop about how Republican Ensign had gotten a job for his former chief of staff; the same chief of staff whose wife Ensign had an affair with.

Hayes claimed Fox News reported on the July story of the Ensign affair. But that clearly was not the point Dunn made. (Hayes doesn't listen so good.) She claimed Fox News ignored a key, subsequent revelation. And was she right? Well, I went back and looked at the transcript for Fox News' Special Report and guess what? Dunn was absolutely correct. The program virtually ignored the October 2, story, which was only mentioned on-air one time and by a Washington Post reporter who was invited onto the show, not by a single Fox News contributor. The rest of Fox News remained equally mum.

Anita Dunn: 1

Stephen Hayes: 0.

UPDATED: Fox News' Neil Cavuto also played dumb about Ensign. Cavuto thundered that Dunn got it all wrong because Fox News did cover the Ensign affair. Except, of course, that's not the claim Dunn made. And do I even have to mention that Cavuto's show completely ignored the Oct. 2 story about Ensign getting a job for his chief of staff? (He did.)

Anita Dunn: 1

Neil Cavuto: 0.

UPDATED: My favorite example this year of Fox News clearly ignoring a breaking story that reflected poorly on the GOP was when Tom Ridge, on the eve of his book release, claimed that senior Bush administration officials had pressured him to tinker with the terror alert warning for purely political reasons back when he ran the Dept. of Homeland Security.

Yikes.

In the two-day span surrounding the story Fox News mentioned "Tom Ridge" exactly one time, vs. its cable news competitors which mentioned Ridge nearly 90 times.

I'm sure the RNC appreciated the Fox "news" judgment.

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