During a recent moderated discussion with Howard Dean at the University of Delaware, Fox News contributor Karl Rove made some bizarre comments. Politico's Ken Vogel reported on the event, and he noted that Rove - in response to an allegation from Dean that Fox News viewers are horribly misinformed - said "45 percent of NPR listeners were Saddam Hussein."
From the report:
Dean, a frequent guest on the left-leaning Fox rival MSNBC, said NPR "tell[s] it as they see it, and they usually get it right. And Fox doesn't get it right because Fox is a particular offender at making news instead of reporting it." Dean cited a 2003 University of Maryland poll showing that 45 percent of Fox News viewers harbored misconceptions about the Iraq war including believing there was a proven link between Iraq and the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, compared with only 11 percent of public radio or television viewers.
Rove interrupted, to laughter: "45 percent of NPR listeners were Saddam Hussein."
And, echoing the distinction emphasized by Fox, Rove urged viewers to "differentiate between the news that gets covered during the day and the opinion programs like Hannity and Beck and O'Reilly."
The only thing more confusing than that odd statement is that the fact that, as Vogel reported, people laughed at it.
Does Karl Rove think that in 2003 45 percent of NPR's listeners were, in fact, Saddam Hussein? Probably not. Can he give an honest and straightforward answer to the question of why his network so grossly misinforms its viewers? We report. You decide.
For the record, there's a lot more damning evidence in that 2003 poll cited by Dean. A full two-thirds of Fox viewers believed the US had found clear evidence of a link between al Qaeda and Iraq, compared with 16 percent of the NPR/PBS audience. 33 percent of Fox viewers believed the U.S. found WMD, compared with 11 percent of NPR/PBS viewers. And finally, a full 80 percent of Fox viewers harbored one or more misperceptions about the Iraq war. For NPR/PBS, the number was 23 percent.
There are two stories here. First, that Karl Rove made a very bad joke, and second, that the efforts of Karl Rove's employers at informing their viewers is, itself, a very bad joke.