It's not uncommon to see Fox News figures complaining about so-called "media bias." What is less common, however, is to see a Fox News figure telling his colleagues he thinks their "bias" claim is made up.
At last night's Republican primary debate, CNN chief national correspondent and moderator John King opened by asking candidate Newt Gingrich about his ex-wife's allegation that he asked her for an open marriage. Gingrich blasted King in response, saying, "To take an ex-wife and make it two days before the primary a significant question in a presidential campaign is as close to despicable as anything I can imagine."
Fox News figures responded to the exchange by attacking CNN for having "bias" against Gingrich. On his Fox News show following the debate, Sean Hannity hosted Gingrich's daughters to attack King's question; he led the segment by referring to the "media['s]" "tawdry desire to go after this." On today's edition of Fox & Friends, the co-hosts repeatedly attacked King over the question. The show began with co-host Steve Doocy saying:
DOOCY: But for it to be the very first question -- there are so many gigantic challenges that are facing us here in the United States right now. And for that to be CNN's first question -- and remember, they sit around in a room and they figure out, OK, should we start with this or this? No, let's start with this. Let's try to get him. But brilliantly, Newt Gingrich knew eventually somebody was going to ask something like that. And he was able not only to hit it out of the park, but hit it into the next county.
In another segment, Doocy claimed that King's question was "one of the most egregious examples of media bias ever."
Later, co-host Gretchen Carlson interviewed Fox News legal analyst Peter Johnson Jr. about whether King's question was evidence of "bias." Johnson claimed the question was proof of an "unholy alliance" between "the mainstream media" and "certain factions in government" and said King was "trying to destroy" Gingrich:
JOHNSON: It's also known that [Gingrich] has been divorced in the past and that he had a relationship with his current wife, apparently, while he was married. That's all known. He's asked for forgiveness in the past. ... It's also understood in America that there is an unholy alliance between the mainstream media, between organizations like ABC and CNN and MSNBC, and certain factions in the government. And so when this question was asked at the beginning of this debate, putting private conduct that was already well-known as front and center in an important debate, the people in that audience, and I think the people across the country, stood up literally and said, wait a second. What's this about? Who were you trying to destroy? Yes, competence, character and conscious are issues, and those are personal issues for voters. But is it up to an anchor on CNN to engage in a moral debate with a candidate, to put a candidate front and center at the top of this debate?
But then Fox & Friends hosted Fox News anchor Chris Wallace, who was not subscribing to his own network's line on the story; in fact, Wallace -- who has co-moderated several GOP primary debates during the past year -- said, "I would have asked that as the first question":
CARLSON: The debate's down to four people now, and it started off with a lot of fireworks when Newt Gingrich was asked this question, and he came out firing. Listen to this, Chris.
CARLSON: Does he have a point? Do you agree with him?
WALLACE: No. I don't agree with him at all. You know, I've got to say, I was thinking to myself last night -- I mean, that's how sad my life is, I sit there even in debates I'm not a part of it, and think, what would I do? And I would have asked that as the first question.
Incredulous, Doocy repeated, "The first question?" Wallace replied, "Yes. Absolutely," and went on:
WALLACE: I think it's the news. It's the big development that's out there -- and look, we're judging a president. And how he answers it, and look, it got a -- it got a terrific answer from him. Our job isn't to be popular. Our job is to ask what's on people's minds. I mean, we've asked about the economy, and we've asked about foreign policy a million times. We're going to get to it in the course of a two-hour debate. I thought it was a legitimate first question to ask.
Later, Wallace was a guest on The Mike Gallagher Show. When host Mike Gallagher criticized ABC for "elect[ing] to run an interview with an ex-wife" the week of the South Carolina primary, Wallace defended ABC's decision and replied, in part, "If [Marianne Gingrich] had called me this week and said we want to do an interview, I would have done the interview and I would have run the interview."
Wallace wasn't the only right-wing media figure who defended King's question; CNN contributor and RedState editor Erick Erickson said the question about Gingrich's ex-wife "had to be asked" and added, "I'm glad John [King] asked it first, cause it would have otherwise overshadowed everything else in the debate."