Amid heavy scandal-mongering from Fox, NBC News centered a news report on Tuesday around deceptively truncated comments President Obama made during a July 13 campaign appearance, comments right-wing media have been distorting for days to accuse Obama of dismissing business owners.
In other words, the Fox Cycle is in full effect.
The Fox Cycle is the phenomenon where Fox News helps the conservative fringe bring bogus stories into mainstream outlets. It works like this:
1. Right-wing bloggers, talk radio hosts, and other conservative media outlets start promoting and distorting the story.
2. Fox News picks up the story and gives it heavy, one-sided coverage.
3. Fox News and conservative media attack the "liberal media" for ignoring the distorted story.
4. Mainstream media outlets eventually cover the story, echoing the right-wing distortions.
5. Fox News receives credit for promoting the story.
6. The story is later proven to be false or wildly misleading, long after damage is done.
That cycle was at work this week, after Obama made the unremarkable observation that businesses do not succeed in a vacuum, but that public infrastructure -- such as roads, schools, and fire departments -- create a community that supports businesses:
OBAMA: If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you've got a business -- you didn't build that. Somebody else made that happen. The Internet didn't get invented on its own. Government research created the Internet so that all the companies could make money off the Internet.
The point is, is that when we succeed, we succeed because of our individual initiative, but also because we do things together. There are some things, just like fighting fires, we don't do on our own. I mean, imagine if everybody had their own fire service. That would be a hard way to organize fighting fires.
Stage 1 of the Fox Cycle hit soon after Obama made those comments, as the right-wing fringe distorted them. Focusing singularly on Obama's statement, "If you've got a business -- you didn't build that," these media conservatives accused the president of expressing hostility toward business. These attacks ignored the previous sentence in Obama's comments, when was talking about investments in roads and bridges.
Stage 2 came Monday, as Fox News began aggressively airing a video that likewise ignored Obama's comments about building roads and bridges and schools, and pretended his comments were some kind of insult to business owners. Over the course of the next two days, Fox spent more than two hours and 42 segments helping to manufacture a controversy.
On Tuesday, the Fox Cycle entered stage 3, as Fox began complaining that other networks weren't covering the phony outrage over Obama's comments. Fox guest (and Romney campaign surrogate) John Sununu complained that "the only people that seem to cover the comments" were on Fox News and that "[t]he rest of the media seems to ignore it." Fox host Bill Hemmer similarly said, "Seems the only channel reporting on this is right here."
By the middle of the day, the manufactured scandal had become part of Romney's campaign speech.
Tuesday night, the Fox Cycle entered stage 4, with mainstream media outlets adopting the Fox narrative after the condemnations by that network. On Tuesday night, Erick Erickson brought the attack on Obama to CNN, citing the deceptively edited remarks to accuse Obama of supporting "grade school Marxism."
NBC's Nightly News ran with the deceptively edited comments and played video of Mitt Romney distorting Obama's remarks and characterizing them as "insulting to every entrepreneur, every innovator in America and it's wrong." NBC didn't give the full context of Obama's comments.
If past is prologue, we can look for mainstream media to start crediting Fox News for once again acting as its assignment editor.