Fox News host Megyn Kelly whitewashed Fox's transparent politicization of the Kermit Gosnell murder trial to frame it as an example of her network's commitment to provide "context to certain stories that you won't get elsewhere."
Kelly appeared on the October 13 edition of Fox's Media Buzz to discuss her new show, The Kelly File. During the segment, Kelly pushed back against the suggestion that "Fox News leans right," criticizing what she characterized as the "marching orders of media that we do believe leans left," and saying that viewers of her show would see different stories from what they would find in the mainstream media. She claimed that "what we do at Fox News is fair and balanced broadcasting" and held up Fox's coverage of the Kermit Gosnell trial as an example of the network's commitment to providing "context to certain stories that you won't get elsewhere" (emphasis added):
HOWARD KURTZ (host): What about the counter-notion that maybe as a counterweight that Fox News leans right. Does your show lean right?
KELLY: I don't think that's true. I think what we do at Fox News is fair and balanced broadcasting. And so, you know if you tune in to see my show at 9 pm, you're not going to see the same stories as you see on the front cover of The New York Times necessarily. You know, that's not what we get paid to do, is just follow the marching orders of media that we do believe leans left. That there's plenty of options if people want that. But Fox News gets paid for telling the full story, the complete story, and having both sides of the argument presented in a way.
KURTZ: But will I see more Republicans than Democrats?
KELLY: It depends on the night and the story. You know? I mean, hopefully no, over the course of a week or two, it will all balance out and you'll see both sides. And if you have a Republican you can always press them with the Democratic talking points and vice versa, so there's ways of presenting both sides even if you have more of one. But I think the thing that Fox also does is provide context to certain stories that you won't get elsewhere and to tell stories that won't get told elsewhere. I mean, the Gosnell abortion doctor story is one example that very few were covering aggressively until Fox News really picked it up. And that was a hard story to tell. But we did.
But Fox's coverage of the Gosnell trial is a strong example of the network's transparent politicization of a tragic case.
On May 13, Kermit Gosnell was convicted of three counts of first-degree murder for crimes committed under the guise of women's reproductive health services at his Philadelphia clinic. Though the grisly procedures that Gosnell performed bore no resemblance to legal women's health services -- indeed, the grand jury in his case found that his "competitive edge" was to "keep volume high, expenses low - and break the law" -- Fox repeatedly ignored the fact that the story centered on a criminal prosecution and used the case to smear legal and safe abortion procedures in the United States. Months later, Fox figures continued to dishonestly politicize the Gosnell case.
Even Kelly's own coverage of abortion laws in Texas obscured the vast difference between the Gosnell case and legal abortion procedures. On the June 26 edition of Fox News' America Live, Kelly made no move to push back against Fox contributor Monica Crowley's claim that Texas' push to limit reproductive rights was "completely reasonable" and "a direct response to the horrors that we saw in the Gosnell case" or to correct her guests' other falsehoods about the severity of the law and President Obama's abortion record.
Though Kelly's claim that Fox led the way with "fair and balanced" reporting on the Gosnell case is a gross misrepresentation, it is also nothing new. During the course of the trial, Fox went to great lengths to claim that the liberal media had purposefully ignored the case, but when news of Gosnell's arrest and the enormity of his alleged crimes first broke in January 2011, Fox covered the story the least of the three cable networks:
Kelly claims that her new show will play it straight. If Fox's Gosnell coverage is the standard by which Kelly judges "fair and balanced" reporting, it seems unlikely that her show will represent any significant departure from the network's last decade of primetime programming -- beyond offering the mere veneer of legitimacy.