FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday, April 20, 2010
Jess Levin (202) 772-8162
Network has history of pledging change, failing to deliver
Washington, D.C. - Today, Media Matters for America responded to Fox News allowing Fox Business host John Stossel to appear at a fundraising luncheon for the Institute for Energy Research (IER) even after the network reportedly promised to "keep a tighter rein" on its employees.
"Fox is being deliberately dishonest," said Eric Burns, President of Media Matters. "The leaked internal memos and comments to reporters are about maintaining an illusion of journalistic integrity, not actual change.
Burns continued: "Reporters should be questioning why Rupert Murdoch, Roger Ailes, and Fox executives can't deliver on their promises."
After Fox News executives yanked host Sean Hannity from taping his April 15 show at a Cincinnati Tea Party event which charged admission and had "all proceeds" benefiting the organization, the network reportedly planned to "keep a tighter rein on Hannity and others." But just yesterday, Media Matters confirmed that Fox Business host John Stossel is still scheduled to keynote a June 4 fundraising luncheon in Houston for IER -- an organization with heavy ties to the energy industry and whose research and representatives have repeatedly appeared on Fox.
This is not the first time Fox News executives have made empty promises after embarrassing controversies.
After Steve Doocy retracted his false assertion that then-Sen. Barack Obama "was educated in a madrassa," then-Fox News Vice President for News John Moody reportedly said in a memo to Fox News staff: "For the record: seeing an item on a website does not mean it is right. Nor does it mean it is ready for air on FNC. The urgent queue is our way of communicating information that is air-worthy. Please adhere to this."
But by April 2007, Doocy and Fox & Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade were repeating as fact an online parody news report involving a prank in which a middle school student tossed a slab of leftover Easter ham onto a table surrounded by Muslim students in order to offend them. The report, which was published on Associated Content, attributed numerous made-up quotes to the school's superintendent.
And just last month, Fox & Friends perpetuated the false claim advanced on right-wing blogs that President Obama was incorrect in stating during a Fox News interview that Hawaii had suffered an earthquake in recent years.
After Media Matters received behind-the-scenes footage of a Fox News producer appearing to coach a crowd at the 9-12 protest to scream and cheer during a colleague's live report, Vice President of News and Washington managing editor Bill Sammon wrote in an internal memo, "We are there to chronicle the news, not create it," and, "We do not cheerlead for one cause or another."
Yet, since this memo was issued, Media Matters has documented several examples of Fox "cheerlead[ing]" for causes, most recently for Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown's campaign:
After a series of embarrassing on-screen errors in which Fox News used the wrong footage, network executives sent a memo to the newsroom stating that, in the future, "there is zero tolerance for on-screen errors" and "[m]istakes by any member of the show team that end up on air may result in immediate disciplinary action against those who played significant roles in the 'mistake chain,' and those who supervise them ... up to and including termination."
Media Matters has since sent five letters to Fox News Senior Vice President Michael Clemente about such errors, asking what "immediate disciplinary action" these "mistakes" would result in. We have yet to receive a response.
Additionally, Media Matters recently caught host Bill O'Reilly claiming that "nobody" on Fox advanced the false claim that under the health care reform legislation individuals can be sent to jail for not having health insurance. In fact, Fox has relentlessly pushed that falsehood, including on O'Reilly's own show.
Responding to criticism, O'Reilly claimed that when "jail time" had been "on the table," Fox had reported on it, but no one on Fox made the claim after that provision was supposedly removed. He concluded: "So, what I said is absolutely true: Nobody at Fox News reported inaccurately about the Obamacare prison situation. Nobody." In fact, the health care bill Fox had been reporting on also did not include "jail time" as a penalty for not having health insurance, and as recently as this month, Fox Business' Eric Bolling was falsely claiming that if you don't have health insurance, the IRS "can fine you $750 or 2 percent of your income, whichever is more. If you don't pay they'll take it out of your refund. And God forbid you don't have a refund and you still don't want to pay, they'll probably put you in jail."