ABC Obama health care special brings out Fox News' hypocrisy
In criticizing a former ABC News correspondent now working in the Obama White House and ABC's refusal to air an advocacy ad during a program to be broadcast from the White House, Fox News guests and hosts have ignored Fox's own history of refusal to air advocacy ads that criticized the Bush administration, or that Tony Snow left Fox News to be President Bush's press secretary.
Since news broke that ABC News plans to broadcast a June 24 prime-time special, "Questions for the President: Prescription for America ," from the White House, Fox News guests and hosts have repeatedly ignored Fox's own history and blasted ABC News over its planned broadcast by claiming, among other things, that ABC News is excluding opposition voices both from appearing in and advertising during the special. Some Fox News hosts and guests have also suggested a "conflict of interest," pointing to the fact that former ABC News correspondent Linda Douglass  is now communications director of the Department of Health and Human Services' Office of Health Reform. Fox News' concern over the ABC News special is noteworthy given Fox's history.
As Media Matters for America noted , the network enjoyed "unprecedented access" during the Bush administration. But further reinforcing the hypocrisy of Fox's reaction to the ABC News broadcast are two other facts: Fox News itself has refused to air advertisements critical of Bush administration policies and appointees, and in 2006, Tony Snow, then-Fox News anchor and radio host, left  Fox to serve as President Bush's White House press secretary.
On the June 17 edition of his show, Fox News' Sean Hannity described the ABC special as a "Mickey Mouse-sponsored infomercial," and said: "Now, it's bad enough that the White House is taking over a broadcast network for a full hour, but we were also reminded today that the White House director of communications for health care spin is none other than former ABC correspondent Linda Douglass." He added: "Now that cannot be a coincidence. We also learned that ABC has declined a request by a conservative health care group to buy ad time during the infomercial. Now, the group says that, at the very least, they had hoped that ABC would let the other side pay for airtime. But, no, apparently Mickey was not interested." Hannity hosted Karl Rove, former Bush adviser and current Fox News contributor, to discuss the issue.
Similarly, on the June 18 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, co-host Brian Kilmeade stated that ABC is "now refusing ... to air a paid TV ad representing the opposing conservative view when it comes to health care," and added that the special "sounds like it is going to be one big infomercial." Kilmeade went on to note that the "director of communications is Linda Douglass, former ABC News reporter," who is "now at the White House Office of Health Reform," and asked Fox News contributor Michelle Malkin: "You think there's a connection there?" Malkin replied, "It certainly seems like it, and, of course, these conflicts of interest don't matter to the liberal media and to the -- their government masters and overlords."
In criticizing ABC News, neither Hannity nor Kilmeade noted that Fox News previously refused to air  an ad produced by the Center for Constitutional Rights that criticized the Bush administration for "destroying the Constitution" by the use of renditions, torture, and other tactics. In an email provided to Media Matters by the center, Fox News account executive Erin Kelly told Owen Henkel, the center's e-communications manager, that Fox would not run the ad, but said that "[i]f you have documentation that it [the constitution] is indeed being destroyed, we can look at that." Moreover, in 2005, Fox News refused to run  an ad critical of Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito, who Bush had nominated to succeed retiring Justice Sandra Day O'Connor. Fox News does, however, repeatedly air anti-health care reform ads from the Conservatives for Patients' Rights, the group whose ad was reportedly rejected by ABC.
Additionally, in allowing a contributor to claim without challenge, as Malkin did, that there is a "conflict of interest" in ABC's airing a health care special with Obama since a former ABC News correspondent now works for the Obama administration, Fox News ignored the fact that Snow went from being a Fox News host to White House press secretary  under Bush. Bush announced Snow as his new press secretary on April 26, 2006.
From the June 17 edition of Fox News' Hannity:
HANNITY: President Obama's love affair with the mainstream media continues. But as we learn more about next week's Mickey Mouse-sponsored infomercial, one thing is becoming clear, and that is our headline this Wednesday night: "Journalism in America is Dead."
Now, it's bad enough that the White House is taking over a broadcast network for a full hour, but we were also reminded today that the White House director of communications for health care spin is none other than former ABC correspondent Linda Douglass. Now, that cannot be a coincidence.
We also learned that ABC has declined a request by a conservative health care group to buy ad time during the infomercial. Now, the group says that, at the very least, they had hoped that ABC would let the other side pay for airtime. But, no, apparently Mickey was not interested.
And joining me tonight with more is Fox News contributor Karl Rove. Karl, it seems rather unprecedented. You were there in the White House for the better part of eight years. This ever happen while George W. Bush was president?
ROVE: You know, look, it's normal for the networks to want to come in and do an interview inside the White House or to get a glimpse behind the curtain as to what goes on there. But let's step back for a minute.
This is an unprecedented access to the White House and, more importantly, an unprecedented use of the White House. I can't remember a time when a network came in and was going to devote a significant block of time to covering an issue that was on the president's agenda.
And it's a brilliant use of the White House by the Obama-ites because it is -- you know, they can put a dozen critics in the audience and the president is still going to win the evening and win the debate, because he's playing on the ultimate home court, in the East Room of the White House, with all the power of the presidency, with all the majesty of the White House. And this is going to be a big sort of PR victory for him that night.
However, there are going to be two losers in this thing. One is going to be the network, and ultimately, one is going to be the White House itself. I'm astonished at ABC, and I don't think the White House has thought through the implications of what it's doing either.
HANNITY: Well, the National Republican Committee has requested -- and President Obama has requested also -- he wants a robust, vigorous debate. So, the question is: Why won't they at least allow a Republican that is well-versed on the issue to be there to counter some of the arguments that are being made -- number one --
HANNITY: -- and why not let this group buy ads?
ROVE: Well, this is why ABC is a loser. Because no matter what happens now, people are going to look at the -- the critics of the president's health care approach are going to look at this and say this was a fixed deal. You put it on his home court, you controlled it. This was all made for glorification of the president of the United States.
And look, ABC ought to be doing more. But even if they were doing these things, at the end of the day, the American people would be legitimate to look at this thing and say, "You know what? The fix was in right from the get-go." And as a result, ABC's journalistic credibility is going to be hurt.
From the June 18 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
KILMEADE: Straight ahead, ABC promising its special prime-time program with the president, yes, broadcast from inside the White House -- from the Blue Room -- the nightly news. Will it be fair and balanced? Really? Then why were they refusing to air a paid ad from the opposition?
DOOCY: Yeah, we're going to talk about that straight ahead.
KILMEADE: ABC News preparing to broadcast live from the White House for a prime-time special on health care. And ABC now refusing for a -- to air a paid TV ad representing the opposing conservative view when it comes to health care. Fox News contributor Michelle Malkin joins us live from Denver. Michelle, this is going to be -- sounds like it's going to be one big infomercial. What would -- why would ABC do this?
MALKIN: Well, the "All Barack Channel" wants to help Obama as much as it can, and this is basically government-controlled stenography. They're going to sit there and nod their heads, while all of these government takeover advocates make their case for free. And it's my position that ABC really should be required to register as a federal lobbyist, because that's what they're doing.
KILMEADE: Well, you know, NBC got that wonderful tour that even The Daily Show mocked with [NBC Nightly News anchor] Brian Williams as they spent countless hours and 32 cameras to give everyone --
KILMEADE: -- a feeling of what it's like in the White House, for TV, and now this happens right on the heels of that. But ABC News says, we promise the town hall will be balanced.
MALKIN: Yeah, that's right. They promised that there would be a representation from, quote-unquote, "diverse and thoughtful points of view," and yet, they rejected calls by conservatives to run paid ads during this infomercial, which I think gives lie to any diversity that they say they're going to represent.
KILMEADE: The director of communications is Linda Douglass, former ABC News reporter. She's now at the White House --
KILMEADE: -- Office of Health Reform. You think there's a connection there?
MALKIN: It certainly seems like it, and, of course, these conflicts of interest don't matter to the liberal media and to the -- their government masters and overlords. And I really will be very curious to see who they have who will show any appreciation for the free market and demonstrate any opposition at all to what's being planned here. If they did have a real commitment to diversity, Brian, they would put [co-anchor of ABC's 20/20] John Stossel on.
John Stossel is one of the few at the ABC News operation who has been able to voice any kind of appreciation and support and defense of the free market. I'd like to see him on the show.
KILMEADE: Now, [ABC World News anchor] Charlie Gibson will play a major role. In fact, he's doing the nightly news from there. Remember he had those tough questions for Sarah Palin? Will he have some tough questions for Barack Obama?
MALKIN: Well, I think if enough people make a stink about this infomercial that there will be an incredible amount of public pressure on ABC to show some sort of questioning and challenging of ObamaCare, and I think that you have to look at the context here. The fact is that this plan is in trouble. And it's not just conservatives who are opposing it; there are many moderate Democrats who are questioning the ballooning costs of this plan, and that has to be incorporated if they have any credibility as a, quote-unquote, "news organization" at all.
KILMEADE: Michelle, if people want to take action, they don't want to sit by, what do they do?
MALKIN: They call Congress. It's 202-224-3121. And they get very well-versed and informed on what's actually in the plan, and they can do that by reading my site or Hot Air, going on the Internet, 'cause they're not going to get this news from ABC, that's for sure.
KILMEADE: Right. And it's just too important of an issue to take a partisan stand. It's too complicated to get a hold of or make a poster for. Michelle Malkin, thanks so much. Always great.
MALKIN: Thanks, Brian.