In discussing the Obama administration's recent criticisms of Fox News, several media figures have argued that Glenn Beck's show and other Fox News' "opinion" programming are separate and distinct from the "news" programming of Chris Wallace and others and should be viewed as such. However, Wallace has repeated several of the same falsehoods and attacks that Glenn Beck has, including fearmongering about health care rationing.
Media claim there are "two different Fox Newses," distance Wallace from Beck
NPR's Rudin: There are "two different Fox Newses," one of which includes Glenn Beck, but there's also "Major Garrett and Chris Wallace." During an October 21 discussion on NPR's Talk of the Nation, NPR political editor Ken Rudin stated:
KEN RUDIN: Well, he's -- it seems like President Obama's doing a lot of campaigning lately, everything between the Olympics and the health care plan. I mean, the campaign is a perennial campaign, and he's certainly not the first president to do that. President Bush, President Clinton were campaigning for most of their terms.
But there's also two different Fox Newses, and I think that's what the White House is also missing. There is the Glenn Becks. There is -- there is the Sean Hannity of Fox News, and that gets the most headlines. But there's also Chris --
REBECCA ROBERTS (host): Major Garrett. Right.
RUDIN: -- Major Garrett and Chris Wallace and Shep Smith, who seem to be if not straight down the middle, at least some sense of fairness and balance, to quote somebody. And I think you make a big mistake if you just -- if Glenn Beck becomes Fox News. But of course a lot of people do see it that way. [Talk of the Nation, 10/21/09]
Kurtz: "I don't think an entire organization should be judged by a few commentaries." On the October 25 edition of CNN's Reliable Sources, Kurtz stated:
KURTZ: Let me give you my two cents here. This is also polarizing. You either have to take the position that Fox is a courageous news organization or a threat to western civilization.
I have criticized things that O'Reilly has said, that Hannity has said. Certainly, on this program, I told Glenn Beck that he was being offensive with words that he had for a Muslim member of Congress.
At the same time, I don't think an entire organization should be judged by a few commentaries, any more than I think it is fair to judge CNN by the things that Lou Dobbs says. Look at some of the people at Fox. I wrote down some names here. Major Garrett used to work at CNN. Bill Hemmer used to work at CNN. Greta Van Susteren used to work at CNN. Chris Wallace used to work at ABC and NBC.
Did they all drink the Kool-Aid when they went there? Sometimes, Fox's reflexive opposition to Obama bleeds into his news coverage, as you were saying, Nico. But I don't think it's fair to tar everyone with the same brush. [Reliable Sources, 10/25/09]
Wallace has repeatedly echoed Beck's attacks and smears
Wallace echoes Beck in airing Untouchables clip, referring to the Obama administration's "Chicago way." On the October 23 edition of his Fox News program, Beck aired clips from the movie The Untouchables and compared President Obama to Al Capone. Brandishing a baseball bat, Beck suggested that Obama would "whack" the American people and declared that "[a]nyone not on board, look out, because you too could be the next victim of the killing spree." Beck also aired a clip of actor Sean Connery stating: "He sends one of yours to the hospital, you send one of his to the morgue. That's the Chicago way, and that's how you get Capone." Beck then stated: "That's the Chicago way. Now, we have it in Washington. That's the Washington way." Two days later, on the October 25 edition of Fox News Sunday, Wallace also aired the clip of Connery from The Untouchables and referred to "what some people are calling the administration's Chicago way of doing business."
Wallace followed Beck's lead in mainstreaming O'Keefe's ACORN videos. During the September 9 edition of his Fox News program, Beck previewed an "exclusive" that would air on his program the next day, which he claimed would make "things change a lot for those in power," and aired snippets of videographer James O'Keefe's video in the Baltimore office of ACORN. Beck suggested the video was the "exclusive stuff" that he predicted the media would be "talking about" instead of health care. On September 10, Beck interviewed Hannah Giles, who appeared in the video, and credited Andrew Breitbart with starting the story, calling him "one of the "great journalists of our time." On September 15, Beck again hosted O'Keefe for a "one-hour special." On September 27, Wallace hosted O'Keefe on Fox News Sunday, and advanced several of O'Keefe's claims without noting that they are contradicted by readily available evidence. Wallace suggested that O'Keefe "denies reports" by Media Matters for America that O'Keefe, in Wallace's words, "got any money from conservative backers" -- without noting that the evidence Media Matters highlighted consisted of public statements by conservatives that they had funded O'Keefe in the past or planned to raise money for O'Keefe and Giles in the future.
Wallace and Beck repeat bogus claim that U.S. Chamber of Commerce "represents 3 million businesses." During the October 23 edition of his Fox News program, Beck claimed that "Obama and his cronies don't like the free-market system" and stated that the Obama administration is attacking the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which Beck repeatedly said "represents 3 million businesses." During the October 25 edition of Fox News' America's News HQ, Wallace said that the White House is attacking the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, "which represents 3 million businesses." In fact, as Mother Jones has reported, "most of the businesses aren't direct members of the US Chamber, nor do local chambers have any effective oversight of the national group"; further, the chamber's own spokesman admitted the group's "direct members" are closer to 360,000.
Wallace's "death book" smears followed Beck's "death panels" smears. On the August 23 edition of Fox News Sunday, Wallace hosted former Bush administration aide Jim Towey to discuss his August 18 Wall Street Journal op-ed, "The Death Book for Veterans," and in doing so promoted numerous distortions about an end-of-life educational booklet used by the Veterans Health Administration (VHA). In addition to forwarding the smear that the booklet is a "death book," Wallace promoted Towey's distortion that the booklet encourages veterans to "pull the plug" -- it doesn't; Wallace and Towey both falsely suggested that the Bush administration "stopped" using the book; and Wallace claimed that a VHA document requires doctors to direct veterans to the booklet -- it doesn't.
Wallace also said to Towey:
President Obama calls talk of a government-run "death panel" a, quote, "extraordinary lie," but I want to put up what you said in your Wall Street Journal article this week. You said the following, "When the government can steer vulnerable individuals to conclude for themselves that life is not worth living, who needs a death panel?" Explain.
Wallace's linking of the "death book" smears with the "death panel" smears followed Beck's assertions about "death panels," including on the August 14 edition of his Fox News show, when he claimed:
"The death panel isn't a firing squad. Sarah Palin made a point -- I guess you could say in an inflammatory way. But when you implement a government health system, as they have found out in the U.K. and everywhere else on the planet, you are left with no other choice. That's just the way it is. Rationing is inevitable, and they know it."
On the August 16 edition of Fox News Sunday, Wallace also repeatedly advanced the claims that the Democrats' health care reform proposals would create a system of rationing care, omitting the fact that rationing already happens under the current system, asking multiple guests if health care reform would lead to rationing, and asking: "Is there any truth to" to the charge that "these various plans create death panels?"
Wallace echoed Beck in asking if prosecution of Bush admin. will lead U.S. toward "what we've had in banana republics?" On the April 26 edition of Fox News Sunday, Wallace asked if prosecuting the Bush administration means "we're headed now" toward "[s]ort of what we've had in banana republics." Similarly, three days earlier, on the April 23 edition of his nationally syndicated radio show, Beck stated: "[Y]our principles as the president of the United States needs to be, we don't make ourselves into a banana republic." He later added, "We also don't want to set the precedent that the next president can come in and turn a political issue into a legal issue and put those people in jail. This is what's happening with [Venezuelan President Hugo] Chavez now. The guy who's running against him just left the country because they -- this is what banana republics do, OK?"
Beck and Wallace have both advanced the meme of Obama as an "apologist." On the October 9 edition of The Mike Gallagher Show, Fox's Wallace agreed with host Mike Gallagher that "apologist in chief" Obama "denigrated" America overseas, saying "that certainly is true." Similarly, on the April 9 edition of his Fox News show, Beck asserted: "Overseas, Obama is apologizing to the Frenchy French for our arrogance." Media Matters documented several other Fox personalities claiming Obama went on an "apology tour."
Beck and Wallace use fictional character "Jack Bauer" in defense of torture. On the January 13 edition of Fox & Friends, Beck invoked the television show 24 as a justification for the use of torture. Referring to the show's season premiere, in which protagonist Jack Bauer, a former member of the fictional "Counter Terrorist Unit," defends his use of torture during a hearing before Congress, Beck said: "[I]t's going to take somebody who sits in front of Congress who is not afraid of them anymore and does what Jack Bauer did. And that is, 'Yes, I did torture, and I'm proud of it.' And it's time for these things to come out of the closet." Beck has a history of invoking 24 to defend his position on torture. Similarly, on the August 27 edition of The Steve Malzberg Show, Wallace said of waterboarding: "[L]isten, I'm with Jack Bauer on this."